Food Travel

Five reasons to visit Salta: A gem in Argentina

Five reasons to visit Salta: A gem in Argentina

Recently updated on January 30th, 2024 at 06:12 pm

A window in a brick wall with a view of a mountain range

The northwest Argentine province of Salta is one of Argentina’s largest provinces; bordered by Atacama in northern Chile, and the Bolivian salt flats of Uyuni.  

And while geologically linked to its famous neighbours, the region can boast its own vibrant culture and unique sights which still remain off many travellers’ radar. Here are 5 reasons why you should travel to this stunning region of South America. 

Indigenous & Colonial architecture

Salta City (locally known as La Linda -The Beautiful) in the Andean foothills, is the capital of the province and is home to Argentina’s best-preserved colonial architecture. The narrow streets and charming plazas of the city remain as quiet and gracious as they have existed for centuries. It is also the perfect base for your adventures in Northwest Argentina. 

In the picturesque mountain valley Quebrada de Humahuaca lies the dusty and enchanting town of Tilcara. With traces of human habitation that date back more than 10,000 years, Tilcara is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Argentina. The town’s rich indigenous culture and the dramatic mountains that surround it make this little town a must-visit destination. You can explore the pre-Inca fortification ruins, built in the 12th century by the Omaguaca tribe. Wander around the ancient dwellings and the town square, while you learn about how this indigenous tribe lived. 

The train to the clouds

El Tren a las Nubes (The Train to the Clouds) is Salta’s biggest attraction. Taking a trip on this famous rail journey is one of the best ways to see the incredible landscapes of Salta from a great height.  

The train, much like Salta, moves at a leisurely pace. Chugging along at only 35km per hour, this three hour journey from San Antonio de los Cobres to the end point at Viaducto La Polvorilla (and back again) takes you through arid landscapes and places of geological wonder, all of which can be appreciated fully thanks to the meandering nature of the train. On the journey you will need to pop your ears as the train climbs to its highest point at 4300m! Yes, the altitude is noticeable, but how else are you going to get the best views of the region around Salta?  

Painted Mountains

The province of Salta is characterized by vastly diverse terrain such as the fertile valley of the capital, the polychrome canyons of Cafayate, and the desolate plateaus of La Puna. The incredible colours and the inverted-V shaped formations are part of the limestone formation called Yacoraite that extends from Peru, through Bolivia, all the way to Salta. 

A field with a mountain in the background

A legendary site in the small town of Purmamarca is the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colours). The Hill of Seven Colours is one of the most picturesque sights on the planet. The beautiful hill’s layers show different geological periods dating back millions of years. 

Nearby is the multicoloured landscape that is called Paleta del Pintor (The Painter’s Palette), named after its view of the multi-coloured surrounding mountains. 

A man with a backpack standing on a hill and watching mountains

Most impressive is Serranías del Hornocal, or simply El Hornocal. This range of dramatic multicoloured hills (they say it has at least 14 different shades) reach an altitude of 4761 meters above sea level. El Hornocal is a must-see for anyone visiting Argentina, yet quite shockingly, remains unknown to most travellers on the tourist circuit. You may be surprised to know that this geological wonder has only risen in notoriety in the last 10 years – before that, not even the locals in Jujuy knew about it!  

Epic landscapes and National Parks

Most people know about Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, but did you know that Argentina has its own salt flats too? The vast Salinas Grandes (Great Salt Flats) is the 3rd largest salt flat in the world, stretching over Salta and Jujuy in northwest Argentina. Besides the strikingly beautiful and bright salt plains, Salinas Grandes’s most unique feature has to be the turquoise blue pools that provide lots of opportunities for creative photography. 

Salt flats

Further south, Parque Nacional Los Cardones takes its name from the ‘cardón grande cactus’, the park’s dominant and spectacular plant species. This is gorgeous high-desert territory where thousands of cacti stand tall (up to 10m!) at elevations that eclipse 3000m. In the treeless Andean foothills, the cardón has long been an important source of timber for rafters, doors, windows and more (you’ll see it often in the region’s traditional buildings.) Adventure into the wild with literally cacti for as far as the eyes can see! 

The sun shines on a desert landscape with cacti

Mountainous wine country

Argentina’s second centre for quality wine production (after Mendoza), Cafayate is a popular tourist destination but still has a tranquil small-town feel. Laying claim to the best torrontés wine in the world, Cafayate sits in a unique microclimate and one of few areas able to grow wine successfully at altitude. It sits in a beautiful region, with the green of the vines backed by soaring mountains beyond and is one of northwest Argentina’s most seductive destinations. With a selection of excellent accommodations and several wineries to visit in and around town, it invites an extended stay. An absolute must for wine and food lovers! 

Create your own personalised journey to discover Salta

Our destination experts can assist by designing your ultimate to discover the wonders of Salta, whether you’re just wanting to just see Salta or combine it with the rest of Argentina or package it into your dream South America itinerary. Click the button below for a selection of suggested itineraries you can customise with the help of our dedicated team.

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