May 042010
 

Total Miles Traveled: 13,106

We weren’t originally going to go to Salta.   Located in Argentina’s Northwest corner and nestled in the foothills of the Andes and near the Bolivia and Paraguay borders, Salta is a 19 hour bus ride from Mendoza (or a pretty pricey 5 hour flight that required us to fly first to Buenos Aires).

However, after we decided to leave Chile early, we had time on our hands.  We opted for the bus ride.  Friends have asked what taking a 19 hour bus ride is like.  Luckily, it wasn’t that bad.  We bought 1st class “primera clase”  with 180 degree reclining seats. If you saw our previous post, you get the idea.   But luckily this time we came prepared with food and snacks…  With a little preventative Imodium :) and taking advantage of the stops along the way, it’s not so bad.   Alas, we didn’t win at bus bingo this time either!

Salta La Linda

We didn’t expect to like Salta.  In fact, we were thinking that we may only stay a couple of days before moving to one of the smaller villages located 1-2 hours north of Salta and in the beautiful cerro de los siete colores (7 colored mountains) area.   But Salta surprised and entranced us – we ended up staying for a week.  Nicknamed Salta la Linda (translated Salta the Beautiful), Salta is one of the most Spanish-like cities in Argentina.  The local culture, however, is a blend of Spanish and “gaucho” and “criolla” (a mix of ‘cowboy’ and indigenous Indian) traditions.  Because of its Spanish heritage, Salta boasts beautiful churches… the church in the picture below is located on one of the main plazas and is beautiful both during they day and at night.  Note the dramatic clouds that formed around sunset.  Locals kept telling us that it never rains in Salta – even if it looks like it will rain.  It rained that night – ALL NIGHT.

Salta’s Culture

We were surprised how ‘artsy’ Salta is.  It has lots of museums – there is even a shopping mall that serves as museum, featuring murals and modern sculptures interspersed between stores and on ceilings.  One museum (MAAM) showcases 3 perfectly-preserved children from the 1500s, who were believed to be of Incan nobility and offered up to deities as sacrificial offerings.    The children were found by hikers on the Llullaillaco Volcano in the Andes in 1999.   Here’s how scarily well-preserved the 500 year mummy children are:

Peñas

Salta is home to a style of folk music called ‘peñas’.   It dates back to the gaucho culture of last century.  We describe it as an interesting blend of music that is part US country, part Mexican “ranchero” and part Spanish Flamenco.  But it works and we enjoyed it.  Peñas are so pervasive that local restaurants provide a place to have ‘pick up peñas where restaurant patrons – after (or even during dinner) will pick up their guitar, drum or pan flute and start jamming.

Mercado Central

Since we’re foodies, we like checking out the local markets.  Salta’s central market reminded us of the Farmer’s Market at The Grove in L.A., where you have many metal-framed stalls crammed in to a small area.   There were many spice merchants with mounds of spices.   Do they just pour the spices back in to a bigger container at the end of the day?

Warning, the next few images may not be so appetizing…  There were many butchers selling a variety of cow innards, homemade sausages, etc.:

This looks like a bucket of one long sausage though I’m sure they get tied off later to make many sausages:

More cow innards:

Here are a few more choice photos from Salta:

…kids seem to love posing for pictures:

… we came across a dog adoption at a Sunday market – Lisa almost melted when she held this little puppy.

… and if you do make it to Salta, people will tell you to ride the “teleferico” or the gondola.  It’s cool, but the better part is hiking up the 1100 steps to the station, and then taking the ride down.

All in all, we highly recommend visiting Salta and its surrounding areas – budget a minimum of 3 days to explore the city and to visit areas to the north (Jujuy, Purmamarca, Salinas Grandes) and to the south (including Cafayate, Argentina’s “second” wine region).

For more photos, see the entire slideshow on Flickr.

Up next, we’ll write about some of our trips to the north of Salta!