Salta, Argentina | Budget backpacking in style
Updated: Jun 13
Salta is often overlooked by backpackers as many opt to take the head from Bolivia across the Salta Flats to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile (or vice versa) then travel down Chile. However, we would strongly suggest rethinking missing Salta out, not only is Argentina currently a fraction of the price of Chile, Salta has a lot to offer! On top of that, Salta is by far the cheapest place we visited on our Argentinian adventure.
Some confusion is caused by the fact that the city of Salta & Salta state have the same name. Many of the activities mentioned below are outside of the city of Salta but within the state of Salta.
Table of Contents
Things to do/see in Salta
Explore the town
Salta is a nice, clean town and you can quite happily spend a day wandering round the central shopping streets, checking out the main square and eating and drinking your way round the cafes and restaurants.
Teleférico San Bernardo
Take the cable car up for views over the town and to explore the fountains and forest trails at the top.
The teleferico runs Monday to Sunday 9:00am- 7:30pm
Cost: Only $2,200 - using the Blue Dollar exchange rate (£5.00/$6)
Cafayate is Argentina’s 2nd largest producing wine region (Mendoza being the 1st) & is home to some amazing wines. A lighter style wine than the wine on offer in Mendoza due to its high altitude of 1,680m, but still full of flavour. The town of Cafayate is small & picturesque, to really have enough time to appreciate it try to spend a night or 2 out there, as a day trip from Salta is a 3- 4 hour journey each way, which limits your time in the town itself.
Cafayate day tour
Due to time constraints we only had time for a day trip to Cafayate. The tour was cheap at $ 6,600 (£15/$18) per person & would have been really informative if our Spanish had been more advanced than some Duolingo & a week in a language school in Sucre gets you. We were told that pre-covid the tours were all in English but due to the lack of overseas tourists so far this year and the fact that English speaking tour guides are more expensive, a lot have reverted back to Spanish speaking only. You may want to check this before booking as the driver of our bus seemed to be very informative about the landscape & the stops. We just had to enjoy some of the amazing scenery for how impressive it looked, rather than the geographic significance or religious (we picked up some of the words from the driver to know what he was talking about but not enough to understand the description!).
Upon reaching the outskirts of Cafayate they take you to a vineyard (you guessed it for another tour in Spanish – an English speaking guide would have been really helpful!), the wines were tasty though.
You are then given a few hours to explore the town of Cafayate yourself on foot. We spent the majority of our time in a great little restaurant on the square called Ampi, where we sampled a few more of the local wines along with a great cheese & meat platter. If you visit Cafayate I would highly recommend visiting this place.
After lunch it’s a straight drive back to Salta taking in a bit more of the landscape through the van window on the way back.
Tour price: $6,600 (£15/$18) per person
Other tours options
We didn’t have time for these, but they sounded good and would be worth looking into further.
Salta has its own Rainbow mountain, less famous as less tourists pass through Salta compared to Cusco, but they claim even more spectacular. Rainbow Mountain in Peru has 7 colours, and Purmamarca in Salta has 14 colours!
Salta has some impressive salt flats, in fact the 3rd largest in the world. They may not be as well known as the Uyuni, Bolivian ones (as they are twice as big there) but if you are only visiting Argentina (American’s may wish to avoid paying the hefty visa cost for Bolivia) it’s a perfect opportunity to experience the otherworldly feel of a massive pearly white, salt flats as far as the eye can see.
Where to stay in Salta
This place was about 25 minute walk from the main square but through a nice neighbourhood so very much walkable. There’s a well-stocked Carrafour on the doorstep which Becca was excited about as coming through Bolivia and Peru we hadn’t experienced the greatest of supermarkets! The place itself was very welcoming, the owner & his family are all very friendly & their English was great.
Private double room with en suite bathroom for only $6,600 (£15/$18) per night, including breakfast.
Where to eat and drink in Salta
El Charrúa Restaurante y Parrillada
A great steak restaurant. Very reasonable prices, friendly staff, great atmosphere and delicious steaks and wines. We were originally going to go for steak at Doña Salta given it’s great reviews but when we got there although there was a queue and a waiting list of about 30 mins we found the atmosphere in the restaurant to be severely lacking and moved on. It seemed empty even though there was a wait on tables. I can’t comment on the food though, it could be very nice.
$6,000 (£13.50/$16) per person for amazing steaks, beer & a bottle of wine to share!
A pasta restaurant. Ran by a lovely lady with very good English who is more than happy to explain the menu and help you choose from a selection of pasta and sauces. We had two types of ravioli, both of which were delicious. Great vegetarian option in Salta.
$3,300 (£7.50/$9) per person including drinks.
Amaretto Coffee & Resto
Good, cheap option for breakfast. The coffee was nothing to write home about unfortunately but for $ 1,000 (£2.40/$3) we got avocado and poached egg on a slice of sourdough toast, an orange juice, a coffee & a small fruit salad.
Cost per person: $ 1,000 (£2.40/$3)
Where to get good coffee in Salta
Nice little café serving good coffee & a nice looking selection of cakes.
Getting there and away
As we had taken the Salt Flat tour a few years ago, this time we opted to head from Tarija in Bolivia to Salta via bus. We travelled with Jaurez, which was a bit pricey compared to many trips we’d taken in Bolivia costing Bs330 pp but it did what we needed & runs at 7pm daily & takes 12 hours. This ticket was the one exception so far in South America with the tickets being exactly the same cost online as at the bus station. So with this journey you could save yourself the trip to the bus station & book on the tickets online at Tickets Bolivia.
If you are wanting to do the Salt Flat tour in Bolivia (which we highly recommend as it is a lot of fun!) it is possible to get from San Pedro de Attacama to Salta via bus.
From Salta we headed south to Mendoza, the bus is a gruelling 20 hours long. We journeyed with Andesmar as they were the cheapest at ARS 22,600 (£51/$61 as of February 2023) for semi cama seats as the cama were sold out (cama seats $26,000(£59/$71)). Although semi cama seats are fine & offer similar comfort to an economy aeroplane seat, for a 20 hour journey I would recommend spending the extra on cama seats if they are available. See bus travel in South America to understand the different classes of seats.
All prices quoted on the Salta travel blog are based on the current* Blue Dollar rate, for more information see our blog post on taking advantage of the Blue Dollar rate in Argentina with Western Union.
*27 February 2023.