The Garganta del Diablo is a popular roadside stop before a hike. // © 2017 Getty Images
Feature image (above): Visitors will love cycling Salta’s many landscapes. // © 2017 Getty Images
The northwest Argentinean province of Salta is known around the country as la linda, or “the beautiful.” But it’s no damsel in distress — the area’s colorful mountains, high-altitude vineyards, volcanic deserts, salt flats, gaucho culture, cloud forest and notable biodiversity are beloved by in-the-know adventurers. And now — thanks to its role as host of the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s 2017 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) — Salta is set to enjoy recognition on the world stage.
Fernando Escudero was born in Salta, founded Autentica Salta in 1995 and spent several years creating government plans for strategic tourism and marketing in the region. For example, he has been working on bringing the ATWS to Salta for the last decade — and he’ll finally see his hard work pay off this October.
To make the most of Salta’s position at the foothills of the Andes, Escudero suggests that visitors take a hike or two.
“The best area for hiking is Calchaqui Valley because you can combine incredible landscapes with multicolored mountains, a good level of boutique hotel services, one of the highest-altitude wines in the world and excellent gourmet food,” he said.
Look Up, Hikers: Salta has 657 bird species, the highest number in all of Argentina.
Also born in Salta, Ana Ines Figueroa worked as a guide and writer in the area before founding Adventure & Landscape, a local tour operator. While she believes that Salta’s many mountains make for excellent trekking, logistics can be complicated and accommodations for thru-hikes are limited.
“Hence, biking is great because we are on a road with vehicle support, and this allows us to link the activity with the area’s best lodging, wineries and restaurants,” she said. “If mixing paved roads with some hard pack gravel, opportunities for good itineraries increase.”
Biker Beware: Point-to-point biking is not ideal because attractions are far apart, some routes have too much traffic and roads are narrow with no shoulder.
Mary Catherine Sinkule is an Alabama-based travel advisor who has a special knack for creating luxurious trips that offer adventure and insight into the local culture. The CEO and owner of Mary Catherine Sinkule Travel, an independent affiliate of Travel Experts, a Virtuoso agency, recommends horseback riding for clients looking to cover more ground in less time.
“You can get escorted by your own personal gaucho, or maybe even two,” she said. “They wear traditional gaucho attire, complete with a hat, a scarf, a decorative belt, leather pants and spurs on their boots.”
Horseback Luxury: Sinkule recommends staying at House of Jasmines, a Relais & Chateaux estancia complete with its own well-behaved horses.