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Salta capital | The best things to see and do in the city
Salta Argentina is a lovely town in the North West of the country. If you’re travelling into Argentina from Bolivia or Chile then Salta is one of the first large towns you’ll come to. If travelling by bus you’ll pass by some of the main tourist attractions of the Salta Region such as the Argentine salt flats, the seven coloured mountains and some of the most beautiful countryside of this region. We headed directly for the town of Salta as we only had a short amount of time before travelling onto Buenos Aires. While we were there we realised that in order to take full advantage of everything that the area had to offer we would have been better basing ourselves in one of the outlying towns of Salta and perhaps hiring a car for a few days. However we’ll tell you below what we did do and touch on some of the things that we could have done had we located ourselves differently.
How did we get to Salta?
We made the journey to Salta from the Chilean town of San Pedro de Atacama by bus. Our journey was scheduled to be around 10hrs and at the moment the buses only run on select days of the week. The cost was approx £45.00 which is quite steep but really the only option to get into Argentina from this area of Chile.
We found its best to buy your ticket the day before as the bus fills up quite fast and you’ll want to be sure of a seat. Our journey made one stop at San Salvador de Jujuy and then ended at the main bus terminal at Salta. Pullman was the bus company we used and the bus was fairly comfortable. No wifi though and no USB ports.
Crossing the border from Chile to Argentina
As part of the bus journey we crossed the border from Chile to Argentina and I can honesty say the whole passport control was pretty straightforward. You firstly enter the building and exit from Chile at the first counter where your passport is stamped with the Chile exit stamp. You then join a line for a second counter to enter Argentina.
You don’t get a stamp when entering Argentina but the customs official does take your email and the confirmation of entry is sent to you by email. You then have to collect your luggage and join a third queue where your luggage is scanned and finally you’re free to board both yourself and your luggage back on the bus.
Just to note after the final luggage inspection there are toilets right outside the doors to the right which you can use and outside, about a 100mtr walk there is a shop/restaurant where you can buy some supplies for the bus. Don’t take too long though as the bus leaves as soon as everyone has one through passport control.
Where did we stay in the city of Salta?
Like many decent sized cities in South America Salta is no different in offering several different types of accommodation to suit all budgets. We chose to stay in Hotel Las Tinajas mainly because we were arriving after dark and it was the closest one to the bus station that met most of our requirements. We would have chosen differently if we’d been arriving in the daytime as Las Tinajas proved to be a bit rustic but it was cheap, fairly central and ok for a couple of nights. One positive was that the hotel owner changed our USD $ into ARS $ at the blue dollar rate and was happy to do so. This meant that we didn’t have to wander about looking for an exchange to get the best bang for our buck, so to speak.
What is there to do in Salta?
Do a spot of people watching in Plaza de 9 Julio.
Like most South American cities Salta has a main plaza where locals, tourists and street vendors frequently visit. Salta’s main plaza has fountains, statues and some beautiful trees and is lovely to wander around. The square is lined with popular shops, restaurants, cafe’s and tour agencies and the plaza is pretty busy at most times of the day. Here you can sit on one of the many benches and watch the world go by with an ice cream. It really is a beautiful plaza.
Visit Parque San Martin
This park is right next to the main bus station and the teleferico station. Its a large and popular park with a boating lake. Around the exterior you’ll find some artisan stalls, street food vendors and people just enjoying their day. The park is used by people jogging, keeping fit or walking their dogs and is a lovely peaceful place to spend a few hours. Its in this park you will find the university museum of natural sciences and the cable car station to San Bernardo.
Check out the gorgeous San Francisco Basilica
The Basilica of San Franciso is one of Salta’s most beautiful buildings and the one you’ll see on most postcards. Its built in the Rococo style and is just stunning. Inside you’ll find some ornate statues and fantastic paintings and the building is considered to be one of Argentina’s national monuments. It’s only a few blocks from the main plaza and very much worth a visit.
Visit the High Altitude Archologial Museum
This museum is one of the best museums we’ve visited on our South American Adventure. The main exhibit shows what archeologists found at the summit of Llullaillaco volcano in Salta in 1999. There they discovered the most perfectly preserved bodies of 3 young children along with miniature artefacts. These children were, as history tells, raised as a sacrifice to the gods and led up the mountain where an Incan Capacocha ceremony was performed. The children were left on the mountain. Today the children, known as Lightning Girl, the Boy and the Maiden are sealed in cryogenic capsules and one at a time shown to the public. The day we visited we saw the lightning girl and it was an amazing experience. This is one exhibit not to miss when visiting Salta. The cost is around $100 ARS which is equivalent to around £6. Totally worth it.
Take a trip on the Teleferico San Bernardo
Salta city boasts a superb cable car which takes visitors and locals alike up to San Bernardo, a local hill. The station for the cable car is near the main bus station and San Martin Park and is really easy to find. The cable car takes you on a twenty minute ride up the side of the hill to the top of San Bernardo At the hilltop station there are restaurants, some shops, a cafe, the mirador viewpoint with the Salta sign and some lovely waterfalls and pools. It also offers some fantastic views over the city and we spent quite a while trying to figure out where our hotel was and where the landmarks we’d already visited were. Its a great way to spend an afternoon. The cost of the teleferic was $1500 ARS, around £7.
History Museum of the North
This small museum on the south hand side of the main Plaza of Salta is free to enter and contains some historical artifacts relating to the history of Salta. It was a really lovely museum to wander round and has a very peaceful central square where you can sit and enjoy the stillness for a while. On the second floor, outside the main exhibit rooms, there is a balcony where you have some excellent views of the Plaza and the buildings around. We would definitely recommend giving this museum a visit while you’re in the city after all its free.
Eat the famous Argentinian empanadas
Argentina is famous for its empanadas and we sought out one of the most famous empanada restaurants of the city whilst in Salta. La Salteneria. Empanadas here are cooked over an open flame in what looked very much like a pizza oven. There are a variety of flavours available and they go very well with the 1/2 litre of red wine we ordered with them. In fact we visited here twice and then got a box of mixed empanadas to take away for our night bus journey when we left Salta. These really were delicious and the location of La Salteneria is right by the San Franciso Basilica not far from the main Plaza. Its a great place to stop for lunch and eat like the locals.
Check out the local markets
Like every South American town Salta has a superb market selling everything from lightbulbs to spices, fruit and veg and clothes. The market hall in every city is always a fascinating place to visit and Salta it is no different. Try to get there before lunchtime to sample one of the best and most cost effective meals you can find anywhere. A starter (usually soup), a main course and a drink for around $500 ARS, around £2.50. Our tip is to visit the busiest food stall in the market, even if you have to wait, its busy for a reason.
Visit the Monument de Guemes
Whilst we were coming down the teleferico we spotted this large statue to the right of us and had to go and investigate. At the foot of Cerro San Bernardo, at the end of the Paseo Guemes, we found the monument of General Martín Miguel de Guemes. The statue is sited where he first fell from his horse when shot. He was an important character in Argentine history during the War for Independence and was governor of the province of Salta for 6 years. Its an impressive statue and well worth a visit.
Spend some time outside the city.
As mentioned briefly above, most people come to Salta for the nature activities outside the city. They tend to base themselves in one of the smaller towns on the outskirts of the capital such as Purmamaraca and take day tours to visit the the hill of seven colours, the wineries, the Argentinean salt flats, the geological formations near Cafayate, the volcano, the winding road and many more. If you’re short of time and only have a day or two then the city of Salta has plenty to keep you entertained but if you have longer then consider basing yourself out of town to enjoy the whole region..
We liked Salta, the city had a good mix of museums, restaurants, parks and other activities such as the teleferico which made our few nights stay really interesting. Argentina is a strange country to visit at the moment due to the Blue Dollar situation. We didn’t have an issue in getting USD changed, once with our hotel owner who happily changed our $$$ USD and then once with a vendor on the street on the main plaza who gave us a great rate. With everything it pays to just use your common sense if using someone who approaches you on the street. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if it doesnt feel right then walk away. The other alternative is to use Western Union where you can buy your ARS $ at the blue dollar rate.
Booking resources for your stay in Salta
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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