Exploring Amazing Argentina

Old Oct 18th, 2011, 06:59 AM
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Exploring Amazing Argentina

In mid-Sept. I met up with two friends from Taiwan for the Dallas flight to EZE to begin a three week adventure – my second trip to Argentina, their first. We had a delay of an hour while someone who didn’t board had their bags unloaded. I had reserved our taxi through Taxi Ezeiza and after hitting the ATM’s and Banco de Nacional at the airport we were off.

We hit the ground running, were starving so we decided to walk to San Telmo. I thought it would be about 30 minutes, turned out to be closer to an hour, but after sitting on a plane for 10 + hours, it felt great to walk on a sunny afternoon. We decided to go to Parrilla 1880 (thanks, Dr. Dawggy!) and loved it, just perfect for a late lunch. My ojo de lomo was delicious, way more than I could handle so luckily one of my friends helped me since she liked mine better than her own skirt steak.

Everyone else decided to crash for a while, so I caught a taxi for Plaza San Martin where I met Sol, the guide for the Bs As Free Tour – Aristocratic Bs As. I loved it! What a fun way to get some additional insight into the history, culture and ethnic make-up of the city. She was informative and entertaining and I recommend this tour.

Some other activities included the Evita Museum, Recoleta Cemetery, a quick trip to La Boca, Plaza de Mayo, shopping at Recoleta Feria, dinner/tango show at El Viejo Almacen (which I liked better than Esquina Carlos Gardel) and a few hours at the San Telmo Feria. There was a TV crew in Plaza Dorrego filming a 30ish couple dancing tango and they were excellent. I had tried to set up a day with a Cicerones guide, but when she e-mailed me back the confirmation she wanted to switch dates and we already had plans, so that didn’t work out.

What we really enjoyed was Feria de Mataderos. We took the subte to the end of the E line, then caught a cab, loved seeing the women in colorful folklore dresses and men in gaucho outfits dancing. Although the cab ride took us through the roughest neighborhoods that I’ve seen in the city, we loved the atmosphere of the fair. We ate lunch at a nearby parrilla, shopped at the many stalls, watched more dancers, then headed down the street to watch the “Carerra de Sortija – the “Race of the Ring.” What fun to cheer the gauchos on, especially those who were successful in getting the stick through the ring! I enjoyed watching the people at the fair, much more interesting to me than the Recoleta or San Telmo.

We flew up to Iguazu for a few nights. I was worried about our five flights on Aerolineas Argentinas since their reputation is so bad. However, our Iguazu flights were with LAN and they were a mess. Last year I had five flights with LAN and they were great, so I wasn’t concerned about them at all. Our afternoon LAN flight from AEP was canceled, so we ended up getting re-booked on an evening flight which messed up my plans to visit a hummingbird garden in Puerto Iguazu. We stayed outside of town at Orquideas Hotel and enjoyed it. The grounds have lovely landscaping, prices are reasonable and we spent the evening sitting around the pool eating and drinking.

We had perfect weather for our day at the falls. There had been torrential rains in Aug. and early Sept. so there was a huge amount of water coming over the falls. The walkway to Devil’s Throat had been closed for a few weeks due to flood damage, but had re-opened just before our arrival. I took the zodiac boat ride up to the base of the falls, loved it, total drenching. After a day at the park we stopped by Three Frontiers to see where the rivers join and the three countries borders are located

I went into Puerto Iguazu to visit Jardines de los Picaflores at the home of the Castillo family. I had met one of the sons last year when I was there and had e-mailed them to see if I could come again. Their small garden in the city was hosting 10 species of hummingbirds and I was lucky enough to see 8 of the 10 species, probably over 100 hummingbirds total in late afternoon. It was a great way to relax and enjoy one of my favorite hobbies before catching a local bus that took me right back to our hotel.

Since our flight the next day wasn’t until early afternoon, we walked next door to Guira Oga Bird/Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for a tour. It was an excellent way to spend a morning – learned about the various animals they are treating (injured, orphaned, etc.), watched them release a toucanet, saw brown capuchins running through the trees. Their goal is to be able to treat and release back into the wild, whenever possible.

LAN had a major delay on our return flight, but booked us on a flight that had never left that morning so we actually arrived back at AEP twenty minutes early – go figure……We met up with a couple more friends and after a few nights, headed for Salta for 4 nights (Aerolineas Argentinas flight right on time!). A friend from Cordoba province was waiting for us and set up all of our daytrip plans. We spent our days exploring beautiful Northwest which is entirely different from other regions of Argentina. I was amazed by the colorful rock formations in Quebrada de las Conchas on the road to Cafayate. We went to a wine-tasting at Nonni Winery, tried grilled goat at a parrilla – OK, now I’ve been there, done that, not my favorite meal….

In Salta we took the funicular up to Cerro San Bernardo for a great sunset over the city, visited MAAM, and of course, had to try empanadas at every restaurant. I’m a white wine drinker, loved, loved Torrontes.

We meandered our way through the villages, taking plenty of time to explore the markets of Purmamarca and Humahuaca, walked through the Indian ruins at Tilcara and Tastil, spent a day driving to San Antonio de los Cobres following the Train to the Clouds, stopping and waving at the passengers at a few crossings. I was worried about the altitude since I live at 30’ and we would be up at 13,300+ but coca tea and bags of coca leaves, plus eating very little at lunch all made for a good day.

In the evening we visited a few of the peñas on Balcarce St. (La Pachamama and La Panderia del Chuna). Our friend from Cordoba province won a free bottle of wine for getting up and dancing with the performers – a blast!

I thoroughly enjoyed the NW, thought the scenery was spectacular, very unique part of Argentina.

We then flew to Cordoba and traveled down to Villa Maria, a town in the center of the province. We participated in a cultural exchange with an organization called Friendship Force International whose goal is to promote international friendship via homestays. www.thefriendshipforce.org (I had visited here last year helping to organize the first club in Argentina) We spent five days getting to know our home hosts, meeting their families, exploring the town. City officials set up a welcoming ceremony at City Hall, we had a wine tasting at a local Italian restaurant, a press conference with radio and print media set up by an economic development group, went to an asado at a polo farm and watched an exhibition match, spent an afternoon at someone’s farm in the countryside riding horses and picnicking. I stayed with a woman and her 21 year old son and I swear she was related to ¾ of the city! I met so many cousins, it was unreal. I do have to admit the late nights were a total killer for me and I finally had to call it quits at 2:30 am while everyone else was still singing and playing the piano. I was so tired my eyes were crossing!

We took a quick flight back to AEP and overnighted nearby at Aeroparque Microtel – perfect place for an early morning flight to El Calafate. By this time we were worn out and not interested in doing anything other than crashing early since we had to get up at 4:30 am.

We had a great time in El Calafate, stayed at a small, cozy hotel called Hosteria Hainen which was about a 15 minute walk from the main street. We had a delicious lunch at Mi Viejo, explored what shops were open (it was siesta time), then picked up a rental car for a day. That evening we drove out to Laguna Nimez to walk the trails at the bird sanctuary and watch the sunset. What a gorgeous evening! The brilliant pinks, yellows and purples of the sunset and the snow-capped mountain peaks were reflected in the still waters, flocks of Andean flamingos were feeding nearby, plovers and ducks were beginning to roost for the evening. The lagoon was a lovely, serene place to unwind.

Next day we drove out to Perito Moreno Glacier and that first glimpse was just breathtaking. Photos just don’t do it justice, really stunning. We spent the day on the walkways, listening to the ice cracking and roaring, watching it break off. I have never been so close to a glacier before and was amazed at the various hues of blue in the ice.

The next day was spent on the All Glaciers Boat Tour in the VIP section. We figured watching icebergs, mountains and glaciers slide by while drinking whisky and champagne would be the perfect way to spend our final day of this three week adventure. The weather gods really smiled upon us with blue skies and brilliant sunshine – very lucky for early Oct. I think this part of South Patagonia is truly one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Very few problems were encountered – I had warned my friends to be extra vigilant in Bs As, but one did have her change purse stolen out of her purse (800 pesos) either at Recoleta Feria or Cemetery, the other had stopped to take a photo of the Obelisk and a young kid tried to grab her camera out of her hand. Luckily she had it wrapped around her wrist and we all yelled at him and chased him off. One friend got locked in the bathroom of the Salta hotel, hotel staff was unable to fix it, so we called a professional locksmith at 1 am, but that’s part of the adventure! We had no problems with taxis but since I was using ATM’s for peso I found myself constantly trying to break larger bills into smaller ones. This was my Asian friends’ first venture into South America and they were always looking for more veggies or salads on restaurant menus, not so used to eating so much meat or pasta. I used cash quite often as many places do not accept credit cards.

Overall, it was an excellent adventure and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring so many diverse areas of Argentina. If I return for a third time, it will definitely be to spend additional time in south Patagonia. Our flight back to Bs As went directly into EZE via Ushuaia and now I’m eager to explore that area, too. Most of my travels are nature related so next trip will be less time in the cities and more time enjoying the natural beauty of Argentina.
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Old Oct 18th, 2011, 08:55 AM
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Nice report, we got hooked on AR too, have been there three times and would go for a fourth, so far the Patagonia region is my favorite. Reading this brought back many fond memories, thanks!
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Old Oct 18th, 2011, 12:30 PM
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A great report about a great trip!

Thank you, colibri (hummingbird)!
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 05:06 AM
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Thanks for sahring your experience.... Hope you recommend NW to all your friends....
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 10:42 PM
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Great report - makes me want to return!
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 06:40 AM
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Thanks, everyone! It was a fun experience and I'm still in awe of some of the amazing scenery in the NW and of the glaciers in south Patagonia. Los Glaciars N.P. has now topped my list as the most beautiful place in the world, never thought any place could beat out Milford Sound in NZ!
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 09:32 AM
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Nice report.

You also need to add Torres del Paine to your list for landscapes!
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Old Oct 28th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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Thanks, mlg - TdP is on the list along with Puerto Madryn, Punto Tomba, Trelew and Ushuaia - sooo many places and so little time!
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Old Oct 29th, 2011, 03:38 PM
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I enjoyed the read very much. ...was in Buenos Aires from 5th October until the 10th of this year, my fifth visit but was much too short of a time.

I could truly identify with what you wrote, for I have had similar experiences in the same venures and areas! I yearn to be back in Buenos Aires; those five days went by oh sooooooooo fast!!!
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 08:24 AM
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Thanks for such a lovely report... have taken notes for planning my trip.
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 11:57 AM
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I agree you need to add Torres de Paine and San Pedro de Atacama in the high Chilean Desert. These two places are just spectacular. Two different ECO systems, and some of the best hiking and scenery in the world.
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