Running away from slightly-above-our-budget Chile, we headed instead to Argentina. While still a lot more expensive than other South American countries, as long as you’re sensible a stay in Argentina can still be affordable. Our first stop was the popular northern town of Salta, a great place for not spending too much money as there’s loads of nice places for a walk – one of our favourite free activities!
We didn’t do much in Salta, but what we did do we really enjoyed. One of the first things we did was to head to Viejo Jack’s for lunch on a recommendation from a friend. This is where we had our first steak in Argentina: an enormous slab of Bife de Chorizo (rump steak) big enough for us to share, with a side of chips with egg and parsley. The steak was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen, about four inches thick, and our adorable, friendly waiter had the chef cook one half rare especially for Sam – even though we’d ordered medium rare in compromise. We’ve had a lot of steak since that first one, but I still think Viejo Jack’s was the best!
Sunday afternoon was spent relaxing in the park, watching some free entertainment which went on the entire day. We only stayed for a couple of hours, and saw a clown (we couldn’t understand his jokes, but his juggling was pretty impressive), a traditional mariachi band, and a singer. There were loads of street vendors around selling candied apples, hot drinks, roasted nuts, and pots of jelly, and we shared a candyfloss while we watched the show. It seemed to be something that takes place every Sunday, so worth a visit if you’re in Salta.
The city centre was really beautiful, with an enormous plaza surrounded by lovely colonial buildings, like the big pink cathedral. A few blocks away, we also found a huge cornflower blue and yellow basilica which looked like something out of Disneyland. The back of this basilica had domed roofs with turquoise mosaic tiling that might have been inspired by middle eastern mosques, while the front was a beautiful, surreal pastel blue affair that looked so out of place in such a modern city!
The best way to view Salta “La Linda” (The Pretty) is from the top of Cerro San Bernardo, a huge hill overlooking the city centre. Not fancying the long walk up, we took the cable cars for 70 pesos each return (although the walk down wasn’t steep, so it’s worth paying only for the ascent). The cable cars were really fun, and the views from the top were impressive; we could see across the whole city to the lines of distant mountains, some so far away it way hard to tell if they were hills or clouds. San Bernardo is also a really nice place to sit and relax; a quiet, green space with a huge network of man-made rivers and waterfalls that form one enormous fountain, it’s a great place to escape the city for a while.
Preferring greenery over buildings, no matter how pretty, we also spent a lot of time exploring the parks in Salta. Alongside the picturesque boating lake, surrounded by willows and families of ducks, we discovered an artisan market and had a look around at the beautiful handicrafts, then we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sun beside the lake.
Salta definitely earns its nickname La Linda, and it was a great place to spend a couple of days relaxing and catching up with things before heading off to the rest of Argentina.