Salta – Things to See and Do

Please see the next post for places to eat in Salta.

On November 10th 2014 I took a two hour flight from BsAs to Salta. It was my second time in this small north western city and I got a warm welcome.

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When I first came in 2004 I didn’t get to see much as I was trying to write up my MA thesis at the time and spent most evenings in the hotel. Unfortunately the same was true this time as I was working every day of the five days I was there, and rain stopped me doing very much on a couple of evenings. So, as ever, please don’t consider this an exhaustive guide, it’s just a brief sample.

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This time however I did manage to get to the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montanas (MAAM), at 77 Mitre in the central square, Plaza 9 de Julio (open 11:00 to 19:30, closed Monday). Entry for foreigners was $40 in 2014.

The museum is the home of the famous mummies, the Children of Llullaillaco, three young children who were sacrificed to the Inca gods 500 hundred years ago. Although in an incredible state of preservation, only one mummy is shown at a time and they are swapped around once every 6 months. By displaying exhumed bodies of indigenous Indians the exhibition has generated a lot of controversy but it does bring in the tourist dollars for the city.

The glass of the display case was covered in fingerprints when I went and you actually get a better view by watching the video showing in the next room. Generally it’s quite a basic museum and once you’ve seen the mummy there’s not a lot else of interest, unless you’re interested in Inca sandal making. A lot of the displays have Spanish explanations only. It’s something to do for an hour or so though.

Just along from the museum is the Centro Cultural America. The French style building is quite nice (built in 1916 I think) and they had an exhibition of cartoons and some quirky artworks on the ground floor, although technically it’s not a museum or gallery.

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There are a few other quirky buildings with unusual features around Plaza 9 de Julio.

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The most striking though is the bright pink confection of the cathedral in the main square. It had recently been repainted when I was there and this was the original colour according to the renovators.

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Another gaudily painted church is Iglesia la Viña at 485 Alberdi, five blocks south of Plaza 9 de Junio.

There’s a few other bits of colonial architecture around.

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Just a block away from my hotel was the police headquarters at 750 General Guemes which looked like a small fort, perhaps for good reason.

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Opposite is a pleasant park, Plaza General Manuel Belgrano, with a broken ornamental fountain.

I only saw one bit of Art Deco, the San Juan shopping centre on Calle Alberdi.

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And then there was this purple oddity on Avenida San Martin.

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I also found it quite interesting to walk around the central market at Avenida San Martin. It’s a hive of activity in the mornings (08:00 to 14:00) but due to work I could only get to after the siesta at 17:30 (closes at 22:00) when it seemed much quieter. There are displays of unusual spices and herbs to see, including big sacks of coca leaves.

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I picked up a bottle of Miel de Cana Azucar from the market to take home. Despite the name it isn’t honey but sugar cane syrup, a local speciality. There are lots of other sweet things in bottles you could get like Dulce de Coyote, a local Andean fruit that is often eaten with walnuts for dessert.

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I was staying at the Ayres de Salta Hotel which is okay but nothing special. The view from the roof is great. The nearest supermarket to the hotel is at 459 Mitre.

If I’d had more time I would have liked to take the cable car up San Bernardo hill for a nice view of the city, or even better, take the ‘Tren a las Nubes’ (Train to the Clouds) to the Chilean border with spectacular views of the Andes along the way. The train leaves Salta every Saturday at 07.05 and gets back at 24.00. It takes 8 hours one way on the train so many people return by road.

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