Is Salta the Real Argentina?

As it is the nearest big tourist destination to where I now live, Salta has become somewhere I head to whenever I feel the urge to get away for a few days.

I just stopped off there on the way back from Mar del Plata and was amazed at how much this city has blossomed in the years since I first visited it. Back then in 2003 it seemed like a sleepy little city that didn’t really attract a lot of visitors.

Now, it is a very popular destination, mainly with Argentines from other parts of the country. From speaking to a number of them I get the impression that they come here looking for a taste of the real Argentina, so what is so special about Salta?

Creole Food and Culture

It seems that people from other parts of the country see this as being one of the few places left to sample the original, criolla (creole) lifestyle that once thrived in Argentina.

Perhaps the best way to explain it to a Brit would be to compare it to a tourist spot in the country where you could sample the authentic food and lifestyle of the UK from a century or two ago. However, this isn’t a museum or a gimmicky tourist set up but rather a living, breathing city that has history all around it but some modern touches as well.

One of the first things that visitors do here is head out to eat typical Argentine food such as locro and humitas. These are things that are difficult to find in other parts of country, where pizzas, milanesas and international food are much more common now.

To be honest, I didn’t really like this criolla food but I could see that it holds a big attraction for the Argentine tourists. It is definitely worth giving humitas a try to see whether you like them, although the locro felt far more like an acquired taste.

The people who live here are also famous for being amazing folk singers. Everywhere you go you will find people singing classic songs in beautiful voices, often while wearing the full, typical clothing of the region.

What Is There for Foreign Tourists Here?

It is clear Argentines love travelling to Salta in order to get in touch with their country’s own past and history. But what is there here for foreign tourists?


Well, I have to admit there are few world-shattering attractions here that will blow your mind. In fact, let’s be honest and admit that there are absolutely none.

Despite this, it is exactly the kind of city I enjoy visiting. The climate is fantastic, the people are famously friendly and it is the sort of place where you can just wander around and feel part of something different and special.

The cable car ride up to the top of the hill is pretty good, there is an ornate cathedral, some interesting museums, a big park and some decent shops. You can also make a day trip out to somewhere like Cafayate or San Lorenzo to see interesting parts of the region. The dizzying train to the clouds (tren a las nubes) is said to be a spectacular experience although it is crazy expensive and only runs for a part of the year.

Quite a lot of foreigners also come here, with a mixture of hip young backpackers and older people (especially the French for some reason).  It is worth bearing in mind that it is a long, long way from Buenos Aires, though.

If you are in the capital and want to see whether Salta feels like the real Argentina to you then your easiest option is to book a flight up. However, I would also recommend taking the long bus journey and enjoying a full day of watching the changing countryside roll past your window.

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