Salta is located in the Lerma valley in a mountainous region in the North-West of Argentina. The town has quite a few nice colonial mansions and churches and is a good base for exploring the region.
The city centre is small enough to explore on foot. To Plaza 9 de Julio is the real centre of town, and here you find the Cathedral dating back to the 1850s and the Cabildo. East of the centre is the Cerro San Bernardo which can be reached by cable car (spanish: teleferico – depart from Parque San Martin) and from which you get a great view over the city.
The small suburb or San Lorenzo is a good destination for a short excursion (20 minutes away, AR$9 by taxi) – stroll in the park or go further into the forest on one of the many hiking trails that start there; go on a horseback ride up the hill to get a great view of Salta, or simply walk around this very nice neighborhood to see the the colonial-style houses the rich Saltenos live in.
From Salta, there is a variety of excursions that will take you up in the mountains for fantastic views. On Avenida Buenos Aires, one block south of Plaza 9 de Julio, you will find several agencies providing 1-day, 2-day, 3-day or even 4-day excursions / trekkings (recommended: MoviTrack – excellent service and great fun). Go to Cachi (West) for one day to see landscapes reminiscent of the desert of Arizona, Cafayate (South) for breath-taking rock formations, or Jujuy (North) for a trip into the rainforest.
The main attraction in Salta is the Tren A Las Nubes (train to the clouds). This 15-hour train ride (only runs on saturdays) takes you to 4,200 m of altitude, to the large viaduct La Polvorilla and the small Indian village of San Antonio de Los Cobres. Tourguides on the train will tell you a lot of interesting information during the ride; Indian artisans will sell you hand-made alpaca sweaters for US$8; and folk bands will play traditional music on the way back. The ride is long (especially the last 2 hours, after nightfall) and a bit pricey, but WELL WORTH IT. The scenery will take your breath away.