Between fiestas, day trips, and being a nice city in and of itself, Salta is worth a visit. There are any number of places to visit in the surrounding areas—I went to Cachí, farther up into the Andes, and later to Cafayate, Animaná, San Carlos, La Caldera, San Lorenzo, and Quijano—and the city has a few nice old churches.
The dance scene in Salta is interesting. I looked and looked and asked around and had a tough time finding out where to go to dance. The guy at the first hostel I stayed at said there are no Tango classes in Salta. My own conclusion regarding Salsa—after a period of denial—was that there is no place to dance Salsa in Salta. For a city of almost a million, this information was hard to digest. Here is the reality of it.
There is a Tango instructor that comes from Jujuy twice a week to give Tango classes—every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M. The men in Salta are not falling over themselves to learn Tango. The instructor was a man—then there was me and 15 women, with a mean age of 68. And my friend Sandra skewed the age downward! Go figure.
Regarding Salsa, there is no club in Salta where you can go to dance Salsa every weekend. Incredible! There is one joint—Studio 54—which offers many classes in Salsa and has one Salsa dance per month. The first class I went to was a class to learn shines, a solo dance danced in the middle of a Salsa song as a break between partnering. There were about 15 women and me and one other guy. I was baffled. When I went to the regular Salsa class, things seemed more normal to me. There were probably 10 pairs of partners. To me, the highlight was Rueda de Casino, one of the most fun dances in the whole world—I can say this because I am so experienced in so many forms of dance. All of these classes are held three times per week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you've got a class for Salsa shines at 3:00 P.M., Salsa classes at 7:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M., and Rueda de Casino at 10:00 P.M. Rueda de Casino three times per week?!?!? I had hit the jackpot.
A word about the capabilities of the Salsa instructors here in Salta. When I went to the first class—Salsa shines—the instructor (Ceasar) did what you would think all instructors do. He put his left foot down on the first beat of the phrase. I've gotten to the point where this impresses me because so many teachers don't seem to hear the difference between the odd bars and the even bars. My worship session came to an abrupt halt when, upon a new song, he started a bar off. Much to my surprise, my position changed and my worshipping resumed, albeit a notch higher in intensity, when the song dropped a bar. To those of you not musically inclined, what this means is that instructor knew the song had a phrase with an odd number of bars in the intro and he started off by a bar on purpose so that we would fall into sync a little ways into the song. My compliments of the Rueda de Casino instructor (Javier) are similar. We are always on. These are very enjoyable classes. If you're in Salta, go to Studio 54, located at 1055 San Martín, for the Salsa and Rueda de Casino classes.
Within the city, there are several things of interest to visit and do. There is a mountain to the East of the city called Cerro San Bernardo which has a cable car running to the top. You catch the car just across the street from a big park called Parque San Martín, where there is a street market every day. The cable car costs 10 pesos and from the top you can see the whole valley with its almost 1 million residents. This park and cable car are located on the main drag, San Martín, near the bus terminal.
If you head West on San Martín, you'll come to city center. To your right will be two peatonales, or pedestrian streets, common in Latin American cities. The first one is called Alberdi and the second Florida. They both have lots of shops and are busy with people around the lunch and evening hours. Filling the borders between Florida, Ituzaingo (the next street West), and San Martín is a huge market, the Municipal Market—very nice. It's a good place for eating lunch or dinner, buying fruit and vegetables, and browsing or buying lots of locally-made textiles like hats or sweaters made of llama wool. If you eat there, expect myriad vendors to walk up to you and sell you all manner of goods. I got so annoyed, that I made a sign to display to them instead of having to tell them "no" every time they approached. This was both effective and entertaining. It even got a laugh out of a few of them.
Northwest of city center (if you consider the area around the Municipal Market city center) just a few blocks is the main plaza, Plaza 9 de Julio. In the plaza is a beautiful cathedral, but don't expect to be able to get away shooting photos inside it while a mass is in progress. The photo Nazis will bust you with near certainty.
There are other churches and museums to visit, too, but I won't list them here. Your hostel should have a map and will point out these things for you. If you stay at my recommended hostel—Las Rejas Hostel B&B—they have a map with all the points of interest listed. Not infrequently, you will also find various fiestas going on in the city, by both locals, such as gauchos, and folks from surrounding countries, such as Bolivians.
Here are a couple recommendations for places to eat:
- Rosemari, for ice cream.
- La Cantarella, on the corner of Ibazeta and J.M. Leguizamón, for great empanadas, pizzas, and milanesa.
- Roque Garcia, at Entre Rios and Pedernera, great empanadas.
- Arroyo, near San Juan around the 2000 block. I don't know exactly. They are supposed to have the best empandas in town. Only on Saturdays and Sundays.
- La Casona del Molino, at Luis Bulera 1. This place is called a peña and there are groups of people (just regular customers) in the different rooms of the "pub" who bring their guitars and other instruments and sing traditional Argentine folk songs. It's fantastic and this one is one that tourists don't visit—it's an amazing experience.