Community-based Tourism in Argentina – Traveling Through Beautiful Salta Province
Happy traveler Margaux went on a week-long trip through Salta province with our trusted local partner in Argentina, where she visited local communities to learn about their way of life and share an incredible experience with her gracious guests. As she illustrates, community-based tourism in Argentina is an amazing opportunity to see a different side of the country, away from the beaten path of tourists. In her own words:
I had no idea what to expect during my recent trip to Salta, Argentina. Throughout my enjoyable adventure to the colonial town tucked into a valley guarded by picturesque mountains, I met people that were warm, welcoming, and always ready to help. I learned a lot with this experience of community-based tourism in Argentina, and now I feel that I have become more conscious of the world I live in. The entire trip provided a huge revelation to me and I encourage everyone to explore Argentina’s Salta Province.
In planning my trip, I made it a point to go through the journey as a traveler and not a tourist. This meant getting as close as I could to the local way of life, in order to try to understand their way of living and the general cultures that make each community unique.
Salta the beautiful
After I arrived in Buenos Aires, I hopped on another plane for a two-hour flight to Salta. It’s easy to see at first glance why the Argentineans call the city “Salta la Linda” (or “Salta the beautiful”). With gorgeous neo-classical buildings rising from different points in the tranquil city and the great mixture of restaurants and plazas, Salta provides travelers with a perfect little contrast to Buenos Aires whenever they feel like escaping the capital.
The next day, my trip really began when I went straight to the first tourism initiative on my itinerary: Lickan, a community-based tourism network located in Tolar Grande at the edge of a giant salt flat. The road to get there is incredible, like nothing I had ever seen before in all my expeditions. The mountains are all very distinct from each other and their changing colors shine bright even under the high plateau’s beaming sun.
Upon my arrival, I was warmly welcomed by my hosts at Lickan. After spending the night there, I could choose from a variety of activities to do during the next day. I chose to do a trek with locals in the morning and sandboard in the dunes during the afternoon. On my second full day, I helped work at an artisanal workshop located in the community.
Even while planning my trip, I was not prepared to be so taken back by the amazing countryside amid the salt flat called Salar de Arizaro, which is one of the biggest in Argentina. For miles around me on all sides, all I could see was a whiteness that stretched for what seemed like an eternity over the dry lakebed. Luckily, I didn’t forget my sunglasses but unfortunately, I did forget my sunscreen and got a little burnt on my face. Because of how strong the sun is in Tolar Grande and Salar de Arizaro, both sunglasses and sunscreen are required packing items.
Making salt at Salinas Grandes
The second step of my adventure took place with Red Atacama, another community-based tourism network, located between La Poma and San Antonio de los Cobres. Once again, the road was marvelous with ever-changing scenery. And just like my first stop, I was again welcomed by really friendly hosts in the community. At night, we shared dinner in their house and took part in a really interesting conversation about their way of everyday life.
I woke up the first morning by eating a delicious typical breakfast. Then I went on a short walk with locals to vistas and archaeological sites, such as the Quebradas de Matancillas and Cobres. In the afternoon, I chose to attend a cheese-making workshop at a local family’s farm. The whole process was way more difficult than I expected, but I learned a lot and had a great time trying my hand at it.
The next day I was able to visit the Salinas Grandes, another lake made of salt, that is generally considered the largest in Argentina. This time I didn’t forget my sunscreen, thankfully for my already burnt skin.
I was able to learn about the workers here who produce salt in Salinas Grandes in a process that involves extracting it from the ground and crystallizing it in man-made pools. I felt like I saw way more than people do in typical tours to Salinas Grandes thanks to the community where I was staying who helped provide a perfect insight into their lives. It’s not hyperbole to say that the people I met here changed my life, or at least the way I look at my own life now.
Visiting the jungles of Salta
The last stage of my travel itinerary was at the Red de Turismo Rural Comunitario Norte (or the Northern Rural Community Tourism Network), located between the areas of Tartagal and Aguaray. There, in the northern part of the Salta province, the environment is more green and more tropical.
The road to the community is fantastic and a bit longer than the others, you can see the landscape becoming lusher right in front of your eyes as you are transported from desert mountains to the jungle. As with my other stops, the community members welcomed me with open arms. It was easy to sense that the locals here all shared a great respect towards nature.
They took me on a walk through the jungle while regaling me with stories and legends from the area. Then at night, I helped with chores and preparing dinner. The meal itself was delicious and gave me the opportunity to taste new flavors that I had never tried before.
After three amazing days in the community, it was hard to leave my new friends and go to the city of Salta to take the plane back. In traveling the province for a week, it was hard for me to decide what was the most impressive part of my journey: whether it was the marvelous landscapes I saw, the unforgettable people I met, or the incredible stories that they shared with me.
We also invite you to read a Guardian article, published a few years ago: Homestays in Argentina: how ethical holidays are protecting a way of life; on one of our community-based tourism initiatives in the same province. Stay tuned for more of our stories on marvelous opportunities like this one while experiencing community-based tourism in Argentina.