Cerro San Bernardo is a hill located east of downtown Salta. It towers 284 meters (931 feet) above the city and offers great views of Salta with the mountains as a backdrop. To get to the top you can choose to walk the steep path or to take the teleferico (cable car), whose station is located across from Parque San Martin. Also at the top you'll find an artificial waterfall and a small garden, a cafeteria which serves light meals and a souvenir shop. The beautiful views are well worth the trip.
Named after the Argentinian Day of Independence, 9 de Julio is Salta's main square, a veritable heart of the city, bounded by elegant arcades under which one will find plenty of of places to sit, enjoy a drink and watch the world go by. Many of the city's attractions are to be found here, flanking the small park that sits in the middle of the square: the Cathedral, the Cabildo (city Hall) which houses the Museo Historico del Norte, the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana (MAAM). The little patch of green at the core of the square has benches, a fountain and an impressive statue of General Juan Antonio Álvarez de Arenales who fought in the Argentine War of Independence. The plaza is considered to be the place where the Spanish explorer Hernando de Lerma founded Salta in 1582.
What a spectacular building this church is! It easily wins the title as Salta's most unforgettable landmark, with its yellow and red facade, its white pillars and its four tier tower topped with the Campana de la Patria, a bell made from the cannons used in the Argentina's War of Independence. Located on Caseros street, a few blocks away from the main square, the first church on this spot was built in 1625. It was followed by a few others which were destroyed by fire. The present church was erected between 1858 and 1882 in an Italian Neocolonial style, the work of architect Luigi Giorgi. A statue of St. Francis stands in front of the church, on a small square. Inside the church, the interior is very low key. There is a garden cloister and a small museum which can be visited by guided tours. The church was declared a National Historical Monument in 1941. As you can see from the photos the building looks equally spectacular at night.
This beautiful building, the oldest religious structure in Salta, can only be admired from outside, being closed to the public and opened only for Carmelite nuns. Built in the 16th century as a hermitage, the building was altered and restored over the centuries. At the end of the 18th century (from 1782 to 1784) it was converted into a hospital dedicated to St. Andrew. In 1846 it became a Carmelite convent and it still serves this purpose today. The most notable feature of the white washed building is a wooden rococo door, carved by hand by local Indians in 1762. The building was declared a National Historical Monument in 1941.
We arrived in Cachi about midday and after a welcomed lunch we set out to explore the village. There aren't many sights in Cachi; one can easily see what there is to see in town in a couple of hours. But the surrounding area is breathtaking and the town is one that inspires lingering so one can easily give into its quiet charm and decide to spend a couple of days there. The village lies at the foot of Nevado del Cachi, a mountain range whose tallest peak measures 6380m (20931f). The center of the village is the pretty 9 de Julio plaza which is lined with palms and orange trees. On the northern side of the plaza stands the Iglesia San Jose, a charming church, its furniture and ceiling made of cardon. South of the church is the Museo Arqueologico Pio Pablo Diaz whose rooms showcase the development of the area by displaying objects that were found in local excavations. After visiting these two sights we spent the rest of the time in Cachi by walking the streets, looking at the houses, just enjoying the atmosphere until it was time to return to Salta.
Piedra del Molino marks the entrance to Parque Nacional Los Cardones (Los Cardones National Park), a national park created in 1996 to protect the cardon cacti. The best spot to stop is some twenty kilometers down the road, where Route 33 cuts directly through the park. There's no park entrance and no entrance fee so just park the car and wander among the cacti. Because of the lack of wood in this arid area of the Argentinian Northwest, the cardon has been used excessively for the making of furniture, doors, window frames, ceilings, for crafts etc which coupled with the fact that this type of cacti grows really slow - less than a couple millimeters a year - has brought the need for their protection and conservation. The cardon can be found between 2700m (8858ft ) and 5500m (18044ft) above sea level.and can reach heights of of 5m (16ft). Part of the road that cuts through the park is called Recta Tin Tin (the Tin Tin straight line); the guide pointed out an optical illusion: the road seems to be going up when in fact it's going down (going from Salta to Cachi).
Salta's cathedral (Catedral Basilica de Salta) lies on the northern side of the main square. It has a pretty facade, painted in pink and beige and an equally beautiful interior. The current structure, built in an Italian Neoclassical style, replaced a previous church that was damaged by an earthquake in 1844. The cathedral was consecrated in 1882, the third centenary of the city. It houses the Panteon de las Glorias del Norte (The Pantheon of the Northern Heroes) where among the tombs of other local heroes lie the remains of General Martin Guemes, a popular military leader who fought the Spanish during the 1810-1818 Argentine War of Independence. The main feature of the interior is the baroque altarpiece which is flanked by two small chapels which hold the statues of Christ and Virgin Mary (Senor y Virgen de los Milagros). As the story of the miracle goes, the statues of Jesus and Virgin Mary were sent from Spain by a ship that sank but the statues appeared miraculously intact on the shore, where they were found and placed inside the cathedral. These two relics are the centerpieces of Salta's annual procession, held every year on September 15th. The belief is that the statues protect the city against earthquakes.
We didn't do any shopping around before booking the tour for Cachi. Our day before last in Salta was a Sunday, and we found only one travel agency open so we took the only tour available. It turned out to be one of the most enjoying tours I ever took, partly because we got to experience one of Argentina's most scenic mountain routes, and party because the guide slash driver was a really funny character. It was a small tour, five people total, three Romanians and two Argentinian girls from Buenos Aires. We headed south from Salta on Route 68 until the town of El Carril where we took Route 33. The roads goes through Quebrada de Escoipe, a ravine that follows the Escoipe River. If I remember correctly, the name "Escoipe" is the name of a native tribe. We stopped first at a bridge crossing the river and then again at Cafeteria Margarita where the local bus from Salta to Cachi would stop and where we got to see condors soaring up in the sky. After that we started to climb steadily on the dramatic Cuesta del Obispo (Bishop's slope), 20km of twists and turns and gorgeous views. When we gained enough altitude we made another stop to admire and take photos of the hills, which looked covered in green velvet, the road a twisting ribbon traversing the valleys. Next came Piedra del Molino, the highest point on the route at 3348 m (10984 feet). Here there's a small chapel where the offerings for the saints are coca leaves, a local custom.
Martín Miguel de Güemes came from a wealthy family in Salta. He was most famous for being a central figure on the Argentine War for Independence. He organized resistance against the Spanish Crown. He used local gauchos, and they fought using guerilla tactics. Interestingly, for this region that in itself is not new, the natives of Quilmes used the same tactics with great success against the spaniards.
From this monument, there is a path that will take you to the top of Cerro San Bernardo, if you choose not to take the cable car. should take you no more than half an hour.
Salta is not one of those places where life slows down after the sun sets. You will see locals walking around, particularly around the main plaza of the city. The churches and cathedral are lit up real pretty. Its quite lovely, particularly if you are walking around, looking for a place to eat or coming home from one of the many penas.
The Main Square of Salta, named 9 de Julio (Argentine Independence Day) is generally accepted to be the place where the city was founded in 1582. Like most Spanish colonial cities, there was a Cabildo, which is today a museum on one side of the plaza, the cathedral on the other (or very nearby).
Around the main square you will find a good mix of restaurants, shops, museums. There is a long pedestrian area just off the main square where you can shop to your heart's content.
This company had an innovative idea. Instead of taking tourists around in nice comfortable, air conditioned buses, take them in a truck with some important alterations. Sure, there are seats. but you can put your head out of the top so you can take some great pictures. In some places you can even stand on top (obviously not while the vehicle is moving.) The idea was especially well suited to this part of Argentina, where not all the roads are especially smooth.
The classic tour from Salta is the famous Tren a las nubes (the train to the clouds). The safari a las nubes basically follows the route of the train up from Salta into the highlands and you get as far up as some 3,000 meters above sea level. Along the way you see some incredible scenery.
There is also the tour to the valleys (Valles Calchaquies) which is going south from Salta touring the valleys, stopping in Cachi and then returning to Salta.
On both tours we had a great time! Both involved an overnight stay at a moderately priced hotel. There were some 15-20 people on the vehicle and everyone had a real good time. Tour guides were knowledgeable and very fun. The tours that I was on had a mixture of Europeans, Argentines, and North Americans. There didn't appear to be any major language problems for anyone.
Though some might consider this roughing it, it is absolutely worth it and a very enjoyable experience and a great way to see the north of Argentina with its stunning scenery and rich diversity of cultures.
The first thing you will notice about the Cathedral of Salta is its color-basically pink and yellow. It sounds strange but it looks very pretty, and when they turn the lights on at night, even better!
the Cathedral occupies one end of the main square in Salta. The present structure dates from 1858 and replaces the previous structures that were damaged by earthquakes and fire.
The most important relic in the Cathedral are the statuettes of Christ and the Virgin. They are called Senor y Virgen de los Milagros (the Lord and Virgin of Miracles) because they were being transported to the New World aboard a ship that sank off Argentine waters. Miraculously, the statuettes washed up onshore intact.
The altarpiece is made of gold.
The side chapels honor the great and good of Salta. (Panteon de las Glorias del Norte) Here the remains of the gaucho general Martín Miguel de Güemes are interred. Guemes was a hero of the Revolution and held off the invading Spaniards.
The San Fransisco church is one of the most immediately recognizable churches you will see. It has actually been rebuilt several times since its founding in 1625 due to several fires. The facade was only completed in 1872 in an italian influenced architectural style.
The first thing you will notice is its beautiful purple color,,,,
the belfry, 53 meters in height, is the tallest in South America. The bell it holds is called Campana de la Patria (the bell of the fatherland) and it was made of metal from the cannons used in the Battle of Salta during the Argentine war of independence.
There is a small museum exhibiting religious art.
Museum hours are:
Monday-Friday: 10:30- 12:30 and 4:30pm to 6:30pm.
Saturdays: 10:30 to 12:30.
I had an excellent Spanish teacher in Salta, who helped me make real strides in my speaking and understanding. There is no formal Spanish school here but with Ivana it is possible to begin at any level and end up quite comfortable in the language....and to do it in an incredible corner of South America.
Her website is below or click here
for more information.