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We arrived in Salta in Northwest Argentina with plans to stay for a week or so.
Two months later, we are still here; still appreciating the beauty of traveling indefinitely and our newfound ability to exchange Best Laid Plans for whims and fancies without worrying about timescales or onward destinations.
We were charmed by Salta and her beautiful colonial buildings, her leafy central plaza and her carefree, laid back atmosphere that made it easy to relax under the seemingly endless sky. However, once we escaped the gentle grip of a prized spot in the sun and explored the surrounding areas, we were treated to a stunning array of landscapes and locales.
These are our highlights from our time in Salta.
Our first couchsurfing experience in Paraguay went so well that we tried it again in Salta – this time staying with Leigh, a fellow travel blogger, and her family in Castellanos on the outskirts of the city. We enjoyed a lovely week with the family chilling in the countryside.
They also hosted a lunch for the Salta couchsurfing group and we got to meet some interesting local people. We spent the last three weeks house-sitting the house and their puppy Mani while Leigh, Noah and Lila were back visiting the US. You never know what opportunities couchsurfing will lead to.
There’s an artisan market in the city, but buying souvenirs doesn’t interest us any more (having sold all our stuff and living out of a small backpack). However we do like to eat and once we rented an apartment with our own kitchen we headed to the local market to stock up. We were pleasantly surprised to find everything we needed amongst the numerous neatly stacked stalls – in fact the range of produce was more diverse than anywhere we found in Buenos Aires. We even found essential Mexican food ingredients: cilantro, avocados, chillies and dried black beans.
As well as the fruit and vegetable stalls you’ll find piles of spices, locally made goats cheese, a food court selling cheap meals and the requisite souvenir stalls with colourful woolly jumpers and hats made from llama wool.
Cerro San Bernardo
Many people take the teleferico (cable car) up Cerro San Bernardo but we regularly walked up the 1070 steps for the exercise and to take a break from work. The steps are always busy with a mixture of locals and visitors and we enjoyed some friendly chats en route.
At the top there are wonderful views of the city and surrounding hills – it’s particularly lovely at sunset.
La Casona del Molino
Visiting a peña to hear local folk music is one of the “must-dos” in Salta, and although there are plenty of touristy venues we heard that La Casona del Molino (Luis Burela 1) was the most authentic experience. It’s a multi roomed restaurant serving up traditional food (that’s empanadas for us then) and sangria. As the night progresses the music starts up. There’s no stage, dancers or fancy costumes, just local musicians strumming their acoustic guitars and singing impassioned folk songs from their table – they are just one of the crowd.
It’s a great night out. Make sure you get there early at weekends though. One Friday we turned up at 11pm and couldn’t get in because it was full. We ended up going to a restaurant on Balcarce instead and got to experience for ourselves a touristy peña: the music was far too loud, the food below average, and we ended up paying 15 pesos each for the privilege even though we hadn’t been told there was a cover charge. It just confirmed that in Salta La Casona del Molino is the place to go.
Watching the World Cup
We were lucky enough to be in Salta for the World Cup and although Argentina didn’t do as well as we would all have liked, it was a fantastic experience watching the Argentina vs Greece match with the football crazy salteños. After their win Plaza 9 de Julio filled with jubilant fans and a sea of pale blue flags. We were eager to see what would happen if Argentina won the whole World Cup – but alas, it was not to be.
Although popular with Argentine tourists in the summer, I don’t think many foreign travellers make it out to San Lorenzo, just 12 km from Salta. It’s a peaceful village surrounded by beautiful hills and cloud forest, that we got to explore when couchsurfing nearby. The Quebrada de San Lorenzo is a lovely place for a walk through the forest, with a zip line at the end. If you want an easy countryside break from Salta we recommend San Lorenzo.
Although Salta is a lovely city, for us the real highlight is getting out and exploring the region. The scenery we encountered on our road trip to Cafayate, Cachi and Purmamarca was simply mind-blowing. Read about our trip here.