Top 5 places to visit around Salta, Argentina.
North West Argentina (NOA to the locals), is an area of incredible beauty and where you will find the peoples and culture of the high Andes.
Salta is a charming colonial city nestling into the Andean foothills. Located in the Lerma Valley at just over 1000 metres above sea level, it is the gateway to explore this fascinating region of Argentina.
The city has a fine selection of hotels and restaurants and is also home of the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (High Mountain Archaeological Museum), full of of pre Columbian artefacts including mummies.
There are several daily flights from Buenos Aires as well as a bus service from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama in Northern Chile.
From Salta, the following are our top 5 picks of places to visit.
Quebrada de las Conchas/Shell Gorge
90 Km South West of Salta, en route to Cafayate, is the Quebrada de Las Conchas (Shell Gorge) which runs for around 80 Km. The gorge has been formed by tectonic upheaval which has created an incredible array of rock formations and geological features in shades of red, ochre, yellow and more. This is an incredible drive through an ever changing panorama of rock formations, colours and views.
Several of these rock formations have names such as El Anfiteatro/The Amphithetre, El Fraile/The Monk, El Sapo/The Toad, Las Ventanas/The Windows and Los Castillos/The Castles and many are signposted.
This drive or tour is a must giving yourself plenty of time to stop and admire the force of nature.
At the Southern end of the Quebrada de Las Conchas, 190 Km from Salta and 1600 metres above sea level, is the town of Cafayate. This is in the heart of the Cachaquies Valley, known for its wines, particularly of the Torrontes variety.
There are plenty of things to do: explore the wineries, taste the wines, rent a bicycle or trek to the Colorado falls for a mountain stream swim
It's definitely worth an overnight stay and combining with the exploration of the Quebrada de las Conchas from Salta.
Purmamarca and the Cerro de Siete Colores/Hill of Seven Colours
Purmamarca is an Andean town 180 Km North of Salta situated at the cross roads of the main road North to Bolivia and West to Chile. The town has an interesting handicraft market but the main attraction is the Cerro de Siete Colores/Hill of Seven Colours, the result of millenary tectonic movements that have thrown together seven different rock types of differing ages. This has given the hillside a palate of shades of pink, brow, purple, green and yellow.
The town can also be the base from which to head off on treks along the Purmamarca River.
The Salinas Grandes salt flats are situated at 3450 metres above sea level on the international route between Purmamarca and Chile.
Covering an area of over 200 Km2 the pristine white expanse is a great sight. It is a dried lake bed of salt which is a crust of over 30cm. There are areas of water too that reflect the sky, clouds and surrounding mountains.
Make sure you wear sunglasses for the glare and you will have great photo opportunities.
200 Km north of Salta in the Humahuaca Gorge is the colonial high Andean town of Tilcara.
Visitors must visit the pre Columbian Pucara (fortress) perched on a hillock next to the town, the botanic gardens with its variety of high altitude plants as well as the Archaeological Museum.
The area is a panorama of multicolured mountains. Beautiful.
Bruce Percy recommends
Bruce Percy, Scottish landscape photographer, has just returned from his second visit to the area. He has been off the beaten path photographing the "puna" to the west of Salta.
When asked what attracted him to the areas he said: "The amazing red clay hills, particularly the area around the town of Tolar Grande and the conical hill, Cono de Arita. The landscape is other worldy, surreal."
Click here for images from Bruce's first visit in 2015.
Visiting and more
For the adventurous looking to trek in this area plus Bolivian and Northern Chile, Andean Trails offers small group departures on Saturdays on its Salt Flats of the Altiplano trekking tour.
A similar option with less demanding walks is the North Argentina, Bolivia Uyuni, Chile Atacama Highlights tour. Tailor-made individual itineraries are also always an option.
Contact Andean Trails if you would like more information.