Salta “La Linda” (the beautiful) is the official slogan of this province in northwest Argentina. It is an understatement.
Salta’s beauty is hardly skin-deep. It is a province of poets, gauchos, guitars and extremely hospitable people. The province boasts very different scenery in its many regions: Majestic mountains with high-flying condors, Indian ruins and parts of the original Inca Road, jungle in the lowlands, fertile valleys, rivers that are very dry throughout most of the year and become raging rapids in summer, Jesuit mission ruins, small adobe towns, shining salt flats, an abundance of rivers, streams and lakes for fishing or other water activities, excellent wines exported all over the world, tobacco farms, cattle ranches and the list goes on.
Folk music is popular everywhere and in fact the best musicians in the genre are Salteños. The city’s architecture reflects its strong personality forged down through the years by a fascinating mixture of cultures: Spanish Colonial with its appealing arches, wrought-iron railings and beautiful churches, adobe dwellings in small villages and even its modern shopping malls. All are steeped in tradition.
The city itself sprawls across the fertile valley of Lerma at 1,200 meters (approx. 4,000 Ft.) above sea level. Its climate, unlike BA’s, is agreeable all year round. In summer, temperatures in the city can run up to 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees F) during the day but later drop to a cooler 20 or 22 degrees C in the evening. Rains are more frequent during the summer than the rest of the year. In winter it rarely slips below 10 C.
Salta Culture and History
In 1582, Don Hernando de Lerma, a Spanish conquistador crossed the Andes from Chile through dangerous mountain passes at over 4000 m (over 13.000 ft.) seeking gold and untold riches. Eventually, he founded a town he called “Salta” a mispronunciation of the Aymara Indian word “Sagta” meaning “Most Beautiful Region.” Lerma eventually found neither gold nor untold riches. However, he did parcel out thousands of Indians from different tribes to his soldiers so they could till the land. They were the precursors of the powerful landlords of the early 18th century.
Today Salta has grown into a city of some 400,000 inhabitants that proudly stick to the traditional afternoon “siesta” and the word “mañana” is heard frequently. Shops usually close at midday to 4 pm. Lunch starts at around 1 pm and may finish three hours later. Dinner is a fun-filled drawn out process that starts at around 9 pm and after much talk and laughing and guzzling of excellent local wine, may finish at midnight. Local dishes are worth savoring. The people are for the most part relaxed, fun loving and delighted to help tourists and learn about other cultures.
The central plaza, 9 de Julio, dominates city life. The Salteños do most of their business in the banks and offices surrounding the plaza. Several hotels are concentrated in the area. The Cathedral together with the Archbishopric alongside is a neo-gothic-cum-neo-colonial complex built in late 19th Century that plays an important part in the religious life of the city. On certain Holy Days thousands of believers come by buses, cars and on foot from all over Salta as well as neighboring provinces. Beautiful statues dot the interior of the Cathedral, many of them brought along from Spain by the conquistadores.
Things to Do in Salta
The original Cabildo (City Hall) is now a museum on the opposite side of the plaza. City dwellers like to gather at the surrounding coffee shops and empanada restaurants to chat and drink mate, tea or coffee throughout the day, and beer and wine in the evening. The city’s pretty girls follow another age-old tradition: that of walking leisurely around the Plaza in one direction while the young boys walk around in the other. Electrical looks and gestures signal interest in continuing the relationship later.
Taking a few leisurely walking tours around the city is fascinating. Impressive churches abound and they are worth inspecting. Tourists would do well to check out the local restaurants where typical dishes are served. The Patio de la Empanada on San Martín Avenue at the corner of Esteco Street for example, or some small bars on Caseros St. between Buenos Aires and Alberdi streets. Check out the restaurants section for more information.
Nightlife is lively with several discotheques where DJs expertly deliver bouncy Latin American rhythms along with hard rock, rap, blues and just about whatever you wish. The ubiquitous bars and restaurants teem with patrons. For the musical minded, “Peñas” (clubs where folk music is played) introduce the listener to the magic melodies originating from a mixture of Spanish, Indian, African, and modern compositions.
There are activities for all, from trains that sweep you off for a 217 Km. ride so high that you have to look down to see the clouds to letting the mysteries of Indian ruins and small stretches of the Inca road to Machu Pichu, Peru invade your mind. Do not miss The Wine Tour which can be an unforgettable experience. For the adventurous there are white-water rafting tours, trekking regions galore, a look at the jungle in the eastern areas of the province, rough-road tours in 4-wheel drive vehicles. Take your time, like the locals do, and you will experience the vacation of a lifetime. (For more things to see and do, check out the Activities section).
We think you might also like: