South America Travel Tips

Salta: When a Tiny Museum & a Short Hike Mean… Tourism

Salta is a busy city. They call it “Salta la Linda” (“Salta the Beautiful”) due to its colonial architecture, excellent weather and natural scenery. Or maybe they call it like that to get as many tourists as possible. Either way, my 10 days in Salta where way too many – screw you TripAdvisor!

Salta: the City

Salta has a population of over 600,000. And you can hear them all, night and day!

It’s quite an old town with lots of history and not much to do, unless you love shopping, eating out for cheap or signing up to organised tours.

Despite I messed up with my calculation (10 days), I actually experienced 3 days of heavy rain which allowed me to get a lot of work done. And on top of that, I dedicated one of the days to explore the Jujuy Province, which was definitely worth it.

Salta has very pretty Spanish churches and a beautiful central Plaza (9 de Julio) that is located in the center of the city. The Plaza is a beautiful square with indoor & outdoors bars and restaurants, as well as museums and the Cathedral.

I loved Salta more because of the atmosphere than for its attractions. It’s a happy town, people are always out day and night and overall it’s cleaner than other Argentinian places I’ve visited.

Salta: the Mountain

Salta also features a beautiful mountain that overlooks the city, Cerro San Bernardo. You can reach it by car/motorbike along the road, foot (1021 steps) or gondola lift (“Teleferico”) and enjoy an amazing view
of the whole city.

I did it twice (by foot of course, and the second by running a bit), and realised locals use this as their fitness center. You can find Salteños climbing, cycling or running it every day. On top, there’s even a free gym where you can exercise if you were not satisfied with the 1021 steps!

And along the footsteps you can find 12 stations of the Via Crucis – pity they’re full of graffiti. The walk is pretty nice, and I’d suggest to do this instead of taking the lazy teleferico.

Salta: the MAAM Museum

The MAAM museum (Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña) is tiny – yet well worth the 100 pesos. It
contains the remains of 3 mummified kids – “los tres niños” – who were sacrificed to the Inca gods according to their beliefs and rituals.

It’s a pretty tough story – yet fascinating.

These 3 kids were found at almost 7,000 meters of altitude in 1999, at the top of a mountain called Llullaillaco (pronounce that if you’re able!). Unbelievable how they even got there alive in the first place, without any “subzero conditions hiking gear” (just made that up).

And the same subzero conditions are what actually kept these 3 kids intact. Unbelievable. I don’t want to spoil this, but you really have to go to this museum to see it. These kids have been discovered and been preserved in their original condition, together with a series of religious objects, their original clothes, and anything else (really everything – they even know how much they ate before being sacrificed).

To allow for longer preservation, you are only shown 1 mummy at any given time (I think they rotate them every 6 months), while the other 2 are kept in a -20 degrees Celsius room.

Well, best museum ever. It really makes you shiver. And I discovered many things about the Inca, things
I didn’t know before. Just wonderful.

Salta: San Lorenzo

The weather was nice, so I decided to get a short bus ride to San Lorenzo, a mountain locality just outside Salta.

San Lorenzo is a wealthy little town, situated at 1450m above sea level, and features a lovely river, horse riding, a nice forest and a hike. Unfortunately the hike is not sign posted and you really have to guess the path – the only good thing to remember is to try walking beside the river as much as possible.

Coming down from the mountain, the trail is going in every direction and it’s pretty hard to find the way back (or the easiest way back). Needless to say I started the hike without asking for information, so after 90 minutes of I gave up and turned back as I was starting to get hungry.

I met a couple who got lost as well, so we came down together. We made it, and I got myself a well deserved bottle of (Salta) beer.

Overall this was a nice, quiet, green way to spend one day in Salta – highly recommended! And it’s only a 20 minutes bus ride from the city center (bus no.7).

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