Favourite spots in Salta

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Buenos Aires – Argentina’s charismatic capital – may get most of the country’s limelight but a trip to colonial Salta in the indigenous north, is fully warranted in its own right. Owing to its outstanding museums, grand neo-classical buildings, best in class cafes and popular penas (folk music clubs), this charming city – founded back in 1582 by the Spanish commander Hernando de Lerma – is attractive to pretty much anyone with a heartbeat.
It’s not an easy journey (Salta is a 22 hour bus ride away from Buenos Aires) but it is one that will be both fascinating and rewarding and unlike (the province arguably has more in common with its Andean neighbours) any other trip you’re likely to take in Argentina. Our man in Argentina selects her favourite Salta spots…

Go to church
San Francisco church (or Iglesia San Francisco as it is known in Spanish) is one of Salta’s most famous landmarks and, as such, pictured on pretty much every postcard. Situated on the corner of Caseros and Cordoba, the striking red and gold church topped by a slender tower is unmissable. Originally built in 1625, the church was rebuilt in 1882 after a fire destroyed the former structure. There’s a mediocre museum displaying religious arts and treasures, but the lovely garden cloister is of more interest to most visitors. Just don’t make the mistake – as I did – of seeking out San Francisco in the afternoon for Salta is a siesta city. Translation? Everything – churches, cafes, restaurants and shops – shuts down between midday and 5pm.

Climb Cerro San Bernado
For stunning views of Salta and the surrounding area, take the teleférico (cable car) from Parque San Martin to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. Alternatively if you’re feeling energetic lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail which starts at the monument dedicate to Martín Miguel de Güemes (the man led Salta’s rebels in the Argentine War of Independence). 1,000 steps later you’ll reach the summit where you’ll find a cafe, several souvenir shops as well as an array of lookout points from which to watch the sun set slowly over Salta.

Coffee with the locals
The pretty tree-lined Plaza 9 de Julio is the heart and soul of Salta. This is where the locals head to catch up over coffee at one of the elegant cafes that dot the cobbled square. And as the old adage goes, when in Rome…. Our favourite place to dawdle away the day over an Argentine cortado (essentially a shot of espresso, with an equal amount of steamed milk) ? Take a bow New Time Cafe – a two level spot in the corner of the plaza where stunning views of Cerro San Bernado and the cathedral come as standard.

Eat empanadas
Salteños staunchly claim that they invented the empanada (a delicious stuffed pastry). This isn’t exactly true: empanadas actually originated in Spain and Portugal. However that Salta serves the up the best empanadas not only in Argentina, but in the whole of South America isn’t in debate. Indeed Argentine gourmet, Roberto Argentino Díaz (Topeto) even lobbied for El Día de la Empanada Salteña (Day of the Salteñan Empanada) on April 4…
Get your empanada fix at La Tacita (Caseros 396) or Patio de la Empanadas (Avenida San Martín and Malvinas) – an open air patio where vendors serve various versions (think deep fried and oven baked) of the empanada.

Catch a pena concert
Salta region is famed for its peñas – aka traditional folk music halls where locals come together to eat, drink and jam away the night with a guitar. The action typically starts around midnight (Argentina is all about the night) and wraps up around 4am. You’ll find plenty of peñas on Calle Balcarce (Salta’s nightlife mecca) but JAT can vouch for La Vieja Estacion (Balcarce 885). Order a bottle of Quilmes (Argentina’s national beer), sit back and enjoy the atmosphere and live music.

Get lost in Cachi
Salta is also the gateway to the gorgeous Cachi valley which offers travellers the chance to fill up the space on their cameras, with Facebook worthy photos of gorges, bridges, striking cactus plants and snowcapped Andean mountains. Cachi works as a day trip from Salta (a four hour bus ride away). However if your schedule allows and you’re after some peace and quiet, consider spending at least one night in Cachi village. You won’t regret it: trust us on this one.

Pictures: © Kaye Holland

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