Most visitors to Northwest Argentina, or NOA (from Noroeste Argentina in Spanish), go for the amazing landscapes, charming rural towns, and delicious wines, treating the cities in the region as arrival or departure points. However, the cities offer cultural activities, architecture, history, good restaurants and comfortable accommodations which make them worth a visit. We spent several days in the cities of Salta and Jujuy and have a few recommendations for your visit.
“Salta the Beautiful”
As capital of the province of the same name, Salta and is often referred to as “Salta the capital” to avoid confusion. It’s also known as Salta la Linda or “the beautiful” – a fitting name. This city of over 600,000 inhabitants sits in a sweeping valley with lovely views of the mountains. The city center is oriented toward tourists but remains a vibrant hub for residents as well. The main square, Plaza 9 de Julio, is very well maintained and surrounded by historic buildings, cafes, restaurants, shops and museums. This is also where you can book excursions or rent a car from one of the abundant travel services.
Things to do in Salta:
There are plenty of things to see and do in Salta for a stay of two nights. A few highlights from our visit are:
Museum of High Altitude Archeology (in Spanish MAAM – Museo de Archeología de Alta Montaña), on Plaza 9 de Julio - This is a great introduction to the geography of the region and the deep cultural and religious connection that indigenous cultures have with the environment. Oh, and they have mummified human remains on display….
Museo del Norte, located in the Cabildo (town hall) on Plaza 9 de Julio – This museum covers ancient cultures from the region as well as the history of Salta following the arrival of Europeans and the fight for independence from Spain.
Güemes Museum, Calle Espana 730 (three blocks from Plaza 9 de Julio) – Located in the former home of Martin Miguel de Guemes, this new museum is a shrine to one of the leaders of Argentina’s fight for independence. It’s worth a visit but beware you will have to join a small group of fellow visitors, as each room is designed as a self-contained “high tech” experience, employing video, lights, holographics, etc. For English speakers, you’ll have to read subtitles and/or a supplemental guidebook to follow the presentation.
Gondola (Teleférico) to the Cerro San Bernardo, Parque San Martin – Go for the sweeping views of the city, valley and mountains. There is also a café with fabulous views, and a few stands selling local textiles and souvenirs. You can also ascend or descend to the viewing area via 1,000 stairs…. Go for it!
Salta also offers some great shopping, particularly for textiles, silver and other design items from the Andes region, as well as authentic gaucho (cowboy), and religious (catholic) items. You’ll find many shops located on Caseros Street between Plaza 9 de Julio and the historical convent at cross street Santa Fe. Just note that prices in Salta are a bit higher than in the rural areas.
Accommodations and Restaurants in Salta:
There are numerous hotels in Salta at various price and quality levels. We stayed at the boutique Hotel Balcón de la Plaza, located half a block from the main square. This small, tastefully designed property is very quiet given the central location. The breakfast buffet is ample for the region and staff are very friendly and helpful.
Before departing NOA we also spent one night at Brizo Salta (part of a national chain). This is a new apartment hotel in a very central location (5 blocks from the main plaza). It’s very nice and has a rooftop deck with a great view.
Eats and Entertainment in Salta:
La Criollita, #306 Zuviria St. (3 blocks from 9th of July Square) – Simple place also popular with locals. Great empanadas, tamales, humitas and other regional specialties. You can also get takeout.
Café del Convento, #98 Caseros Street – Delicious coffee and sweets with a pleasant view of the neighboring convent and a neighborhood café vibe.
Temple Craft Beer, #213 Avenida Gral Belgrano – Centrally located microbrewery serving a basic pub menu. Good place to hang out for a drink or a quick bite.
Café del Tiempo, #202 Gral Guemes (across the street from Temple microbrewery) – Offers a range of Argentine and European food, including gourmet pizzas.
Absolutely plan to go to La Casona del Molino (#1 Luis Burela Street)!!! This is a traditional peña folclórica, a place where local musicians perform spontaneously (more or less). Located outside of the tourist zone this place is very popular with locals. Make reservations and get there close to opening (9pm), or go very late (after midnight) – The fun starts at around 10pm and goes well into the early hours. The food is local, delicious and reasonably priced.
There is also a “gastronomic zone” in Salta, located on Balcarce Street between Entre Rios and Necochea streets. It has a bit of a commercial vibe, but you can find just about anything including live entertainment.
San Salvador Jujuy
Jujuy has a distinctly different feel. Located 150kms to the north of Salta, the capital of the Jujuy province is generally not a tourist destination on its own, which makes it a much more local experience. I recommend a brief visit on the way to or from the Quebrada de Humahuaca, or a one night stay at most.
Things to do in Jujuy:
Stroll down Belgrano Street. This is the main commercial street, of which about two blocks are closed to traffic during the evening.
Casa de Gobierno (Provincial Government Offices), on Plaza Belgrano – Worth a quick visit to understand the history of Jujuy. This is also where the oldest documented flag in Argentina is kept on display.
A visit to the Termas de Reyes just outside of town is an option if you are looking for a dip in natural thermal baths.
Accommodations and Eats in Jujuy:
We stayed at Posada el Arribo, #1263 Belgrano Street, a boutique hotel in a restored home that had been in the family since its construction the in the late 1800s. The large rooms open onto courtyards.
Viracocha restaurant, #994 Independencia St. This is actually a chain of restaurants serving local cuisine. Comfortable place with local textiles and pottery for sale.