Salta is a city located in the Lerma Valley, at 1,152 metres (3780 feet) above sea level in the north west part of Argentina and it is also the name for the capital city of the Salta Province. Along with its metropolitan area, it has a population of 619,000 inhabitants, which makes it the second most populated city in the northwest of the country. Within Argentina, Salta is the city which has preserved its colonial architecture the best.
The weather is warm and dry, with annual averages of 756 mm of rainfall and an average temperature of 16.4 °C (20.4 °C in summer, 10.8 °C in winter). January and February are the months with greatest rainfall. During the spring, Salta is occasionally plagued by severe, week-long dust storms.
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 westward. Attractions in the city proper include the 18th centuryCabildo, the neo-classical style Cathedral, and the 9 de julio central square along with San Bernardo hill, and its surroundings. The city's museums exhibit a wide range of artifacts and art work from the native civilizations that flourished in the area (Salta is located in the southernmost region of what was the Inca empire, belonging to the Collasuyu, one of the four areas the empire was divided until the Spanish conquest), as well as from the 16th century Spanish conquest and the colonial and post-colonial periods. Salta is also the starting point of the "Train to the Clouds" (Tren a las nubes), and on the way to red-soiled Cafayate, as well as to other nearby tourist destinations.
During the war of independence, the city became a commercial and military strategic point between Perú and the Argentine cities. Between 1816 and 1821, the city was led by local military leader General Martín Miguel de Güemes, who under the command of General José de San Martín, defended the city and surrounding area from Spanish forces coming from further north.
Salta emerged from the War of Independence politically in disarray and financially bankrupt, a condition that lingered throughout much of the 19th century. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the arrival of Italian, Spanish and Arab immigrants, particularly Syrians and Lebanese, revived trade and agriculture all over the area while further enhancing the city's multicultural flavor.
The city centre 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 magnifically preserved mummies of three Inca children. The Plaza is almost completely surrounded by a gallery, and its beauty inspired a Chivas Regal TV ad, aired in 2004.
Within walking distance of the 9th July Square are the impressive Saint Francis Church and the city's three pedestrian streets: Alberdi, Florida and "Caseros". The three blocks in Balcarce street closest to the train station are now the centre of night life in Salta, with restaurants, pubs and cafés on both sidewalks and concerts every night.
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.
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 Andaluciancities. 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 Europeanlike metropolises to the south.
The city boasts three theatres, several museums (one of which exhibits the perfectly preserved bodies of c.500 year old inca children sacrificed in the Andes to Inca gods), and a busy calendar of art exhibitions, shows, music festivals, and other cultural events.
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.