By Adam Coulter | December 2016 | 5 minute read
The eighth largest country in the world is packed with must-dos: watch a tango in Buenos Aires, go on a wine tour in Mendoza, trek the national parks of Patagonia, visit the breathtaking Iguazu waterfalls and Jesuit missions of the north, ride with gauchos and spend the night under the stars on the pampas, or go whale watching off the coast of the most southerly town in the world.
“Argentina is 11 times larger than the UK, and home to just 43 million inhabitants, making it one of the least densely populated countries on earth, a land of vast expanses and mountains, unspoilt coasts and pristine wilderness”
ADAM COULTER, TRAVEL WRITER
Wine time: Route 40, which bisects the country, runs through the heart of Argentina’s wine-growing region, including Mendoza. The Uco Valley, framed by volcanoes, is home to vineyards, farms and hills
Join the cowboys: Many estancias allow visitors to join the gauchos as they go about their daily routine, and lay on activities such as horseback rides, trekking, carriage rides and a gaucho asado or BBQ
Prime cuts: The chefs of Buenos Aires experiment with flavours and cuisines, so you might find influences from Japan or Chile mixed with typical Argentine dishes. and Spanish tapas
Cordoba: Founded in 1599, Cordoba, 430 miles north-west of Buenos Aires, is known for its Jesuit legacy. The Jesuit Square is a much-visited UNESCO World Heritage site
Patagonia: A vast area of wilderness, Patagonia spans the entire lower half of South America. Ushuaia, the most southerly town in the world, is a starting point for trips to Antarctica
The majority of visitors will fly into Buenos Aires, which is the most ‘European’ of all South American capitals with its wide boulevards, sophisticated cafes and designer shops. Don’t be deceived by appearances, however – there are huge disparities in wealth but it’s just not so immediately obvious as in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
Buenos Aires began life as a port city, and is bordered to the north by the Rio de la Plata. It’s still a working port, but as with a lot of modern cities many of the warehouses and docks have been developed into designer flats. The area also includes an eco-reserve, Costanera Sur, which is a great place to get away from the craziness of the city.
Buenos Aires is large but manageable, with an excellent bus network and a five-line underground (the “Subte”), which is cheap and frequent and connects to all the main parts of the city. You’ll find most of the key sights in the centre, which combines a business district with a historic legacy, focused on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of innumerable protests and the Presidential Office.
The city is bisected by the enormous Avenida 9 de Julio; to the north lies Recoleta, where you’ll find those designer boutiques and cafes as well as the Recoleta cemetery – the final resting place of the legendary Eva Peron, along with almost every rebel, hero and revolutionary in the country’s history.
The south is grittier, with the highlight the gorgeous barrio of San Telmo, all cobblestones, wrought iron balconies and a famous Sunday flea market. If you’re on the hunt for the origins of Tango, head west to Boasto and Abeda.
A great way to discover the city is via themed tours, including a foodie or photographic tour, or follow in the footsteps of emblematic characters of Argentine culture, like Gardel, Peron or Jose Luis Borges.
Beyond the capital
The capital could keep you occupied for weeks but if your client is keen to explore the Argentina beyond there are a number of day trips worth doing. The most popular and easiest to get to is Tigre, a small town an hour or so upriver from the capital. Situated beside the river, Tigre has a slow, sultry feel to it and makes a wonderful contrast to Buenos Aires. Tigre also acts as the gateway to the Delta del Parana, a maze of streams, inlets, tiny islands and waterways.
Mar de la Plata, which lies about 400km south of the capital, is a bit like the Blackpool of Argentina: brash and tacky, but a lot of fun, with plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants. It’s where the city dwellers escape to in midsummer and lies an hour away by plane or five hours by bus.
Airlines: The Argentine Ministry of Tourism has signed an agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for a joint marketing plan to promote Argentina as a destination in the Netherlands next year. The announcement comes on the back of a fifth weekly flight that KLM will be adding to the Buenos Aires-Amsterdam route, which started on October 31, 2016 – an increase in seat capacity of 25%.
Eco tourism: Earlier this year the Argentine Government and the province of Corrientes implemented an ecotourism development plan for 700,000 hectares of wetlands in the Esteros del Ibera. The area is the largest and has the most biodiversity of any protected area in the country. The project involves environmental restoration, as well as the reintroduction of species that will add to the more than 4,000 varieties of flora and fauna already living and growing there.
The idea is to position the park as the number one nature destination in the country, offering rural tourism, walks, bike rides, horse riding, or carriage rides, trekking, mountain bike, 4x4 rides, photographic safaris, and nature sightseeing.
Where to book it
Journey Latin America's 13-day ‘Value Argentina’ tour combines the sights of Buenos Aries, including a bike tour, with Patagonia. Prices start from £1873pp.