City (pop., 1999 est.: 457,223), northwestern Argentina. It lies in the irrigated Lerma valley in the Andes Mountains on a headstream of the Salado River. Founded in 1582 as San Felipe de Lerma, it was the scene of the defeat of the Spanish royal forces in 1813 during the Argentine war of independence. The economy is based on farming, lumbering, stock raising, and mining. Its nearby thermal springs are popular with tourists, and it has grown in importance as a centre of archaeological investigations of pre-Columbian Indian cultures, including the Inca.
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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 Pretty"), it has become a major tourist destination due to its old, colonial architecture and the natural scenery of the valleys westward. Attractions in the city proper include the 18th century Cabildo, the neo-classical style Cathedral, and the July 9th central square. The city's museums exhibit a wide range of artifacts and art work from the native civilations that flourished in the area, 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 Peru 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.996
The city center features a number of impressive buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries. Clockwise around the 9th 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 Museum of High Mountain Archeology, which houses artifacts from the Inca civilization including the magnifically preserved bodies of three Inca children.
Within walking distance of the 9th July Square are the impressive Saint Francis Church and the city's two pedestrian streets: Alberdi and Florida. The three blocks in Balcarce street closest to the train station are now the center 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 residents, just like most Argentinians, are very enthusiastic about football; the most important local clubs are: Juventud Antoniana, Gimnasia y Tiro de Salta and Central Norte. All three of them are followed by many faithful fans. Juventud Antoniana and Central Norte currently play at third division, while Gimnasia y Tiro plays in the fourth division. Other popular sports are baseball (a game in which Salta players excel nationally), basketball, volleyball, rugby and mountaineering.
Another particular feature of Salta is the way it has preserved its traditional Hispanic heritage. Folklore activities - cuisine, colonial architecture, music, dancing, and other customs - are widely spread and practised by its people.
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 culture display performances, handcrafts exposition, and live orchestra performances.