The third day of our road trip was basically nothing but road. Even though it was in our original plan we decided to skip San Miguel de Tucumán due to time deficiency. After driving more than 530 kilometers (330 mi) we finally arrived to Salta. So, what to do in Salta?
The whole road trip route can be seen on the map on the right. And the daily schedule for the trip is below:
- San Agustin de Valle Fertil
- San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca (with Ischigualasto Provinical Park)
- San Salvador de Jujuy
- San Salvador de Jujuy (with Humahuaca and Purmamarca)
- Salta (with Salinas Grandes)
- Belen (with Cafayate)
- Famatina (with Fiambala)
What to do in Salta?
The first thing that comes into the mind when hearing the name Salta is that it has to be something to do with salt. Well, in this case it doesn’t. Neither is it connected with the Spanish word that in translation means “jumps”. Actually nobody really knows where the city got its name from but one theory is its coming from an Indian tribe called the Saltas. That said, the Argentina’s 8th largest city is also located in the southernmost region of the ancient Inca empire.
We got to Salta in the evening and the plan was to have a dinner and do some sightseeing in the next day. So we grabbed a pizza (Argentina is famous for their style of pizza making) and just enjoyed the busy local life by the main square. Several minutes after sitting down the local “drug” dealer approached. Few minutes bargaining and asking about the leaves’ origin we and many other tourists over there got our first green bag. To be honest we were hoping we’d meet a coca leaf dealer in Salta.
We had heard that coca leaves are a good relief when moving to higher altitudes and in Northern Argentina they are somewhat legal. Not 100% sure but after my little Google research I found out it’s not allowed to grow coca there but it is okay to possess it. Typically most of the coca leaves are being imported from Bolivia and Peru.
There are many ways to consume coca leaves. You can make tea from them, candy or whatever comes into your mind. The most common way is to “chew” them. I used quotation marks because that’s how it is usually referred to. Actually the leaves are being more like sucked or something. You just cut off the stems and put a few leaves into your cheek for some time. This should help you with the altitude sickness.
Like in most Latin American countries the largest religion in Argentina is Christianity. I’m not sure what exactly was going on but the next day we witnessed some really big celebration. There were Jesus figures, angels and lots of different other Christian-themed elements around the city center. It was very easy to lose each other in such a big masses. You’d never see this kind of stuff in Northern Europe.
Despite the big religious party we managed to make our way to the bank to exchange some currency. In many travel blogs and forums there are lots of different opinions about how you should exchange your money. Some say it’s better rate on the black market, some say it’s not safe and so on. I think it depends on the current time. Near the banks there are usually many people shouting “cambio, cambio” to indicate you can exchange your currency with them. After asking the rate from a few we understood that the difference is minimal. So to avoid the risk of getting false money we chose the bank.
MAAM – Museum of High Altitude Archaeology
If you need to cool down from Salta’s hot weather then I recommend you to visit Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (MAAM) just by the main square. Or actually never mind the weather, you should definitely visit it. The museum exhibits very interesting archaeological heritage found in Mount Llullaillaco (yep, try to pronounce it!). The main attractions are the Llullaillaco Children – the mummies of three children of Inca civilization that were found on the site over 6700 m above sea level. It’s pretty crazy to think how they just (probably as a sacrifice) sent young children to the mountains to die.
The mummies are considered to be the best preserved Inca mummies of all time. That’s why there are also special conservation technique used in the museum. Only one of the children is shown at the time and they are being changed every six months. In my visiting time there was the Lighting Girl. A six-year old girl whose body had been struck by the lighting bolt in some moment in the last centuries. It is a sad story but the exhibits are very impressive nonetheless. You are not allowed to take photos inside the museum but you can see some pictures here.
VISITING INFO: It is located on Mitre street 77 (just next to the main square) and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 AM – 19:30 PM. There is also a discount for students (my ISIC card worked just fine).
For us the day continued with a lunch and after that we got back on the road. Salta is way too large city for one day. There are plenty of more what to do in Salta that I couldn’t due to the time limit. For example ride a train to the clouds (Tren a las Nubes) or get a view of Salta from the mountain top. This is one of the places I wish I’ve taken more time for.
Pretty typical tourist spot by the side of the main square. So you’d hear lots of different languages in that place. We grabbed there one large pizza (137 ARS) and a local beer named Salta (1L / 80 ARS). The pizza was made in typical Argentinian style with tons of cheese on top of it. Can’t complain about it’s taste even though we couldn’t finish it because the size of it. Also there is a good chance to replenish your coca supplies…
This one wasn’t very easy to find because it is a hotel’s restaurant. Usually restaurants like this are only for the customers. Luckily this one was open for everybody – you just had to know it.
As you step in you can tell it’s a hotel’s restaurant from its fanciness. We got there just when they opened the kitchen. For the lunch I had their daily menu (Menu Ejectivo) that included a beefsteak with mashed potatoes, and a dessert with a coffee. All that just for 165 ARS which is quite reasonable price for a meal in such place.
We got it via booking.com for a good price. The price is understandable considering the apartment’s condition. The place was a little worn out and it hasn’t felt any upgrades recently. Also it was strange they put four people sleep in a small room while there was so much space in the apartment. Nevertheless it is an okay place to stay for a few days if you know what to do in Salta and plan to be out most of the time. But if you don’t like the sound of an airplane taking off when going to the bathroom then this place is probably not for you:)