The Whistletrip: Itinerary
- Day 1: Salta
- Day 2: Cachi
As an empanada fanatic, I just had to squeeze Salta into a trip to Argentina – admittedly having already visited Buenos Aires, Iguazú and Patagonia. Locals believe they invented this mother of all snacks and delicious fresh baked empanadas salteñas are available everywhere!
Only a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires, Salta Province lies in the northwest of Argentina, in the foothills of the Andes. The small city of Salta is home to striking Spanish colonial architecture and strong gaucho culture, while a 5 hour drive through the Calchaquí Valley to Cachi offers red rugged landscape and delightfully quaint adobe houses. Both are easily covered in 2 days and provide a wonderfully authentic contrast to the sophistication of the nation’s capital.
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- Mobilize: There are at least 5 direct flights per day from Buenos Aires to Salta, most operated by Aerolineas, with whom I flew. LATAM also connects the cities. Salta city is easily explored on foot, but you will need to hire a car, arrange a driver through your hotel, or use a tour agency such as Viator in order to reach Cachi.
- Stay: I based myself in Salta for both nights, at Legado Mitico Salta. After a fantastic stay at the boutique Legado Mitico property in Buenos Aires, the Salta outpost was a must. In a renovated mansion close to Plaza Gral. Don Martín Miguel de Güemes, rooms include four poster beds and balconies looking out over the hotel’s elegant courtyard. Head to the roof with a bottle of wine for sundowners with views over the city.
Day 1: Salta
This small city of just over 600,000 people is brimming with imposing neo-classical buildings that date back to its founding in 1582 by Spanish conqueror Hernando de Lerma. The grand architecture is best appreciated on a long walk – starting at the Plaza 9 de Julio to admire the vivid pink Catedral Basílica de Salta and arched Cabildo y Museo, along Caseros to the Iglesia San Francisco and 15 minutes further east to the 1,000 steps up the San Bernardo Hill. It is clear from the panoramic views at the Hill’s peak why the city’s name means “beauty” in the native Quechua language.
- Eat: El Patio de la Empanada on Av. San Martin is a simple collection of stalls offering a variety of delicious empanadas that are made fresh right there. Amazing combinations of beef, egg, potato, chicken, corn and cheese in puffy pastry are served piping hot.
- Culture Up: At the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology. Primarily focused on Incan culture, the museum displays the 500-year-old mummified frozen bodies of three children killed in a ritual sacrifice. They were discovered – along with precious offerings – in 1999, high up on Mount Llullaillaco at the border with Chile.
- Wish I Had: Ventured out to House of Jasmines, a Relais & Chateaux estancia just outside town. The 100-year old mansion is a hotel and resort set in a 100 hectare park with a restaurant, La Table, serving traditional Argentinean dishes cooked using a large fireplace and produce from the estate’s vegetable garden and orchards.
Day 2: Cachi
The drive from Salta to Cachi is stunning. Los Cardones National Park’s desert landscape is dotted with tall cardons, many hundreds of years old, and throughout the Calchaquí Valley, deep red rocks cocoon small villages.
At the end of La Recta del Tin Tin, a straight road through Los Cardones that dates back to the Inca era, sits Cachi. A tiny town – more a village – its main plaza is home to the lovely Iglesia San José. Pop inside to see pews, floors and ceilings made of cactus wood. Stalls on the plaza and the close by Centro Artesanal are decently priced spots to pick up ceramics and high quality locally crafted ponchos.
The Pío Pablo Díaz Museo Arqueológico is worth visiting to see thousands of artefacts unearthed from indigenous and colonial sites in the province. Best of all, walk through Cachi’s charming cobblestone streets to view its lines of white adobe houses, a splash of color from the occasional wall painting, and likely enjoy the year-round crisp blue skies and sunshine.
© Ann Berry