Salta & Tucumán
Local traditions and relics from the Independence era are just the beginning of this tour of northern Argentina, perhaps the least known sector of this enormous South American country.
Text: Walter Duer @walterduer | Photos: Marta Tucci @TucciMarta
Visiting the provincial capital of San Miguel de Tucumán means immersing yourself in Argentinean history: after all, national independence was declared in Tucumán on July 9, 1816. Your first stop in this city should be the Casa Histórica de la Independencia (Congreso 151). Purists be warned: the only original part of the structure still standing is the Salón de la Jura; the rest of this historic building and museum was reconstructed in the early 1940s. The collection includes treasures like El redactor del Congreso de la Nación, a periodical published from 1816 to 1820, few other documents offer such an intimate look at life in that era. A stroll around Plaza de la Independencia is like traveling back to those heady times. The buildings may be showing their age – preservation efforts over the last two centuries haven’t been the best – but with a bit of imagination you can feel the atmosphere of change from bygone days.
One of the saddest things about visiting Tucumán (and Salta, for that matter) is the sheer quantity of great restaurants that you won’t have time to try. Ironically, choosing where to eat is both extremely easy and very difficult. It’s easy because most of the establishments serve traditional local products and grilled meats of the highest caliber; it’s difficult because choosing one means passing over others. La Leñita offers excellent grilled fare, as well as a wide-ranging, top-quality wine list. Don’t leave without trying the sirloin strip steak with spring onions. If you’re lucky, the waiters will favor you with some folk songs before dessert. For empanadas, head to El Portal, where the spicy tripe version is simply sinful.
The first look at the pretty one
After a three and a half hour drive, 195 miles along Ruta 9, you’ll reach Salta. On arriving in town, the most common reaction from tourists is: “What a beautiful place!” Start your tour at the iconic Catedral Basílica (the current construction dates back to 1856). A glorious example of neo-colonial architecture with baroque details, the cathedral boasts a gold-leafed altar and houses the remains of Martín Miguel de Güemes, the province’s greatest hero of the Independence Movement.
A quick visit to Salta should hit all the local cultural landmarks. Begin with a tour of the house in which Güemes lived until 1812. Currently a cultural center, the building soon will be the site of the Museo Histórico sobre la Guerra Gaucha, a military movement that prevented the restoration of the Spanish monarchy in Argentina. At night, don’t miss the chance to visit a peña, a folksy spin on a nightclub, where local fare like tamales, locro (a hearty stew of meat, corn and other vegetables) and humitas (steamed corn cakes) are enjoyed to the sounds of local musicians, who wear colorful ponchos and create a festive spirit of camaraderie with their guitars. The most traditional peñas include Balderrama (which even has a song named after it) and the dozen or so locales along Calle Balcarce. For a calmer option that still offers plenty of local zest, check out La Criollita, where Salta residents go for locro.
Salta & beyond
Once again, it’s time to make a choice: Cachi, which is nearly four hours by car from Salta, or Cafayate, which is about a three-hour drive. The town of Cachi predates Spanish rule and is famous for its white buildings and a setting that makes visitors feel like they’ve stepped through a portal back in time. On the other hand, Cafayate is full of vineyards and brimming with color; this area is also home to the Quebrada de las Conchas (rock formations shaped by the wind), a 350-year-old windmill and the Río Colorado, with its seven nearly inaccessible waterfalls. Another beautiful pair of towns in northern Argentina. Now, which do you choose? Whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong: both are perfect destinations. in
Daily flights to Salta from Buenos Aires.
For more information, visit lan.com
Museo Casa Histórica de la Independencia
Congreso 141, Tucumán
Museo de la Industria Azucarera
Parque 9 de Julio, Tucumán
Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña
Mitre 77, Salta
San Juan 633, Tucumán
Empanadas El Portal
24 de Septiembre 351, Tucumán
Calle Balcarce, entre el 800 & el 900
San Martín 1126, Salta
Zuviría 306, Salta
Catedral Basílica de Salta
España 558 / Belgrano 567, Salta
Mercado Artesanal de Salta
San Martín 2555, Salta