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4 Reasons Why Salta Should be on Every Argentina Travel Itinerary

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2 weeks ago

If you mention to anyone in Argentina that you are visiting Salta, you are guaranteed to receive a positive response – or a comment of jealousy.

Salta La Linda (‘Salta the Beautiful’) is an extremely popular domestic tourism hub and increasingly popular among over-landers and backpackers in South America. Salta is the indigenous heart of Argentina and feels much closer to neighboring Bolivia than the glamorous cafes of Buenos Aires or the Alpine chocolate shops of Bariloche.

If you are planning your Argentina travel itinerary, here are 4 reasons why I recommend making room for Salta on your trip.

Getting to Salta

Salta is in Argentina’s north west and is the capital of the namesake province of Salta.

By plane

Salta (Airport code: SLA) is served by almost hourly flights from Buenos Aires‘s airports. If you are coming from Buenos Aires itself, we recommend flying from the Aeroparque airport (Airport code: AEP) which is right in town itself. AEP is a short 15-minute cab ride from the heart of Palermo or Recoleta.

Salta is also served with regular flights to Cordoba, Iguazu Falls and limited international flights to São Paulo in Brazil.

If you are traveling during peak Argentinian holidays (Easter, Christmas or public holidays), flights to Salta can often get expensive. For an alternative, consider flying into Jujuy (Airport code: JUJ) which is about 1 – 1.5 hours drive north of Salta.

By bus

Salta is well served by both domestic and international buses. You can find daily departures to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (9 hours), with onwards connections in Chile.

To get from Salta to Boliva, private shared taxis run from outside Salta’s bus terminal directly to the Bolivian border. You can then find onward transport once you cross into Bolivia at the Salvador Mazza or Aguas Blancas border crossings.

Americans should note there is a Bolivian consulate in Salta – although no guarantees on how efficient they are!

For those traveling around Argentina, there are regular buses from Salta to Buenos Aires (18-20 hours), Córdoba (11-14 hours), Mendoza (18-20 hours) and Tucumán (4.5 hours). For Puerto Iguazú, you will need to take a bus first to Resistencia (10 hours) and then change.

Where to stay in Salta

I recommend trying to be as close to Plaza 9 de Julio as possible. If you have spent any time in Latin America you will know that the main plaza is where all the action happens.

I stayed at Posada La Casona and can certainly recommend it. It’s a family-run posada (guesthouse) with all the warmth you would expect. The price is low for a private room and bathroom and the breakfast spread includes freshly-baked medialunas and tubs of dulce de lecheneed I say more.

As for other options that we can confidently recommend, it’s the Balcón de la Plaza and the Selina in Salta which are the best choices (and the Selina if you’re traveling alone and want to meet other travelers).

4 Reasons why Salta should be on every Argentina travel itinerary

I absolutely adore Salta and am already planning a return trip. I recommend allocating, at a minimum, four days to the Salta region. But honestly, you will not regret giving more time to this unique part of Argentina.

1. The ideal base for North West Argentina

Salta is the main hub for day trips across Salta and Jujuy provinces.

You will find a number of travel agencies around Buenos Aires Street and Caseros Street (and generally around town). They all offer similar services, but this is really a place where you can get the best prices by booking online (in advance).

Most tour agencies offer a similar package for day trips to Cachi and Parque Nacional de los Cordones, Cafayate and the wine region, Salinas Grandes (Salt Flats) and Humahuaca Canyon and the Indigenous villages of Jujuy. The links that we’ve provided are the best based on experience and recommendations so you know you’ll be safe with those.

As you shop around, make sure to ask your Salta travel agency a crucial question: how big are the tour buses? Ideally the smaller the better! You will also want to confirm that the guide speaks English – the default in this part of Argentina is Spanish.

If you are traveling in a group (or have more time to spare), I recommend renting a car and doing a southern and northern loop over a few days. In case these photos don’t speak for themselves, let me be clear: each of these locations deserves more time than any day tour can give you!

2. Historic colonial town center

For those who have been traveling in Argentina for a while, the historic town center of Salta will transport you back centuries. Dating back to 1582, Salta retains a small town charm with some of the country’s best-preserved colonial buildings.

Travelers coming from Peru or Bolivia will recognize the familiar colors, crafts and sites of the Andean region. To learn about the local legends of Salta’s historic centre, I always recommend joining a short walking tour (preferably on the day you arrive so that everything else you see makes sense to you).

You won’t be able to miss Salta’s main pink cathedral. One thing to note for your Argentina travel itinerary planning is that the cathedral has obscure opening times. It’s generally open early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but not in between.

As you explore Salta’s historic center, don’t miss the San Francisco Church. Built in Italian Barocco style, this striking church is Salta’s tallest structure and one of the most beautiful churches in Argentina.

3. Peñas

One of my favorite things in the world is live folk music and this may be where Salta won me over. Peñas are essentially casual bars or restaurants with impromptu folk music concerts which accompany your dinner.

Travel tip: Occasionally, peñas will charge a cover charge in addition to your meal and drinks.

Have a stroll along Calle Balcarce, after Calle Alsina, where you will find a number of peñas, along with other bars and nightlife venues.

I can personally recommend La Casona del Molino. This peña isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s set in a suburban part of Salta away from the others. The doors here open at 9 pm (despite what Google says) and, unless you have a reservation, expect to wait at least 30 minutes in line. And make sure you are sitting in the patio – this is where the most action is.

And while we’re speaking about La Casona del Molino, make sure you save room for the flan with dulce de leche. Have I mentioned that I love dulce de leche?

And if you want peñas action the following night, another highly rated peñas is La Vieja Estación.

4. Empanadas (and other delicious food)

Salteño style-empanadas are generally much smaller than what you may be familiar with in Buenos Aires or Patagonia. Here, the empanadas are more like little bite-size nuggets. In Salta, you can usually find a few variations: chicken (pollo), meat (carne), cheese (queso) and occasionally quinoa. If you are vegetarian, always double check that the empanadas are vegetarianas.

Salta is often touted as having the best empanadas in Argentina – and this is a big claim to make.

Having travelled extensively around Argentina and tested the claim that Salta has the best empanadas, I think Salteños may be right.

Every visit to Salta should include a stop for empanadas at La Tacita. A small, no-frills shop across from San Francisco church which has been selling coffee and empanadas for 31 years. The options here are limited to chicken, meat and cheese. And I must say, the piping hot cheese empanadas were undoubtedly the best I ate in Argentina.

A special shout out goes to Viracocha, one of my favorite restaurants in Salta. Viracocha offers a unique Andean fusion cuisine, fusing Andean ingredients with other flavors (e.g., wok). Viracocha’s quinoa and goat cheese empanadas take my second-place ranking.

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