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What Should I Do in Salta and Jujuy, Argentina?

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  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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Salta and Jujuy are the two most northwestern provinces of the country of Argentina. Jujuy is bordered by Bolivia to the north, Chile to the west, and the province of Salta to the south and east. Certainly, Salta and Jujuy each have their own unique identity and regional attractions. However Salta City is a mere 74.5 miles (120 km) from Jujuy, and many natural wonders in this region cross the borders of these two provinces. For these reasons, visitors to northwestern Argentina usually include both Salta and Jujuy in their itineraries.

Salta is the larger and more urbanized of the two provinces, and is known familiarly as "la Linda," or the pretty one. April and March are the best months to visit, as the days are generally clear and warm. Salta and Jujuy offer a wide variety of tours for visitors, including bus tours, biking tours, and hiking tours. Most of these tours set out from Salta, but travel through both Salta and Jujuy.

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Although Salta is a bit more established than Jujuy, both provinces feature a strong indigenous culture, mostly Incan and Aymará. Traditional celebrations such as religious festivals are common, and the locals can be seen in native dress, playing music on traditional native instruments. In both Salta and Jujuy, surviving indigenous culture combines with colonial styled structures, indicating both native culture and Argentina's former colonization by the Spanish. This unique identity is quite different from the largely Europeanized feel of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

Salta City features a number of colonial buildings, including the San Francisco Church, the Cabildo or town council, the San Bernardo Covenant, the Bascilica Cathedral, the Candelaria Church, and San Lorenzo. From here, the center of Salta, one can travel west to the city of Santa Rosa de Tastil and see a number of Incan ruins. In the southwest of the Salta province are the Valles Calchaquíes, which include the small villages of Cachi and Molinos. Hiking and horseback riding are popular here. Tours in Valles Calchaquíes may also include those through Los Cardones National Park, and the Enchanted Valley, where there is a small lagoon and cave paintings.

A particularly popular attraction in Salta province is the City of Cafayete. A tour through Cafayete will likely include a trip to Quebrada de Las Conchas, where erosion has carved shapes in the land. Cafayete is also well known for its vineyards. Here one can sample regional high altitude wines, including the popular local white varietal, torrontés.

Another popular tourist attraction in Salta is the Tren a las Nubes, or Train to the Clouds. This is a railroad which crosses the Andes, and tours depart from Salta, cross the Lerma Valley and Quebrada del Toro, and arrive in Puna. The Puna is a high altitude desert spanning across Salta and Jujuy territory at an altitude of 12,467 feet (3,800 m) above sea level. The Puna is the location of the famed Salinas Grandes, a glimmering white expanse of salt beds. Also in La Puna is Laguna de los Pozuelos, a bright blue lagoon populated with exotic birds.

Jujuy, though it is the smaller and less developed of the two provinces, also offers breathtaking natural landscapes and amazing attractions. Aside from Sainas Grandes, perhaps the most popular attraction in Jujuy is Quebrada de Humahuaca. Quebrada de Humahuaca is also known as the Cerro de los Siete Colores, or the Seven-Colored Hill. This massive gorge is striped with brilliantly colored earth, and has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Towns to visit in Jujuy include Purmamarca, Maimará, Humahuaca, and Tilcara. From Tilcara one can reach a volcano known as Volcán de Yacoraite. Another popular trip follows the Río Grande, surrounded by multicolored mountains, and where one can see cave paintings from Pre-Hispanic colonialism, and festivals such as the Pachamama and Carnival.

Travel arrangements to Salta and Jujuy can be made easily, as there are a number of organizations that offer accommodations and tour schedules. It is not uncommon for tourists to be overcharged or otherwise taken advantage of. Travelers should seek out reputable organizations that combine reasonable pricing with responsibility. One of the most common difficulties experienced by tourists is altitude sickness. Responsible organizations will warn tourists of this problem and often provide coca leaves, which are very effective at relieving altitude sickness when chewed. It is also, of course, possible to see many of these attractions without the help of a guide. However, it may be more secure to take guided tours, particularly for foreigners.

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