Back to Civilization – Salta, Argentina

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From Uyuni, it was a long haul across the border to Salta, Argentina. First, we caught a very uncomfortable overnight bus to the border town, Villazon. We arrived at 5am, all very groggy, only to find the Bolivian side of the border shut, but the Argentinian side open. Irritatingly, we needed an exit stamp from Bolivia, and had to wait another 2 hours for immigration agents to arrive. After finally stamping out of Bolivia, we walked across the border to country #11 – Argentina!

The line at the border, waiting for the Bolivian side to open.The line at the border, waiting for the Bolivian side to open.
The line at the border, waiting for the Bolivian side to open.09-Jan-2011 06:10
 

Crossing into Argentina from Bolivia is like going through a time machine back to the future. Since Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America, we had grown accustomed to dirt roads, broken-down buses, disgusting food, and basic living conditions. It was a bit of a shock to find ourselves back in a country where everything just…works. After a 7 hour ride on a comfortable bus over paved highways that looked just like the kind you would find at home, we arrived in the beautiful city of Salta.

Salta's Cathedral at night.Salta’s Cathedral at night.
Salta's Cathedral at night.13-Jan-2011 21:24
 

Instantly, we felt like we were in Europe, with the well-manicured parks, sidewalk cafes, nicely dressed people, and trendy restaurants. It was nice to be back in civilization.

Salta has become a major tourist destination, thanks to its well-preserved colonial architecture. We spent a good deal of time walking around the city, peeking into churches and admiring the buildings and plazas.

The inside of an elegant building in downtown Salta.The inside of an elegant building in downtown Salta.
The inside of an elegant building in downtown Salta.13-Jan-2011 12:42
 

One evening we took a cable car (teleférico) up a nearby hill with a cheap bottle of delicious Argentinian wine. We had a fantastic view of the sun setting over the city below.

Cable cars ascending a hill overlooking Salta.Cable cars ascending a hill overlooking Salta.
Cable cars ascending a hill overlooking Salta.13-Jan-2011 17:44
 

Another day, we took a local bus to the tony suburb of San Lorenzo, where we hiked around some of the beautiful lush hillsides surrounding the city.

Crossing a small stream on our hike near San Lorenzo.Crossing a small stream on our hike near San Lorenzo.
Crossing a small stream on our hike near San Lorenzo.12-Jan-2011 11:17
 

Finally, we really enjoyed the world-famous food in Salta. As we were now in Argentina, I tried a few steaks – they were all prepared simply on the grill, but delicious nonetheless. We both loved the empanadas al horno (baked, not fried). Supposedly, this region of Argentina makes the best empanadas in the country, and really they were phenomenal.

A delicious Argentinian steak.A delicious Argentinian steak.
A delicious Argentinian steak.12-Jan-2011 21:30
 

After all that delicious food, we were ready to pair it with some fine Argentinian wine. What better place to go than nearby wine-region Cafayate?

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