Hola! My name is Hortensia and I grew up in Argentina between Salta and my parents farm. Welcome to my travel guide on Northern Argentina.
I moved to Buenos Aires at the age of 18 to pursue my career in communications. We were a big family of 10 siblings in total and so we didn’t get the chance to travel much when I was young. However, my parents did travel and they shared with us their stories from those trips.
These stories inspired me in a way. I love art but I discovered my love for photography only four years ago when I started running my blog: Estilo DV. So now when I’m walking down the street I find myself as if I’m looking through a camera and I need to take photos. It’s become a habit of mine!
Why Visit Northern Argentina
Northern Argentina is THE destination if you’re on a quest for the genuine Argentine spirit! These lands feature a combination of landscapes, colours, textures and scents as well as a vast body of stories and customs.
As you may know, our country is the result of three different immigration waves that came to this land looking for new opportunities. It’s in Northern Argentina – Salta, Jujuy and Tucuman – where our independence was born. Here in Salta you can find the most ancient families and colonial traditions.
Not only do we have a rich heritage but also you will find the most amazing landscapes! Both climate and scenery change a lot in just a few kilometers. For example, just compare the differences between Salta and Cafayate.
Salta is located in a subtropical valley and offers green colours in summer, while 120 km away you get to Cafayate and find a large dry desert area surrounded by mountains of different colours and an array of vineyards.
If you really want to grasp Argentina’s culture and enjoy gaucho life, its nature and history – then I highly recommend Northern Argentina.
Favourite Place: Calchaqui Valleys
It’s difficult to choose just one favourite place. If I must, then my choice would be the Calchaqui Valleys to find myself enjoying the stunning landscapes, various wineries and stay at some charming boutique hotels.
I think Calchaqui Valleys is special because you can still find places – like the town of Cachi – which are in really good condition with houses that were built in the 1700’s but are still standing and still in impeccable shape.
The natural scenery – blue skies, spice-planted fields and assorted aromas – deep intense wines, its gentle and solicitous people with their honest look, all the local artisans and craftspeople — combine to make it a unique place.
Also, there’s a wide variety of restaurants and hotels which are super cosy while offering their own unique charm and character. Here you can stay for a couple of days, relax and gradually take it all in. I highly recommend it!
10 Best Things To Do in Northern Argentina
Northern Argentina is a must-visit on any trip to South America. It offers travellers amazing destinations and hidden gems well off the beaten path. Below are my top 10 recommendations for this epic region of Argentina.
1. Spend a Day in the Old Colonial City of Salta
I recommend spending at least one full day in Salta so you can walk through Caseros Street and admire the churches such as the Cathedral of Salta, Basilica Menor San Francisco de Asis and the San Bernardo Convent.
2. Shop at the Picturesque San Miguel Market
Explore the Mercado San Miguel in Salta to shop for fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as different cheeses and spices. This market is indoors and takes up an entire block. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still a fantastic way to immerse yourself with locals and take in the atmosphere.
3. Visit the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology
The Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in Salta is where you can learn about the cosmological views of the Inca and their relationship with other local cultures. Make sure you see the famous Llullaillaco Children.
4. Discover the Enchanting Adobe Town of Cachi
Cachi is a captivating adobe town which is surrounded by snow-capped Andean peaks. Wander around its stone-paved streets and famous church. Have some delicious empanadas for lunch around the central square.
5. See Colome Winery and James Turrell Museum
Right in the middle of nowhere, at more than 2000 metres above sea level, you will find the first winery built in Argentina in 1831 called Colome Winery. It’s now a thriving winery housing a contemporary museum.
6. Stay Overnight in the Incredible Cafayate
Staying overnight in Cafayate is key to learn more about high-altitude wines, enjoy its landscape, gastronomy and nature. I recommend staying at Patios de Cafayate and having lunch at Bodega El Porvenir de Cafayate. You can also go horse riding with Tolombon Aventuras y Experiencias.
7. Relax at Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas
Spend at least one night at Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas: a genuine operating farm offering a chance to find out more about northern history from the inside. Stay at a house built in the 1700’s, go horse riding through the fields and learn to make empanadas with Sofia – the farm’s cook.
8. Take in the Landscapes of Purmamarca
Take in the landscapes of Purmamarca – a town famous for the Hill of the Seven Colours. Wander across its streets, take the tour known as the “Paseo de los Colorados”, visit its central square where you can find artisans, and delight yourself with a tasty local dish at one of Purmamarca’s restaurants.
9. Explore the Salinas Grandes of Northern Argentina
The Salinas Grandes will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your trip to Northern Argentina. Intense sun, blue sky and salt flats guarded by the snow-covered Chani Hill makes this site one of Argentina’s Seven Wonders.
10. Go Visit the Incredible Serrania de Hornocal
Visit the Serrania de Hornocal – a hill range renowned for its 14 amazing colours. But mind you, it’s pretty high up there. Over 4400 metres above sea level! You can visit on a day trip from the city of Humahuaca in Jujuy.
People, Culture & Food
The locals of Northern Argentina are different to many other regions of Argentina. They are kind and a little bit introverted. There is plenty of poetry and many interesting artists who come from this region of South America.
One thing that’s big here is food. You can find the best empanadas in the world and you should also try the tamales, humitas and locro. Salta has excellent dining options to enjoy all the delicious local flavours of locro, tamales, humita en chala, goatling and coyote with quesillo.
The empanadas are on a whole different level. They are without doubt the juiciest and tastiest of all of Argentina. Dona Salta and El Bodegon in San Lorenzo are my favourites. Also, La Cason del Molino is a great place with authentic pena with guitars and great empanadas and wine.
In Cafayate, the best restaurant is La Rosa in Patios de Cafayate Hotel. In Purmamarca, check out Hotel El Manantial del Silencio.
Where to Stay in Northern Argentina
- Salta City: KKala Hotel Boutique, Hotel Legado Mitico Salta, House of Jasmines and Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas (45 minutes from Salta).
- Cafayate: Patios de Cafayate, Wine Resort Vinas de Cafayate, El Porvenir de Cafayate, Grace Hotel, Altalaluna Hotel and Vieja Posada.
- Cachi: El Cortijo Hotel Boutique, La Merced del Alto Hotel Boutique and Estancia Colome.
- Quebrada de Humahuaca: Hotel El Manantial del Silencio, Huacalera Hotel, Las Marias Hotel Boutique and Casa Colorada (Tilcara).
Travel Tips for Northern Argentina
The best months to visit are March to May and September to January (February is usually the top rainy month). July is a beautiful time but it’s the high season. I would also say that it’s crucial to give yourself enough time.
You should never calculate your distances in kilometers. Cachi is 160 kilometers away from Salta but it takes over three hours to get to the village because it’s a cornice road and there are some gravel parts. Besides, it’s a scenic road trip hence it is key to allow time to enjoy the scenery.
In the course of one day you may experience a full array of weather conditions. You should always pack warm and light clothes. During the winter, it is hot and sunny at midday, and cold at night.
The best plan is to rent a car to visit different places. There are destinations such as the Salt Flats that are high up and so this is something to bear in mind especially for those who suffer from altitude sickness. Once you get here just be willing to enjoy your time and let yourself be surprised.