Monday, July 20, 2009


Bienvenidos a Salta, Argentina! Behind me in the photo is the Iglesia San Fransisco and the hill of San Bernardo.

Salta is the eighth largest city in Argentina, where around 470,000 people call home. Originally established as an outpost between Peru and Buenos Aires in 1582, Salta played a key role in battles for the war of Argentinian independence, which ended in 1818 and left the city bankrupt. The city did manage to spring back to a rather prosperous life, largely helped an influx of Spanish and Italians, and to a lessor extent some Syrians and Lebanese.

Salta is a great mix of a romantic past and most modern conveniences. While there were some chain restaurants, by far small cafes and larger unique establishments dominated the food scene. However, despite being a mix of many cultures and having a large population, there were not many specific ethnic food restaurants.

The people are friendly, and proud to tell you about their beloved city, but English is not well known, so it's best to know at least some Spanish for the essentials.

The Iglesia San Fransisco is impressive during the day, but at night it really seems to come alive! The bright orangish-red, mustard-yellow, and starch-white trim simply pop when contrasted against the dark night sky.

Inside the Iglesia San Fransisco the colors are a little more tame, but no less beautiful.

Below is Catedral Basílica, the main cathedral of the city of Salta. Its light pink paint and creamy filigree visually dominates the Plaza 9 de Julio.

Here's another shot of Catedral Basílica. It puts on an impressive show at night too.

The churches weren't the only sources of great architecture in the city. Many homes were built with a neo-classical Italian or Spanish style, making walks around the city full of nice surprises.

I believe this was the city governor's office.

I'm just hanging out in another one of the city's plazas. On the weekends, vendors set out booths stocked with everything from leather goods to beaded jewelery.

Ah, a plate full of empanadas. Empanadas are very common in south and central America, which each region tweaks to their own unique tastes; and the empanadas in Salta are known to be some of the best in Argentina. In Salta, they are baked dough pockets traditionally stuffed ground beef, a little bit of finely diced potato, a touch of salt, and chopped green onion. Also on the table you can see some espresso. The Italian immigrants brought their love of premium and powerful coffee, making it somewhat of an institution in Salta. And on the little dish with the sugar packs... tiny sandwich cookies with dulce de leche filling! Yummy! :-)

Spice booths like the one below accounted for about 20% of the booths in this marketplace. This is like the Argentinian version of Hamburger Helper, only there's no box, no instructions, and the spices are fresh. ;-)

Argentina is known for producing some great wines, and so it naturally has some wonderful wine shops, like this one.

As you can see, I'm taking in a little of the local culture. There's a healthy appreciation for culture in Salta, blending Spanish, Italian, and a little Syrian and Lebanese influences with those of the historic Inca natives.

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to drive out to Quebrada de Humahuaca. Quebrada de Humahuaca is a narrow mountain valley with some spectacular geological features and coloration.

All I have to say is WOW!

The scenery along this drive ranks as some of the most beautiful that I've ever experienced.

It was really a feast for the eyes, and was perfect for a road trip. Although hiking or bicycling may have been an even better way to appreciate the landscape, there were no real hiking trails and the road was not designed with bicycling in mind.

It was about a two hour drive from Salta, and was worth every minute!

On the way back I took a side road to a small town called Purmamarca to behold "el Cerro de los Siete Colores", the Hill of Seven Colors. I think I count many more than seven!

Check out this farm in Purmamarca. This is the life!

More colorful hills around Purmamarca, with some houses in the picture for a sense of scale. All I have to say is dulce! That's "sweet" in Spanish, and that's it for me!