Salta: The Prettiest city in Argentina
Salta is a charming colonial city with a laid-back vibe in northwest Argentina. Argentinians call it “Salta La Linda” (the beautiful) and the architecture and surrounding green hills give the nickname justification. The Salteña culture is unique compared to the rest of Argentina and it’s very present in the city.
On summer nights, folk dancers perform in the plaza wearing traditional clothing. Furthermore, you can’t visit Salta without going to one of the traditional dinner parties with folklore music, dancing, and plenty of wine. In terms of attractions, Salta has the best museum in Argentina, a cable car, and many beautiful churches. To top it off, the city is very affordable and safe.
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How to Get There
There are regular flights to Salta from both Córdoba and Buenos Aires and occasional flights from Mendoza. If you’re traveling by bus, Cafayate, Jujuy, Córdoba, and the Uyuni Salt Flats are all within reasonable distances.
Bookaway is a great resource that allows you to compare the prices of both buses and flights, and secure your seat in advance!
Where to Change Money
For blue dollar money exchanges go to Calle España at the northwest corner of Plaza 9 de Julio. Here there are people on the street who buy dollars and euros. The rates are about 5% worse than in Buenos Aires and Puerto Iguazú.
*All prices are in USD due to Argentina’s high inflation*
What to Do
Museum of High Altitude Archeology – This museum features the mummies of three Incan children who were ritually sacrificed on top of a 6,900-meter mountain along the Chilean border and later discovered in 1999. I loved this museum due to the depth in which it explains the Inca tradition of sacrifice, the expedition to recover the bodies, and the work of the scientists. The entrance is $3 and it’s closed on Mondays.
Spend a night at a Peña – A peña is a traditional dinner party with folklore music, dancing, and wine. They are a whole lot of fun and in classic Argentinian style, the party goes on well beyond midnight. La Casona del Molino is the most famous one and you can also find peñas on Calle Balcarce where tables line the streets at night.
Salta Cathedral – Salta is full of churches with beautiful interiors and colorful facades, and I’d rank its cathedral among the best I’ve seen in South America. The entrance is free and it’s open from 4:30-8:15 PM. Two other churches in town that warrant a visit are Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia La Viña.
Teleférico San Bernardo – Take the cable car to Cerro San Bernardo for sweeping views of the city and the beautiful surrounding landscape. On top, there is a small restaurant where you can have a drink.This is a very popular attraction and I waited 45 minutes in line on a Thursday afternoon during the high season.
There’s also the option to walk an hour to the viewpoint. A return ticket is $5 and one-way is $3. It opens at 9 AM and the last gondola returns at 7:30 PM.
Mercado Municipal San Miguel – It’s a rather tame market, but you will find regional spices, goat cheeses, and crafts.
Museo Güemes – An interactive museum that tells the history of the general who led Salta’s Gaucho Army against the Spanish during the War of Independence. The admission is only $1.25 and it’s closed on Mondays.
History Museum of the North – Housed in the town’s Cabildo, this museum covers the history of Salta and the independence war, and has regional artifacts. It’s free, but the signs are only in Spanish.
Museum of Fine Arts – A museum with both modern art and 19th-century landscapes of the region. The works are all from local artists and the entrance is free.
Where to Eat
Doña Salta – A traditional place to try the delicious regional food and drink 40-cent(!!) glasses of wine. It gets very busy here after 9 pm.
La Salteñería – Specializes in regional empanadas and desserts to go along with more cheap wine.
Trattoria Mamma Mia – Argentinians love their pasta and this is the most popular spot in town for good reason.
Where to Stay
Hostel Prisamata – A relaxed hostel with charming common areas and a nice social atmosphere.
Las Rejas – A small hostel with awesome staff in a colonial house close to the peñas.
La San Francisco II – A budget option that is very clean and has all the basics. It has a good location between the plaza and bus terminal.
How Long to Stay
2-3 days is plenty of time in Salta before heading elsewhere in Argentina. The city is quite small and most attractions are within a short walk of each other.
Where to Next
Cafayate (4 hours by bus) – A small town with scenic bike rides and bodegas that produce Argentina’s best white wine.
Jujuy (4 hours) – Stunning high-elevation desert landscapes with multi-colored mountains and salt flats.
Córdoba (13 hours) – The energetic student city is a popular choice for a night out.
Mendoza (20 hours) – Taste some of the world’s best wine and hike to the base camp of the tallest mountain outside of Asia.
Buenos Aires (2-hour flight) – A food paradise with European influence and exciting cultural events including street parties, tango shows, and interactive dining experiences.