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Destination Argentina

Salta: Beautiful So, You’ll Fall in Love

When touring Argentina’s northernmost region, the city of Salta and the surrounding areas are ideal for enjoying extraordinary landscapes, tasting great wines, and learning about the area’s pre-Inca history.

By: Julia Henríquez
Photos: Demian Colman

 

 

1. Capital City of Salta

From atop Cerro de San Bernardo you get a complete picture of Salta from a variety of views. The carefully constructed terraces and balconies provide a gateway to the city and offer incredible vistas at 850 feet. As the wind blows around you, you will be able to see the network of streets and avenues, the domes of the city’s emblematic churches, and even the roads to Cafayate and Campo Quijano.

The cable car, inaugurated in December 1988, is your best option for getting up to Cerro San Bernardo. The 935-foot ride lasts about ten minutes, enough time for you to slowly start falling in love with the city, while getting used to the fact that touring this province means changing altitude in the blink of an eye.

2. Güemes Museum

The perfect place to appreciate Salta and its role in Argentine history, the museum offers an interactive exhibition focused on the province’s most outstanding personality: Martín Miguel de Güemes, who was instrumental in freeing the Argentine people from the Spanish Crown. The museum celebrates Güemes’ history, not only as a national hero but also as a family man and a defender of Salta’s values.

3. Central Plaza

It is also necessary to take a tour of the Central Plaza to enjoy the architecture of the region.

4. Cafayate

The exuberant reds of the Quebrada de las Conchas canyon start to take over the landscape as our car moves away from Salta along National Route 68 and approaches Cafayate.

The canyon was declared a managed nature reserve and features majestic geological formations carved centuries ago by water and wind.

These unique landscapes include settings such as the Garganta del Diablo and the Amphitheater, to name only a few.

Vineyards

Cafayate’s climate and red soil are the perfect combination for growing grapes and producing exclusive wines. Unlike Mendoza, where the Malbec grape is the star, here in the north the white Torrontés grape predominates.

Close to 20 wineries are scattered between 5,250 and 7,875 feet above sea level, producing wines of great character and unique fragrance. Visit the El Esteco Winery, at 5,580 feet above sea level, which offers a guided tour, a luxury hotel providing total immersion, and, of course, the opportunity to taste its finest creations.

San Antonio de los Cobres

Toward the north of the province, along mythical Route 40, is the town of San Antonio de los Cobres (known to locals as “SAC”), where red desert landscapes rise to a high plateau and cardoon cacti appear between the mountains; oxygen is scarce here and indigenous culture is at its strongest.

El Alfarcito Foundation

Located at 9,180 feet above sea level, the El Alfarcito Foundation center, which surrounds a humble church, was founded by Siegfried Moroder (better known as Father “Chifri”) in 2009 to help improve the conditions of communities in the area.

The center includes a school, a dining hall, a craft center, and museums. Convinced that “together we are stronger,” the people of Rosario de Lerma invite tourists and locals to visit El Alfarcito to get to know its people and history and add their own grain of sand to this constantly growing project.

Train to the Clouds

The town of San Antonio de los Cobres is famous worldwide for its most striking tourist attraction: the Train to the Clouds, a journey through time that takes visitors into a cowboy movie while ascending the high plateau to 13,800 feet above sea level.

Polvorilla Viaduct

The trip culminates in the incredible Polvorilla Viaduct where, to the amazement of travelers, the train defies the rules of gravity on one of the railroad’s sections with an angle of curvature greater than a semicircle (known in architecture as a “banked” curve).

But San Antonio de los Cobres has much more to offer. Its perpetually smiling, rosy-cheeked inhabitants have discovered novel ways to attract tourism, creating new, organic experiences for those who dare to cross the train tracks and their own mental barriers.

A group of women artisans known as Thuru Maky, or “Hands of Clay,” created their signature brand of handmade ceramics. They offer visitors a chance to create their own clay creations alongside them.

A man by the name of Anatolio founded his business because he wanted a pet. He offers a quiet talk about the behavior of his llamas, their habitat, and life in this community over the centuries.

Santa Rosa de Tastil

Farther on, the town of Santa Rosa de Tastil surprises visitors with reminders from the past that survive in the surrounding mountains.

The Sitio Tastil Museum tells the story of the mountain and the people who have lived there since before the Conquest.

Several petroglyphs, found in almost perfect condition in nearby archaeological sites such as the Tastil Ruins, are on display. They provide a comprehensive account of the area’s pre-Inca history.

La Caldera

Tradition prevails in this region, so you won’t want to miss the town of La Caldera, near the capital city of Salta, where gaucho customs prevail.

The people travel by horse, wear ponchos, and work the fields. Being a gaucho, as our guide Rafael Guitian explains, means more than just working the land; it’s an attitude, a source of pride, and a reason to welcome any visitor interested in learning about the soul of the Argentine people. The Camino del Inca Alternative Tourism Company is a family business run by Rafael, who offers everything from a good chat around a campfire to daylong horseback rides through nature.

Salta the Beautiful will definitely win your heart with its people and landscapes, leaving you with a feeling of calm and a desire to wander to every corner of the city and enjoy each of its traditions. And what better way to end our journey than with an improvised serenade at La Casona del Molino and a fine glass of Torrontés wine?