By Rachel

Argentina is full of beautiful and amazing surprises and scenery – the kind that make you know that somewhere out there, there is something greater than humankind. After Iguazu, we made our way to Salta, in the Northwest part of Argentina.

Side note: We bought our tickets from Puerto Iguazu to Salta while we were in Salta. There is no direct bus from Iguazu to Salta but it’s easy enough to go to the bus station and buy the bus tickets via a change in a city along the way (we stopped at Resistancia). The bus ride was about 24 hours and cost about 557 pesos (or $102) each ticket, one way. Again, the buses were comfortable and more than adequate, even for that long a ride!

We originally went to Salta to see the salt flats since we didn’t get a chance to go to Bolivia. And we had heard that the Northwest of Argentina was gorgeous. In fact, Salta is well deserving of its nickname, “Salta La Linda” (Salta the Beautiful). We didn’t get to travel around Salta the town itself too much as I had bronchitis (treated in Salta by a medic that came to the hostel, gave me a steroid and a prescription all for 60 pesos or $12 – and the hostel picked up the tab because it was their policy to pay for if a doctor came to the hostel!). However, we did go on the cable car ride (incidentally, our fourth on our trip thus far) that went up San Bernardo Hill where we got an gorgeous view of the town. Salta is a quaint city with colonial Spanish architecture – I loved seeing the rooftops from the top of the hill. And to top it off, the city has the beautiful foothills of the Andes mountains around it. The park on top of the hill was quite nice as well – it even had an outdoor stage, workout area with equipment and little waterfalls.

The highlights of the trip to Salta however were the two tours that we took – one to Salinas Grandes (the salt flats) and one to El Cafayate (a wine producing region known for its sweet white wine).

The drive from Salta to Jujuy where the salt flats was located was probably one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Our tour guide told us that we were going through four different types of terrain in the mountains – selva (forests), valle (valley), quebrada (gorges) and desiertos (deserts) – though I can’t remember the order! It was so interesting to see how the landscape outside changed as we went through the different landscapes. My two favorite parts of the drive were seeing all the cacti that were growing on the sides of the mountains – some way bigger than us! And the second was probably one of my top five views on our trip – the Cerro de Siete Colores (Foothills of Seven Colors) – I was so amused at the different colors of the rock formations and what their sources were – like the blue color came from rock that had cobalt in it – I now understand where the color Cobalt blue that I see on my acrylic paints comes from!

Salinas Grandes was about 140 miles from Salta – we stopped at a couple places along the way but finally made it to Salinas Grandes. The tour operator told us we only had 30 minutes there because of the potential damage to our eyes and skin from the salt and the sun shining on it. This was a bit anticlimactic at first since we spent about 3 hours getting there – but 30 minutes was plenty of time. The salt flats were basically a vast white flat of salt with the mountains in the background. It was interesting to see these formations – but more fun to take silly pictures! Our tour operator took some typical pics of us jumping and other shots that utilize perspective.

The entire trip took the whole day – from 7 to 7 almost for 30 minutes at the salt falts (cost was 395 pesos per person for both Salinas Grandes and El Cafayate over two days) – however, the beauty of the drive is what made it for me. I still love the pictures of the cacti and 7 colores! Plus, the weather was beautiful! If I had to do it again and wasn’t on a budget, I’d prefer to rent a car and do the drive on my own so we could stop at more places along the way and possibly stay somewhere near Jujuy for a night.