What to do in Salta: 3 unmissable experiences
March 26, 2019
by Manuel The Writer
I take shelter in the shadow of a building on the side of Avenida Belgrano, one of the main streets in the center of Salta, Argentina.
Salta is a city of over 600 thousand citizens in northwestern Argentina, at the foot of the Andean cordillera which, with its province, exceeds 1.3 million inhabitants.
It is nicknamed “Salta la Linda” and, frankly, I think this nickname is due to the enchanting landscapes that surround it, easy to reach thanks to the numerous tours that leave from the city center in the morning, allowing you to return comfortably to your hotel around seven in the evening.
When I participated in these tours, I always returned between 6.30pm and 8.00pm.
As I wait, I look at the people, the writing, the surrounding buildings: “I’m right on the other side of the world” I say to myself, with a beautiful smile on my face; at the same time proud and a little tense for what is about to happen at times.
1) The Cerro San Bernardo
Departing from Buenos Aires after a flight of two hours I have recently arrived in Salta, I am waiting to meet Anita and Tony to go and see the panorama of the city from the Cerro San Bernardo, at 1482 meters high, and to taste for the first time the famous “Mate.” I can not wait!
But, you must know that these 2 people have never seen them in my life, even though I have only known Anita virtually for the past 3 years.
We met thanks to a language exchange app. She helped me with Spanish and me with Italian. That Anita was a girl out of the ordinary, I had already guessed by now more than 2 years ago, when for my birthday, without knowing me in real life, but with only a video called Skype, she sent me a gift directly from Argentina. Give her heartfelt thanks when she arrived, she told me: “so you will have a little more trust in people.”
And in fact I admit it, where I was born and raised myself, in northern Italy, the mentality is more individualistic, instead as soon as you arrive in Argentina, a little less in the chaotic metropolis of Buenos Aires, you immediately breathe a different area: calmer, more tranquility, more sharing and human relationships (to be honest, it is a feature of much, if not all, of South America).
And this my assumption was immediately confirmed on that warm December afternoon when we had to meet to go together to the Cerro San Bernardo, a hill located at 1482 meters above sea level on the east side of the town, while the city is located at 1152 meters above sea level.
To reach this incredible and easily accessible panorama there are 3 alternatives: car (thanks Tony for the ride), 1070 steps (a beautiful trek that, however, in good company helps you to stay fit and is also pleasant) or through “El Teleferico di San Bernardo “, a sort of cable car that starts from one side of the Parque San Martin and in about 8 minutes allows you to reach your destination admiring the immensity of this small city, which however seems small only in appearance.
I admit. The first meeting with Anita and Tony was strange for a simple reason.
I look at WhatsApp and read a message from Anita: “We’re here.” I go down, I go to the meeting point and … there is nobody!
I write: “I don’t see you.”
She says to me: “Aren’t you in Via XYZ?”
Me: “No, I send you my location by WhatsApp.” And I take a picture with my cell phone to show her what I saw from my visual.
After the first misunderstanding with the directions, everything is resolved in just 10 minutes, telling me that they are on the opposite side of the road. I turn around and see a hand that approaches me from a distance. I cross the pedestrian crossing, and I enter into car greeting them: “Holaaa que tal ?!”
This was the first meeting with Anita, my first true Argentina friend, who I feel I can calmly affirm, a true friend with gold’ heart.
The journey by car passes pleasantly with the classic speeches that are made between people the first time they know each other in real life; “How are you?”, “How did the trip go?”, “Nice to meet you” etc …
Arriving at your destination, after about ten meters by walking, here is the city of Salta in front of me from a height of 1482 meters: incredible, the view is breathtaking (and if you too get excited about the looks you can understand very well).
2) Taste the real Argentine Mate
Beautiful panorama, special mates, relax and chat, what can you miss completing a moment like this? Obviously the classic Argentine Mate!
And Anita is immediately ready to explain the preparation of the mate.
Very easily, the mate is an infusion prepared with the leaves of Mate herb, a plant native to South America. These leaves are dried, cut, shredded and, when you buy them at the supermarket (in Argentina you can find them everywhere), they are ready to use.
Prepare the water at a temperature of 80 degrees, put the Mate herb in the “glass” on purpose, add the hot water and then with the bombilla, drink.
Here in Argentina they often sweeten water with stevia, to make the drink tastier, while in Uruguay they prefer bitter mate.
But in reality, I love the mate for many other reasons far more profound than the pure taste.
I mention some of the several beneficial properties of the mate:
- helps diuresis
And more, the values that come with the Argentine mate:
For many Argentines I have met, and for me, it represents a friendly way of forming a group, where you express your thoughts, doubts, ideas.
The custom of Mate allows you to enter the Argentine spirit: the beauty in sharing and helping others. Personally, he helped me savor simple but indelible moments, which I will always remember.
Usually, a circle is formed, and the glass containing the mate is passed between all the participants, in turn, until you say “thank you.”
The “thank you” means “I’m okay, I don’t want to drink anymore.” And from that moment on you will no longer receive a glass to drink.
3) Drink the “Salta Negra” beer
If you stop at any bar in Salta and ask “what beer do you recommend?”, Anyone will tell you the “Saltena” beer. I add, the “Salta Negra” beer.
It is the most famous beer of Salta, loved by every resident of the place, it has very particular characteristics: the black color, the intense aroma, the creamy foam and a “strong” taste that pervades every single taste papilla with every swallow. Of all the beers I’ve tried so far, it’s definitely one of the best.
How I got to try the “Salta Negra” beer is a lot of fun, but we’ll talk next time.
There would be plenty of other stories to tell about this fantastic Salta experience, but today I will stop here, summarizing some salient tips for your next trip to Salta:
- taste the “Salta Negra” Beer,
- make a trip to the Cerro to enjoy the view from across the valley and see with your own eyes the majesty of nature
- try mate, it’s a dutiful experience in Argentina, you won’t regret it.