Argentina: Salta *Musica Folklorica*

We arrived in Salta on April 18th after surviving our pretty relaxed 18-hour first-class bus journey from Mendoza. Salta, the biggest city in northwest Argentina, is known for its dramatic landscapes, laid-back lifestyle, and folk music. Salta is also home to a multitude of peñas, which are local gathering places for music and socializing. We first heard about Salta while we were in Buenos Aires and we’d been looking forward to visiting this lively city ever since.

Musica Folklorica

The first thing we noticed upon our arrival was that folk music was playing everywhere: inside restaurants, bars and shops as well as outside in public spaces. The music of the Andes features the sounds of flutes, string instruments and percussion. Passionate people by nature, Argentinians love their folk music and peñas are a part of everyday life for Salteños (folks from Salta).

We couldn’t resist the pull of the peñas and went out on three different nights to experience musica folklorica with the locals. Of course this meant catching a cab at 10:30 PM, eating a late dinner, and enjoying a bottle of Malbec while the musicians played their music. Look at us, acting like real Argentinians! I loved how the music took shape each night. Locals brought their guitars and flutes and took turns playing traditional folk songs while the crowd rhythmically clapped along. It was a special moment for us when the older man (pictured below) asked where we where from. Everyone clapped in our honor and then laughed good-naturedly as he sang Frank Sinatra’s classic hit, “New York, New York”. I belted out the lyrics the best I could while Harry clapped along. It was magic, pure peña magic.


Incan Ice Children 

Northwestern Argentina is the southern most region of the Inca Empire. Incan influences are visually tangible in Salta, creating a multicolored fabric blending old with new. The indigenous culture is ever present and the overall feel of the area is less European than the rest of Argentina.

The Museum of High Altitude Archaeology showcases a fascinating discovery. In 1999 a crew of archaeologists unearthed the bodies of three Incan children buried 500 years ago at 22,000 feet on top of the Andean Mount Llullaillaco. The children were killed in a ritual sacrifice and buried with youthful artifacts from their tribe. The cold and dry air preserved them and today they look eerily lifelike. One of the bodies is always on exhibit and it was pretty mind blowing to see the little girl dressed in the clothing she was wearing 500 years ago. It was a lot to wrap our minds around.

Salta: Around Town

We stayed in Salta for five days and kept ourselves busy exploring the city from top to bottom. We took the lazy way up to a fantastic vista by riding a cable car, but don’t worry, we walked the 1,000 steps back down. We happily found vendors making fresh fruit smoothies which reminded us of our stay in Santiago, Chile. I proudly sported my newish khaki travel pants with the zip-off legs all over town, looking more like a tourist than ever before. The tree-lined Plaza de 9 Julio was incredibly welcoming with its Spanish colonial architecture, grand churches and cobblestone streets.



Stunning Landscape

The landscape around Salta is truly phenomenal. One can experience high-altitude mountain peaks, deep gorges, valleys, wineries, and rainforests all in a day’s drive. We went on a fantastic day trip to Cachi, a village in the Andes. The views on this special day were spectacular.


Jujuy (hoo-hooey), Here We Come! 

We left Salta on April 23rd knowing that we only had one more week in Argentina, which was both exciting and a little sad. We never planned on spending three months exploring the country, but we sure had a great time doing so! We were very curious to see what Bolivia had in store for us. But first, we continued our journey north up to Jujuy for another few days of exploration and adventure. Yes, we agree — Jujuy is a really fun name to say!

Argentina: Our 18-Hour Bus Ride

We have spent the past three months traveling all over Argentina and parts of Chile, taking numerous bus rides of varying lengths to get from one place to the next. One of our first bus trips, and the longest to date, was an arduous and challenging 24-hour journey in Patagonia from El Calafate to Puerto Madryn. We’ve been filled with some amount of trepidation on every ride since then, but luckily we only hit rock bottom that one time.

Two Choices

Our plan was to travel north from Mendoza to Salta, a distance of over 750 miles. Our choice was to either make the journey in one trip, a mere 18-hour bus ride, or break up the trip by staying in another town at the halfway point. We literally changed our minds several times a day because both options had plenty of pros and cons.

The Decision 

In the end we decided that we’d just suck up the long bus ride and do it all in one trip. The notion of going halfway and having to stay overnight in a place that had little interest to us felt less than ideal. Plus we were excited to reach Salta and didn’t want to delay our arrival.

First Class, Please

We had a stroke of good luck at the ticket office because we were able to book our first class cama seats (roomy seats that recline) on the upper level in the very front of the bus. We were promised movies, food service and an attendant to see to our every need. Well, we’d heard those promises when we used Andesmar for our 24-hour trip across Patagonia, so we certainly didn’t get our hopes up.

All Aboard: 8:00 PM 

We were skeptical when we saw our bus arrive even though it looked shiny and new. We held our breath as we climbed up to our seats and then, only then, did we do a happy dance. Our bus was the bomb!


It was clean and spacious and we had a ton of leg room. We even had a place, within reach, for our ever-important food bag. We cautiously tested our seats and were pleased as punch when they reclined way back.


The icing on our bus cake was the dashing man who took care of our every need. He practically whistled while he worked and had a smile for everyone. His kindness and sense of professionalism put our lingering worries at ease. It was going to be alright.

Dinner Time

We were pleasantly surprised when we were actually served a two-course dinner. We were even offered an option of orange Fresca or wine. Yes, wine! I guess Mendoza’s law about providing wine with food was still in effect, and we were impressed. However, it was a strategic move on our part when we said, “thanks, but no thanks”. The more you drink the more you need to visit the powder room, which is something we try to avoid on buses.


We couldn’t believe what a difference this bus journey was for us. The temperature was mild, we watched several movies and the bathroom was passable. I had a good night’s sleep and even Harry slept a few hours. We were both fairly comfortable and had enough room to shift around in our big seats. My biggest complaint was that, once again, we weren’t allowed off the bus when it stopped to pick up/drop off passengers. It’s an unsettling feeling to be trapped for such a long time, even if our attendant was super cute. I would gladly add an hour onto the total travel time if it meant being able to get off the bus a few times to run around.

Good Morning 

I slept through breakfast of coffee and a pastry, which Harry enjoyed while listening to the bus radio play American love songs from the ’70’s and 80’s. I woke up to Roberta Flack singing, “Killing me softly” with many more classic hits to follow. Elton John, Whitesnake, Richard Marx and Journey were some of  the featured artists everyone on the bus were forced to listen to beginning promptly at 7:00 am. What a great way to start the day after being on the bus for 12 hours, with only six more hours to go.


Overnight we drove out of the desert and into the greenest landscape we’d seen since being in South America. It was visually so refreshing to see cows grazing in lush pastures and crops growing at the base of the mountains.



We arrived in Salta at 2:00 PM, right on time, 18 hours after we left Mendoza. We were ecstatic to finally get off the bus! Even though we made it relatively unscathed, Harry declared this to be his last bus journey over 10 hours. We’ll see about that….