Category Archives: Argentina

ARGENTINA: GLACIERS & FALLS, A Travel Diary by Subhash Motwani, Argentina Specialist

Argentina is truly an enormous country with great diversity and stunning landscapes. Being the 8th largest country in the world, it was not surprising to note that it takes 6 hours by flight to reach from Buenos Aires to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia – which is the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego in Patagonia. Those who plan to take the Antarctica cruise can do so from Ushuaia- a hub for Antarctic cruises.

BEYOND BUENOS AIRES

Our next destination after visiting the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere and the capital of Argentina was the city of El Calafate which is half way to Ushuaia. It takes 3 hours by flight to reach El Calafate – the city better known for its spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier, an icefield which was created millions of years ago by a gap formed in the Andes Mountains.

Whilst flying within Argentina it is essential to note that one has to keep sufficient time between connecting flights as the domestic flights tend to get delayed and a 3-hour flight can at times take 3 hours and 30 minutes. Flights within Argentina can be quite expensive and at times if you are lucky you can get some good deals as well. A return flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate can cost you around USD 600 and there are several airlines which fly within Argentina such as Sol, TAM, Aerolineas Argentinas, Andes and LAN to name a few. So a specialist on the destination can definitely help you in getting the best deals provided you plan your trip well in advance.

LEGENDS OF PATAGONIA

The region of Patagonia is truly a delight for the adventure seeker and Cerro Castor which is 26 kilometres from Ushuaia is one of the most exclusive ski resorts in Argentina. It is located on the same latitude in the Southern Hemisphere as Moscow is in the Northern Hemisphere. This region receives the longest snow season in Latin America and one of the reasons being that the southern slopes do not receive direct sunlight. As a result skiing in Cerro Castor is a delight as it enjoys the best snow quality that you will find anywhere in the world.  Areas such as Cerro Chapelco, Bayo, Catedral, Las Leñas, Penitentes, Caviahue and La Hoya are regions where you can enjoy skiing across the region of Patagonia as well as other snow activities such as snowboarding, snow tubing, husky sledge rides and even golf as well.  From the green field and the fertile Rio Negro valley to the Andes Mountain range and the arid Patagonia plateau, the last home of the dinosaurs, to foots of hills and volcanoes, sport fishing and stays in estancias or large cattle ranches, one can spend days experiencing different activities in Patagonia and the 3 major cities worth visiting here are Bariloche, El Calafate and Ushuaia amongst others. The region is home to 13 glaciers including Uppsala – the largest of glacier in Los Glaciares National Park which derives its name from the Uppsala University which sponsored the first glaciological study in the region. Another glacier worth visiting is Spegazzini – one of the highest glaciers reaching a height of 135 metres.  The Patagonian region comprises of 17000 square kilometres of which 2000 square kilometers are in Argentina and the rest belong to Chile.

What we were to witness is the Perito Moreno glacier during our short stay in El Calafate. The Perito Moreno Glacier is located 80 kilometres from El Calafate and is the only glacier which can be viewed from a balcony stretching almost 4 kilometres.  As our flight approached El Calafate we noticed the turquoise colour of Lago Argentino – the biggest freshwater lake of Argentina in the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia. It is from this lake that the Argentinian flag derives it colour. The lake has a surface area of 1600 sq kilometres with a depth of 120 metres.



THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE

Our hotel Los Sauces which incidentally belongs to the President of Argentina was located 20 kilometres from the airport in one of the most picturesque locations. In fact the entire drive was a perfect post card picture experience. Puerto Natales which is the Chilean border is 300 kilometres away and can be covered in a driving distance of 3.5 to 4 hours. So if you don’t have a Chilean visa but still want to get close to Chile, a day trip from El Calafate is a possibility.

The capital of Santa Cruz province is Rio Gallegos, located 300 kilometres from El Calafate. The town of El Calafate, known as the national capital of the glaciers has over 7000 inhabitants and is on the southern end of Lago Argentino (Lake Argentina) and a minimum 3 days stay is recommended to explore the region.

During our short stay we were highly pampered and taken care by the exceptional staff at Los Sauces – a world class luxury property with exquisite cuisine and suite style accommodation. Each room is tastefully decorated and the rooms are pretty spacious with wide windows and views of Mount Calafate or Lake Argentina. I was in one of the rooms which was roughly 40 square metres and the entire property is located in a traditional ranch estate in an area comprising of 4 acres of immaculate landscape giving you the feel of a country style accommodation. On a cool wintry day you can spend a couple of hours in front of the log fire and soak in some authentic local character with fine furnishings comprising of some striking Argentine paintings and sculptures.

La Comarca restaurant serves some fine gourmet cuisine with the suckling Patagonian lamb being an absolute specialty. The Southern Hake (fish) is another specialty. And after a full day of adventure – be it visiting the Glacier or going on horseback, you can relax in the octagonal designed spa known as Las Piedras which is fully equipped with a state of the art gym, Jacuzzi, sauna and spa.

FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES

After a sumptuous lunch, we left for an exciting 4×4 adventure to Huyliche, a working ranch which raises cattle and criollo horses and is barely 3 kilometres from El Calafate. We could hear the sound of the wind blowing and it was the end of winter with a temperature around 5˚ C. This was probably the highlight of our entire trip to get some stunning views as we moved up the foothills of the Andean mountains on our 4×4 overlooking valleys, creeks, rivers and as we moved higher in altitude we could see some snow across the horizon.

Not only did we get the opportunity to drive on the snow but also experienced a gentle snowstorm.The amazing landscapes and spectacular views made this experience much beyond the exceptional. The region of El Calafate is known for its tourism and meat produce and is one of the few places to experience some unique Farm Tours, sheep shearing, visits to the Eola and Cristina farms which are highly recommended for the discerning travelers. Whether it is horse riding, trekking or even visiting the 3 major glaciers of the region – Upsala, Spegazzini and Perito Moreno, the Santa Cruz province of Patagonia and the city of El Calafate should be right on top of your must visit excursions when you visit the South American Continent.

The following day we had one of the best and most efficient guides in Patagonia – Paula. Paula Podromos incidentally runs a vegetarian restaurant in Patagonia and given her knowledge and expertise, I do recommend the Indian vegetarian guests to visit Veggies Patagonicos. Incidentally Paula did tell us that Sri Sri Ravishankar is likely to visit Argentina this December and there are satsangs every Friday in El Calafate – surely an Indian connection out there to Argentina.

THE GROWING GLACIER

In winter, the sun rises around 0930 hours and we left for the Perito Moreno Glacier at the break of dawn (around 0900 hours) to see both ends of the Glacier which is located 80 kilometres or a 90-minute drive from El Calafate.  El Calafate is 400 kilometres away from the Atlantic Ocean and most of the drive is alongside Lago Argentino. Our guide Paula shared some interesting facts en route such as the temperature of the water is an average of 3°C all year around.  The Perito Moreno Glacier is part of the southern Patagonian Icefield camp and the average temperature in summer is between 16°C and 18°C. No doubt the period between September and April is the peak tourist season out here. It is remarkable to note that inspite of such high temperatures in summer, the glacier remains intact all year round.

There is just one hotel in Los Glaciares National Park and you need big pockets to spend a night at Los Notros which overlooks the Glacier. The Glacier can be viewed by boat from the southern side and from the balconies in the northern side. To enter the National Park, an entrance fee of 80 ARS (Argentine Pesos) – approx INR 1000 has to be paid by international visitors. This 250-square kilometre ice formation stretches 30 kilometres in length and is shared with Chile and is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the three Patagonian glaciers which is growing and scientists have to still figure out the mystery behind this.

LUNCH ON ICE

After a boat ride, we had lunch at the restaurant located at the north side of the Glacier. The restaurant known as “Nativos de Patagonia” serves a meal comprising of a starter, a main course and a dessert for 90 Pesos (approx Rs 1080) and for vegetarians there are options like the Cremosa Sopa de Calabaza or the pumpkin soup with red onions and chorizo, Ensalada Tibla de Vegales or warm salads and to finish a meal a chocolate y dulce de leche is the recommended choice and would cost you 18 Pesos.

After a good meal, we descended to go to the balcony comprising of 2000 steps and is 4 kilometres long. If you are lucky, you could see large chunks of ice rupture in front of your eyes, although the ruptures are not as frequent and at times it takes place once every 4 years. The rupture of the natural dam formed over the L-shaped Lago Argentino is a rare phenomena as the water level rises upto 30 metres and the enormous pressure produced by the height breaks the ice barrier creating this unique rupture cycle. These spectacular towering chunks of eroding ice is something you must surely look out for.

GLACIER WALKS


Patagonia comprises of 5 provinces and 70% of the landscape is Patagonian steppes and receives 200 mm of rainfall every year. Incidentally the Chilean border from the Glacier is merely 20 kilometres away but you need to drive almost 400 kilometres from here to go to Chile. Another way to view the Glacier is to undertake a Glacier Walk comprising of 8 hours out of which 90 minutes is walk on the actual glacier. The boat trip is definitely a good option for the less adventurous and is an interesting 60 minutes ride and takes you very close to the glacier. The North side of the Glacier is 2.5 kilometres long, 60 metres high and 180 metres in water. The glacier stretches 30 kilometres into Chile. It was incredible to note that the total ice between Argentina and Chile comprises of 13000 sq.kilometres which is of the size of Belgium of which 80% is in Chile and 20% is in Argentina. The ice was supposedly formed 40 million years ago and is 2000 metres above sea level. There are as many as 200 glaciers in the area and the major part of the Chilean side of the ice formation is in the sea whereas the Argentine side is in fresh water and the Perito Moreno glacier moves 1.50 metres every day and is in balance and this is indeed an incredible phenomenon. The Perito Moreno glacier was named after the explorer scientist Francisco Moreno who incidentally did not see the glacier himself. For the adventure seekers, they can do a glacier walk not only at Perito Moreno but also at El Chalten which belongs to the Fitzroy Mountains and is the trekking capital of Argentina and at an altitude of 3400 metres above sea level.

WILDLIFE SPOTTING


As we head back Paula, our guide told us how El Calafate derived its name. It is from the Calafate plant which is grown on the Patagonian steppes. The Los Glaciares National Park is also home to several birds and quite often you spot the Condor – the biggest bird in South America – 3 metres long, 1 metre high and only eats carcasses of animals. We were lucky to spot a few Condors as we were traversing the balconies on the northern side of the glaciers. Besides Condors, one could also see the Caracara birds and Eagles and as one goes deeper into the National Park, one may be able to spot the Geoffrey’s Cat, South Andean Deer which is nearing extinction and the Mara-Hare or the Patagonian Hare which also is found only in Patagonia and nearing extinction as well. This sub-Antarctic forest is also home to lesser Rhea which looks like an Ostrich, the Guanacos from the Llama family though smaller in size than the Llama. The wool of Guanaco is supposedly the best wool available although quite often you find shops in El Calafate selling you wool of Merino Sheep which incidentally comes from Australia and New Zealand and not from Patagonia.

During our short stay in Patagonia, we got a glimpse of El Calafate, the capital of the Santa Cruz province, although Patagonia has lots to offer – from Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego province to San Martin los Andes in Neuquen, to Puerto Madryn which is well known for penguins, whales and seals in the Chubut province to Bariloche in Rio Negro.

HEADING NORTH


Our flight left at 1918 hours and with a stop at Bariloche, we reached Buenos Aires nearing midnight.  Our next stop was in the Litoral region and the province of Misiones to see the spectacular Iguazú Falls – the widest falls in the world bordering Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. After spending an overnight at Buenos Aires, we flew on LAN the following morning for a 90-minute flight to Iguazú Falls.

At Iguazú we were staying at one of the boutique properties – Loi Suites which is in a beautiful location in the middle of the jungle. The most striking part of the diversity of Argentina is that as we headed up north more towards a sub-tropical climate, the temperature in winter changed dramatically from 5°C in El Calafate to about 10°C in Buenos Aires and eventually to 28°C in Iguazú Falls. The falls are 22 kilometres from the city centre and is in the direction of Paraguay and Brazil. Iguazú receives 2300 mm rainfall per year and incidentally the minimum rainfall is in August. Between December and February it rains 1 hour every day. Iguazú Falls is barely 6 kilometres or an hour’s drive to Brazil. After arrival in Iguazú and checking into our hotel, we left to head to the Iguazú Forest and we were warmly received by Vin Diesel lookalike Jose who ensured that we could get the best of Iguazú during our short stay in this very interesting region offering a combination of rivers and forest. The plains and forests are surrounded by heavy flow rivers of which the Parana and Iguazú river are of great significance as they play an important part in the formation of the magnanimous Iguazú Falls. The Parana river divides Argentina and Paraguay.

ACTION BEFORE THE FALLS

En route to the forest we stopped on the way to see the Guarani Tribe – Guaranis are a group of culturally indigenous people of South America and they speak the Guarani language. They are spread across 4 countries- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia of which over 1000 Guaranis are in Argentina. It took us 40 minutes from our hotel to reach the Iguazú Forest where we did a 4 hour excursion comprising of 3 adventure activities – Canopy, Rappelling and Hiking. We were asked to get into a heavy duty truck and our first halt was in the Forest where we would rappel down a descent of rocks of 15 metres tied to a harness and the experience was indeed very invigorating after which we hiked across the narrow paths within the forest and arrived at a waterfall. The last of the activities was the most exhilarating – the Canopy.  After climbing a treetop through a stairway, we slided from one tree to another fastened by a harness which was attached to a steel cable enjoying the views of the forest from a height and zipped passed a distance of over a kilometer in no time.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and if one has more time in hand, one could easily add an ATV ride experience to the four hour excursion comprising of 3 adventure activities. Later in the evening we visited Aqva – a restaurant which specializes in sea food and when in Iguazú it is recommended to try the Suruvy fish which is a local river fish. The restaurant itself is one of the best restaurants in the region and I would highly recommend a meal for anyone who plans visiting the Argentina side of the Iguazú falls.

THE ROAR OF IGUAZÚ


Next morning we were accompanied by our guide Miriam who quite resembled the President of Argentina and she took us to the Iguazú National Park where we spent the entire day to see what is undoubtedly the most spectacular falls in the world which borders 3 countries. Known as the Aguas Gerantes or Big Water by the Guaranis, the Iguazú Falls has over 275 falls and the border between Argentina and Brazil is marked by the most spectacular of them all – the Garganta del Diablo or the Devil’s Throat. The water from the falls plunges to 70 metres in the abyss below and the park besides the falls is also home to over 2000 species of plants and 400 species of birds as well. Iguazú Falls, which is one of the natural wonders of the world, has 2100 metres of the falls on the Argentina side and 600 metres on the Brazilian side. The Brazilian side is known as Foz de Iguazú and has a population of 350000 whereas the Argentina side known as the Puerto Iguazú has a population comprising of 50000 people. Paraguay, the Ciudad de l’Este which is located on the other side of the Parana River  from Argentina has 200000 inhabitants, a majority of them from the Guarani Tribe.

NAVIGATING THE DEVIL’S THROAT

The amazing part of the falls is that it changes every day as the rainfall in the area determines the falls. It was Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca from Spain who discovered the falls for the first time in 1542 and initially called it Santa Maria. Later in 1934, it was named the Iguazú National Park – one of the 32 National Parks in Argentina.  Today Iguazú receives almost 3000 to 4000 visitors a day and over a million tourists every year. To reach the falls one has to take a train which leaves every 30 minutes and takes you to the Devil’s Throat. Thereafter you have to walk over 1.3 kilometres on a walking trail known as the cat walk. En route, one can see lot of birds like we spotted the plush crested jay birds at various points along the way. Almost 80% of the falls are on the Argentine side and comprises of 3 horseshoe shaped valleys. It is a good idea to take Mate – the local drink made of herbs – along with you and the herbs, which act as anti-oxidants and has vitamin C, is a good thirst quencher especially as you are in sub-tropical climate and the average temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius with a very high humidity. It takes easily a couple of hours to see the 270 odd cataracts from various panoramic views and you have to spend almost the entire day to see the falls.  En route we also saw coaties which are type of raccoons and seem to be pretty friendly animals though it is best advised not to get very close to them.

Another activity which is worth doing is a boat trip on the gentle Iguazú river where you can view the falls and go in close proximity with the risk of getting fully drenched inspite of having a raincoat on. The boat trip in a large rubber-raft is worth it provided you carry a change of clothes or else you will come out soaking wet at the end of the trip. If you do have a Brazilian visa you can view the falls from the Brazilian side or else you can explore other exciting cities of Argentina.

SAY NAMASTE TO ARGENTINA

Argentina is truly a country of six continents and in my short trip of 7 days I got a glimpse of three unique experiences from the glaciers to the vibrant capital city and eventually the most majestic falls – truly the eight wonder of the world. I carried back pleasant memories of the land of Tango, Football, Wine, Adventure, Glaciers, Falls and much more.  From the Andes Mountains and Cuyo in the north to Patagonia in the south, Argentina truly attracts the discerning traveller. So pack your bags and get ready to say Namaste Argentina and explore a land full of varied experiences in one unique destination.

Plan Your Holidays  with the Argentina Specialists

Your Indian Connection to Argentina

http://www.namasteargentina.com

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How To Explore Places Like Never Before: Buenos Aires

My first major exposure to Argentina was when the President of Argentina, H.E. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner,  lead a high level delegation to India in October last year. I was assigned to do a special feature on Argentina to coincide with the State-visit of the President. It was at this time I discovered that Argentina, the eighth largest nation in the world, has lots to offer in terms of tourism opportunities.

This August I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of this wonderful country and truly Argentina has all that it takes to get a complete holiday experience in one destination.

South African Airways – a member of Star Alliance – offers the shortest connection to Argentina via Johannesburg and I had the opportunity to experience the exceptional service in Business Class with their award-winning lie flat bed and excellent hospitality. We were well taken care of by Molefi Molefe, a Steward who ensured that we were well looked after on this Airbus 340-200 series flight.

On my arrival, I had to change the dollars into Argentine Pesos and the best place to do that is the Banco de la Nacion Argentina at the airport.  It took us one hour to reach the Panamericano Hotel from the airport which is located on Avenue 9 de Julio and has the famous Obelisk which dominates the avenue.

The Obelisk, which is 67 metres high, divides the Corrientes Avenue and is surrounded by a small green park – Plaza de la Republica which represents the progressive spirit of the people of Argentina.  The Plaza is a vast square and dissects the three arterial roads – Ninth of July Avenue, Corrientes Avenue and Diagonal Avenue and is located in the San Nicolas quarter.

It is a rare sight to see a 12-lane street in the middle of the city centre, six lanes each for either direction of vehicular traffic. The Plaza was inaugurated in 1937 and is also known as the most important porteño or meeting point when the country celebrates major sporting triumphs. The Plaza which was originally a circular esplanade was enlarged to its current dimensions in 1962 and the Corrientes Avenue was rerouted through the plaza later in 1971. It is around the Obelisk that you will find the vehicular traffic heading into the city’s financial district.

Buenos Aires, along with its suburbs known as Greater Buenos Aires, makes up almost a third of the total population of Argentina which stands at around 39 million. Buenos Aires is truly a year round destination and one can easily spend days exploring this city which is also South America’s second largest city only after Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Located on the western shore of Rio de la Plata estuary, Buenos Aires is considered as an Alpha World city and the people are referred to as porteños or people of the port.  During the great immigration wave in 1880s, people of Italian, Spanish and French descent migrated to Buenos Aires and therefore the city has a great European influence and is indeed one of the most beautiful metropolises of the Southern Hemisphere.

On our arrival, I had the opportunity to stroll along Lavalle Street which was adjoining my hotel. This shopping street leads into the Florida Street near San Martin Square where you will find a wide variety of shopping – from leather goods to jewellery, books and souvenirs as well as some fine boutique shops.

The San Martin Square which is walking distance from San Telmo, one of the oldest districts of Buenos Aires and which is a must-visit for its cafes, tango parlours and antique shops in the cobblestone streets which offers unique entertainment with artists and dance performances. If you are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, you must visit the San Telmo market known for its bohemian charms.  This quaint and funky neighbourhood comes to life every Sunday with its Antique Fair in Plaza Dorrego stretching down the cobblestone Calle Defensa or Defense Street.  From musicians to artists, from full-scale Tango orchestras to solitary singers, San Telmo is the place to spend your Sunday in Buenos Aires and be entertained – be it by human statues painted in gold or a frozen man and woman caught in a storm with blowing jacket or inverted umbrella which makes it a thoroughly entertaining experience.

Here are 10 other must-do activities for visitors in Buenos  Aires:

1.  Visit Plaza de Mayo:

Plaza de Mayo

The main square in downtown Buenos Aires, a focal point of political life of Buenos  Aires and Argentina. On one side you will find the  public administration office from early 20th Century. The Casa Rosado located on the eastern side of the square is the Presidential Office of Colonial Times. Go back in time and visualize President Peron saluting the people from the balcony of Casa Rosada. Close to Casa Rosado is the monument of Manuel Belgrano on horseback. Manuel Belgrano took part in the Argentine Wars of Independence and also created the Flag of Argentina and is regarded as one of the Liberatodores  or Principal Leader of the Latin American War of Independence from Spain.

Casa Rosada

On the northern side of the square is the Metropolitan Cathedral, to the west is the Cabildo – an imperial colonial building and a town hall of earlier times. Nearby is one of the oldest subways of South America –Peru which still has the original look which dates back  to the beginning of the 20th Century with wooden  wagons. A ride from Peru station is an experience. This subway  was inaugurated in 1913 as the first in Latin America.

Metropolitan Cathedral

2.            Visit Recoleta –

also known as “little France” or la Pequeña Francia. This traditional upscale district combines Parisian architecture with trendy high rise elegant buildings and a variety of cultural venues. Visit the Loisuites hotel and you get a bird’s-eye-view of the Recoleta Cemetery from the higher floors of this wonderful boutique property.

Recoleta Cemetery

A visit to the Recoleta    Cemetery is definitely recommended as it is the most    relevant historical and artistic monument in the country and was created in 1822. It contains the graves of some of the important Argentineans including Eva Peron and some of the past Presidents of Argentina. The cemetery contains many elaborate marble mausoleums    decorated with statues and various architectural styles.  A walk around Recoleta will take you to some fine cafés and restaurants and maybe on a cold day you could even sip a Mate – a drink prepared from dried    leaves of yerba mate along with hot water which can be      sipped with a bombilla or a metal straw from a shared    hollow calabash gourd which is similar to a bowl  made of dried pumpkin. You can pick up a calabash gourd with a bombilla as an important Argentine souvenir.

Grave of Eva Peron

3.            Living la vida Boca –


Spend an afternoon at the Boca district and visit the most important football stadium in     Buenos Aires – La Bombonera, the home of the Boca Juniors including the famous iconic Diego Maradona. The   old port district of Boca still retains its 19th Century ambience and a strong European flavour thanks to the early Italian settlers from the city of Genoa. Colourful houses, pedestrian streets – especially the Caminito where tango artists perform on the streets – is an excellent outing to also pick up a few tango-related memorabilia.

4.            Sip a coffee and try Alfajores or Dulce de Leche at the Havanna –


Havanna is to Argentineans what Starbucks is to the U.S.  Your trip to Buenos Aires is incomplete without visiting Havanna especially in the district of Puerto Madero – the old port now converted into a famous restaurant district and somewhat reminiscent of Hamburg.  This 1880 era dockland is now converted as the newest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. Havanna, besides serving some fine coffee is one of the most popular alfajor vendors in Argentina. Alfajores are light, round cookies filled with dulce de leche – milk caramel in Spanish and the traditional local sweet made of thick jam and caramel candy. Indulge in dulce de leche without worrying about the calories along with a cappuccino con dulce de leche and a few alfajores to go. There are over 50 Havanna stores and cafés across the city and you have no reason not to spend a couple of hours for a coffee, a light meal or over indulgence of fine tempting desserts.

5.            Tango and Theatre –


The Teatro Colón or Colombus   Theatre located close to the Obelisk is amongst the top  5 opera houses in the world and a must-visit attraction.  The theatre which opened in 1908 was closed for refurbishment from October 2006 to May 2010 and is    recently reopened and should be on your agenda whilst visiting Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires is the birth place of Tango and Piazzolla is one of the fine places in the Guemes Gallery where  you can experience the vibrancy of soulful music combined with modern tango and feel the spirit of the city created by the famous Astor Piazzolla. A dinner followed by an exhilarating 90-minute Tango song and dance presentation is a wonderful way to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. Other options would be to visit one of the Parrillas or charcoal grill places to try out a barbecue. La Estancia Del Gaucho on Lavalle street or Las Cabritas at Soldado de la Independencia     is a good place to order a Parillada or Asado, grilled meats or grilled beef which can be shared by two or more along with a glass of Trapiche – one of Argentine’s fine Malbec wines with produce from Altamira, Uco Valley, the premium area where Malbec is grown in Argentina.

6.            Shop at Avenida Santa Fe or the Galerías Pacífico –

Avenida Santa Fe

Avenida Santa Fe is indeed one of the well known places for shopping in Buenos Aires and stretches from Plaza San Martin to Belgrano offering a corridor of hustle, bustle and retail therapy with well known  boutique brands in one of the most important shopping districts of the city.

Galerias Pacifico

There is also Galerias Pacifico or the Pacific Gallery located at the intersection of Florida Street and Cordoba Avenue. This is one of the most elegant shopping malls with concreted domes, renovated in 1990, and houses with a shopping mall, the Jorge Luis  Borges Cultural Centre and Julia Boca Dance school. The dome is decorated with murals by famous Argentine painters and the large central cupola was   constructed and decorated with 12 frescos by artists including Manuel Colmeiro, Antonio Berni , Demetrio Urruchúa and others. These frescos are some of the most important in Buenos Aires.

7.            Flowering Art –


Floralis Genérica is a unique sculpture    made of metal and is the gift to the city by the architect Eduardo Catalano. The Arte en Flor or Flowering Art is located in the centre of a park surrounded by wooden boundaries and represents a large flower with an aluminum skeleton of reinforced concrete and is supposedly 20 metres high. The flower which opens to the sky has six petals and is located at the United Nations Plaza and weighs 18 tons.

8.            Night out in Palermo or a visit to the Cathedral of Polo –


Palermo is a trendy neighborhood filled with restaurants, shops and clubs called boliches. Located in the northeast part of the city, Palermo borders other important districts such as Belgrano, Recoleta, Rio del Plata river and is the largest neighbourhood in Buenos    Aires. It is further subdivided into Alto Palermo – the  main shopping area and transport hub around Santa Fe Avenue, Villa Freud – a residential area, Palermo Viejo or old Palermo which reflects an old Spanish style architecture and where well known figures such as   Jorge Luis Borges and Che Guevara once lived.

Bars around Plaza Serrano

Then there is the Palermo Soho area or Plaza Serrano  which is a chic fashion district with plenty of bars and street culture and has a bohemian feel to the region. Palermo Hollywood as well has a high concentration of restaurants, clubs, cafes and active night life and finally Palermo Chico which is an up-market area and houses the National Museum of Decorative Arts. The Barrio Parque area in Palermo is home to the rich and famous    and MALBA – the Museum of Latin America Art is located in the vicinity. Las Cañitas is an up-market area too and is located next to Campo Argentino de Polo – the Cathedral of Polo, a multi-purpose stadium used for polo, field hockey and has also hosted the World Hockey Cup in 1978. The stadium which holds 30000 spectators is also home to the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo – the most important polo event in the world, a venue for the 1950 Olympic Games and at      times is also used for concerts performed by Shakira, Carlos Santana and for public events too.

The Cathedral of Polo

National Museum of Decorative Arts

9.            Browse through at El Ateneo Grand Splendid –

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

This amazing building on Santa Fe Avenue was designed by well known architects Peró and Torres and originally opened as a theatre during the 20th Century  with a seating capacity for over a 1000 spectators. This theatre was later converted into a cinema and the first sound films were presented in Argentina here in 1929. Subsequently in the 21st Century, this iconic building was converted into a 2000-square metre book and music shop and over 700000 books were sold in 2007. The cinema seating was replaced by massive book  shelves and over a million people walk through this amazing book store every year. An English newspaper,  the Guardian, placed El Ateneo as number two in the list of world’s top ten best bookshops and is a must-visit attraction for reading enthusiasts.

10.          Take an open bus or underground walking tour to explore more –

Open Air Bus

For those who are short on time, you can take an open bus tour covering the highlights of the city of Buenos Aires in less than 3 hours. A 2-day pass can take you through the major districts which can be further explored on foot. From La Manzana de las Luces you can walk through tunnels which were built in the 17th and 18th Centuries and formed a network linking churches and public buildings. This historic block is surrounded by Bolivar Street, Moreno, Avenida Julia de Roca and the subway of Peru from where you could take these walking tours which take you through the Cabildo, the Cathedral with the Church of San Ignacio, Santo Domingo, San Juan, old Irish convents and neighbouring buildings.

You need more than one visit to experience the various dimensions of Buenos Aires – be it culture, art, tango, football, night life, shopping, notable streets, neighbourhoods, parks or landmarks.  It was impossible for me to cover most of these experiences during my 2-day stay in Buenos Aires. However, those   who plan to visit the country of glaciers, deserts, waterfalls and more will need little encouragement to take a short stop in Buenos Aires – truly a city with varied and diverse experiences.

Interested in planning a holiday to Argentina?

Email a Destination Expert at info@opportunitiestoday.co.in and read about what more Argentina has to offer in a forthcoming issue.

An Indian Student’s Perspective of Argentina

“I have been living as an exchange student in Buenos Aires for about two months now. I realized on my first day that I had made a great decision. The first conversation I had with my host mother set the tone for my visit: it was spent discussing Indian politics as she wanted to talk to me about Indira Gandhi and draw comparisons between her and other women leaders, such as Eva Perón. I was impressed, to say the least.

People here are fascinated to meet an Indian, and more often than not, I will be the first Indian they have ever met. I have received nothing but positive reactions from every Argentine I have met here. They all want to talk about the Indian economy, Indian films, Indian food, Indian politics, and of course, issues like poverty and education. I had studied Spanish for four years before coming here, but never had the opportunity to speak it in a native environment, so at first it was hard trying to answer a barrage of questions about India in Spanish. However, I have now realized that people initially ask me the same kinds of questions, and my answers are so rehearsed that they think my Spanish is better than it really is!

I haven’t had the chance to travel around Argentina yet, but I did visit the Iguazú Falls (where I saw some other Indian tourists!). As for Buenos Aires, I am completely in love with the city. Being from Mumbai, I feel very much at home and comfortable in another big city. The arts are especially valued here, and there is no dearth of theatres, ballets, operas, music concerts or art shows to visit, and most are affordable to an average student. Museums, tango lessons, wonderful restaurants, street fairs, libraries and bookstores – the city is exploding with things to do and see. For a tourist, and as a newly arrived student, it is an exhilarating experience.

Living with a family here also made me realize how similarly Indians and Argentines value family and friends, and how warmly I have been received by my host mother’s relatives and friends just by association with her. Socially, I do find that Argentines are more outgoing than Indians, although both cultures are known for their warmth and friendliness. It is easy to meet people and make friends, even of different age groups, as the social norms here are very different and, in my opinion, more relaxed.

The visa process in order to get to Argentina was somewhat exasperating. I can only hope that with more awareness of Argentina, increased study of Spanish, and steadily improving relations between the two countries, more students will be encouraged to discover this wonderful country, resulting in a much easier visa process!  However, despite being newly opened, the Argentine Consulate in Mumbai was amazing – they made a complicated situation much easier by helping me with my paperwork, sharing advice about Argentina and just calming me down when I got too upset.

For an Indian, Argentina is incredibly welcoming. I felt right at home not only because I was in a big city again, but also because people are genuinely excited to meet me and talk with me about India and ask me questions about my family and friends at home. I can only hope that increasing numbers of Indians decide to make the trip here – despite the incredible length and expense of the journey, it is truly worth every second!”