Buenos Aires Seeing Argentina’s many amazing sights requires a sophisticated eye and no little stamina.
Its history and opulence position the Teatro Colón among the top five opera houses in the world. Inaugurated in 1908 with Verdi’s Aida, it has hosted the likes of Maria Callas, Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinsky, Enrico Caruso, and Luciano Pavarotti, among many other great opera luminaries. The Italianate building with French interiors is the result of successive modifications by various architects. Many seats are reserved for season-ticket holders, so tickets are hard to come by for choice performances.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
The ominous gates, Doric-columned portico, and labyrinthine pathways of the oldest cemetery in Buenos Aires lend a sense of foreboding to this virtual city of the dead. The cemetery covers 13-plus acres of prime property and has more than 6,400 elaborate vaulted tombs and majestic mausoleums. The cemetery is a who’s-who of Argentine history — a final resting place for some of the nation’s most illustrious figures, among them Eva Perón and landowner Dorrego Ortíz Basualdo.
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Museo de Arte de Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
The fabulous MALBA is one of the cornerstones of the city’s cultural life. Cordóba-based studio AFT Arquitectos beat other architects in the competition to design the building, and their distinctive triangular construction in creamy stone and steel is one of the museum’s draws. The collection includes paintings by Diego Rivera, Tarsila do Amaral, Xul Solar, Roberto Matta, and Joaquín Torres García. The main gallery has, among many other fine things, works by Frida Kahlo and Fernando Botero, and abstract, psychedelic, and conceptual pieces from the late 20th century. World-class temporary shows are held on the second floor several times each year. Avenue Presidente Figueroa Alcorta 3415, Palermo. 11/4808-6500. www.malba.org.ar. 7 pesos, free on Wed.
La Manzana Jesuítica
A decade after the foundation of Córdoba, Manzana Jesuítica, a whole city block, was given to the Society of Jesus, testament to the order’s political and social clout in the Americas at the time. From here, the Jesuits held sway over the religious, educational, and cultural activities of the city and surrounding lands. The church here, Templo de la Compañía de Jesús (Obispo Trejo at Av. Caseros), is along the block’s northern flank, facing onto diminutive Plazoleta Rafael García. It was begun between 1640 and 1650 and is considered Argentina’s oldest church. Both the stone facade and the soaring nave are soberingly simple. Guided tours of the building, including the university and the high school, leave from the Museo Histórico de la Universidad. City block flanked by calles Casero, Obispo Trejo, Duarte Quirós, and Avenida Vélez Sarsfield. Entrance is at Obispo Trejo 242. 351/423-9196. 3 pesos. Daily 9-1 and 4-8.
Mendoza Province, The Wine Country
Parque Provincial Aconcagua
This provincial park extends 165,000 acres over wild, high country with few trails other than those used by expeditions climbing the impressive Aconcagua Mountain, the park’s main attraction. At 22,825 feet, it’s the highest mountain in the Americas, and it towers over the Andes. A trail into the park begins at the ranger’s cabin, follows the Río Horcones past a lagoon, and continues upward to the Plaza de Mulas base camp at 14,190 feet, where there’s a refugio (basic mountain cabin with bunk beds). 261/423–1571 in Mendoza for reservations.
In 1950, Don Alberto Zuccardi, a civil engineer, developed a more modern system of irrigation for his vineyards in Maipú, and later in Santa Rosa. He and his team of 450 workers continue to discover new approaches to viniculture and wine tourism; their newest innovation, the “Cava de Turísmo,” is an air-conditioned cave where you can join tours of the bodega, often led by family members or an oenologist. Outside, you can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the neatly labeled vines to the garden restaurant for a wine-tasting lunch or tea. 21.7 miles from Mendoza, RP33, Km 7.5, Maipú, Mendoza. 261/441-0000. www.familiazuccardi.com. Mon.-Sat. 9-5:30; Sun. and holidays 10-5.
Finca and Bodega Carlos Pulenta
The courtyard entrance frames a perfect view of the Cordón de Plata mountain range. More than a bodega, the light stone and polished concrete complex houses, among other things, an ultramodern 12-room inn and perhaps the best restaurant in the region (La Bourgogne). Inside the bodega, glass walls expose the tumbled rocks and dirt that Malbec thrives in. You’ll find architectural surprises around every corner as you explore the cellars. Roque Saenz Peña 3531, Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo. 261/498-9400. www.carlospulentawines.com.
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Southern Patagonia
Twelve million years ago, lava flows pushed up through the thick sedimentary crust that covered the southwestern coast of South America, cooling to form a granite mass. Glaciers then swept through the region, grinding away all but the ash-gray spires that rise over the landscape of one of the world’s most beautiful natural phenomena, now the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Don’t bother looking for the Torres Mountains from within the confines of this 2,420-square-km park — you can only see them from the outside on a clear day. But in any case, the name is misleading. It is the glaciers, mountain lakes, and snow-capped peaks (especially at sunset) that are the true highlights here. Although considerable walking is necessary to take full advantage of the park, you don’t have to be a hard-core backpacker. Many people choose to hike the so-called “W” route, which takes four days, but others prefer to stay in one of the comfortable lodges and hit the trails during the day. 75 miles northwest of Puerto Natales, Chile.
Museo Paleontólogico Egidio Feruglio
The most modern attraction at this state-of-the-art museum is 2 million years old! Other treasures include a fossil of a 290-million-year-old spider with a 3-foot leg span, and the 70-million-year-old petrified dinosaur eggs of a carnotaurus. The museum’s tour de force — the bones of a 100-ton, 120-foot-long dinosaur. You can also glimpse into a workshop where archaeologists study newly unearthed fossils. Tours in English are available. Avenue Fontana 140. 2965/432-100 or 2964/420-012. 8 pesos. Daily 10-6.
Glaciar Perito Moreno, Southern Patagonia
The glacier lies 50 miles from El Calafate on R11. From there, a road that’s partly paved (it’s scheduled to be entirely paved by the end of 2006) winds through hills and forests until suddenly the startling sight of the glacier comes into full view. Descending like a long white tongue through distant mountains, it ends abruptly in a translucent blue wall — two miles wide and 165 feet high — at the edge of frosty green Lago Argentino. Although it’s possible to rent a car and go on your own, virtually everyone visits the park by day-trip tours that are booked through one of the many travel agents in El Calafate.
Punta Tombo Wildlife Reserve, Punta Tombo
The reserve has the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world and one of the most varied seabird rookeries. Roughly 325,000 penguins live here from the middle of September through March. You can walk among them (along a designated path) as they come and go along well-defined “penguin highways.” Other wildlife here includes cormorants, guanacos, seals, and Patagonian hares. Although December is the best month to come, anytime is good, except from April through August when the penguins feed at sea. 74 miles south of Trelew.
Photos courtesy of Tourism Portal, Sub-Secretary of Tourism of Buenos Aires City Government.