Situated on the banks of the Rio De La Plata, the world’s widest river, Buenos Aires’ combination of elegant neighbourhoods like Recoleta and working class suburbs of San Telmo and La Boca create an amazing combination of glamour and down to earth charm. Its residents, known as Portenos, are known for their snobbery and sophistication and have created one of the most serious café cultures on the planet: philosophising and talking politics well into the night, cafes take up entire sidewalks all over the city.
Next to and named after the chicest neighbourhood in the city, the Recoleta Cemetary is where Evita and other important city residents are buried. Wandering around the beautiful marble and other ornate tombs is a fascinating way to spend an afternoon. Afterwards, enjoy a Dulce De Leche ice cream in one of the many cafes that surround Recoleta. Catching a tango performance does not have to be a clichéd and tacky experience and missing one while in B.A. would be a huge mistake. Plenty of establishments in San Telmo offer tango shows where you can take a local for a spin across the dance floor in one of the world’s most sensuous dances. If you’re in Buenos Aires on a Sunday afternoon, outdoor tango performances are given for passerbys in La Boca, by the river, one of the city’s largest working class areas.
This vast region stretches all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego, which Argentina shares with Chile. The most untouched region of the country this massive wilderness holds glaciers, Andean peaks, penguin colonies and tiny settlements of bohemians trying to escape the northern rat race. Cold and icebound during the winter, Patagonia is best visited in the summer months where the temperatures can still fall below freezing and snow is not uncommon. Ushuaia is the capitalof Patagonia where tours and transportation can be arranged.
The Andean Northwest is the heartland of the mestizo, the indigenious peoples of Argentina. The dry deserts are very picturesque and offer travellers a glimpse of a more ‘South American’ Argentina away from the European coast. A combination of colonial historical sights and pre-Colombian sites make the region a must for culture vultures in search of Argentinian history. The city of Salta has the most preserved colonial architecture in the entire country. Shop for cactus crafts here in the Indian markets and relax in the laid back town exploring Argentina’s more recent history of European settlement.
Argentina’s answer to the Lake District, El Bolson is the first place in South America to go anti-nuclear and retains a bohemian slant in its unique residents, art and small town feel. There’s lots to do here including rafting and hiking in a setting very much like Switzerland. Many Jews found refuge here after the 2nd World War and the whole area is considered the most liberal in Argentina.
One of the country’s most unusual towns is Gaiman. Here, in the middle of South America, you can sit down for an authentic Welsh tea with some of the town’s eldery residents. Settled in the mid 1860’s the town has proudly retained its Welshness that is now touted as a curiousity to tourists.
Starting just outside of Buenos Aires, the fertile and flat Pampas are the home to the gaucho, the mythical ‘cowboy’ like figure that preserves the machismo attitude of Argentinian males. It is here where vast estancias raise the cattle that feeds the nation’s beef habit and where travellers, for a price, can have a go at being a gaucho for a day. Many estancias rent out rooms that equal some five star hotels so the experience is not for the cash challenged.
Malvinas/ Falklands Islands
This group of islands off South America’s south eastern tip were brought to the worlds attention in 1982 when Argentina and the Great Britain went to war over it’s sovereignity. While known as the Falklands in the UK, they are called the Malvinas by Argentines, and though the military war was short, the war of words lasted much longer. Relations between the two countries have only recently improved. Travellers have once again returned to the islands to experience the uniquely British feel of Port Stanley, the capital. Though expensive to reach, it is a very quiet isolated and peaceful place with friendly locals, penguin colonies and lots of small uninhabited islands to explore. The threat of land mines is still very real so independent adventure travel around these islands is still restricted for safety reasons.
main image: Argentina-Mendoza-vineyard-by-Magalie-L’Abbe
By Dave Lowe