Sophisticated Salta is a favorite, engaging active minds with its outstanding museums and lighting romantic candles with its plazaside cafes and the live música folklórica of its vibrant peñas (folk-music clubs). It offers the facilities (and the traffic and noise) of a larger city, and aside from the morning gridlock, retains the comfortable pace of a smaller town that happens to have preserved more colonial architecture than most Argentine destinations.

Founded in 1582, it’s now the most touristed spot in northwest Argentina, and offers numerous accommodations options. The center bristles with tour agents: this is the place to get things organized for onward travel. A popular option is to hire a car here, hit the road and explore the wild northwest.