The trip through the northern area of Argentina was extremely picturesque and actually quite an education in the sense that we didn’t realize just how beautiful this area of the world was, as we were welcomed with mountains, fields, lakes, rivers and some spectacular vistas.
After approximately 9 hours we arrived in Salta and were greeted by a representative of ‘Backpackers Suites and Bar‘ who suggested we check out their establishment. We were very pleased we did as, although it was quiet (we were there in the low season) the deals you could get on the rooms were very appealing and with great facilities and helpful staff; we were pleased to be able to rest our weary head on a very comfortable bed!
One activity that is very popular to do when staying in Salta is to go and visit the sierras which allows some spectacular views of the mountains and a great experience trekking on foot or on horse-back through the scenery and if you are on horse-back; being guided by an authentic Argentinian cowboy; a gaucho. There are various tours you can book but one particularly popular option is to go via the town of Cafayate and take-in the baroque style architecture before continuing through the sierras and eventually back into Salta.
On many of the tours through the sierras, you also experience a barbecue with the best of Argentinian beef, something that we were very keen to try. Alas, for a budget reaching the end of a long journey, it was a little out of our price range; we were starting to add things to a new list of activities and excursions we would have to re-visit South America for and in all honesty, that was not a bad thing as this continent kept on impressing with each new destination we ventured to.
With the tour slightly out of our budget, we felt a touch disappointed but we were still keen to try some authentic Argentinian food and sample their world-famous beef. On the advice of the guy working in our hostel, we headed out to his favourite, local restaurant and asked for their bistec special. The plate of food that arrived was enough to feed a small country for at least a week! It was a pile of fried potatoes, beef, onions, peppers and eggs and although possibly a strong guarantee of an instant heart-attack; it was delightful and full of flavour! The setting was also a complete winner as the restaurant was small inside but with tables that seemed to appear from nowhere and go on forever outside, on a rather large patio in a rather large courtyard. It felt as if we had made a good choice as the only other clientele seemed to be Argentinian; obviously popular with the locals.
Salta has a particularly popular vantage point for anyone seeking a panoramic view of the City in the form of a rather large hill that stands on guard of the Town. The peak of the hill can be reached in two ways; by road (car, or on foot) or by the gondola that services the vantage-point. Still nursing the knee injury from trekking in Peru, we opted for the gondola.
The ride from the station to the top of the hill could be a lovely, tranquil trip, however, if the wind is screaming as it seemed to be doing today, when we had decided to visit, well the trip is less tranquil and more terrifying! We are pretty sure that our lateral speed was just as quick as our longitudinal as we began to sway from side-to-side on the slow-paced journey to the top. However, at the top of the hill you cold totally understand the appeal of this place, and not just for the amazing views of the mountains and the City.
The powers-that-be had done a great job developing this hill-top with a fantastic water-feature, gardens, an amphitheatre, some gym equipment for the people who regularly run up and down the hill-side, and cafes that offer a very impressive view as you sit back and enjoy your intake of caffeine, or matte; which is a very popular way of taking tea in Argentina.
Returning from the hill-top via our roller-coaster-come-gondola we continued into town to see what Salta had to offer in the way of heritage, history and architecture. A walk round the town, using one of the very easy to read and use, free City maps (available at most hostels) you can take yourself on a tour of attractions and points of interest such as The Cathedral of Salta, Iglesia San Francisco, San Bernado Convent and the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta.
We really liked Salta as we took in the colourful buildings, the grandeur of the cathedral and various churches, the simplicity of the monastery and the European feel of the main square. Walking back to the hostel, we collected our bags and headed for the bus station as we were catching an overnight bus to Mendoza; the home of the wine region of Eastern Argentina.