Salta is charm brought to life. This northern Argentine city is a laid-back destination amid a dramatic dry landscape, with wide streets and large squares to stroll around. Set in a high-altitude region at the bottom of the Andes, it's also a central base for visiting tiny towns at the foot of multicoloured mountains and sipping on Malbec in picturesque vineyards. You don't need to go far to find nature: the San Bernardo hill is reachable by cable car or hike for epic city views.
Salta hostels include quaint colonial houses and cosy spaces decorated with colourful, locally crafted blankets. Pick from rustic wood-lined places with free breakfast and light-filled spots with spacious outdoor areas to relax in. Salta's known for its excellent empanadas (deep-fried savoury pastries), so look out for a Salta hostel that serves up these homemade treats. You can also find boutique hostels with exposed brick walls inside historic city buildings. Almost everywhere has free Wi-Fi too.
El Centro (the Centre) is Salta's most historic area, hailing back to its colonial roots. A large chunk of the best bars and restaurants in the city are here, often in well-preserved 16th-century buildings. Head to Plaza 9 De Julio to chill out in a people-watching haven. To the west, San Martín is more contemporary and has local spots where you can nibble on Argentine pastries. Visit Cerro San Bernardo (San Bernardo Hill) for views over Salta and a quieter, residential feel.
Salta's most famous (not to mention macabre) sight is the mummified Incan remains recovered from the Llullaillaco volcano. They're on display at the excellent Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (MAAM), while culture buffs can also visit the History Museum of the North to discover Argentina's revolutionary and colonial past. Swing by the pastel-pink Cathedral of Salta by day to check out the ornate interior, or by night to see the outside lit up.
Salta's Martín Miguel de Güemes International Airport is just outside the city. You can take the bus to central Avenida San Martín (30 minutes) using a SAETA transport card from a shop in the terminal, and taxis are also readily available. In the city, you can use the same SAETA card to travel on the local buses. The bus station is central, a block from Parque San Martín, and has long-distance connections to places like Buenos Aires (20 hours) and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile (10 hours).