6 Things to do in Salta, Argentina

Although small, there are plenty of things to do in Salta for those passing through. If you need a week’s break in your travel schedule, there’s nowhere prettier nearby — and if you want a week combining cultural sightseeing with outdoors adventure, you’re in luck as well.

1. Teleferico to Cerro San Bernardo

Salta’s teleferico, or cable car, starts and ends each journey in beautiful dd style buildings. At the top, you are welcomed by a lush garden, some catholic statues, and views out over Salta and down the valley.. The spring that starts up here is funneled through a rockery-like series of waterfalls: the sound of rushing water follows you around the summit.

2. Parque San Martin

At the base of the cablecar is Parque San Martin — a large park with plenty of walkways through the grass and small cabinas selling everything from a cold drink to hard-to-find books.

3. Mercado San Martin

This covered market is the ultimate people-watching spot, and a great place to pick up your fresh veges, goats cheese, and meat that comes straight from the butcher. Don’t just rummage around the few trinket shops: get your groceries, grab a beer and a slice of pizza amongst the noisy crush, and watch some Salteños go by. It’s not as glamorous as the cafes around Plaza 9 de Julio, but it’s a lot more fun.

4. Shopping Alto Noa

Salta’s only Shopping (which has become the Spanish word for shopping center or mall), is located at the end of Calle Entre Rios. It’s a place to hide on a rainy day, find ground coffee without pre-mixed sugar, or spend up big on American labels and a smattering of Argentine options.

5. Weekend markets

Markets are held each Saturday and Sunday, with many of the same vendors attending both. Saturday’s are held in Parque Guemes, Sunday’s on Balcarce — near all the nightclubs and restaurants by the train station.

6. Plaza 9 de Julio / Plaza Ninth of July

Nueva de Julio is the heart of Salta, there’s plenty of people around during the day, but it is packed out in the cool of the evening. And that’s a great time to be there during summer — enjoying the buzzing atmosphere and the cool breeze.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants surrounding the square, with inflated prices to match. Food prices aren’t horrendous, although the most budget of travellers will want to walk back a block or two, but you won’t be gouged for a coffee or quiet beer … which is definitely a pleasant surprise for a prime tourist spot.

Central fountain of 9 de Julio

Click here for more of the best things to do in Salta.

Salta travel week!

The little town of “Salta la Linda” in north-west Argentina is well worth a visit. We’re so excited about it that declare this week as Salta travel week!

Over the next few days we’ll be looking at

Looking forward to it! You might also want to read these articles:

  • Moving to Buenos Aires: Living Alone « exnat – For the first 18 years of my life I lived with my parents. After that I left for college and for the next 8 years I mostly with friends and, every odd summer or so, with my parents. When I came to Buenos Aires I lived with my friends …

  • Salta | itstoughforme – From Mendoza we got a 16 hour bus to Salta in north west Argentina. I´m not sure about it being one Argentina’s most beautiful cities but it´s definitely got a more Spanish vibe to Mendoza and Buenos Aires and is very nice to …

  • Bolivia and Argentina launch GNA pipeline tenders « South … – One matter about large-scale energy projects in Latin America is that they take a long time to accomplish. Even so, the governments of Bolivia and Argentina are moving full speed ahead with the construction of the 1500km …

  • Mummy of an Ancient Inca Girl by Back To Wild – The mummy of an ancient Inca girl called La Doncella or The Maiden sits literally frozen in sleep at a museum in Argentina.It is mummy of a teenage girl who died more than 500 years ago in a ritual sacrifice in the Andes …

Solo Travel in Sucre, Bolivia

Sucre BoliviaAfter La Paz, the next destination on my South American trip was Sucre, a 12-hour overnight bus ride from the capital of Bolivia — which I wasn’t looking forward to. From the bus trip I learnt a few unpleasant things about Bolivian public transport:

The bus was only scheduled to stop once on that 12-hour ride, and the buses were not the kind of long-haul buses that are equipped with toilets. I was advised to stop drinking water a few hours before departure and not to have any during the trip, as the bus drivers normally turn a deaf ear to anyone’s requests to stop.

When it did stop that one time, it was at a dodgy roadside ‘restaurant’ whose toilets were slightly more tolerable than a hole in the ground. Tip: take hand sanitiser with you everywhere, and avoid buying food from the places where the bus stops.

Plus, I thought it was pretty unsafe for the driver to keep driving for six hours straight without resting.

Note #1: Cheap as it was, Bolivian public transport was very insecure and uncomfortable, and I won’t recommend it to anyone. Next time I would rather pay slightly more for a private car to share with other travellers, if the opportunity arises. (See: Is Bolivia safe?)

However, once I got to Sucre, I forgot about the bus ride from hell. It was morning on arrival, and breakfast was on my mind. If you are a solo female traveller, you may find yourself enjoying the following, as I did.

Read more about solo female travel in Sucre, Bolivia.

Comprehensive travel insurance

Today comprehensive travel insurance may be a good idea to protect against the unforeseen. This may include coverage in case of a medical emergency, an accident and other unforeseen incidents when you on vacation or traveling abroad. Coverage can be found online where you may get coverage right before you depart. As like anything else it’s a good idea to make you have the right coverage for where you’re going, so preparation is key.

Travelling Fun Fair
cc. by Dominic on Flickr

Why it may be a good choice to buy coverage for your next trip? Well, since you can never plan on everything it can be wise to plan ahead and protect yourself in the event something does happen. This might include just seeing a Doctor or getting emergency help, it always good to be prepared.

What cheap comprehensive travel insurance can cover? This type of coverage covers such things as: medical emergencies, sporting events, hiking trips, reimbursement, delays and more. It even can be for lost luggage at the air port or even when a flight is delayed or canceled.

One thing to do before you go is to check on your destination. Basically, it might be a country you are going to that requires certain travel coverage for those that come from your country. Usually this is easy to find out from the insurer when you buy a policy.

Cheap comprehensive coverage can give you the protection you might need whenever you are traveling. It might be a long hike during the weekend or a long trip to Europe for the summer. Coverage gives the insured protection from incurring a financial loss due to a medical emergency, delay, cancellation or other unforeseen events. You can get a short term policy or long term policy from your local insurance agent or through a search online. This way you have something less to worry about when you’re not at home.

Kindle for travel

I never wanted a Kindle. I mean, it looked like a great gadget but I struggled to see how it might fit into my life. I love reading (and gadgets), but since the rise of the internet, I’ve found less and less time to get absorbed in a book. I think my friends know me better than I do, because for my most-recent birthday, they clubbed together and got me one. Now I spend an hour or more a day devouring books just like I did as a teenager.

Delivery took a little longer than expected, so first they presented me with this, which I’ll call the Mark One; a week or so later the updated version arrived, which Amazon are now calling the Kindle Keyboard 3G.

Advantages of the Kindle Keyboard 3G over the Kindle Mark One

  • It’s much, much thinner – easily slotting into the front of my backpack or my jacket’s breast pocket.
  • It’s able to access wifi or free 3G in order to shop and download books.
  • I can use that wifi or free 3G to check email or search for accommodation — which has come in handy at more than one bus station around South America.
  • It’s much easier to change pages and books: I can do it with a press of a button, rather than with glue and scissors.
  • I can carry over 2,000 books and it weighs the same. To achieve the same thing with the Mark One means hiring a sherpa.
  • Books are generally cheaper than their paperback counterparts; especially when comparing the ridiculous prices of books in Australia/New Zealand.
  • There’s a huge selection of books available, in English and Spanish, in any country I visit… no more searching for an English-language bookshop.

Advantages of the Kindle Mark One over the Kindle Keyboard 3G

  • A full-colour screen, rather than the greyscale Kindle Keyboard 3G
  • Special Kindle Kindling technology (one-time use only). Possibly a precursor to the Kindle Fire, which is going to be released later this year.
  • I have to charge the Kindle Keyboard 3G every three weeks or so. I never had to charge my Mark One.
  • No DRM or copy protection.
  • More rugged and durable, but you sacrifice on size and weight.

Kindle for travel

After a few weeks of use at home in New Zealand, I’ve been using the Kindle 3 “on the road” for two months. It’s been a fantastic companion through ArgentinaBrazil,Uruguay and Paraguay — not only is it lighter than paperbacks (I used to carry two or three in my backpack at all times), but the way of reading has dramatically changed.

If carrying a paperback, I tend to try and save it for when I’m really bored, but with the Kindle I can read to my heart’s content knowing there are more $0.99 cent books just around the corner — or articles and PDFs that I’ve downloaded online and sent to my Kindle. There’s no need to leave books until you find a book exchange.

On week two in Brazil we were staying with a family that spoke little Spanish and no English. We could jump straight on the 3G connection and download a Portuguese phrasebook while in their living room — making basic communication so much easier!

We often arrive in a town with no plans, trusting in the local tourist information office or a swarm of touts to help us get started. Sometimes that just doesn’t work out, so we can use the free 3G to connect to the internet and check our hostel search tool to find a place to stay.

Thoughts on the new Kindle family

Soon three new styles of Kindle are going to be released. I’m sure they’re going to have advantages but apart from a small speed bump, I think the Kindle 3 does its core job — selling and displaying books — really well.

The $79 Kindle lacks a keyboard or a touchscreen. I really wouldn’t want to be doing a lot of searches or trying to pen a basic email using the joystick to move around. (See the specs for Kindle, Wi-Fi, 6″ )

The Kindle touch looks great, and is likely to be the second Kindle in our family. I’d be concerned about what would happen if it accidentally gets unlocked in my backpack, would I end up buying dozens of books as it’s moved around? I’m also not sure about the screen technology — will it need more protection than the current model? (More on the Kindle Touch 3G)

Originally published as “Kindle for travel” on the Indie Travel Podcast.

Volunteer in Salta, Argentina

Here’s your chance to volunteer in Salta, Argentina with Cloudhead

Founded by Leigh Shulman, our interviewee, and her husband Noah Edelblum, Cloudhead is an art and education foundation based in Salta, Argentina.

Wichi community at Hickman - cute kidCurrently Cloudhead is running Wichi water – providing Wichi children in a poor village with digital cameras, then investing the profits of photo sales into developing sustainable gardens and food sources within the village.

They’re working with a local high school, where at-risk students are developing skills in social media, photography, film, and peer leadership.

They house artists and bloggers in their ‘art house’ in San Lorenzo, Salta – developing exhibitions for resident and local artists, with some of the proceeds going back into the foundation.

Everything they do, Leigh shares, is designed to give a small local community access to the global community; or to introduce the global community to a local one. By connecting the right people, they’re beginning to make a difference in Salta.

Salta, Argentina

Leigh also talks about her family’s travels around the world, as they searched for a new place to live. After a stop in Panama, they decide they had to move again and try to find a new place to settle.

Around SaltaThe region is reputed to have the best empanadas in the world, and some of the finest milanesas. It has excellent wine, sourced from the Cafayate wine region just to the south. There’s a lovely colonial town centre, a growing modern arts scene, plus rafting and famed mountain climbing for the adventurous. All in all, it’s a place to add to your South America itinerary.

Originally published at Volunteer in Argentina

Paraguay Travel Advice

From the South America section of the Indie Travel Podcast

We’ve spent the last week travelling in Paraguay, so thought we’d share our Paraguay travel advice with you!

To listen to this podcast, hit play or find episode 214 for free in iTunes:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Travel in Paraguay seems to be a topic that no-one really talks about, but we’re befuddled as to why. We certainly really enjoyed it, and would go back if the opportunity presented itself.

Getting into Paraguay

We talked about getting a visa and the Ciudad del Este border crossing in the travel forum – check there for details.

After entering Paraguay at the Brazil-Paraguay border, we visited…

Ciudad del Este

This modern city is Paraguay’s second largest, and one of the biggest commercial developments in South America. The central city, at least, feels like one giant collection of malls and stalls. If visiting from Foz do Iguacu for the day, you do not need a visa, or even a stamp in your passport, to enter Ciudad del Este (often contracted to “CDE” on local timetables) — as long as you leave via the same border crossing.

There are three main attractions in Ciudad del Este: shopping, the Itaipu dam, and the Hito Tres Fronteras.

Shopping in Ciudad del Este

By far the biggest attraction is the shopping. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Brazilians arrive every day for the tax-free clothing, electronics and other things on sale. From street stands to modern, air-conditioned malls, the centre of town has little beyond shops, currency exchange stalls and a few restaurants to keep you going. If you visit Ciudad del Este just for the day, you don’t need to get a visa … just don’t stray too far from town.

The Itaipu Dam

The Itaipu Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam on earth*: its yearly output could power the entire world for two days. This is a shared project between Paraguay and Brazil, and you can visit on both sides. However, it’s free to visit on the Paraguayan side: and the 20 minute bus out there costs less than a dollar.

The Itaipu Dam sits between Paraguay and Brazil

The visit starts with a 20-25 minute video, in Spanish, showing the development of the dam, its technology, and how it influences life in Paraguay and Brazil. A little technical, but still very interesting. After that, a bus will drive along to a lookout, then circle through the dam complex without stopping. Views from the windows — the dam, massive power lines, and the great Itaipu lake — are impressive on both sides of the coach.

Make sure to time your arrival with one of the documentary showings: at 8am, 9:30am, 2pm and 3pm Monday to Friday, with an extra showing at 10:30am on Saturdays as well as the other times. On Sunday your only options are morning ones: 8am, 9:30am and 10:30am.

* Largest in terms of electricity generated.

Hito Tres Fronteras

The rivers Iguacu and Parana separate Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina — and each country has a viewpoint where each country can be seen over the river. Even though it is just a short, cheap bus ride from town, we didn’t visit Hito Tres Fronteras on the Paraguayan side, having visited in Argentina.

Seeing Paraguay from Argentina at the Hito Tres Fronteras

Encarnacion

The small southern city of Encarnacion was a real highlight of our time in Paraguay. It’s a colonial town with a lovely main square, complete with a miniature Japanese garden. The walkway down by the river, where you can look out at the skyline of Posada, Argentina, is currently being re-developed and will look great by the time the southern summer arrives.

The main attraction near Encarnacion is the sheer amount of Jesuit ruins around the place (Encarnacion itself is built over a Jesuit settlement). During the 17th and 18th century, Jesuit communities gained power, financial and cultural influence, and a high degree of autonomy from the Spanish crown. A main centre of their power was modern Paraguay, with extensions into modern Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia (although it was all Paraguay back then). The Spanish grew quite nervous about this, and expelled the Jesuits from all South America in 1767. The Ruta Jesuitica is a tourism route through dozens of ruins, but we visited the two UNESCO world heritage sites, Jesus de Tavarangüe and Trinidad.

Jesus de Tavarangüe

Jesus was abandoned, unfinished at the time of the expulsion – meaning what we see today is almost exactly as they were left in the late 18th century.

The unfinished church at Jesus
Within the church, looking towards the cloisters
The unfinished schoolrooms stretch from the church

Trinidad

Trinidad was a large community, probably serving over 300 Jesuit and Indian families. The quarry nearby — which also supplied rock for Jesus — is also able to be visited.

Looking towards the main church from the bell tower
Column of a cloister, with the squat, fortified bell tower

Asuncion

The capital of Paraguay was our final stop, and we’re glad it wasn’t our first. While we found people to be friendly and the cities to be safe and clean in other parts of Paraguay, Asuncion was run down and people more reserved and difficult to talk to.

We caught the bus out to the huge botanical garden and zoo at the city’s outskirts. The area is a great place to spend a lazy day, with a few wandering snack and drink salespeople to keep you going. The zoo has a large collection of endemic animals kept in constricted, but clean, habitats. And, for some reason, an ostrich.

Entrance to the Botanical Garden, Asuncion

There are museums, grand buildings, shopping markets and everything you might expect in a busy South American city, but nothing to really catch your eye or make things memorable — although we did keep noticing fading art deco facades.

Thoughts on travel in Paraguay

Our world fact book claims that Paraguay and Bolivia have a very similar GDP, but our experience of Paraguay was that it was much more affluent and faster-growing than its andean neighbour. There seems to be more indigent people living in Asuncion than the other cities we visited, and there are large areas of farmland that provide little more than sustenance living for its workers … so maybe those stats are true.

Art Deco in Asuncion, Paraguay

All in all, we felt very safe travelling in Paraguay, even when walking the streets in the late evening or on long bus trips. While we’ve heard reports of some scams, we encountered none at all. We never felt threatened, hassled or oversold because we were foreigners … which was a nice contrast with our time in Bolivia.

Paraguay’s a great destination, with lots more to see. There are wonderful natural sites, an intriguing and accessible modern history, and is very well priced. I really don’t know why more people don’t visit, so plan to go soon before tourism really picks up.

Paraguay Travel Advice by Craig and Linda Martin was originally published on the award-winning Indie Travel Podcast (iTunes) under the name “Travel Gear – Updated recommendations”. See more of their South America stories.

Are these the best places in South America?

 

 

Indie Travel Podcast writes about the best places in South America … but what do you think?

1. Chile


We loved: Santiago, Valparaiso, Chiloe, the Lake district, beer tasting in Valdivia, and the San Pedro de Atacama astronomy tour.

We didn’t like: With a few exceptions, Craig didn’t like the food too much. Linda’s a total Chile fan!

We would return and: go wild in Patagonia, explore more of the northern desert, taste wine near Santiago.

2. Peru


We loved: Craig’s “northern three” of Trujillo, Chiclayo and Chachapoyas; eating guinea pig; time in Arequipa — we wish we had spent more time there than in Cusco.

We didn’t like: Being pick-pocketed several times, the rich/slums division of some towns – especially Cusco, the city-space of Lima, having to bribe our way out across the border.

We would return and: hike the Cordillera Blanca, spend more time in Chachapoyas and more time at the beach around Huacachina.

3. Argentina

 

Argentina … rocks?!

We loved: the food and wine, Salta, new friends met in Cafayate and visited in La Plata, Bicentennary celebrations in Buenos Aires, the Iguacu Falls.

We didn’t like: Not much: Argentina was Craig’s favourite country visited in South America.

We would return and: head further south, visiting Patagonia and maybe trying our hands at some snow-sports.

4. Uruguay

 

fruit stand montevideo uruguayA fruit stand in Montevideo

We loved: the food and wine, relaxing at a friends lake house (where much food and wine was consumed), wandering Montevideo, chilling in beautiful Colonia.

We didn’t like: The prices — which were fair but higher than the rest of the continent — so no complaints there.

We would return and: Visit wineries, learn to surf on the east coast, visit some of the many places we missed.

5. Bolivia

Copcabana church Bolivia

We loved: Touring the Saltar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), hiking around Copacabana, the people we couchsurfed with in La Paz.

We didn’t like: La Paz where we were constantly singled out by gangs of thieves, the roughest roads and least secure public transport we experienced.

We would return and: Get off the altiplano and into the forest, do some kind of river adventure, visit the wine region of the south east.

6. Brazil

 

rainbow over iguacu falls brazilRainbow over the Iguacu Falls, from the Brazilian side

We loved: the Iguacu falls (the only piece of Brazil we’ve visited). We visited the fall from both the Argentinian and Brazilian side and, although we weren’t expecting much, were overwhelmed. One of the natural wonders of the continent, approximately 1,746 cubic meters per second flows over the 270-odd falls. Expect to get wet — no matter which side you visit. Food and amenities are better on the Argentinian side, but both provide good value for money.

The bird park a few minutes walk from the Brazilian entrance is also fantastic, but beware open-toed shoes and the curious toucans!

We’re looking forward to: exploring much more of the huge country! But it won’t be this year. We’re hoping to return and see much more of Brazil, hopefully over a year, one day.

We haven’t yet visited the following countries, but we’re looking forward to seeing them this year:

7. Ecuador

 

seal resting on beach galapagos ecuadorChilling in the Galapagos. Sounds good.

We’re looking forward to: travelling through Ecuador from south to north. We hope to go see our friend Tom in the galapagos and generally take the advice in this community thread on travelling to Colombia through Ecuador from Peru.

8. Colombia

 

city of medellin skyline colombiaMedellin – where we plan to spend a month or two

We’re looking forward to: visiting friends all over the country, then setting up somewhere for a month or two. Our sights are set on Medillin — where do you think we should stop for a while?

So that’s their thoughts …

But what do you think? What are the best places in South America? Leave your comments below.

Welcome to South America travel!!

Hello, and welcome to the new South America travel blog. Our goal is to bring you the best South America travel stories and tips, to help you travel further and better while you are on the continent. After all, isn’t that the point of travel?

South America is home to the world’s largest remaining rainforest, driest desert, longest river, and some of the highest waterfalls. But it’s not just the amazing Amazon or Andes, from folklore to film there are sumptuous cultural offers to explore, and some amazing cuisines.

So let’s start enjoying travel in South America!