Salta, What to Do ?
|I have lately been in Salta located at 1,187 meters above sea level,|
And been ask what an average tourist can do there.
So here are my recommendation
Salta's scenery is spectacular. I liked its mountains that show off brilliant mineral hues and castle-like rock formations, green fields, cactus-strewn desert and treeless tundra so high that the clouds float far below.
First day in Salta I would recommend to take a decent trail up the hill Cerro San Bernardo.
From there you can enjoy the best views of the city and its surroundings.
There is a cafe at the top where you can sit and enjoy the view, as well as a fake waterfall which is actually very pleasant.
The hill is located at the south side of Parque San Mart?n, to the southwest of the main plaza. You could take the telef?rico from the park to the top and back (roundtrip US$3), although personally I found the walk itself to be quite refreshing. On the lower slopes of Cerro San Bernardo lies the anthropological museum of Juan Leguizam?n, which features a decent display of local ceramics, especially those from the pre-Inca town of Tastil. The bizarre exhibition of the cave of the Shamans will also be of interest.
Learn About Famous Mummies at the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana
The MAAM is the best museum I have been to. Why?
This museum is dedicated to one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region. In 1999, three mummified children of the Inca civilization were uncovered at the peak of Llullaillaco volcano, 6700 feet above sea level.
It is the first Museum when you can see a real Mummy, I personaly saw an Inca girl, she was 6 years old (They figured it out according to her teath), born 600 year ago !
It was amazing to see how perfect was her body and her face, they found her like 100 year ago burried on the mountain, as part of a ceremony of the Inca. They used to choose each year the most beautiful girls/boys and sacrifice them to thank god (There parents were pride to sacrifice them since they were honored in there village for it) by burring them in a hole in the ground alive.
They gave the children some wine to drink before, so they were drunk while burried. Incredible eh?
The girl was preserved really good, since she was barried in the hieght of 5000 meteres and covered by some kind of wool.
The Museum has 3 different children the age of 6 (The one I saw),8 and 15.
But they exihibit each time only one of them, and rotate it each 6 month. So if you want to see all of them you will have to stay in salta for a year and a half.
They started exhibiting for public the maummies only in 2007. (Even though they had them much earlier)
The museum does a wonderful job of communicating the findings and their significance. A word of caution: although the accompanying media is subtitled in English, the descriptions and stories unfortunately are not.
Train of The Clouds
|This is one of the best 15 hours attractions in Salta... |
Since it is one of the highest railway services of the world !
The Tren a las nubes connects the Argentine Northwest with the border with Chile in the Andes mountain, This train takes you to the clouds at altitudes that reach 4220 metres above mean sea level, the third highest railway in the world.
It runs through 19 tunnels, over 29 bridges, 13 viaducts, 9 sheds, two loops formed by the railway several big sewer systems, 2 zigzags which allow the train to climb up driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain. For me Salta train is really incredible work of art
The train leaves from General Belgrano station in the city of Salta for the 15 hour, 434 kilometre round trip to the viaduct La Polvorilla, located 4,220 metres above sea level. The curved viaduct is 224 metres long and 70 metres high. From Salta, the train enters first the Valle de Lerma and then the Quebrada del Toro before reaching the Puna.
The itinerary of the 15 Hours Train
It goes through the Estaci?n Alvarado, on Ruta Nacional No 51, Rosario de Lerma, , Campo Quijano, Quebrada del Toro, Alisal, Puerta de Tastil, Meseta, Diego de Almagro, Cachinal and San Antonio de los Cobres stations, to finally reach 4230 m.a.s.l. on the La Polvorilla viaduct.
During the journey, you will roll right over and by the geographical accidents of the area, zigzagging up to pass the narrow Quebrada del Toro. You will be able to see the cemetery were the remains of many construction workers who died on a tragic day are buried, and will be able to admire the exuberant vegetation, and the mountaintops will literally grow before your eyes, slowly but with breathtaking majesty.
This wonderful train will take you to the Gobernador Sol? station, where an outstanding mineral wealth shows up on the mountainsides from a region full of with manganese, iron, lead and silver mines.
Later on, on the legendary Puerta Tastil or the Door of Tastil the train will start to slowly penetrate into a little known world. As the legend states, the "Diaguita" Indians used to knock on the hillcrests before going into the valley.
The extraordinary journey then takes you to Meseta, a place were solitude embraces the whole horizon. The altimeter now reads 2844
Little by little the sense of location gets lost as the train goes into a labyrinth that permits to exit the valley and the deserted plateau across the most indicated terrain. The trip gets then to the first loop, where the railway overpasses itself, on a 582.25 square metre area at a minimum radius of 131 metres, an ingenious loop that allows the convoy to abandon the deep hollow.
From the highest point of this spiral, you can gaze as if from a marvellous natural balcony, an overwhelmingly beautiful panorama.
The second loop presents identical features on kilometre 1,262, and, along with the former, allows the train to achieve heights over of 525 metres. A 181-metre long tunnel traversed.
The journey then takes you by the Incahuasi, Cachinal y Mu?ano stations, to finally arrive at San Antonio de los Cobres, so called due to its proximity to the famous Sierra del Cobre or Copper Sierra, abundant in ores of that element. This locality, crossed through by National Routes 40 and 51, rests 3774 metres above sea level and is the Capital City of the Los Andes Department.
Just before reaching Mina Concordia, over on your left, you will behold the snow-capped mountain Nevado de Acay, reaching 5950 And after leaving the station you will see a curious black mountain wearing what looks like a fanciful red bonnet.
The final stage of the trip is around kilometre 1,350, where the La Polvorilla Viaduct is found, with its length of 224 metres and height of 63 metres, is the highest point of all the route with its 4200 m.a.s.l., and stands out as one of the world's most important in its kind.
It is at this spot where the Train To the Clouds really becomes true to its name. No one can but be impressed by the cliffhanging traverse of the viaduct, constructed without railings and resting on huge pillars.
Dawn will meet you on the way back to the Salta Capital, as in all this time aboard the train, to complete a 15-hour journey.
The trains costs 120U$S, Yes Us Dollars, not pesos ! It is very expensive, however there is a cheaper alternative,
Doing the same route by road on a four-wheel drive truck. There are several agencies offering this service. (A lot cheaper cost will result from negotiating prices with the driver of shared tours, departing from the central part of the city, on the corner of Florida and Mendoza).
See below on the topic of Experience a View of Jujuy for more info.
Visit Neighboring San Lorenzo
Take a visit to this charming village nearby where you can walk around and admire the beautiful houses in the hillside or hike and bike around the area enjoying the flora and fauna of the surrounding tropical forest of the Quebrada. To get there you can take a taxi (approximately 10 minutes; A$12) or take the yellow collectivo bus (A$0.70) from either the San Martin Park or the at Entre Rios and Avenida 20 de Febrero.
Experience a View of Jujuy
Today these lands are sparsely populated, but provide some very scenic views and rich archaeological zones including pre-Inca ruins. It is a full day's journey to make it through to Purmamarca and back. Although it is a quiet town, it is a nice place to spend the night if you intend to carry on the next day to Tilcara, Humahuaca and Iruya.
The best way to see this circuit is with a tour or a private guide in a 4x4 vehicle. There is also the Tren de Las Nubes as I explained above. It is also possible to rent a car and drive the circuit on your own but be warned, it is long driving and the roads can be tough to navigate. Both Active Argentina and Movitrak are two very different but very good options to do this tour.
San Antonio de Los Cobres is the largest settlement in the area. Today it is a copper mining town set 3,770 meters above sea level. Although there is little to see, it gives an interesting perspective on life in these high planes. Driving north along Route 40 you will arrive at Las Salinas Grandes, which is a large salt flat created by the sediments, which are the remnants of a lake. This vast area resembles a snow-filled meadow. An immense silence permeates the surroundings, intermixed with wandering llamas, donkeys and vicunas - an endangered species that originated in the Andes, and are recognized for their fine hair.
Heading east from here takes you further up through the mountain range to 4200 meters above sea level. Views are outstanding, but breathing is difficult for some people, and you might feel tired. Chewing Coca leaves can help at this level, and remember to stay hydrated. After driving down the wonderful Cuesta del Lipan, you arrive at beautiful Purmamarca, the last on this circuit. Situated at the base of Cerro de Los Siete Colores, this town provides stunning landscape and is a charming spot to wander around. This charming little town has a central square where artisan stalls have been set up and is surrounded by the adobe buildings and the Iglesia Santa Rosa de Lima at the far end.
Discover the Hidden Town of Iruya
This tiny town is hidden in the mountains at the end of a slope near the Iruya River. It is as if time stood still here as the locals' customs and their attire maintain their tradition. It is well worth the trip to wander along these narrow, cobble stoned streets lined with colourful houses. Getting there is half the fun, passing through the mountains with their peculiar formations and vast array of colours.
It?s easy to get to Iruya with an organized tour, or you can take public transport from the Humahuaca bus station. You might want to spend the night there to avoid being on the road all day. The trip is long yet fascinating!
Food & Entertainment in Salta
The Mercado Central, on the corner of Calle Florida and San Mart?n, is a lively market that is well worth a visit, especially as it is also one of the cheapest places to eat in town. Pizza, empanadas (stuffed pasties) and humitas (stuffed corn dough) are sold here, along with the usual fresh fruit and vegetables. The best place for souvenirs is Mercado Artesanal, which features native handicrafts such as hammocks, ceramics, leather items and the distinctive ponchos from the surrounding region. Take bus No 2, 3 or 7 to get here.
To while away the evenings, sample the delights of the numerous caf?s that adorn the plaza. Van Gogh and New Time Caf? are particularly recommended, featuring live music late at night during weekends. Further out of town, about 20 blocks west of Plaza 9 de Julio, lies La Casona del Molino, which features improvised entertainment in a former mansion, and provides a real local experience in which it can be almost impossible to distinguish the audience from the performers! Expect to pay around US$10-17 admission. My personal favourite is La Vieja Estaci?n, on Calle Balcarce, which features great live folk music each night in a warm, cozy atmosphere. A dinner and show will cost around US$8.
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