Argentina. Buenos aires

Population: 40,1 millions
Capital city: Buenos Aires
People: 85% European descent, 15% Mestizo, Indian and other minorities
Language: American Spanish, plus 17 indigenous languages
Religion: 93% roman catholic, 2.5% protestant, 2% jewish, 1.5% ukranian catholic, 1% armenian orthodox
Currency: Peso (ARS)

Mention Argentina, and people think about solitary gauchos or maybe tango dancers. It is country blessed with abundant natural resources and a highly educated population. The country boasts a wide variety of cultural attractions, but for many travelers, its natural wonders are the primary draw. From the northern deserts down to the southern Andean Cordillera, from the Iguazú Falls to the magnificent desolation of Patagonia, Argentina's geography is varied and stunning. For cosmopolitan types, there's the elegant capital, Buenos Aires. This fabulous city is renowned for its sophistication, although travelers expecting a more 'South American' experience are sometimes disappointed with its European touch.

Argentina is one Latin American country where Europeans and North Americans can feel at ease and travel relatively inconspicuously. Argentina forms the eastern half of South America's long, tapering tail.

It's a large country - the eighth largest in the world, and the second largest on the South American continent. It borders Chile to the west (separated by the Andean Cordilleras range) and Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia to the north and east (separated by rivers). It also shares the offshore island territory of Tierra del Fuego with Chile, and continues claiming the possession of the Malvinas Islands.

Argentina's topography is affected by both latitude and altitude, and is accordingly varied. The country can be divided into four major physiographic provinces: the Andes to the west (with arid basins, grape-filled foothills, glacial mountains and the Lake District), the fertile lowland north (with subtropical rainforests), the central Pampas (a flat mixture of humid and dry expanses) and Patagonia (a combination of pastoral steppes and glacial regions).


BUENOS AIRES ARCHITECTURE TOUR

Our starting point is naturally Plaza de Mayo, where we observe the most conspicuous of Buenos Aires' Colonial buildings: the Cabildo, primitive town hall. We also admire the neoclassical Metropolitan Cathedral, and our Presidential Palace, known as the Pink House, with its peculiar asymmetrical façade. Finally, we trace the tracks of Monumentalism, visible in the Ministry of Economics building. Next, we walk across Avenida de Mayo, a tree-lined boulevard built in the late 19th century, when Paris was undisputedly the center of the world. Alongside the Avenue, many different-styled buildings were erected -Academicism, Borbonic, Italian, Neo-Baroque, Art-Nouveau and Art Deco, among other styles. Some of the buildings we'll be seeing in more details are, among others, La Prensa, nowadays the House of Culture; the Vera Palace; the traditional Hotel Castelar; and the monumental Barolo Palace, inspired on Dante's Divine Comedy. At the other end of the avenue lies the Congress, and the traditional El Molino tearoom. Next, we head for Puerto Madero, a cutting-edge urban renovation project initiated in 1991, located in the docks of a huge abandoned port district were recycled into upscale residential buildings, trendy restaurants and VIP nightclubs. On our way to Recoleta, we'll pass along the impressive Tribunales building, a patent example of the early 20th century Academicism style, built by French architect Norbert Maillard, the Colón Theater, one of the city's greatest attractions, and the Cervantes National Theater, a Renaissance building with Plateresque columns. Then, we'll visit Plaza San Martín, designed by French-Argentine landscape architect Charles Thays. Around the square lie some of the city's most conspicuous buildings: the former Palacio Paz, nowadays the Military Society, and the Kavanagh Building, South America's first skyscraper, among others. Once in Recoleta, we'll visit the namesake Cemetery, one of Buenos Aires' greatest attractions. Inaugurated in 1822, this true labyrinth of funeral monuments commissioned to some of the greatest artists of the last two centuries is the eternal home of the most conspicuous -and wealthy- figures in Argentine history, paradoxically including Eva Perón, who was a known enemy of the upper classes. Next to the Cemetery, we visit the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a Colonial church built in 1732 that is surprisingly well preserved. We then walk across Alvear Avenue, where we observe the sumptuous palaces built by the Argentine aristocracy to rival with Paris, such as the Ortiz Basualdo palace. After seeing the imposing Neoclassical mass of Buenos Aires Law School, on Figueroa Alcorta Avenue, we'll visit the peculiar Sanitation building, with its strange majolica façade, built in 1887. This strange French Renaissance palace was built entirely from detachable pieces.

BUENOS AIRES ART TOUR

ARGENTINE AND LATIN AMERICAN ARTISTS This tour will allow you to learn about the main tendencies in Argentine and Latin American art, visiting tree of the most exciting museums in town: the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Latin American Arts Museum and the Quinquela Martín Museum. The National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA) houses a vast collection of 11,000 pieces, between canvases, sculptures, tapestry, engravings, drawings and objects, and possesses a small but precious European art collection, with works by Corot, Manet, Boudin, Cézanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Rodin. But this time we’ll pay special attention to the Argentine art section, which houses pieces by Morel, Pueyrredón, López, Sívori, De la Cárcova, Fader and Quiroz, among others. The modern, state-of-the-art Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires (MALBA) was built by Córdoba based architects Gastón Atelman, Martin Fourcade and Alfredo Tapia. MALBA is a space devoted to the collection, conservation, study and divulgation of Latin American art from the early 20th century to the present. Some of the artists in permanent exhibition are Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Antonio Berni, Pedro Figari, Xul Solar, Guillermo Kuitca, among others. Also, in the green corridor between the MNBA and the MALBA, we’ll be able to see many statues and monuments that grace our parks. Near the MALBA we can find the impressive Floralis Generica, a mechanical flower built in aluminum and steel, designed by Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano, which imitates the life cycle of a true flower, opening during the day and closing by night. Ending our visit, we travel to the working-class port district of La Boca, where we visit the Benito Quinquela Martín Museum. Donated by the artist himself in 1933, this museum hosts a great part of his work, which depicts the life of the neighborhood and its inhabitants.

BUENOS AIRES CAFÉS TOUR

In 1998, the Government of the City of Buenos Aires passed a law to protect and promote the city's Remarkable Cafés. In this tour, you'll have the chance to visit four of them, all of them located in traditional areas of the city, and to experience that typical Porteño habit of getting together at a coffee shop to talk for endless hours and honor friendship. Our journey starts at the neighborhood of Montserrat, near the Plaza de Mayo. A few blocks from there lay La Puerto Rico, founded in 1887 on Peru and Alsina and moved to its actual location in 1925. There used to gather writers and intellectuals such as Paul Groussac, Arturo Capdevila and Rafael Obligado. The establishment owes its name to its owner Gumersindo Cabedo's fascination for Puerto Rico, where he lived for some time. Next we visit London City, a coffee shop that became famous after being mentioned by Julio Cortázar in his novel Los Premios [The Prizes]. The café is located in the ground floor of a building built by E.A. Merry that used to be part of the annex of the traditional Gath y Chaves department store, in Buenos Aires' financial district. Then we travel to San Telmo, where we visit the Bar Dorrego, located on the corner of Defensa and Humberto Primo. From its tables, overlooking the traditional Plaza Dorrego, we'll soak in the Colonial atmosphere of this charming, historical neighborhood. Finally, we arrive to Almagro. On the corner of Rivadavia and Medrano we find the sumptuous Confitería Las Violetas, opened in 1884 with the presence of President Julio Argentino Roca. After being closed for three years, it reopened in 2001, completely and spectacularly refurbished. Writers such as Roberto Arlt and Alfonsina Storni were regulars. Just to imagine the kind of luxury we'll see there, here's a simple fact: the café has 80 square meters of splendid vitraux.

BUENOS AIRES JEWISH TOUR

Argentina's Jewish community is the largest in Latin America, with approximately 200,000 people, of whom nearly 180,000 live in Buenos Aires. Its origins trace back to the 16th century, when Jews from Spain, Portugal and Northern Africa came to our shores. Nevertheless, most of them came from Western Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. The presence of this community in the city's political, economical and cultural life is very strong, and has left a lasting mark on Buenos Aires. In this tour, we'll visit some of the places that have typically been associated with it, and that now have become part of the city's historical and cultural heritage. Our tour starts at the Embassy of Israel Square, built on the spot once occupied by the Israeli embassy until 1992, when a brutal terrorist attack destroyed it. In order to preserve the memory of this terrible event, the old façade has been kept; 22 trees were planted in the square, commemorating the same number of victims; and two large plaques were placed to represent fraternity between Jewish and non-Jewish people. Next, we visit the new building of the Argentine-Israel Benefit Society, best known as AMIA (only mornings). Its original building was destroyed by a new terrorist assault in 1994 that killed 85 people. This institution is one of the most traditional in Argentina. Its mission is to promote Jewish culture in our country, to keep its traditions and to foster the development of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, its doors are open for every Argentinean, and it offers job and educational opportunities to anyone interested. Ending our journey, we visit the neighborhoods typically associated to the Jewish community: Abasto, where we can find (at the Abasto Shopping Mall) the only McDonald's franchise serving kosher food in the world -outside of Israel; Villa Crespo and Once, where we'll visit the Templo Paso, one of the most important Ashkenazi synagogues in the country.

BUENOS AIRES WALKING TOURS

Historical Buenos Aires walking tours available: 1) Puerto Madero: The goal of this tour is to show how, like it has happened in many great capitals of the world, maybe in London more than in any other, an abandoned area can become the city’s most select neighborhood with an exclusive marina, and a modern cultural, hotel and restaurant district. Our visit kicks off at the Buquebús Ferry Terminal. Considering its old warehouse wasn’t recycled back in the 1990s, we’ll get a chance to see how the area looked before the renovations started. Next, we walk down Alicia Moreau de Justo Avenue, were we see the sharp contrast between the refurbished warehouses, of English industrial style, the state-of-the-art Inclán Building (designed by César Pelli), the Fortabat Tower and the Diario La Nación Building (both by the SEPRA buffet), and buildings from the early 20th century, such as the Central Post Office, the old Customs Building and the Ministry of Defense. Next, we visit the Sarmiento Frigate. This ship houses a museum, where we’ll see how a 19th century frigate actually operated. Then, we head for Madero Este crossing the Puente de la Mujer (Woman’s Bridge), designed by Spanish genius Santiago Calatrava. Once there, we’ll realize everything looks very modern. Nevertheless, we’ll be able to notice the contrast between the Faena + Universe, designed by Phillippe Starck, which used to be a silo, and the Los Molinos Building, designed by the McCormack buffet, which used to be a mill. Our visit ends back on the other side of the building, where we’ll admire once again the contrast between the renovated old and the modern buildings. 2) Retiro and Recoleta In the early 20th century, the Argentine aristocracy experienced an unprecedented prosperity; back then, Paris was the undisputed center of the world, and local aristocrats dreamed of competing with Paris, and of displaying their wealth on the city’s architecture, imitating the splendor of the French capital, in order to finally turn Buenos Aires into a global metropolis. Our starting point is the splendid Plaza San Martín, located in the heart of Buenos Aires. Around Plaza San Martín stand tall some of the city’s most conspicuous buildings. Some of them will allow us to imagine the splendid life the wealthier classes lived in the early 20th century: such is the case of the former Palacio Paz, which nowadays houses the Military Society, the Palacio Anchorena, that presently hosts the Ministry of Foreign Affaires, and the Palacio Haedo, which is used by the National Parks Administration. Then, we visit the monumental Retiro Railway Station, Academicist in style, opened in 1915. Although the design and materials came from Britain, it rivals in spirit with the traditional Parisian gares. Next, we walk across the elegant Arroyo Street –the word actually means ‘stream of water’, and it certainly honors the meandering course of this charming street. Besides its great architecture, Arroyo concentrates the most important art galleries in town. Finishing our tour, we walk down Alvear Avenue, a sort of smaller-scale Champs Elysées. There, we admire the sumptuous French-styled palaces, such as the Ortíz Basualdo Palace, nowadays the French Embassy, and the Pereda Palace, which now houses the Brazilian Embassy. 3) La Boca is arguably one of Buenos Aires’ most authentic neighborhoods. Away from the modernizing and internationalizing waves that have been shaking the city since the 1990s, this working class port district has been jealously guarding its identity, of which soccer and Tango are very important parts. The first that strikes the visitors about La Boca is its peculiar architecture. On one side, we find the typical houses made out of tin and scrape metal, painted with a wide array of colors. They were erected by immigrants, who used leftover materials and paint from the docks and nearby shipyards. On the other side, we see the famous tenement houses, were many families from the working class lived tightly crammed together. On of the neighborhood’s most recognizable icons is the Alberto J. Armando Stadium, nicknamed La Bombonera (The Chocolate Box), which is Boca Junior’s stadium, the country’s largest soccer team, and the one favored by Diego Maradona, probably one of the most famous people in the world. We also visit the emblematic Caminito Street, a true outdoor museum, dedicated to soccer and Tango. Finally, we enter the Quinquela Martín Museum, located in a building decorated and donated by the artist in 1933, to house an elementary school, an Argentine art museum and his own home and workshop. Here, we learn about his intense life and his strong social commitment.

COLONIA: A LUXURY DAY

DAY TOUR to Colonia de Sacramento (Uruguay) from Buenos Aires. The District of Colonia is in the south west of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. It is situated 178 km from Montevideo and only 40 km from the city of Buenos Aires. Washed by the Río de la Plata, the area offers over 200 km beaches and several islands along its coastline. Colonia del Sacramento and Carmelo are in this district, both of utter importance in the historic development of the country. Colonia del Sacramento is situated in the peninsula founded by the Portuguese in 1680, who settled on the coast as they considered them strategic for expansion over the Río de la Plata. Due to this, the area which has been disputed by the greatest European countries is known as “The Apple of Discord”. Its population is formed by immigrants of Swiss, German, Spanish, Portuguese and aborigine origin. The historic area of the city preserves its paving stone streets of the colonial times, and has been declared “Cultural Inheritance of Humanity” by UNESCO. Carmelo is situated on the margins of Las Vacas stream, which keeps important traffic of nautical tourism. Other main sights are the Rambla de los Constituyentes, Playa Seré, Zagarzazú Beach, the Hotel Casino and the Fauna Reserve. 07:15 hs.: check-in in Darsena Norte (Buenos Aires BQB pier). 08:15 hs.: departing in Fast Ferry to Colonia. 09:30 hs.: arrival in Colonia. Lunch in "Viejo Túnel" (fixed menu, no drinks included). Walking tour (Historical District and the Coast up to Real de San Carlos-Bullring) and ticket for auto guided Touristic Bus (only from Monday to Friday). 18:45 hs.: transfer to Colonia Port. 19:45 hs.: departure to Buenos Aires port in Fast Ferry. 21:00 hs.: arrival to Darsena Norte (Buenos Aires BQB pier)

COLONIA: TOURISTIC CIRCUIT

DAY TOUR to Colonia de Sacramento (Uruguay) from Buenos Aires. The District of Colonia is in the south west of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. It is situated 178 km from Montevideo and only 40 km from the city of Buenos Aires. Washed by the Río de la Plata, the area offers over 200 km beaches and several islands along its coastline. Colonia del Sacramento and Carmelo are in this district, both of utter importance in the historic development of the country. Colonia del Sacramento is situated in the peninsula founded by the Portuguese in 1680, who settled on the coast as they considered them strategic for expansion over the Río de la Plata. Due to this, the area which has been disputed by the greatest European countries is known as “The Apple of Discord”. Its population is formed by immigrants of Swiss, German, Spanish, Portuguese and aborigine origin. The historic area of the city preserves its paving stone streets of the colonial times, and has been declared “Cultural Inheritance of Humanity” by UNESCO. Carmelo is situated on the margins of Las Vacas stream, which keeps important traffic of nautical tourism. Other main sights are the Rambla de los Constituyentes, Playa Seré, Zagarzazú Beach, the Hotel Casino and the Fauna Reserve. 07:15 hs.: check-in in Darsena Norte (Buenos Aires BQB pier). 08:15 hs.: departing in Fast Ferry to Colonia. 09:30 hs.: arrival in Colonia. Box-lunch (without drinks). Walking tour (Historical District and the Coast up to Real de San Carlos-Bullring) and ticket for auto guided Touristic Bus (only from Monday to Friday). 18:45 hs.: transfer to Colonia Port. 19:45 hs.: departure to Buenos Aires port in Fast Ferry. 21:00 hs.: arrival to Darsena Norte (Buenos Aires BQB pier)

COOKING CLASS: STREET FOOD

To learn how to cook the authentic dishes of Argentina, visit “Tierra Negra” the home of your wonderful hosts Veronica and Manuel, a sommelier and chef respectively. Located in the chic Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, it’s a delightful place to discover Argentine culture through a hands-on cooking class and learn dishes that you can recreate back home; a wonderful way to share your travel experiences with friends. Veronica and Manuel offer you the ‘Street Food’ class. It’s an introduction to typical Argentine street food instead. After this particular class you can show your friends and family why “choripan” is the comfort food of taxi drivers all over Buenos Aires. Typically, it’s a sausage made out of beef and pork, hot off the grill, split down the middle, and served on a roll, preferably with a delicious chimichurri sauce, but Manuel might apply his own twist. Then you’ll learn how to make spicy Andean potatoes and traditional biscuit sandwiches filled with dulce de leche and side-coated with shredded coconut. You will try 2 organic wines from different regions of Argentine. CHORIPAN WITH CHIMICHURRI AND SALSA CRIOLLA: pan de campo (homemade bread) + Chorizo, your choice of pork, lamb, chicken or veggie + 2 different sauces. PAPAS ANDINAS PICANTES: from the North of Argentina, “spicy Andean potatoes”. ALFAJORES DE MAICENA: traditional sandwich biscuits filled with Dulce de Leche and side-coated with shredded coconut. MATE: you’ll learn about the history of yerba mate, its origins and how to prepare this traditional drink from scratch in individual mate cups. WINE: you’ll taste 2 organic wines from different regions of the county.

EVITA TOUR

Eva Perón is one of our country's most famous personalities, respected and admired all over the world because of her relentless efforts for the cause of the humble and underprivileged. In Argentina, nevertheless, her figure is rather controversial: loved by the working class, whom she generously aided during her brief but intense political career, and hated by the wealthier classes, with whom she had an ardent dispute, nonetheless she never arouses indifference. We'll depart from Retiro Railway Station, where a very young Eva Perón saw Buenos Aires for the first time. Then, we'll visit Plaza de Mayo, where we'll admire the famous balcony of the Pink House from where, already married to General Perón, she delivered her most famous speeches, addressed to the Argentine workers who idolized her. Next, we'll visit the former building of the Eva Perón Foundation, an institution created by Evita to promote social assistance all over the country. Then we visit the CGT (which links together all the unions in the country), where we'll learn about the peculiar alliances that were formed to bring Perón to the presidency. Next we see the Congress, and once in Recoleta, we'll walk across the Recoleta Cemetery, an enormous labyrinth of splendid funeral monuments, and a traditional stronghold of Argentine aristocracy, where we'll witness Evita's posthumous victory over the people who had unceasingly fought her when she was alive. Ending our tour, we'll travel to Palermo, where we'll visit the Evita Museum, inaugurated for the 50th anniversary of her death. (Important: Evita Museum closes on Mondays)

PARRILLA TOUR

Parrillas are Argentine steakhouses offering the most traditional Buenos Aires cuisine, but most visitors only ever experience the most ‘touristy’ ones, sadly missing out on some of the city’s most delicious secrets. To taste authentic Porteño flavors (a Porteño is a native of Buenos Aires), join this culinary walking tour, accompanied by a private guide, to discover local hole-in-the wall restaurants and learn about Argentina’s culture and cuisine. You can choose a tour starting in either the San Telmo or Palermo neighborhoods via a private transfer from your hotel. The San Telmo tour is for visitors who love historic architecture and would like to mix it up with a little adventure. We begin near the Mercado de San Telmo for a home-made empanada at a family owned neighborhood institution. After exploring the market and watching Argentine butchers in action, you can the classic street food of Argentina: choripán. The Argentine choripán consists of a sausage made out of beef and pork, hot off the grill, split down the middle, and served on a roll. Taxi drivers line up for it every day. The main stop is at one of the best and oldest Buenos Aires parrillas to try provoleta, 2 cuts of steak, salad and Malbec. We finish up at a small heladería known for their selection of homemade ice cream flavors. Our Palermo tour centers around the Las Cañitas section of Palermo, a chic neighborhood known for its beautiful tree lined avenues, historic polo fields, and burgeoning culinary and nightlife scene. On this route you begin at a classic parrilla, usually frequented by soccer fans, and known for its choripán. Next, you visit a Northern Argentine style casa de empanadas to try some of the city’s favorite handmade empanadas and a glass of Torrontés wine, before moving on to enjoy some of the best meat and service in the city at a historic and hidden parrilla, famous among locals. To complete a delightful and delicious afternoon you end up at an incredible artisanal “heladería” (ice cream shop).

SAN ANTONIO DE ARECO CON ESTANCIA EL OMBU

This gaucho day trip from Buenos Aires is the best way to see the real heritage of Argentina; visiting San Antonio de Areco, one of the last towns that pridefully guard their customs and keep their traditions alive. This day trip provides the opportunity to know more about Estancia culture, horses and the gaucho lifestyle that is an emblem of argentine identity. At the Estancia, you will appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the Pampas, and learn about rural life in Argentina. You will meet gauchos and participate in activities such as horseback riding and carriage rides through the surrounding farmland. As you dine, you will enjoy a performance of traditional folkloric music and dancing and an impressive gaucho horsemen demonstration. Itinerary: 08.30 am: Pick up at your hotel in Buenos Aires. 10.00 am: Reception at San Antonio de Areco by our guide, who will show you the picturesque streets of the historical center, pulperias (old gaucho bars), the renowned Draghi’s Silversmith Museum, traditional handicraft, and the Ricardo Güiraldes Gaucho Museum. 12.00 noon: Departure to an exclusive Estancia where you will be greeted with empanadas and a delicious Argentine asado (traditional barbecue). With the guide, you will take a tour to visit the Estancia while hearing stories about this historic working ranch. Various activities will be offered: horseback riding or carriage, traditional folkloric dancers and music and impressive destrezas gauchas (Gaucho skills demonstration). You will also have the chance to discover and taste the ritual of the mate (typical infusion)! During the summer, the Estancia opens its 2 swimming pools. 04.30 pm: Departure to Buenos Aires. Includes: Visit of the historical town: church, old pulperías, Ricardo Güiraldes Gaucho Museum, handicraftsmen. Horseback riding or carriage and all activities at the Estancia. Traditional asado lunch at the Estancia, with salads, dessert, coffee and drinks. Folkloric music and dancing. Gaucho skills (subject to wheater conditions) Swimming pool in summer.