Tango. Steak. Non-stop nightlife. There are many things that lure travelers to Buenos Aires. And while visitors can easily spend their entire vacation exploring the barrios, cafes, and cultural sites here, it’s worth venturing beyond the city limits, if only for a change of pace. Here are three easy day trips that will let you explore more of what Argentina (and neighboring Uruguay) has to offer—and have you back in plenty of time for that late-night steak dinner and dancing.
San Antonio de Areco
Trade tango for gaucho culture with a trip to San Antonio de Areco, located in the Pampas, just 70 miles north of the city. Here, visitors can get a taste of traditional rural life by visiting one of the many surrounding estancias, or ranches, that regularly open their doors to the public. Arrange to visit for a day to ride horses, eat asado (barbeque) and watch gauchos as they display impressive feats on horseback. Back in town, explore the streets along the main square and pop into one of several silversmith shops selling belt buckles, spurs and other authentic gaucho-related souvenirs. Those with a little extra time can check out the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes, a museum dedicated to all things—you guessed it—gaucho.
Insider Tip: While it’s worth a visit any time of year, this sleepy little town springs to life for a few days each November during the D’a de la Tradición—a festival that honors gaucho tradition, complete with folk dancing, music and various shows of horse riding skills.
Getting There: Buses leave from the Retiro Bus Terminal multiple times daily and take about 90 minutes.
Colonia del Sacramento
Travelers looking to escape the frenetic pace of the city can opt for a day in Colonia del Sacramento. Just a short ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata, Colonia is Uruguay’s oldest city, founded in 1680 by Portugal. The historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a charming mix of stone ruins and brightly-painted colonial buildings. Take time to wander the cobblestone streets, peek into stores selling handmade crafts, and relax at a sidewalk cafe. Head to the lighthouse, built in 1857 over the ruins of the San Francisco convent, for 360-degree views.
Insider Tip: Colonia’s historic center is easy to navigate on foot, but those looking to explore scenic costal roads or off-the-beaten-path beaches found beyond the town can rent a scooter. Thrifty Car Rentals, located near the ferry terminal, is a good option.
Getting There: BUQUEBUS offers several ferries to and from Colonia each day. Choose the slow one (3 hour each way) to save some pesos, or opt instead for the fast ferry, which takes less than an hour each way, to maximize your time in town. And don’t forget your passport.
When locals want to get away from it all, they venture beyond the city suburbs to the collection of densely forested islands known as the Tigre Delta. The coffee colored waters (due to natural sediment) make the area a water-lovers paradise, with attractions such as boat tours, canoeing and kayaking all found here. Visit one of the remote islands-turned-spa resorts for eco tours and horseback riding, or simply walk around the town of Tigre. The Museo de Arte de Tigre, a museum showcasing Argentine art in a stunning belle-époque building along the waterfront, is well worth a visit, if only to marvel at the structure itself.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Puerto de Frutos, a daily market with hundreds of vendors selling food and handicrafts along the River Luján.
Getting There: Direct trains to Tigre leave from the Retiro station and take about 45 minutes.
Photo Credits: San Antonio de Areco: Gaucho preparando el asado en San Antonio de Areco, Argentina by Carlos Adampol Galindo
Attribution-ShareAlike License; Colonia del Sacramento: © Alexandre Fagundes De Fagundes | Dreamstime.com; Tigre Delta: © Dmitry Berkut | Dreamstime.com