Salta: Land of Transitions
Salta lies in a wide valley, nestled in Argentina’s far-northwest. This is a land of transitions, shifting from crimson sandstone cliffs to golden pastureland.
In some respects, the landscape is a metaphor for Salta’s role as a bridge between its ancient and modern inhabitants.
This region was part of the Inca Empire, and home to several local cultures that pre-dating the Inca by more than five centuries.
In the 16th century, Spanish interests reshaped the area into a key military and commercial link between coastal Argentina and El Gran Peru.
Ornate Churches & Sidewalk Cafes
Similarly, Salta’s historic center is a mélange of the indigenous and the European—the Andean and the Andalusian.
Ornate churches and sidewalk cafes line the plazas, poncho-clad troubadours serenade from the street corners, and Wichi handcrafts fill the markets.
A typical meal might consist of perfectly roasted potatoes, gaucho-style asado, and locally-produced sherry.
High-mountain Andean Archeological Museum
The High-mountain Andean Archeological Museum (MAAM), is located inside a restored colonial building.
Within the museum’s temperature-controlled cabinets rest the mummies of three Inca-era children, whose remains were recovered from Mount Llullaillaco during a 1999 expedition.
Artifacts found with the mummies are also on display, as are Inca textiles and gold.
Keeping with its trademark balance between ancient and modern, Salta’s Train to the Clouds offers a 15-hour roundtrip journey through Toro Canyon.
This train operates between March and October, passing rustic settlements, sparkling salt flats, and lonely peaks. En route, the train negotiates 29 bridges and 13 viaducts.
The highlight is the spindly steel viaduct of La Polvorilla. Passengers gasp as their cars glide over the valley at 13,850 feet above sea level.
VINYARDS & ORCHARDS OF CAFAYATE
Southwest of Salta are the ochre-hued Calchaquí Valleys. Here, the pueblo of Cachi is centered around 16th-century church constructed of cactus wood and adobe.
The town’s archeological museum and handcraft market are well worth a visit, as are the local bakeries. An hour’s drive south of Cachi, lies the resort town of Cafayate.
Surrounded by vineyards and orchards, Cafayate’s altitude, sunny climate, and dry air are ideal for wine production.
While the region’s signature wine is a fruity, aromatic white known as Torrontés, it’s also known to produce fine Malbecs and Merlots.
Salta can be reached by air from Buenos Aires in 2½ hours. The climate is generally sunny year-round.
Although the summer months (November through March) typically see highs above 90° and lows near 60°, temperatures can vary significantly with altitude and cloud cover.
The winter months (June through August) have highs near 70° and lows near 30°.
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