What to do in Argentina
Argentina truly offers something for everyone. Take tango lessons or watch the sultry dance in Buenos Aires with many performance venues along with the occasional impromptu dance in the streets. In the spring, one can take in a match at Campo Argentino de Polo in the polo capital of the world. Foodies will find plenty, including juicy steaks with the country widely regarded to have the world’s best beef. The network of underground eateries in Buenos Aires called Puerto cerradas (closed-door restaurants), offers unique, exclusive culinary experiences. The capital city in particular has a wealth of steakhouses with a myriad of cuts best enjoyed with a glass of the local Malbec. Speaking of wine, Mendoza is the place to go as the continent’s capital of wine production. Located in the Andes foothills, it’s home to over 1,200 wineries, many of which are open for touring and tasting.
Australis Cruise around Cape Horn, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego
Explore the planet’s southernmost region on an expedition cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. While there’s no casino or water park onboard, the landscapes, shore excursions, and wildlife are the stars of the show. The voyage connects Torres del Paine National Park and Tierra del Fuego, bringing guests through the Magellan Straits and the Beagle Channel, discovering animal-rich Ainsworth Bay, the vast Pia Glacier, and Glacier Alley with the chance to embark on a short hike to take in a magnificent view of the surrounding glaciers. You’ll see iconic Cape Horn, disembarking to explore if conditions allow, and visit penguin colonies too. Just before arriving at Ushuaia, the “end of the world” anchor in historic Wulaia Bay, described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy during their 1830s voyages. Not only is it picturesque, but it’s an archaeological site with remains from the early settlement of the Yaghan peoples.
Dine at a Closed-Door Restaurant
You might think that restaurants in Buenos Aires are all about pasta, grilled meats, and more grilled meats, but behind closed doors, it’s an entirely different story. The Argentine capital is home to a network of underground eateries that are known as Puerta cerradas or closed-door restaurants. Here a wide range of culinary experiences can be enjoyed that are somewhere between a restaurant and private dinner party, prepared by professional chefs and home cooks alike. These “secret” suppers were started by enterprising chefs who began opening their homes to cash in on the tourist boom that followed the post-2001 economic crisis. The concept has become a bucket-list experience that’s recognized for its creative freedom, experimental cooking, specialty foods, and more intimate dining, enjoyed everywhere from hidden gardens and villas to personal living rooms. Oftentimes you’ll be joined by an eclectic crowd of a few locals and international visitors which makes for interesting conversations too.
Sample Argentinian Steak & Wine
To truly get to the heart of Argentine culture, you need to do it one bite (and sip) at a time. While the food scene is increasingly dynamic, particularly in larger cities like the capital of Buenos Aires, for many, it’s the more carnivorous pleasures that shine. Reputed to have the world’s best beef, Argentineans take their meat seriously, with the annual average beef consumption at about 120 pounds per capita. Satisfying a craving for a juicy steak isn’t hard to do in a land where the people have perfected grilling flavorful sides of beef. There are steakhouses, known as parrillas here, on practically every corner that will serve up a myriad of cuts from flank steak (vacio) to sirloin (bife de chorizo). It’s all typically washed down with a generous glass of the local Malbec. Mendoza is South America’s capital of wine production with over a thousand wineries nestled in the Andes foothills.
Learn Tango in Buenos Aires
Many people equate Argentina with the tango, one of the world’s most well-known types of dance. First used as a term to describe music and dance in Buenos Aires in the late 18th-century, it features an eclectic mix of cultures and customs. Today, visitors will find tango cafes and performances throughout. In fact, it’s not uncommon to encounter impromptu dances in the streets. There’s no better way to get to know the country and its sultry dance than to experience it yourself. San Telmo, one of the most charming and oldest barrios in the capital city, with its trendy cafes, antique shops, and cobbled streets, is also home to a number of classic tango parlors. During the day you’ll see outdoor performances in Plaza Dorrego, the main square, and you can catch shows at Bar Sur, and El Viejo Almacén, among many others. Escuela Mariposita is the top spot for classes.
Breathtaking Walks in the Lake District
In this land of alpine lakes ranging from emerald green to brilliant azure with a backdrop of soaring snow-dusted peaks, the Lake District is prime for walking. Regardless of your experience, there’s a hike that is sure to fit the bill, from easy lakeside trails to steep and challenging slopes that will bring you to what feels like the top of the world. There are hidden beaches to discover with teal and mauve stones alongside the region’s largest lake, Nahuel Huapi, and you can watch for its version of a lake monster, Nahuelito. For a multiple-day hike, Nahuel Huapi extends as far south as Lago Mascardi and provides access to Mount Tronador with some of the region’s best trekking. Circuito Chico in Llao Llao Municipal Park has many interconnected trails, while Cerrito Llao Llao brings a spectacular view of the Chilean Andes, Cerro Capilla, and Brazo Blest requiring just a gentle, one-hour climb.
Watch a Polo Match
There’s no better place to experience the glamor and tradition of polo, the power of the horses, and the skill of the players, than in Argentina. Since 1949, the country has consistently been the World Champion. Buenos Aires is the world’s polo capital, hosting the Argentine Polo Open Championship, the most important international polo event, annually since 1893. It’s held at Campo Argentino de Polo, which is also the America’s Polo Cup venue, a competition where the best team from the U.S. plays the best from Argentina. To watch a match, you’ll have to visit the country in October, November, and December. Campo Argentino de Polo holds many matches and tournaments throughout the season, including some that are free. Plus, on match days there will be restaurants, food trucks, and bars in the arena for an entire day of fun while mingling with the locals.
Glacier Sailing Tours
There are over 300 glaciers on Argentina’s southwestern side, some in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The UNESCO-listed Los Glaciares has 47 major glaciers, two lakes, and ice fields that cover about 40 percent of the surface. Perito Merino, a nearly 19-mile-long glacier, is one of the glaciers that feed the lakes in the park, including the country’s largest Lago Argentina. It’s the most famous glacier in the world, primarily because of its dynamic changes that produce a cyclic phenomenon of forward and backward movement with magnificent icefalls from the front walls. It’s also the only glacier on Earth that’s still growing as the snow here accumulates faster than it melts. The distinct blue color comes from the oxygen trapped in the snow. A tour taken between November and early March provides a true perspective of its massive size and the chance to see it calve, breaking off in massive pieces as it melts.
The waters around Argentine Patagonia are home to four different whales: southern right, blue, humpback, and orca. Southern right whales can be seen around Puerto Pirámides and Puerto Madryn, either from the cliffs, beaches, or at sea. The orcas of the Valdes Peninsula are world famous because of their unique hunting technique and can be found along the peninsula’s coast all year long. To witness beach attacks, you’ll need to be in Punta Delgada or Caleta Valdes between September and November, or Punta Norte in February, March, or April, when sea lion pups are here, with viewing land-based. There are many whale watching tours departing from Puerto Madryn, operating seven- to nine-hour expeditions to the peninsula. The most common sightings are the large southern right whales, with some 1,500 of the animals frequenting the coast. They grow from 45 to 55 feet in length and weigh as much as 69 tons.
Visit a Penguin Colony
Argentina is home to the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world. Located in Puerto Madryn, the Punta Tombo Nature Reserve is home to over a half-million of the adorable tuxedo-wearing birds. Visitors follow an approximately 1.9-mile trail to a beach where the penguins are found. Viewing them all together is a spectacle you won’t soon forget – you’ll be able to stroll right among them, watching them waddle around, play, feed, take care of the babies, and swim. It’s open between mid-September and mid-April which is “penguin season” in Argentina with the reserve closed the rest of the year. If you visit from November to mid-April you might even witness babies being born. On an expedition cruise between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, one can see a Magellanic colony in the Tucker Islets and it’s also possible to view a colony of King penguins recently established in Tierra del Fuego.
Gawk at Iguazu Falls
Made up of 275 waterfalls, Iguazu Falls is one of the most popular attractions in Argentina, located along the border of Brazil, stretching for two miles. The cascades are surrounded by tropical jungle and make Niagara seem as if it’s just a drip. The highest of the falls is Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat) which plunges for 230 feet, one-and-a-half times the height of Niagara Falls. In the rainy season, there can be as much as 450,000 cubic feet of water spilling over the falls every second. The Argentine side is the most popular as visitors can take the Macuco Safari ride which guarantees a drenching and a close-up look at the cascades. The boats venture right into the falls to put you in the heart of the action. If you’d rather not get out on the water, there are also many walkways that wind throughout the area providing fantastic views.
Capture a Photo of the Unique Animals in the Argentinian Jungle
A thriving range of habitats are contained in Argentina, a diverse, vast country that’s not only home to the soaring Andes Mountains and epic stretches of coastline, but a subtropical jungle. One of the top things to do is see some of the Argentine wildlife in their natural habitats and capture Instagram-worthy photos. Iguazu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best-known for Iguazu Falls, but the world’s largest waterfall system is also surrounded by rainforest that hosts an impressive array of wildlife. There are some rare animals here like the endangered giant otter and the giant anteater along with jaguars, howler monkeys, South American tapir, yacare caiman, and jaguarundi. Just 50 miles east of the falls is the Yacutinga Private Nature Reserve, known for its remarkable diversity of bird species with more than 320 different types observed here. That includes toucans and parrots like the red-capped and scaly heady parrots.
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