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Guide To Visiting Northern Argentina: What To See In Salta And Jujuy


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Jilly Cawley



Welcome to Northern Argentina, a region known for its rich cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality. Nestled between the Andes Mountains and the vast plains of the Pampas, Salta and Jujuy provinces offer a diverse range of experiences for adventurous travelers. This guide will take you on a virtual journey through these enchanting destinations, providing insights into the must-see attractions and hidden gems that await you.


Steeped in colonial history, the city of Salta serves as the gateway to the region. Its well-preserved architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant plazas exude a charm that transports you back in time. From here, you can embark on a captivating exploration of the surrounding areas.


One of the highlights of any visit to Northern Argentina is the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This awe-inspiring gorge stretches for over 150 kilometers, revealing a tapestry of ancient rock formations, colorful mountains, and quaint villages. You’ll be captivated by the cultural richness and traditional way of life that still thrive in this region.


Another natural wonder not to be missed is the Salinas Grandes, a vast expanse of salt flats that dazzle under the bright sun. The endless white plains against the backdrop of the blue sky create a surreal landscape, perfect for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers.


As you journey through the region, make sure to visit Purmamarca, a charming town famous for its vibrant hillside landscapes and handicraft markets. The iconic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors) is a sight to behold, showcasing layers of sedimentary rock in various shades.


Tilcara, with its archaeological ruins and traditional architecture, offers a glimpse into the region’s indigenous history. Explore the ancient fortress of Pucará de Tilcara, and immerse yourself in the local customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations.


No trip to Northern Argentina is complete without a visit to Cafayate, a small town renowned for its vineyards and fine wines. Take a tour of the bodegas, sample the distinct Torrontés wine, and enjoy the picturesque surroundings that make this region a paradise for wine enthusiasts.


For a unique experience, hop aboard the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) and traverse the breathtaking Andean landscapes. This iconic train ride takes you through stunning mountain passes, high altitude desert, and towering viaducts, offering unparalleled views along the way.


And of course, don’t forget to indulge in the gastronomic delights of Northern Argentina. Savour the mouthwatering empanadas, grilled meats, and regional specialties that showcase the fusion of Indigenous, Spanish, and Criollo flavors.


Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or culinary enthusiast, Northern Argentina has something to offer everyone. So, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey and discover the magic and beauty that awaits in Salta and Jujuy provinces.


Salta: The Enchanting Colonial City

Nestled in the Lerma Valley, Salta is a delightful colonial city that will transport you back in time. Known for its well-preserved architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and vibrant plazas, Salta offers a captivating blend of history and culture.


Start your exploration of Salta in the heart of the city at Plaza 9 de Julio, a bustling square surrounded by magnificent colonial buildings. Here, you’ll find the Salta Cathedral, a stunning Neo-Renaissance masterpiece that houses priceless religious artifacts. Take a stroll around the square and soak in the atmosphere while enjoying a refreshing drink at one of the outdoor cafes.


For a deeper dive into the city’s history, visit the Museo Histórico del Norte (Northern Historical Museum) located in the Cabildo, the former colonial government building. The museum showcases a rich collection of artifacts, paintings, and documents that chronicle Salta’s past. From pre-Columbian times to the Spanish conquest and the independence era, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the region’s heritage.


To experience the local arts and crafts scene, head to the Salta Artisan Market. Located in a beautifully restored colonial building, this vibrant market offers a wide range of handcrafted goods, including textiles, pottery, leatherwork, and silver jewelry. Take your time to browse through the stalls and find unique souvenirs to take home.


For panoramic views of the city, venture up to Cerro San Bernardo. You can either hike up the winding path or take the cable car for a more leisurely ascent. At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of Salta and the surrounding mountains. Pack a picnic and enjoy a tranquil afternoon among nature.


Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local cuisine in Salta. The city is known for its delicious empanadas, and you’ll find numerous bakeries and restaurants serving these savory pastries filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. Pair your empanadas with a glass of Salta’s famous Torrontés wine, a crisp white variety that perfectly complements the flavors of the region.


As the sun sets, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Explore the peñas, traditional music venues where you can immerse yourself in the sounds of Argentine folk music. Enjoy live performances and join in the dancing, creating unforgettable memories of your time in Salta.


Salta’s timeless beauty and rich cultural heritage make it a must-visit destination in Northern Argentina. Lose yourself in the enchanting colonial atmosphere and discover the stories that have shaped this remarkable city.


Explore the Stunning Landscapes of Quebrada de Humahuaca

Prepare to be mesmerized as you venture into the incredible natural wonder of Quebrada de Humahuaca. This breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site stretches over 150 kilometers, offering a kaleidoscope of colors and landscapes that will leave you in awe.


The Quebrada de Humahuaca is characterized by its towering mountains, multi-hued rock formations, and picturesque villages that seem frozen in time. Each bend in the road reveals a new vista to marvel at, making it a paradise for photographers and nature enthusiasts.


Start your journey in the town of Purmamarca, famous for its iconic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors). This majestic mountain showcases layers of mineral deposits in various shades, creating a stunning visual spectacle. Take a leisurely stroll around the village, explore the handicraft markets, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture.


Continue your exploration to Tilcara, a historical town that offers a glimpse into the region’s indigenous past. Explore the archaeological ruins of Pucará de Tilcara, an ancient fortress that dates back thousands of years. Marvel at the intricate stone structures and learn about the fascinating history of the indigenous peoples who once inhabited the area.


As you journey further into Quebrada de Humahuaca, don’t miss the chance to visit the village of Humahuaca itself. Here, you’ll find the iconic Monumento a los Héroes de la Independencia (Monument to the Heroes of Independence), a towering sculpture that pays homage to the heroes who fought for Argentina’s independence. From the top of the monument, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the town and its surrounding landscapes.


For an even deeper immersion in the local culture, consider visiting one of the traditional indigenous communities in the area. Learn about their customs, traditions, and ancestral knowledge, gaining a deeper appreciation for the rich heritage that exists within the Quebrada de Humahuaca.


Throughout your journey, make sure to stop at the various viewpoints scattered along the route. Marvel at the breathtaking vistas of the vibrant landscapes, with mountains, valleys, and winding rivers stretching as far as the eye can see. Capture the beauty with your camera, but also remember to take a moment to simply soak in the natural splendor.


Whether you’re captivated by the stunning rock formations, enthralled by the cultural heritage, or simply seeking a connection with nature, exploring the stunning landscapes of Quebrada de Humahuaca is an experience you won’t soon forget. Lose yourself in the colors, textures, and history of this magical place, and let it leave an indelible mark on your soul.


Discover the High Altitude Salt Flats of Salinas Grandes

Prepare to be dazzled by the otherworldly beauty of Salinas Grandes, the high altitude salt flats located in Northern Argentina. This natural wonder is a sight to behold, with its vast expanse of glistening white salt stretching as far as the eye can see.


Situated at an elevation of over 3,400 meters above sea level, Salinas Grandes offers a unique and surreal experience. As you approach the flats, you’ll be greeted by the contrasting colors of the surrounding mountains, with their rugged beauty providing a stunning backdrop.


Walking on the expansive salt flats is a mesmerizing experience. The salt crunches beneath your feet, creating a symphony of sound as you explore this vast, lunar-like landscape. Take off your shoes and feel the cool salt against your skin, immersing yourself in the unique textures and sensations of the flats.


Photography enthusiasts will be in their element at Salinas Grandes. The stark white salt against the deep blue sky creates a striking contrast, offering endless photo opportunities. Capture the vastness of the flats, play with perspective, and let your creativity flow as you preserve this natural wonder through your lens.


At Salinas Grandes, you’ll have the chance to witness the age-old tradition of salt extraction. Local salt farmers, known as “salineros,” skillfully harvest the salt from shallow pools, utilizing ancient techniques passed down through generations. It’s fascinating to observe their work and gain insight into this timeless practice.


In addition to its scenic beauty, Salinas Grandes also holds a spiritual significance for the local communities that reside in the region. According to indigenous beliefs, the salt flats are a sacred place, considered to be a source of energy and healing. Take a moment to connect with the profound energy of the flats and appreciate the spirituality intertwined with this stunning natural wonder.


During your visit, be sure to stop by one of the small artisan stalls that dot the edges of Salinas Grandes. Here, local artisans sell handcrafted salt products, such as sculptures and decorative items, providing an opportunity to support the local community and take home a unique souvenir.


As you leave Salinas Grandes and cast one last glance at the surreal landscape, take a moment to reflect on the magnitude and splendor of Mother Nature. Salinas Grandes is a testament to the power of natural forces, and its beauty will leave an indelible mark on your memory.


Discover the high altitude salt flats of Salinas Grandes and immerse yourself in a world of salt, serenity, and sensory wonders. It’s an experience that will ignite your senses and remind you of the incredible diversity of landscapes that exist in Northern Argentina.


Immerse Yourself in the Colorful Culture of Purmamarca

Experience the vibrant and rich cultural heritage of Purmamarca, a picturesque village nestled in the Quebrada de Humahuaca region of Northern Argentina. This charming town, known for its colorful landscapes and traditional handicrafts, offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.


Purmamarca is most famous for its iconic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors). This natural wonder showcases layers of sedimentary rock in a dazzling array of hues, creating a breathtaking visual spectacle. Take a gentle stroll along the base of the hill and marvel at the vibrant colors that seem to change with the shifting light.


One of the best ways to discover the culture of Purmamarca is by exploring its bustling artisan market. Here, local artisans showcase their craftsmanship, offering a wide range of handmade goods, including textiles, pottery, leatherwork, and intricately woven tapestries. Take your time to browse through the stalls, chat with the artisans, and witness the dedication and skill that goes into creating these unique pieces.


For a deeper understanding of the local heritage, visit the Museo Arqueológico Dr. Eduardo Casanova. This small museum houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that provide insights into the region’s indigenous history and the ancient traditions of the local communities. Gain a deeper appreciation for the culture and customs that have shaped the village.


Immerse yourself in the rhythm and traditions of Purmamarca by attending a traditional music or dance performance. Throughout the year, the village hosts cultural festivals and events where locals showcase their traditional dances, such as the lively “Carnavalito” or the rhythmic “Chacarera.” Let the infectious beats and colorful costumes transport you to the heart of the local culture.


No visit to Purmamarca is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. Sample the delicious empanadas, a typical Argentine snack that comes in various flavors, and savor the unique regional dishes that showcase the flavors and ingredients of the area. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing glass of mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea.


As you explore the streets of Purmamarca, you’ll encounter the warm and welcoming locals who take pride in their heritage. Engage in friendly conversations and learn about their way of life, customs, and traditions. They are eager to share their stories and to welcome you into the heart of their culture.


With its stunning landscapes, vibrant markets, and welcoming locals, Purmamarca offers a colorful journey into the heart of Argentine culture. Immerse yourself in the vibrant traditions and rich heritage of this captivating village, and allow yourself to be captivated by the beauty and charm that surround you.


Visit the Historical Ruins of Tilcara

Step back in time and uncover the ancient history of Tilcara, a captivating town in Northern Argentina that is home to historical ruins that date back thousands of years. Nestled in the heart of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, Tilcara offers a glimpse into the region’s indigenous past and a chance to explore fascinating archaeological sites.


A highlight of any visit to Tilcara is the Pucará de Tilcara, an ancient fortress perched on a hill overlooking the town. Dating back to pre-Inca times, these ruins provide insights into the lives and customs of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area. Explore the sprawling complex and marvel at the stone walls, terraces, and ceremonial spaces that have stood the test of time.


The Museo Arqueológico Dr. Eduardo Casanova, located near the Pucará de Tilcara, offers a deeper understanding of the region’s history and archaeology. The museum displays a comprehensive collection of artifacts, including tools, pottery, and textiles, allowing you to gain a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship and cultural practices of the indigenous communities.


As you wander through the streets of Tilcara, you’ll encounter traditional adobe houses and cobblestone paths that create an atmosphere of timeless charm. Visit the Iglesia de San Francisco, a colonial church that showcases a unique blend of Spanish and indigenous architectural styles. Admire the intricate details of the façade and step inside to experience the tranquility of this sacred space.


For a deeper immersion in the local culture, visit the Mercado Artesanal, a vibrant craft market where local artisans sell their handmade products. Browse through the stalls and discover a variety of traditional textiles, carvings, and pottery, each reflecting the rich artistic heritage of the region. Take the opportunity to support the local artisans and take home a meaningful keepsake.


As the day draws to a close, head to the Mirador del Cerro de la Cruz, a viewpoint that offers breathtaking panoramic views of Tilcara and the surrounding landscapes. Witness the sweeping vistas of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, with its colorful mountains and winding river, and admire the golden hues as the sun sets over this ancient land.


Tilcara is more than just a collection of archaeological ruins. It is a place that invites you to connect with the past, to imagine the lives of those who came before us, and to appreciate the enduring legacy of indigenous cultures. Explore Tilcara and let the fascinating history and enchanting landscapes captivate your imagination.


Experience the Natural Wonders of Cafayate

Nestled in the spectacular Calchaquí Valley, Cafayate is a picturesque town in Northern Argentina renowned for its stunning natural landscapes and world-class wines. Prepare to be enchanted as you explore the breathtaking beauty and indulge in the rich flavors of this captivating region.


Cafayate is best known for its vineyards and wineries, producing some of Argentina’s finest wines, particularly the crisp and aromatic Torrontés white wine. Take a tour of the bodegas and learn about the winemaking process, from grape cultivation to barrel aging. Enjoy a wine tasting session and savor the distinct flavors and aromas that define the wines of Cafayate.


Surrounded by majestic mountains and breathtaking rock formations, Cafayate offers a natural playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Embark on a hike through the nearby Quebrada de las Conchas, also known as the Shell’s Gorge, where you’ll encounter stunning geological formations shaped by millions of years of erosion. Be captivated by the dramatic landscapes, including The Amphitheatre, The Obelisk, and The Devil’s Throat.


For a unique and tranquil experience, visit the Yacochuya Forest, a sacred place for the indigenous communities in the area. Take a guided walk through the forest, immersing yourself in the serene atmosphere and connecting with the natural beauty of this enchanting place.


Treat your senses to the vibrant colors and fragrances at the Cafayate Artisan Market. Here, local artisans showcase their craftsmanship, offering handmade textiles, ceramics, and other traditional products. Explore the stalls, admire the intricate designs, and take home a piece of Cafayate’s artistic heritage.


No visit to Cafayate would be complete without experiencing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Quebrada de las Flechas. This geological marvel features towering rock formations that resemble arrows, carved by the elements over centuries. Take a guided tour or venture out on your own to witness this extraordinary natural wonder.


As the day winds down, take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Cafayate and soak up the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The town’s central plaza, Plaza Mayor, is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a coffee or ice cream while admiring the Spanish colonial architecture and vibrant local scene.


Cafayate offers a unique blend of natural beauty, world-class wines, and cultural heritage. Immerse yourself in the rich flavors and stunning landscapes of this charming town, and let the magic of Cafayate captivate your senses.


Take a Scenic Train Ride through the Clouds in Tren a las Nubes

Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure aboard the legendary Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) and experience the mesmerizing beauty of Northern Argentina from a unique perspective. This scenic train ride takes you on a thrilling journey through breathtaking landscapes, high altitude deserts, and towering viaducts, offering unparalleled views along the way.


The Tren a las Nubes is an engineering marvel, winding its way through the rugged Andes Mountains. As the train climbs to an elevation of over 4,200 meters above sea level, you’ll feel like you’re floating among the clouds. The ever-changing scenery is a feast for the eyes, with snow-capped peaks, deep valleys, and colorful rock formations unfolding before you.


One of the highlights of the journey is the iconic La Polvorilla Viaduct, a magnificent structure that spans a deep gorge. This engineering marvel stands as a testament to human ingenuity, allowing the train to traverse the otherwise impassable terrain. As you cross the viaduct, be prepared to be awestruck by the panoramic views and the sheer scale of the landscape.


The train journey is not just about the visuals but also about the immersive cultural experience it offers. Onboard, you’ll be treated to traditional music and dance performances, sharing in the vibrant culture of the region. The train makes stops at various points of interest, allowing you to explore local communities, interact with the friendly locals, and learn about their way of life.


The Tren a las Nubes is not just a ride; it’s a sensory experience. Feel the crisp mountain air against your skin, hear the rhythmic sound of the train’s wheels on the tracks, and marvel at the breathtaking natural beauty that unfolds before your eyes. The ever-changing light and shadows create a dynamic and magical atmosphere throughout the journey.


As you make your way back to the starting point, you’ll realize that the memories you’ve made during this train ride will stay with you forever. The Tren a las Nubes is a testament to the incredible engineering feats and the awe-inspiring landscapes that Northern Argentina has to offer. It’s an experience that will leave you with a profound appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of this remarkable region.


Book your ticket, fasten your seatbelt, and prepare to be transported to new heights on the Tren a las Nubes. Embark on this scenic train ride through the clouds, and let the beauty of Northern Argentina’s landscapes take your breath away.


Indulge in the Local Cuisine and Wine of the Region

No visit to Northern Argentina is complete without indulging in the delectable local cuisine and savoring the exceptional wines that the region has to offer. From mouthwatering grilled meats to world-class vintages, the culinary scene of the area is a true delight for food and wine enthusiasts.


One of the culinary highlights of Northern Argentina is the famous asado, a traditional Argentine barbecue. Sink your teeth into succulent cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, expertly cooked on an open grill. The smoky flavors and tender textures of the meat are a result of the country’s long-standing tradition of cattle farming.


In addition to the asado, be sure to try the mouthwatering empanadas, a staple in Argentine cuisine. These savory pastries are usually filled with a choice of ground beef, chicken, cheese, or vegetables and are perfect for a quick and delicious snack.


As you explore the region, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the local bodegas and sample the exceptional wines. Salta and Cafayate are renowned for producing some of Argentina’s finest wines, particularly the refreshing Torrontés white wines. Take a tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in wine tastings that will tantalize your taste buds.


Pair your meals with a glass of the region’s exceptional wines to fully appreciate the culinary experience. Whether it’s a fruity and aromatic Torrontés or a full-bodied Malbec, the wines of Northern Argentina perfectly complement the flavors of the local cuisine.


For a unique culinary experience, try the regional dishes that showcase the fusion of Indigenous, Spanish, and Criollo flavors. Locro, a hearty stew made with corn, meat, and vegetables, is a beloved traditional dish that pays homage to the indigenous roots of the region. It’s perfect for warming up on chilly days.


End your meal with a sweet treat, such as dulce de leche. This caramel-like spread is made by slowly cooking sweetened condensed milk and is used in a variety of desserts, from pancakes to pastries. Indulge in this rich and indulgent delicacy and experience the sweetness of Argentine gastronomy.


The culinary scene in Northern Argentina is a feast for the senses, showcasing the diverse flavors and culinary traditions that make the region unique. Indulge in the local cuisine, sample the world-class wines, and let your taste buds embark on a journey of discovery and delight.