Argentina ~ Salta

10 December 2023

With fellow tourist Hannah at the huge salt flat called Salinas Grande in Argentina's northernmost province.

I'd visited other parts of Argentina but never north of Buenos Aires so I devoted eight days to check out the C贸rdoba and Salta areas.

C贸rdoba (the country's second largest city) was nice, but Salta is the place to go. I should have had more days to explore the region around Salta and taken more long but fascinating day trips!

Plus it was exciting to be in Argentina during two historic developments: (1) while Taylor Smith was performing before three huge sold-out stadium shows in Buenos Aires 馃槅 and, more seriously, (2) while the country was on the eve of repudiating disastrous Peronista governance (Eva, RIP) and swinging wildly over to the world's most unapologetic outright libertarian 馃槻

If the new President Javier Milei can fix the currency chaos and astronomical inflation, the ensuing economic progress will be a miracle to behold. In the meantime, however, on a DIY trip (not an external tourist package) as long as you can get the most deeply discounted exchange rates, Argentina has been the best travel bargain on the planet.

Argentina's Salinas Grande is not as large as Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat, but its vast white vistas are breath-taking nonetheless. Your breath is also taken away because the altitude is so high — over 3,400 meters or 11,300 feet. And you have to go higher to get there...

At one point in the Andes mountains on the way to Salinas Grande, we got up to 4,170 meters, taking deep breaths to walk up to this sign. The photo on the right shows one of the ways they extract pure salt after evaporation.

The long and often winding road from Salta goes up to the Altiplano, the Andes plateau that stretches north into Bolivia.

On the way to Salinas Grande, we stopped to view Cerro de los Siete Colores (the Hill of Seven Colors). 

Some striking scenery on the long drive to Salinas Grande.

Returning to Salta after a long but worthwhile day trip.

Another interesting day trip from Salta was to ride the Tren a Las Nubes (aka the "Train to the Clouds"). Of all the trains in the world, only five operate at a higher elevation. Yet, visually the train does not seem so high because you are on an Andes plateau not up in snow-capped mountains. Nevertheless, you are nearly 14,000 feet above sea level and short on oxygen.

The train now operates only for tourists, not to shuttle minerals. Its most scenic stop is by the one high bridge. I loved seeing the raising of the Argentine flag accompanied by enthusiastic singing of the national anthem.

The strong wind was about to blow my hat away.

Viewing Salta from San Bernardo mountain after a cable car ride.

Salta has over 600,000 residents but seems smaller because of its pretty, cozy center which revolves around the Plaza 9 de Julio. The plaza is surrounded by sidewalk cafes, upscale hotels, and this beautiful cathedral. This photo was taken early one morning before the plaza started coming to life.

Both Salta (left) and C贸rdoba (right) had grand cathedrals with beautiful interiors.

In the days leading up to Argentina's election earthquake, I saw a couple of large marches. This one in C贸rdoba was organized by the Polo Obrero and Partido Obrero (Worker's Party) which apparently is more militant and much farther to the left than even the main Peronista coalition. However, every person I spoke with — from hotel workers to Uber drivers to bus guides to tourists from Buenos Aires (admittedly not a random sample) — was rooting for libertarian Milei (the shocking winner) not Peronista Massa. 

Bottom line: Really enjoyed Salta and the day trips around Salta!