Republished from The Argentina Independent
Buenos Aires and its surroundings are the home to nearly 13 million people and a lengthy laundry list of photogenic must-sees: the bright and lively pastels of La Boca, the beautiful and modern Puerto Madero skyline, the shimmering and industrial metal flower, two towering obelisks, a uniquely colored government headquarters and the classic and exquisite Euro-style architecture throughout the city. But sometimes, amidst all the hustle and bustle, you just need to get away and stare at a mountain for a little while.
The continent of South America offers plenty of locales busting at the seams with natural scenery, and one such spot can be found just a short flight (or long bus ride) to the northeast: the province of Salta. The Indy grabbed a camera, some old shoes and a bottle of bug spray and hit the road to round up the top 5 vistas in this easy-on-the-eyes province.
Teleférico San Bernando
Right in the center of the city of Salta, the Teleférico San Bernardo is a cable car that takes you right to the top of a mountain where you can get an eagle’s eye view of the city of the rustic Salta. Quick and economical, the teleférico is an easy spot to fill some of that space on your camera’s memory card. The view from above gives an insight into the history of the city, as the buildings in Salta skew more traditionally Latin American than the white-washed architecture of Buenos Aires. And while Salta is obviously no Buenos Aires in terms of size, it’s always interesting to see a view of a city that is often reserved only for soon-to-be-landing airline passengers. What’s more, the top of the mountain boasts a restaurant, various lookout points, a playground, waterfalls, a downhill biking adventure and an outdoor workout space so you can use the altitude to your advantage and get in peak hiking shape. (More on that shortly.)
The cable cars load at San Martín and Yrigoyen every day from 10 am to 7 pm, and a round trip will cost you $40. You can also take stairs up and down the mountain if you are so inclined. More information can be found here.
Cable cars are nice, but sometimes it’s more rewarding if a viewpoint charges some perspiration and a pair of muddy sneakers as price of admission. Located just out of the city of Salta, San Lorenzo is the home to some of the area’s prime hiking spots. Explore around El Duende de la Quebrada and you can work your way up to nearly cloud level for a gorgeous view that is well worth the effort. What makes the view really special is seeing just how high up you are, in comparison to the clouds (knowing that you got up there with your own two feet also boosts the self-esteem). Horses can also be used to trek the terrain, and a restaurant sits at the base as a tasty incentive to keep putting one foot in front of the other. A rather remote locale, the area houses its share of stray dogs, and, if you’re lucky, some of them just might give you a free guided tour up the mountain.
From the city of Salta, San Lorenzo can be reached by taking the no. 7 bus to the end of its line. It won’t cost you anything to walk up the mountain, but other forms of transport are available, such as ATV rides. For more information, check out the San Lorenzo tourism website.
A stunning natural phenomenon, these salt flats took about 22 million years to form the current topography. Salt deposits from a since-disappeared body of water encrust the ground here, forming a durable surface that appears snowy from a distance and almost fossil-like up close. All the while, good ol’ Mother Nature was crafting a perfect spot to dabble in some trick photography. The pure white background is a perfect spot to use depth-of-field to your advantage and get that photo you’ve always wanted with your father standing on your finger, your sister standing on your head, or maybe even your mother-in-law cowering in fear as you prepare to swallow her whole. Your call.
The passage to Salinas Grandes requires a lengthy day trip from the city of Salta. A Las Nubes Tours offers day trips to the flats, which border the neighboring province of Jujuy. Tour information can be found here and general information on the Salinas Grandes is available here.
What’s better to look at than a range of beautiful mountains? A range of beautiful mountains with a lake sitting in the middle.The second-biggest lake in South America, Cabra Corral is a placid, man-made lagoon that creates a beautiful foreground for some majestic vistas. Its proximity to red rock makes for some unreal natural juxtaposition. The beauty of the area is enough to get your picture-taking finger buzzing, but if you want to exercise your adrenaline machines as well, the area offers bungee jumping, jet skiing, rappelling and other adventurous activities.
The lake could be reached by rental car or, alternatively, Salta Rafting will take you there if rafting, ziplining, or partaking in delicious asados sounds like your thing. The company’s raft/canopy/parilla spot is not too far past Cabra Corral and offers some spectacular views as well, if your adrenaline has not yet been sated. Information can be found here.
Road to Cafayate
Cafayate is an idyllic little town with renowned wineries that just happens to sit amidst a slew of mountains. It’s gorgeous and certainly worth the trek from the city of Salta. However, the real star of the excursion might be the 3-hour drive there. You would be hard-pressed to find a better embodiment of the term “scenic route” (Yankees: think Arizona, but bigger and much more accepting of Hispanics). The view along the route is as breath-taking as it is vast. Stops along the way include the disorienting Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), a musician-friendly natural amphitheater, and other natural rock formations that look like a frog, a saint (allegedly) and an obelisk. In reality, pretty much anywhere you’d like to stop and get out the camera is worth it.
To make the journey you could hire a car from Salta, or tour a las Nubes offers a day-long tour to and from Cafayate for reasonable prices. Information can be found here. The price is listed as $195 for the Cafayate day trip, but visit in person and you may get a better rate.