- Canyons and condors
- Country life
- Gauchos and gringos
Flatteringly known as ‘Salta la linda’ (Salta the pretty one), this is a peak-filled place that’s one heck of a charmer…
This picturesque province in north-west Argentina is easy on the eye, with mountains, canyons and vineyards making up the vast landscape. The city itself lies in the foothills of the Andes, an old colonial stronghold with preserved Spanish architecture – there’s even a candy-pink cathedral. Pass through the Calchaqui Valley to the vertiginous vineyards of Cafayate, or head north to neighbouring Jujuy; just make sure you look out of the window, as the scenery changes from lush and green to red and dusty. The province spans desert in the Puna, home to a blue lagoon with exotic birds and bright white salt beds, with rivers, mountains and valleys forming the rest. This good-looking girl has been around since the Incas. Get acclimatised to the altitude and come check her out in person.
Much of the wine in this lofty region is made at 5,500ft above sea level, where you'll find vineyards that are the world's highest. High-altitude viticulture may be a relatively new activity, and it has its problems to overcome: frost, hail, wild hares, wild donkeys and leaf-eating ants, for a start, but these durable sky-high grapes are making a name for themselves.
- Within the town itself and at the airport, taxis are easy to come by, but if you plan on exploring the region, it’s best to hire a car when you land, and even better if it’s a four-wheel drive as roads can get pretty treacherous.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Expect siestas to take up most of the afternoon, with shops out of action somewhere between 1.30pm and 5pm. Argentines don’t really like to eat dinner before 11pm, but you might be able to get away with an earlier meal in rural parts.
- Packing tips
- High-factor sunscreen to beat the weathered mountain look (the air may be dry and crisp, but that sun will scorch); layers to enjoy the warm, sunny days and chilly days suitably.
- Recommended reads
- La Oasis de la Vida by Juana Manuela Gorriti, one of Argentina’s most famous writers, who hailed from Salta; Argentine Textiles by Enrique Taranto and Jorge Mari for fans of the technicolour threads everywhere.
- Popular dishes include humitas (cornmeal-stuffed steamed corn husks), chivito (a sandwich filled with either goat or llama meat) and locro (a meat and corn stew, sometimes made with pumkin). Be sure to try some of the local wine made on mountainous vineyards; torrentes is a zingy white. Don’t be alarmed if you see locals with a mouthful of chewed-up greenery – it’s just coca leaves, munched as a mild stimulant. You’ll also see people gulping yerba mate brews, often from an ornate cup and silver straw.
- Regional specialities
- Argentina is famed for its empanadas, and Salta’s are rumoured to be the best in the land; these meat-filled pasties are the snack of choice, and here you get hunks rather than mince.
- Argentine peso (A$).
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Argentina: +54. Salta: (0)387.
- Do go/don't go
- It’s hottest from November to January, with the lowest temperatures seen in June. The city stays mild for most of the year, but up in the mountains can be freezing.
Don't go home without...
…getting on a horse at least once, and stocking up on hand-woven blankets, silver and leather – crafts don’t get better than this.