Salta, land of the silvery salt flats and rainbow hills…
In the north west of Argentina, you’ll find Salta. Famous for its salt flats, mini empanadas, colonial architecture and unique folk version of the tango! In recent years, Salta has become a backpacker hot spot – and you can’t walk the streets of this town without finding hostels, tour operators and car rental shops aplenty. Many use it as a launch pad for exploring the nearby landscapes, and a road trip from Salta is a must on your travel itinerary.
But there’s far more to Salta than just a departure point! At 1,152m above sea level, the city gets a pretty steady climate all year round. It’s the perfect place to sit back, relax, read a book, and plan your next Argentinian adventure whilst watching a performance of Milonga, a more relaxed style of Tango.
Further reading – Backpacking Argentina, our in-depth guide!
Where to Stay in Salta
You’ll be spoilt for choice of hostels to stay at in Salta. And your backpacker budget will rejoice at the cheap prices here too. There are lots of backpacker dorms – which are the perfect place to find companions and car-shares for your Jujuy road trip!
5 of the Best Backpacker Hostels in Salta
El Chabot Hostel – With a table tennis table and a fantastic courtyard, El Chabot is a great place to stay! They’ve got all room types from fairly basic bunk bed dormitories to private rooms and family suites. A dorm bed will set you back just £7 a night, and there’s a continental breakfast included.
Hostal Prisamata – Just down the road from El Chabot, you’ll find Hostal Prisamata. Hostal Prisamata has super budget dorm bunks available, and the best communal areas in town. There are hammocks, comfy cushions all over the floor, a great communal kitchen with big dining table, and a great book selection. The hostal also offers tours including the Salinas Grandes and Purmamarca. You can’t stay here without making friends. It’s no surprise that backpackers often end up getting stuck and working here in return for free bed and board. Life is chilled at Hostal Prisamata!
Sayta Hostal – Offering great value for money, Sayta Hostal is only a five minute walk from the centre of Salta’s town. They’ve got a variety of private rooms, starting from £7 a night for a single room and up to £30 for a quadruple room with a private bathroom. The hostal team make fresh bread and cakes every night, so you won’t go hungry here as a tasty Argentine-style breakfast is included with your room! There’s also a BBQ available for guests to use.
Hostal La Posada de Gervasio – This is one of the homeliest options to stay in Salta! Situated on a hill overlooking Salta, there’s a cute little terrace on which to eat and relax, as well as free parking. Double rooms are available from £9, and if you’ve got some backpacker buddies to bunk up with, then a shared room will cost as little as £4 per person per night. You’ll feel like one of the family at Hostal La Posada!
Casa Colonial Salta – If you’ve got a (little) bit more money to spend on your accommodation, then book a private room at Casa Colonial Salta. A private double room will set you back around £15 (hardly breaking the bank!) but there’s an amazing breakfast included so you’ll save money by not needing lunch! There’s a beautiful shady garden, and the bedrooms are clean and spacious. What’s not to like?
Things to do in Salta
Eat empanadas! Every region of Argentina has its own take on the empanada, and Salta is no different. You’ll find many a restaurant lining the colonial-style squares, selling ten empanadas and a large beer for just a few peso. In Salta, empanadas are Salteñas, filled with beef, potatoes, onions and boiled egg. They’re small on the empanada scale, but served with a super tasty spicy tomato dip. Dig in!
Sunbathe at the Salinas Grandes. If you don’t plan on renting a car, then there are many tours and trips that will take you out through the Andes to the salt flats. And the scenery en route is pretty spectacular too! Wear sunscreen because the white of the salt is pretty dazzling…
Watch a Milonga performance. Here in Salta, they dance a more free and fluid version of the Tango. Either head to a main square during the daytime (take some spare pesos) and watch the locals dance, or head to a local peña to soak up the atmosphere and listen to local folkloric music!
Hire a car and head out of the city! The scenery surrounding Salta is spectacular, so grab some mates, hire a car and pack up your stuff for a road trip of epic proportions. Visit the rainbow like rock formations and tiny villages in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, visit the vineyards of Cafayate or the breathtaking landscapes of Cachi. Renting a car means you can stop where you like, catch the sights at the perfect time of day, and really make the most of this incredible region!
Ride on the Tren A Las Nubes. If you’ve got a head for heights, then take a trip on the incredible Tren A Las Nubes. Weaving through the Andes mountains amongst the clouds, this is a tourist train and it’s the fifth highest railway in the world! The train currently departs Salta on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays in the early morning, and returns from the Polvorilla Viaduct at midnight. Most backpackers find an alternative route home! Book your ticket via the official website here.
Join Salta’s free walking tour. The best way to get acquainted with a city (and find out what’s where!) is always a walking tour. Salta offers a great free walking tour, so be sure to join and learn more about the history of this pastel-coloured city. They run in both the morning and the afternoon.
Drink stout. Speak to any Salta local and they’ll tell you you have to try a bottle of Salta Cerveza Negra (stout). Served chilled, it’s a refreshing, dark beer with sweet coffee-notes.
Get some culture at the city’s many museums. If you’re a culture-vulture, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Salta. Start with the Museo Arqueologia de Alta Montana (MAAM) where you’ll find an incredible display of Andean culture. Then visit Museo Pajcha Arte Etnico, for some amazing examples of indigenous art and artefacts, immaculately preserved. (You have to ring the doorbell for this one, it’s a private collection and has limited opening hours!) And if you’ve got time, pop in to the Museo Historico del Norte, found in Salta’s main square. This museum is an incredible colonial building from the outside, originally built to be a town hall.
Look down on the city from the cable car. The Teleférico San Bernardo will take you to the top of nearby San Bernardo Hill, from where you’ll get a panoramic view out over Salta and the Lerma Valley. If you’re feeling brave, you can also hike up, but be ready to climb over 1000 steps to the top!
How to get to Salta
By plane: There are direct flights to Salta from almost all main cities in Argentina. It’s just two hours flight from Buenos Aires!
By bus: If you’ve got time, travelling by bus is the way to do it. It’s cheap, the scenery is incredible, and the seats on the buses recline right back until they are almost a bed! Overnight and day time buses are available to Salta from all cities in Argentina. But be warned, it’s a big country and you might want to plan a few stop offs along the way if you’re travelling far!
Where to go next?
- Mendoza. If the vineyards of Cafayate have given you a taste for wine, then Mendoza is the perfect place to head to next. You can travel by plane or by bus (by road it’s about an 18 hour trip).
- Iguazu Falls. Hop on a plane to the breath taking Iguazu Falls! But make sure you book this in advance as prices can be high. You can also do the journey by bus. You’ll have to travel via Tucuman, and then onto Iguazu, and the journey takes 24+ hours.
- Cordoba. The bus to Cordoba takes anything from 11-13 hours and can cost as cheap as £15. (Depending on when you travel and with which bus company. Some tickets include food and wine too!) Direct flights are also available, but internal flights are expensive in Argentina.
- Purmamarca. Hop in a car and take a road trip to the Andean village of Purmamarca and its seven-coloured hill. You’ll want to stay overnight so you can catch this famous hill at sun rise to best see its colours…