Salta & Jujuy: North of Argentina Reading Time: 18 minutes
I’ve been dreaming of seeing the north of Argentina for years, and now I’m finally here. It was definitely a bit of a challenge finding solid information, however, so I want to lay it out here to hopefully help anyone else looking to head north into the Jujuy and Salta provinces, which I really hope you do. If there is one takeaway, it is PLAN AHEAD!
The Towns of Northern Argentina
Between the provinces of Jujuy and Salta, there are tiny towns, small towns, big towns, and cities. I will take a moment to quickly describe the main spots to visit between these two provinces:
The capital city of Salta is the only place that really felt like a “city,” though a small city at that. It has all the main conveniences of a city- banks, supermarkets, restaurants, shops, bars, Western Union, etc. All the streets are paved, though much of the infrastructure outside of the main square feels old and a bit crumbling. Make sure to take care of any city needs here.
This is a small city with mainly paved roads (though lots of roads and sidewalks seem to be broken and under construction). You can find all the necessary conveniences here. This is a city famous for wine, so there are bodegas at every turn. There is also a great goat cheese farm just outside of town, easily reachable by taxi. Along the road between Cafayate and the capital of Salta, there are a ton of incredible stops, including El Anfiteatro, Garganta del Diablo, and Las Tres Cruces.
San Salvador de Jujuy
This is the capital city of the province of Jujuy, and if I’m being honest, doesn’t have much to offer. Sure, it has a few bars and restaurants, and a walk along the river, but beyond that, I found it to be a rather dull place. The streets are paved, but the city itself felt a bit old and depressing (but not the good kind of old).
This is quite a small town, and it’s easy to see the entire town center in less than an hour or two. Most of the streets dirt here, so rolling your suitcase may take a bit longer than usual. Even though the town is quite touristy, it has a special magical charm. It’s surrounded by the amazing 7 Colores Mountains. There is great street food, good shopping, and nearly every restaurant has live music with every meal.
This is a small town that lies between Tilcara and Purmamarca. Most roads are dirt, except the main road which divides the town in half. If you try to come in the middle of the afternoon (between 1-4) you won’t find much going on at all, as everyone is at home for siesta. Try to take a stroll around town in the morning. There are also a few miradores above the town for great views.
This is not a big town, but it has the conveniences of one. There are banks, supermarkets, even a Western Union. There are tons of restaurants and cafes. It seems to be a hotspot for young, Argentina hippies too. Roads are mostly paved. This is the starting point for the hike to La Garganta del Diablo.
This is a small town that can be seen in one day. Most roads are dirt, except for the main road that connects to the other towns. There are quite a few restaurants and cafes for how small it is, as well as a number of guest houses and places to stay. It’s easy to catch transportation from here to see the Serrania del Hornocal. You can find the same shopping items here as in most of the towns in the region, though the prices here seem to be the lowest.
This is a very small town just south of Humahuaca. There isn’t much to see in the town besides a small market and a church. But the real prize is going through the town, and up to the red mountains behind it. There you’ll find La Quebrada de las Señoritas and the Cañon de las 13 vueltas. The only paved road is the highway that passes by the edge of town.
This is a small town about 3 hours from Humahuaca after passing through windy, dusty roads, and down into a valley. The town is surrounded by incredible rock faces and precipices, completely different from the red mountains you’ll see throughout Jujuy. There are a few great lookout points near the city, and another view about 2 hours walking from Iruya, called San Isidro. Mostly cobblestone streets.
THE LANGUAGE IN NORTH ARGENTINA
You will be doing yourself a favor by learning some basic Spanish, if you don’t know the language already. I didn’t meet a single person up north who spoke English. I fortunately speak Spanish, which was a great help when calling ahead to make reservations, buying bus tickets, or ordering food at restaurants. If you don’t know the language, you can also get very far with a big smile, so just try your best!
MONEY FOR TRAVELING IN NORTHERN ARGENTINA
If you don’t yet know about the financial situation in Argentina, I suggest checking out my blog post about exactly that here, or watching the video on Youtube so you can more fully understand the situation.
Now that you understand the situation, you also understand you need to pay for everything in cash, but you cannot simply go to the atm and take money out, since you’ll receive the red rate. Therefore, Western Union is your best friend. There are Western Union’s all over the country for this reason (but limited up north). Sometimes a transfer from your bank account to Western Union can take longer than expected, so you definitely need to plan ahead. I suggest making transactions to yourself of around $300-$500. Make them at least a week in advance. Western Union will also keep your money in your account for up to 90 days, so you don’t need to worry about picking it up right away.
Advantages to Western Union
There are advantages to making several smaller transactions of $300-$500 rather than one large one of $1000-$1500 or so. One reason is that some Western Union’s aren’t capable of giving you that much money at once. Another reason is that you shouldn’t be carrying around that much cash on you at once, making you feel more vulnerable to robbery (though I honestly never felt threatened at all in Argentina). Thirdly, the rates change quickly here, and inflation is real. You might get a drastically better exchange by waiting a few weeks. The last advantage to sending yourself money in advance, is that you know it is there ready for you when you are ready for it. It’s a terrible feeling to realize you need more cash right away, but the transaction is still processing. Do it in advance!
But be aware, some of the smaller towns like Iruya, Humahuaca, and Purmamarca do not have a Western Union. You’ll need to make sure to take care of your money while in bigger cities like Tilcara, San Salvador de Jujuy, Cafayate, and Salta Capital.
ACCOMMODATION IN NORTHERN ARGENTINA
In the north of Argentina, this is actually a little more challenging than in any other country. Reason being? Inflation! Because you can’t use a credit card here (unless you want to pay double), it’s a lot trickier than just going on a website like Airbnb, Booking, Agoda, Hostelworld, etc. and making a reservation with your credit card.
The best strategy I have found is to contact them directly. Yes, this is a little more time consuming, and might feel a little overwhelming if you don’t speak Spanish. Maybe you can have a Spanish speaking friend help? Use Google Translate? You can also try the sites like Booking.com or Agoda, and use the filter for paying in cash once you arrive.
USE GOOGLE MAPS
Take a look on Google Maps for the city you want to go to. Select the ‘hotels’ tab up top. Then zoom in. You’ll be able to see some prices for certain hotels. This may take some cross referencing, but see if they have Facebook pages, websites, or whatsapp numbers. You can also check those bigger websites to see what the rooms look like and what kind of reviews they get. I generally look for places I can contact via whatsapp or FB messenger, as it is the easiest way to communicate when you’re not a native speaker. You can also message several and wait to hear back from them.
DON’T WAIT IN NORTHERN ARGENTINA
I also suggest not waiting until the last minute. For example, when I was looking for a place to stay in Purmamarca, I contacted several places and none of them had availability for my desired dates. Fortunately one of those places gave me a list of about 40 hotels/hostels in Purmamarca, and I just went down the list contacting as many as possible. Ultimately I found a place at La Casa Encantada, which I absolutely loved. However, I wasn’t able to find a whatsapp number for them at the time, so I had to call on the phone. They also allowed me to make a reservation without a deposit.
Another option is to use Mercado Libre. There is a website and an app.
How to find temporary accommodations on Mercado Libre app:
Categorias– Inmuebles– Alquiler Temporal– Ver mapa
From there, you can navigate on the map to the city you want to stay in. Each blue dot is an option. Zoom in. When you click on each option, there should be a blue button where you can contact them directly on Whatsapp.
WHERE I STAYED IN NORTHERN ARGENTINA
There are plenty of places to stay but these are my personal recommendations with ratings and reviews.
La Morenita Departamentos
Whatsapp: +54 9 3875 35 2438
Price: 3000 pesos/night (Entire apt)
RATING: 2/5 – Cold, noisy, shower floods, has a kitchen with limited utensils
Whatsapp: +54 9 3876 37 4917
Price: 2800 pesos/night (private room, no bathroom)
RATING: 3/5 – breakfast, small room, shared bathroom, can use kitchen, hot water
Hosepedaje Aniceto Latorre
Whatsapp: +54 9 3875 21 2131
Price: 1500 pesos/night (shared w/bathroom), 2000 pesos/night (private w/ bathroom)
Location: Aniceto Latorre 793, A4400 Salta
RATING: 4/5 – quiet, large terrace, shared kitchen, breakfast not included, close to center & markets, hot water, good wifi in rooms and shared spaces, cold in winter
San Salvador de Jujuy
Club Hostel Jujuy
Whatsapp: +54 9 388 477 2233
Price: 3300 pesos/night (private room w/ bathroom)
RATING: 2/5 – Dirty, mold, cold, terrible wifi, can use kitchen, breakfast not included
(see entire hotel list pictured above for more options)
Hosteria La Casa Encantada
Whatsapp: +54 388 527 0317 / 412 7401
Phone: +54 388 490 8038
Price: 5000 pesos/night (private room w/ bathroom)
RATING: 4/5 – Comfortable, warm, breakfast included, clean, bad wifi
Hostal La Soñada
0388 742 1228
Price: 3000 pesos/night (private room w/ bathroom)
RATING: 5/5 – Comfortable, clean, good shower, breakfast included, decent wifi
Whatsapp: +54 9 3885 47 3711
0388 497 8674
Price: 2000 pesos/night (shared bathroom); 3000 pesos/night (private bathroom)
RATING: 3/5 – Very basic, space heater, no breakfast, wifi, no soap in bathrooms
Hospedaje Los Cardones
0386 845 7003
Price: 4500/night (private room w/ bathroom)
RATING: 5/5 – breakfast included, wifi in main area (bad in room), clean, comfortable
TRANSPORTATION IN THE NORTH OF ARGENTINA
Transportation in each city and town has a slightly different strategy. Here I will outline the path I took, and how to get from one city to the next.
Salta to San Salvador to Jujuy
The bus terminal in Salta is right in the center of town, and easy to find (“Terminal de Omnibus de Salta” in Google Maps). It is clean and safe, and there are several different bus companies that go to Jujuy. I used Balut, but there are many others. Just go to the station a day or two before traveling, and buy your ticket from one of the various windows inside. Arrive 30 minutes before your departure time as the bus will load luggage (50 pesos to put a bag in the luggage compartment), and begin boarding the bus. The bus station in San Salvador de Jujuy is outside of town, to the west of the city. You can take a taxi from the terminal to town.
PRICE: 1080 pesos
TIME: 3 hours
San Salvador de Jujuy to Purmamarca
You can head back to the terminal on the outside of town to catch a bus to Purmamarca, OR you can take a shared taxi. Apparently the shared taxi is only a couple hundred extra pesos above the bus price. But it will cost around 300 pesos just to get to the station from town. I opted for the shared taxi option. Head to the “Terminal Viejo” in Jujuy town center. In front of the “Vieja Terminal Shopping Mall” there are several private cars parked. Just after the elevator. Just ask one of the men where the cars for Purmamarca are. Once you find a driver headed that way, you just have to wait a few minutes for the car to fill up. In my case it took less than 5 minutes. Once he had 4 passengers, we were off.
PRICE: 600 pesos ($3 usd)
TIME: 1 hour
Purmamarca to Salinas Grandes
(Check out my entire blog post devoted to the Salinas Grandes). There are several vans/buses that leave from Purmamarca every day (less frequent on Sundays). There is a man standing in front of a convenience store on the corner (Purmamarca is very small) one block from the bus station window. He calls out “Salinas, Salinas.” It is very obvious. Register your name with him. They will leave once the van fills up, so there are no exact times. There are 2 stops along the way- one at a lookout point, and the other at the Jujuy altitude sign. You have about 1 hour at the flats before it’s time to turn back around and return to Purmamarca.
PRICE: 1500 pesos ($7.50)
TIME: 4 hours total round trip
Purmamarca to Maimara, Tilcara, Humahuaca
(check out my blog post about what to do in Tilcara) There are several buses (the Evelia company) that leave daily from the bus terminal near the entrance of town. Purmamarca is a very small town, so the bus station is obvious. You can buy your ticket from the window, and then wait on the street where the buses stop, right in the center of the block between the bus station and the Despensa Tehiel. The stop for Maimara is the one just before Tilcara. The M-F schedule is: 6:35, 8:10, 10:25, 11:15*, 11:40*, 13:10, 16:40, 17:15, 18:40, 21:00, 22:10, 23:40 (*only goes until Tilcara).
PRICE: 60 pesos to Maimara, 120 pesos to Tilcara, 350 pesos to Humahuaca
TIME: 30 minutes to Maimara, 40 minutes to Tilcara, 75 minutes to Humahuaca
Tilcara to Purmamarca & Maimara:
The bus companies have signs in the windows showing the times to Purmamarca. The bus will make a stop in Maimara on the way back in case you want to make a stop there. The schedule from Tilcara to Purmamarca is: 5:40, 7:00, 8:40, 10:15, 12:30, 12:45, 14:15, 14:45, 15:50, 18:10, 20:15, 21:00, 23:10.
PRICE: 120 pesos to Purmamarca, 50 pesos to Maimara
TIME: 40 minutes to Purmamarca, 10 minutes to Maimara
Humahuaca to Iruya
The bus terminal in Humahuaca is right on the main road in the center of town. Super easy to find and obvious. The drive is very windy and bumpy so prepare yourself if you get carsick easily. Choose a seat in the front of the bus. There are a few stops along the way where people are selling tortilla rellena. The last 1.5 hours of the ride are along incredibly windy dirt roads that have you imagining your death.
The schedule every day: 8:20, 10:30, 16:00
PRICE: 650 pesos
TIME: 3 hours
Humahuaca to Serrania del Hornocal
(Check out my blog post for further Serrania del Hornocal details). This is very easy. There are men holding signs around the bus terminal in Humahuaca saying “Hornocal.” There are generally 4 leaving times, across all companies: 10am, 12:30pm, 3pm, 5pm. The ride is in a 4×4, which fits 5 people. They will wait until the car is full before leaving. My guide/driver was fantastic. His name is Ariel (+54 0388 461 5833).
PRICE: 1500 pesos ($7.50 usd)
TIME: 2.5 hours round trip
Humahuaca to Uquia, Huacalera, Tilcara, Maimara, Purmamarca, Tumbaya, Jujuy
The bus company Evelia (which is a local bus company) goes to Uquia, which is just down the road.
The M-F schedule is: 4:50, 5:00, 5:40, 6:15, 9:00, 9:30, 12:30, 14:00, 15:10, 17:30, 19:30, 20:15, 22:30
The weekend schedule is: 7:15, 9:00, 9:30, 12:30, 15:10, 17:30, 19:30, 20:15, 22:30
PRICE: 70 pesos to Uquia, 350 pesos to Purmamarca
TIME: 15 minutes to Uquia, 75 minutes to Purmamarca
Iruya to Salta
(Check my entire blog post on Iruya). It is possible to take a bus back to Humahuaca (3 hours), and then another bus to Salta (4 hours). But the fastest way is through a shared taxi. It’s best to have a local message or call for you to make the reservation one day in advance. I was told that if I message from my foreign whatsapp number the driver will try to take advantage and ask for more money. The taxi leaves Iruya at 4am.
COMPANY: Remis Rapido y Curioso: +54 9 387 615 7439
PRICE: 3000 pesos ($15 usd)
TIME: 5 hours
Salta to Cafayate:
There are several bus companies that drive this route. You’ll just need to head to the Salta terminal to check all the schedules with each company to see which fits your needs best. Though you can check online first to get a general idea. I went with FlechaBus, which was a double decker bus. I sat in the first seat on the second floor which provided me with incredible views of the journey. The bus terminal in Cafayate is just outside of town, but easily walkable. It took me 15 minutes to walk from the terminal to my guest house in the center of town.
The timetable for the buses from Salta Capital to Cafayate are as follows: 6:50am, 11:30am, 3:30pm, 5pm, 7:30pm, 9pm
PRICE: 790 pesos ($4 usd)
TIME: 3 hours
Cafayate to Salta
The bus terminal is just outside of town, and easily reached by foot from any guest house in the center. The timetable for the buses from Cafayate to Salta Capital are as follows: 4am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, 4pm, 7:30pm
PRICE: 790 pesos ($4 usd)
TIME: 3 hours
FOOD IN THE NORTH OF ARGENTINA
The north of Argentina has some of the best food in the country, and best of all, they like it spicy! All hail the wonderful aji picante (spicy red sauce)! Check out my restaurant guide in Purmamarca here!
This is nothing new in the north, as empanadas can be found all over Argentina. However, up north they tend to be smaller, and mostly fried, though baked can be found as well.
This is a sauce, rather than a dish. But it is an amazing sauce. The rest of Argentina doesn’t really do spice, but the north does, and they do it well!
This looks very similar to a tamale, though it is made with corn. You can get either a sweet or a salty variation.
This is quite similar to the Mexican tamale, and can be found all over the north of Argentina. They are made with corn flour and stuffed with meats and veg.
This is a very popular street food in the north of Argentina, particularly found all over Purmamarca. It looks more like the Mexican tortilla (unlike the Spanish tortilla), and is filled with either ham & cheese, or cheese & corn.
You’ll see that in several places around Jujuy, they have an option of grilled llama, llama risotto, llama al disco, llama stew (cazuela) etc. It’s delicious and you should try it. When in Jujuy…
This is a delicious breakfast drink that is very similar to chicha morada in Peru. It’s made from purple corn and has some cinnamon flavors in it. The main difference between api and chicha morada is that api is hot, whereas chicha is cold.
INTERNET IN THE NORTH OF ARGENTINA
I have bad news for you, especially Apple users. In the majority of places I stayed around Jujuy and Salta, the internet was quite bad, and in many cases I needed to use the hotspot on my phone. I was also told that the system in Jujuy is old, and it doesn’t handle Apple products well. I honestly don’t know the reason for this, and I’m not entirely sure it’s true, but this is what I was told at my guesthouse in Purmamarca when none of my Apple products would connect in my room. My phone was able to get service (I use Claro) in most places, though it definitely gets spotty in less inhabited areas, such as the Salinas Grandes. I had no problems connecting to other wifi networks at other cafes in Purmamarca, so it’s possible it was an issue with that hotel’s network (though they would deny that).
HOW TO DO LAUNDRY IN THE NORTH OF ARGENTINA
When you’re traveling, this is certainly something that you’re thinking about much more often than in your regular life. Especially up north of Argentina as many of the towns are dusty and don’t have paved roads. Surprisingly, finding a lavanderia was trickier than expected as they are often not listed on Google maps. So to help you out, here are the ones I went to:
Salta: This is the biggest city so you shouldn’t have issues finding a lavanderia
San Salvador de Jujuy: Lavanderia Marva, 4600 Independencia, 750 pesos, 3 hours
Purmamarca: P&P Lavanderia, Av. San Martin, 1430 pesos, 27 hours
Humahuaca: Inside the Giramundo Hostel, Salta 38, 500 pesos, 24 hours
Cafayate: Lavanderia Julieta, Vicario Toscano 228, 1000 pesos, 22 hours
Northern Argentina Safety
I truly never felt unsafe or threatened anywhere in the northern provinces, and I was traveling alone the entire time. Everyone I encountered was friendly and honest. I often listened at the markets to hear if I was being charged the same prices as locals were, and I was. I never felt that anyone was trying to take advantage of me. I never got that yucky feeling that I did several times in Turkey or Morocco. Only the guesthouse owner in Iruya mentioned the taxi driver possibly taking advantage of me as a foreigner.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE PATIENCE
Don’t expect anything to be on time. Don’t expect attentive service in restaurants. Don’t be in a hurry to go anywhere, and you should be fine! 🙂