In this opening segment of my five articles, I will describe my journey through Argentina. My journey began in the capitol city, Buenos Aires, also known as “The Paris of South America.”
Like most large cities, it could take weeks to experience all it has to offer and Buenos Aires is no exception.When planning your trip to the capitol, you should set aside at least a week to even scratch the surface of this multi faceted city. A more devout traveller would do well to spend a fortnight (2 weeks) exploring the lesser known sights that only the locals know about. For those travellers on a tight schedule, I’ll give you the must see locations before moving on to your next destination.
Recoleta is the cultural centre of Buenos Aires. Here you can find some of the best art galleries in the country. Recoleta also offers the chance to witness one of the more morbidly fascinating experiences of the capital: the city-like cemetery. Here, you are free to roam around an enormous plot where Argentina’s past best, brightest and notorious have been laid to rest, and yes, this does include Evita. What impresses, however, is not the abundance of famous gravestones, but the sheer size of them. Each one an almost egocentrically large tribute to the bodies inside
San Telmo is a small district just a few blocks away from the city centre. Sundays, San Telmo hosts a huge outdoor market. Here there are festivities such as small parades and music, and a wide range of stalls selling anything you could imagine and some things you couldn’t. While here, it is also advised to take in free tango shows, as in most places you would be charged. Don’t be surprised, however, if you are dragged up to the dance floor yourself.
While in San Telmo, be sure to stop by a small, pokey looking restaurant named Desnivel. It may look like a glorified butcher’s shop but it is actually a rather brilliant restaurant, offering some of the finest steaks known to man, at very reasonable prices.
After sampling the delights of Buenos Aires, I made my way North, to Iguazu Falls. To get to Iguazu from Buenos Aires requires an 18 hour bus journey. This, while sounding terrible, can be made more bearable by the variety of coaches on offer. At the capitol’s bustling (and rather unpleasant) bus depot, you have your choice of bus companies and options within each company. A simple indicator of what each option is: Cama offers fully reclining seats, hot meals, and just an overall better experience at an inflated price. Semi-cama offers mostly reclining seats, with several snacks throughout. It would be advisable to save your cash and go semi-cama as much as possible, after-all, you never know when you’ll need that extra bit of money while travelling. Also, while many people choose to break up this trip between the two destinations, I would advise against it, as the buses are fairly luxurious, and Argentina’s roads are flat, safe, and offer little discomfort.
Iguazu Falls is one of Argentina’s foremost tourist destinations, where people can take in the continent’s second largest collection of waterfalls (after Venezuela’s Angel Falls). It is advised when visiting the falls to stay in Iguazu, a small town that minutes outside of the falls. Iguazu offers bars, restaurants and hostels, though it really is just a stop-gap for those hoping to visit the falls. To get to the falls from the town it would be advised to take the local bus, as it arrives regularly and is extremely inexpensive. To gain access to the falls costs 80 Argentinian Pesos per person (it is a National Park, after all). This is very worth it as you can see wildlife as varied and exotic butterflies, monkeys and even the occasional jaguar. To visit Iguazu Falls would certainly require a day, and while some may return, the tight-budgeted traveller would do well to make the most out of a single visit.
Please note that Iguazu is also a high-risk Malaria zone.
To get to Salta from Iguazu is a 23 hour bus journey, and this is only really worth taking if you are interested in travelling straight to the north of Chile, as Salta is the nearest convenient stop to Chile’s incredible San Pedro De Atacama (more on that later). Salta is a dusty, land-locked town in the very North of Argentina, and while it may not be exactly pretty, it does offer the occasional treat. For example, many hostels will offer vast barbeques on certain nights, and it does have a rather attractive square. The most exciting part of Salta, however, is the cablecar journey to the top of the mountain, which offers splendid views over the town and surrounding landscapes.
Next stop: Chile…