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90km (56 miles) S of San Salvador de Jujuy; 1,497km (928 miles) N of Buenos Aires; 1,268km (786 miles) N of Mendoza

With its cloistered nuns and gaucho waiters, gilded churches and mountain mummies, Salta province is a rich mix of all the things that make the Northwest so distinctive. Here the old meets the new, and the old wins. Time trips at a more rhythmic pace, like the hoof-clopping music chacareras, which pipes from every cafe and car. The city itself (pop. 500,000) is a sunny mix of colonial architecture; friendly, gracious people; colorful history; and indigenous pride. Conservative by nature, SalteƱos let their hair down during Carnaval (Mardi Gras), when thousands come out for a parade of floats celebrating the region's history; water balloons are also tossed from balconies with great aplomb. Ringed by green hills and blessed with a cooler, more temperate climate, Salta City should be top of your list when you're visiting the area. (That is not to say it does not get hot. High season here is actually the winter months of Apr-Oct.)