Salta and the Andean Northwest once lay at the heart of the Inca Empire.
Their influence remains woven in among the Spanish colonial architecture, strong gaucho culture, and kaleidoscopic landscapes of this extraordinarily contrasting region. Salta is one of Argentina’s largest provinces, bordered by Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay.
Argentina’s Best-Preserved Colonial Architecture
The province is characterized by vastly diverse terrain such as the fertile valley of the capital, the polychrome canyons of Cafayate, and the desolate plateaus of La Puna. The province capital, Salta City, claims Argentina’s best-preserved colonial architecture, its narrow streets and charming plazas as quiet and gracious as they’ve been for centuries.
For the origins of these influences, the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (MAAM) offers a fascinating, though at times spine-chilling, glimpse into the Inca culture—much of which was destroyed by the Spanish invaders.
The Inca arts and crafts exist in the ponchos, rugs, alpaca shawls, and sweaters still crafted today with the same handmade techniques.
The province of Salta has a burgeoning reputation for its unique wines, cultivated at the highest altitudes in the world. The town of Cafayate, nestled in the Calchaquí Valley, is the center of the region’s wine production with its lauded Torrontes and Malbec wines.
In the Valle de Las Conchas, you can find some of the most striking and varied landscapes on the planet: ochre-red canyons, immeasurable salt flats, scenic deserts, towering cacti, indigo rivers, mighty Andean peaks, and seas of cultivated maize, tobacco, and olives.
Town of the Virgin Land
North of Salta is Jujuy province, where you will find the quaint yet beautiful village of Purmamarca.
In Purmamarca, a name that translates to “Town of the Virgin Land,” you’ll be taken aback by the unspoiled terrain, bound by the Río Purmamarca to the north and the picturesque Hill of Seven Colors to the west.
With a local population fluctuating between three and four hundred residents, as well as remnants of original 17th-century architecture, this village is truly a relic of ages past. You can travel further north into the awe-inspiring scenery of the Humahuaca Gorge, visiting quiet oasis villages, the ruins of a hilltop fortress, exquisite churches, and some of the most important archaeological sites in the country that preserve traces of the complex Inca civilization.
Salta and the Andean Northwest Essential Information
Reasons to Visit
- Arts & Culture
- Archaeology & History
- Culinary & Wine
- 3-6 nights
When to Visit
- Good: January–February
- Better: March / June–September / December
- Best: April–May / October–November