Arriving in Salta, located in northwest Argentina, from Buenos Aires always turns my world upside down. It had been three years since I was in Salta last. Salta is one of Argentina’s best kept secrets for nature and adventure enthusiasts along with foodies; I could not wait to be back!
Departing from the modern, seemingly European city of Buenos Aires, you arrive suddenly in a hidden, Spanish colonial style city nestled into the rainbow-colored Andes. The cobblestone streets in Salta are lined with ancient jacaranda trees that provide shade during the sunny afternoons. People are remarkably friendly and proud of their city and it is not uncommon to have curious locals approach you to strike up a conversation about history, food or even the local soccer matches. Salta is a family friendly city and extremely walkable. Dotted with plazas and parks, visitors and locals alike can wander between these social and cultural hubs while taking advantage of the little cafes lining the squares for a coffee or mouthwatering empanada.
In early October, I met up with a girl friend of mine to explore the natural wonders of Salta while simultaneously entertaining our palates with the mind-blowing high-altitude wines that Salta has recently become famous for.
I arrived at night and was greeted by our guide, driver and new friend Jorge. There was a light mist in the evening air as we pulled into the city- Spring was just beginning in Argentina. I met with my friend, in our hotel, Legado Mitico. Located just a few blocks off the main square, Legado Mitico, is a cozy boutique hotel that was once a former mansion. The hotel circles around an inviting inner courtyard with Spanish tiles adding warmth to the décor. Our room had 15ft (5 m) ceilings and large French doors that opened onto a balcony overlooking the narrow street below. Excited for our adventure over the next five days, we went to bed early to ready ourselves for our early-morning departure the next day.
After a scrumptious breakfast of glazed medialunas, argentine croissants, local yogurt, juice and coffee, Jorge met us in his spacious 4×4 truck to begin our journey along the wine route through Salta. A 4×4 vehicle is definitely a must for this route as many of the roads are unpaved and winding, leading through the Yungas, Saltenan jungle, over high rocky passes and finally through vivid desert landscapes without towns or signs of human life for miles.
Salta is celebrated for its numerous microclimates. On our first day we passed through lush, sub-tropical jungle, over a staggering 13,000 ft pass leading to arid grasslands lined with striking orange, crimson and dandelion-colored rock formations. As we continued west into Los Cardones National Park, the land became drier and the scenery morphed to sandy, rocky soil, and millions of cacti sprouting up everywhere the eye could see. All the Cardon cacti in this park were easily over 12ft (4 m) meaning that some were over 800 years old! We stopped in the heart of the park to explore some of the short trails leading to several vantage points and then continued on to have lunch in the quaint town of Cachi, sitting at the foot of several massive peaks. Here, in the heart of this sleepy colonial town, we had a fantastic lunch on the veranda of a local hot spot. We toasted to our trip with deep, almost sapphire-colored Malbec and as we took in the beauty of our new surroundings.
In the afternoon, we hiked through more cardon cacti to a pre-incan ruin site located just outside of Cachi. From here, we went to our hotel, Merced del Alto. This gorgeous boutique property sits just outside of Cachi and was designed to model the old Spanish missions. The back pool of Merced del Alto beckons to its guests to sip wine and watch the sun set behind the jagged Andes. Dinner was served in front of one of the hotel’s oversized fireplaces in a cozy dining room.
Falling asleep on top of plush feather beds was the best way to end the day and rejuvenate.
Stay tuned for the rest of my Salta adventure in our blogs coming out over the next weeks.
Want to explore Salta on your next adventure? Check out these itineraries:
- 5-Day Northwest Argentina: Culture, Food and Mountains
- 5-Day Northwest Argentina: Wine and Canyons
- 4-Day Northwest Argentina: Trekking to the Clouds
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Your friendly Argentina expert,