By Roy Heale
With remarkably well preserved historic architecture, grand parks, and a vibrant nightlife, it is no surprise that LGBT travelers have recently discovered Salta as a gay-friendly Argentine vacation destination.
Surrounded by the Andes mountains, Salta is a very gay welcoming city located in the Lerma Valley, at almost 4000 feet above sea level in Argentina's north west region. Along with its metropolitan area, it has a population of almost 700,000 inhabitants. Within Argentina, Salta is the city which has preserved its colonial architecture the best and recently has become more popular amongst LGBT travelers seeking an alternative Argentina experience.
Nicknamed Salta la Linda---Salta the beautiful---it has become a major tourist destination due to its old, colonial architecture, tourism friendliness, awesome weather, and the natural scenery of the valleys to the west. Attractions in the city proper include the 18th century Cabildo, the neo-classical style Cathedral, and the 9 de Julio central square, along with the view from San Bernardo hill, and it's surroundings.
The city center features a number of impressive buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries. Clockwise around the Ninth of July Square are the neoclassical Cathedral, the French style Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cabildo (in former times, the city's town hall, nowadays a historical museum) and the neoclassical Museum of High Mountain Archeology, which houses artifacts from the Inca civilization, including the magnificently preserved mummies of three Inca children.
Rising imposingly in the east is San Bernardo Hill. Its summit, from which visitors can get an awe-inspiring view of the city and the entire valley, can be reached by car, cable car, or stairway. The summit offers fountains and parkland with great views, cafes, a craft market, hiking trails and you can even rent a mountain bike for your journey down the mountain.
Salta is probably the most Spanish city in Argentina by physical appearance---so much so that tourists visiting from Spain often find a strong resemblance between Salta and Andalucian cities. The local culture, however, is a blend of Spanish and gaucho (mestizo, criollo, both indigenous and non indigenous) traditions, lending the city a distinctive identity, somewhat different from the more European like metropolises to the south.
Gay-friendly accommodations in Salta range from four star hotels to pousadas and short-term apartment rentals.
Set in a charming historic Spanish building only a short walk to Plaza principal 9 de Julio square, the gay-friendly Casa De Borgona pousada provides the perfect atmosphere for an enjoyable stay in Salta. It is housed in a restored, red 20th-century townhouse with the guest bedrooms arranged around a classic courtyard with potted plants, fruit trees, and wrought iron and wooden benches. The English speaking gay-friendly staff will ensure a warm welcome. A generous complimentary continental breakfast is served each morning in the dining room or in the garden patio. The rooms are spacious, with daily maid service, and include linens and towels. They also include free Wi-Fi and cable TV. It features a coffee shop and a patio. Casa de Borgona's warm service, colonial-style decor and tranquil atmosphere, create an inviting and relaxing gay-friendly atmosphere.
Apart Salta is a gay-friendly rental agency offering fully furnished and equipped apartments of varying size. They provide daily maid service and are located in the center of the city of Salta. Reasonably priced they provide an economical, spacious alternative to hotel rooms.
Gay night life in Salta is robust, lively, and safe, but a smaller community exists compared to larger South American cities. The LGBT entertainment scene is relatively limited but there are a few gay venues.
The City Night Club (Avenida Asunción S/N Portezuelo Tel:0387 15 4425183) is a gay Disco located on top of a hill, with one of the best views of the city of Salta by night.
The gay Dr Jekyll Pub (San Luis 761) is a small local place to meet all kinds of people including locals and other visitors to Salta. This resto bar is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 21:00 until 05:00 in the morning.
The lesbian-friendly Pizzeria Qui Resto Bar (Calle Zuviria 406) in the downtown core is uniquely furnished and decorated with all recycled materials. This is a very popular woman's meeting place.
Salteños and tourists alike meet in peñas, pubs, cafes, casinos and discos. Most of this activity is concentrated in the area known as La Balcarce. Many venues offer live local folklore stage entertainment during the evenings for a perfect accompaniment to dinner and drinks. Salteñan cuisine is varied and multi-coloured. Visitors can taste traditional empanadas, locro, and humitas, as well as enjoy modern dishes made with local products such as corn, llama meat, quinoa, trout, and pejerrey. At the weekends there is a street crafts market where tourists can buy different traditional handmade products.
One of the main activities in Salta is the April Culture Festival, which lasts the entire month and offers a wide variety of activities such as cultural performances, a handcraft exposition, and live orchestral performances. Also, from mid-February to mid-March there are numerous colorful and stunning Carnival celebrations and parades in both the city of Salta and the surrounding communities.
Salta is also a perfect base for exploring Argentina's Andean regions such as the Calchaqui valley and the Quebrada de Humahuaca north in nearby Jujuy. One of South America's great railway journeys departs from Salta---the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the clouds), which has spectacular views as it zig zags up and down the Andes mountains. The natural Andes scenery provides a wide variety of day trips and excursions into the countryside.