Many people still regard Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, as the quintessential wild frontier – a land of drama and contrast – while the Argentine people are known for being outgoing, fun, passionate and respectful of their culture and tradition, all summed up by Argentina's iconic dance form, the tango.
The cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires is a must-see on a trip to Argentina and there's plenty of things to do once there. There are no fewer than a hundred museums and galleries, several football clubs, including the famous Boca Juniors, eclectic restaurants, distinctive cafes and bars, a collection of varied neighbourhoods, from the Bohemian to the elegant, and excellent shopping opportunities in the fancy designer boutiques and modern shopping malls, right through to the most cramped antique shops and bustling street markets. Explore the traditional districts of Telmoe and La Boca, the sophisticated Recoleta and Belgrano areas and the contrastingly modern Puerto Madero and Palermo. History abounds in this architecturally rich metropolis and, like many of the great cities of the world, you can visit at any time of the year and be entertained and enthralled by its cultural riches.
During the Argentinean summer, adventure-lovers flock to explore the hiking, biking and horse-riding trails and to traverse the flat plains of the Pampas, the high peaks of the Andes mountains and the extraordinary landscapes of Patagonia. In the Argentinean winter, the excellent snow coverage in the southern Argentinean Lake District – around Bariloche the Sierras de Córdoba, El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park – means great conditions for skiers, snowboarders and other snowsports enthusiasts, while those in search of high-octane activities can opt for glacier treks, white-water rafting or climbing frozen waterfalls. Lake cruises and excursions to the middle of an ice-cap are a must-do.
Of course, Argentina is also famous for its polo playing and gastronomic delights, particularly its succulent beef, along with lip-smackingly good wines, including delicious Malbec. Argentina boasts the world's third highest consumption of beef, with many breeds of cattle hailing originally from Great Britain (such as Hereford, Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn), while the country has been producing wine for over four-hundred years and has certainly honed its skills in producing excellent, increasingly popular examples, from Patagonian Pinot Noirs to Salta's Torrontes, along with the usual suspects; Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. For wine-lovers, you can't go wrong exploring a few of the wineries that make their home in the rich, verdant landscapes of Argentina, now the world's fifth largest wine producer.
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There are many things that you must try while visiting Buenos Aires, because it's one of the most inventive, cosmopolitan and enticing cities in Argentina. There is the world-class football, of course, so do try and catch a Boca Juniors match while you're here (the Primera Division club is the most famous and successful of the eleven that play their football in Buenos Aires). Attend a Milonga (tango night) and have a go at tango dancing, or step inside one of the city's many restaurants for succulent regional steaks and lip-smacking red wines. Coffee shops abound in the streets, so don't be surprised if you see coffee delivery boys weaving their way through pedestrians with a tray of hot drinks (coffee delivery to office desks is very common in Buenos Aires and the hot beverage is often served in a real cup and saucer, with the deliverer returning an hour later to collect the chinaware - very civilised). If you're going to visit any cafe in Buenos Aires, however, do try and make it the famous Tortoni Cafe, whose Parisian origins and traditional decor of wooden pillars, Tiffany lamps, wood-clad walls, jumble of pictures on the walls, traditional wooden tables and leather chairs have lured countless politicians, writers and artists since 1858. Head to the basement for nightly jazz and tango shows. Plan your trip to Buenos Aires in August and you could immerse yourself in the eighteen-day National Tango Festival, comprising nine days of tango shows, classes, film screenings and book signings, followed by Mundial de Tango - the Tango World Championships.
If Argentinean political history with a dash of glamour appeals, you could do no better than to seek out a number of venues related to, perhaps, Buenos Aires' most famous resident, Eva Peron, otherwise known as Evita. Tour Casa Rosada, the pink-coloured presidential palace where Evita famously addressed her many followers from its northern balcony, and visit the Palermo district, where you can find a museum dedicated to the life and times of this folk heroine. Recoleta Cemetery - well-known as one of the most beautiful in the world for its stunning architectural mausoleums, precise layout and peaceful ambience - stands right in the heart of Buenos Aires and is the final resting place of a number of wealthy, famous and successful local residents, including Eva Peron, whose grave has become somewhat of a tourist attraction.
Overall, Buenos Aires is a treasure trove of experiences and even though you'll find it hard to sample them all in one trip, this just gives you the perfect excuse to return at another time.
Iguazu National Park
Iguazu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a spectacular centrepiece collection of approximately 250 waterfalls that straddle the borders of Argentina and Brazil, known as Iguazu Falls (meaning 'Big Water'). Taller than North America's Niagara Falls and twice as wide, with some waterfalls dropping down some eighty-two metres, this natural phenomenon has been likened to Zambia's Victoria Falls and boasts a series of wooden platforms that allow visitors to get as close as safely possible to its thunderous display - which is set amongst a glorious lush forest. Take an eco-train trip to Devil's Throat Falls, the largest and most breathtaking gorge in Iguazu Falls, or a 4WD trip along the eight-kilometre-long Yacaratia Trail, culminating in a thrilling boat-ride upstream to the mesmerising main falls - a glimpse of Mother Nature at her very best.
Wine and food aficionados will love exploring the wine route around Mendoza, renowned for its delicious red Malbec wine. The route weaves its way through world-class wineries and an impressive Andean landscape of snow-capped mountains, crystal-clear lakes and bubbling streams and rivers, offering opportunities for wine-tastings, lunches and even cookery classes. The city itself is laid-back and cosmopolitan, and boasts a number of museums, galleries and parks, along with leafy avenues, cafe culture, bars, restaurants and five plazas, including Plaza Espana, which is beautifully tiled. Head to City Hall and make your way up to Terraza Mirador, where fabulous panoramic views of the city and beyond can be enjoyed.
Salta is a charming little city in the Lerma Valley, discovered by the Spanish in 1582 and boasting a main square, cathedral, neo-Classical architecture and craft markets. Elevated panoramic views of Salta can be enjoyed from atop the city's San Bernado Hill, which can be reached via an ascent of 1,000 steps or, for the less energetic, a cable-car ride from San Martin Park. Tree-lined Plaza 9 de Julio is a great spot for soaking in the local ambience, and as night falls, its bars, restaurants and cafes play host to Salta's enthralling nightlife. A must-see during a stay in Salta is the five-hundred-year-old, naturally mummified, remains of three sacrificed Inca children, which are housed at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (or MAAM, for short). Cataloguing over a thousand years of Salta history, the museum is replete with gold, textiles and artefacts and is well worth a visit. Night owls who wish to absorb a little more of the culture found in the Salta region might like to seek out a traditional folk music hall (pena), where locals gather and take it in turns to play guitars, sing and dance, encouraged by clapping observers.
Nestled amongst mountains and forests within the scenic Lago Nahuel Huapi National Park, picturesque Bariloche enjoys the most glorious lakeside setting in the foothills of the Andes and offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, mountain-biking, fly-fishing, rafting, horse-riding, skiing, kayaking, bird-watching, dog-sledding, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. The town is also the 'Chocolate Capital of Argentina' and, consequently, boasts a thriving number of chocolate shops, which are sure to satisfy the most ardent chocolate-lovers. A relatively 'new' town, Bariloche was officially discovered at the turn of the last century and its subsequent urban design was inspired by Central European style and Alpine architecture, which is still prevalent today. Today, the town is thriving and developing, and is home to a number of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and a casino.
British Airways direct from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires.
From London Heathrow to Buenos Aires: 13 hours, 40 minutes.
While staying at the historic Alvear Palace Hotel , do ask the knowledgeable concierge staff for help to guide you towards the best, most diverse things to see and do in the city. They will happily arrange tours of the city, tickets for a Boca Juniors football match, polo match or thrilling tango shows and offer suggestions for whatever type of shopping you may wish to indulge in, be it designer clothes and accessories, antiques, souvenirs or custom-made shoes.
The region of Mendoza produces seventy per cent of Argentina’s wine - most famously its award-winning Malbecs and Syrahs - and is known as one of nine ‘Great Capitals of Wine’ in the world. Guests staying at Cavas Wine Lodge will be delighted to learn that there are no fewer than twenty-five wineries nearby and the lodge will happily devise a suitable itinerary to visit a selection of them, whether the preferred mode of transport is by bike, hire car or a chauffeur-driven car. It’s also possible to enjoy cookery lessons at some of the restaurants that are located at the wineries, along with relaxed lunches.
Located in the gorgeous Patagonian Lake District, Llao Llao Luxury Hotel & Resort is the perfect base from which to explore the nearby Patagonian Steppes (desert) by 4x4. Alternatively, skiing is a very popular pastime in this part of the world and the resort would be delighted to arranged transfers to and from nearby Mount Catedral, lift passes, equipment hire and ski and snowboard tuition, if required.
Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa may wish to make the twelve-mile trip to the Triple Frontier, at the confluence of the Iguazu and Parana Rivers. From the Argentinean side of the frontier, it is possible to look out towards the nearby borders of Paraguay and Brazil, signified by obelisks painted in each country’s national colours.
The mountainous climate found in Salta is perfect for growing grapes and the region boasts its own traditional wine, Torrontes, amongst producing many others. The region’s Andes Circuit includes a wine route that allows visitors to discover a selection of vineyards, learning how the wine is made and quaffing some of the results of the process. House of Jasmines would be delighted to arrange an excursion. Also on the Andes Circuit is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quebrada de Humahuaca, a mountainous valley of colour, from white to deep reds, and part of a major cultural route. Excursions can be arranged to discover this spectacular area, replete with picturesque towns, adobe churches and restaurants serving succulent llama fillets and Locro (the local stew of maize, beans, pumpkin and meat).