Buenos Aires and Patagonia, in Argentina are a sensory feast!
It’s difficult not to fall in love with Argentina! Es uno de los lugares más hermosos en los que he estado (It’s one of the most beautiful places that I have been to)!
Its tasteful and savoury cuisine, unbelievable natural resources, awe-inspiring heritage sites, friendly locals who are commonly known as porteños, the city’s stunning architecture, their rich culture, fascinating lifestyle and relaxing atmosphere in general are more than enough reasons to reckon traveling half way across the globe as truly worthwhile!
Buenos Aires : Paris of South America?
They say if you love Paris, you’ll adore Buenos Aires, as the two cosmopolitan cities share some similarities as per interiors and architecture, as well as the immense love for food, fashion, wine, coffee, croissants and for being passionate about a lot of things. Most tourists and travelers consider Argentina’s capital as La Paris del Sur (or Paris of the South).
There’s a part of me being Filipino that can easily relate with several things in Buenos Aires. Probably because I was born and raised in a country, the Philippines, that was also colonised by Spain like Argentina. History tells that Spanish colonized Argentina in 16th century and a lot of European immigrants followed, including Italians who set foot in Buenos Aires, where each brought a piece of their culture. Buenos Aires therefore, has been strongly influenced by Europeans and it has evolved over the years into what it is now. Sophisticated yet still traditional. Spanish-speaking however, truly South Americans.
El Calafate and El Chalten in Southern Patagonia.
Visiting Southern Patagonia which is located 3 and half hour flight away from Buenos Aires, provided me once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and experience Los Glaciares National Park which includes The Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate and Mount Fitz Roy in El Chalten. Those moments were absolutely unforgettable and incredibly surreal!
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH ARGENTINA?
In random order, here’s a long list of reasons supported by more than a hundred of photographs that I personally took from Buenos Aires and Patagonia, that explains why I am extremely thankful I experienced traveling to Argentina!
1. Skyline, domes and rooftops in Buenos Aires
The view of Plaza Congreso and Argentine National Congress from Palacio Barolo.
Domes and rooftops also viewed from Palacio Barolo.
Fantastic Buenos Aires skyline from Mirador of Galeria Guemes.
5. Perito Moreno Glacier Park
“The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide, with an average height of 74 m (240 ft) above the surface of the water of Argentino Lake, in Argentina. It has a total ice depth of 170 metres (558 ft).” ~sourced from wiki.
While other glaciers in the world can be navigated by boat, Perito Moreno Glacier located in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is only about 80km, or less than 2 hours away from the town of El Calafate, Province of Santa Cruz, Southern Patagonia, that makes it easily accessible by tourist buses that ply from El Calafate hotels to the park itself (return bus/van tickets cost ARS 900 or USD 52, and entrance fee to the park per adult is ARS 500 or USD 30). Ferry boat trips to go near the glacier cost another ARS 500 (or USD 30) and trekking tours on the glacier (about USD 100++) are also available for those interested, each trek is capped by drinking whiskey with glacier ice.
***More details and photos on a separate article soon.
6. El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore
El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Avenida Santa Fe, Downtown Buenos Aires is one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world that I have been to. What used to be an ornate theatre with over a thousand seating capacity back in the early 20th century, where tango shows and other performances were held, was converted into a bibliophiles’ paradise! The former stage was transformed into an inviting cafe, retaining its crimson theatre curtains with the grandeur of the balcony seats. Best of all, admission is free!
7. Pack of dogs and dog walkers
Porteños love dogs and for those who are busy working, some even hire professional dog walkers for their beloved pets. Needless to say, Buenos Aires is a pet-friendly city, they even have laws and campaigns regarding welcoming of dogs in some restaurants, public parks, shops, and even some taxi cabs.
10. Mausoleum of General San Martin inside Catedral Metropolitana
The remains of General José de San Martín were brought from France to Buenos Aires in 1880, and placed in a mausoleum located inside the Metropolitan Cathedral, at its right side. The black sarcophagus is guarded by three life-size female statues that personifies Peru, Chile and Argentina, the three countries freed by the General, where he is honoured and regarded as national hero, being one of the liberators of Spanish South America.
12. Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is one of the newest “barrio” in Buenos Aires that’s famous for tourists and locals particularly during lunch, as the area is lined by upscale steakhouses and sleek skyscrapers. A suspension bridge called, El Puente de La Mujer, or Woman’s Bridge draws local and foreign tourists alike. A pedestrian-only bridge over Rio de la Plata, it was built as a sophisticated homage to women in the elite district of Puerto Madero, where streets are named after significant Argentine women. As per the Spanish architect, the Woman’s bridge also depicts the synthesis of a couple dancing tango.
I heard that two empanadas are a snack, and three empanadas are a meal already. Savoury pastries that are stuffed with fillings of either minced meat, ham or cheese, empanadas in Buenos Aires are one of the must try food when visiting the Argentine city! Fillings may be carne (ground beef), carne picante (spicy ground beef that’s not really spicy, but has some cumin), carne cortada con cuchillo (chopped steak), ham & cheese, cheese & onion, caprese (tomato, cheese, and basil). Two pieces of empanadas plus soda cost me only ARS 75 or USD 4.30. It’s cheap yet so tasty!
14. Casa Rosada
Where that song was sung. La Casa Rosada or the Pink House. The Presidential Palace in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, home to the balcony where Evita addressed her supporters. It became iconic as the setting for “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, the signature song of the musical, Evita.
15. Mirador Galeria Guemes
The dome of a famous commercial gallery in Florida Street, Buenos Aires. Galeria Guemes has a popular observation deck at its 14th floor called, Mirador Galeria Guemes (opens Monday-Friday, until 5PM with entrance fee of ARS 50 or USD 3).
16. Churros and chocolate in Cafe Tortorni
For only ARS 125 (or USD 7.20), I sampled one of Argentina’s favourites along Avenida de Mayo – churros and hot chocolate from the iconic Cafe Tortorni! Although I had to queue at the guarded entrance for almost half an hour, everything’s worth it when I was ushered to my seat and sampled those churros and hot chocolate. It’s worth the hype in my opinion – value for money because they also serve extra milk and chocolate with small glass of water all for free, best complemented with Parisian ambiance and a taste and feel of what’s its like in the 19th century as it’s been there since 1858. Cafe Tortoni is must visit when in Buenos Aires.
17. Teatro Colon
Ranked by National Geographic as the 3rd best Opera House in the world, Teatro Colon continues to draw tourists with its performances and grandeur. Tickets for guided tours sell for ARS 300 (USD 17/pax) however was sold out during the day of my visit, so I was content photographing it from Plaza Lavalle.
18. Transportation system
Although its subte or subway metro isn’t the best in the world, I can sincerely say I am thankful for its efficiency. Like in Dubai, its subte card which I purchased for ARS 25 (USD 1.50) provided access to transportation to both subway metro and buses in Buenos Aires. It unified the transportation system for local and foreign passengers. Two thumbs up for that! It saves efforts in preparing exact amount or coins particularly during rush hours. There are also reliable taxi cab system and transportation companies like Tienda Leon that incorporates services of their private bus and taxi cabs to and from the airports in Buenos Aires.
19. Mercado de San Telmo
They say if you want to know a new city, the best introduction is always from its public market. And Mercado de San Telmo in San Telmo, Buenos Aires has been successful in indirectly introducing what San Telmo in Buenos Aires is all about now and during its glorious past years. A quintessential and charming public market established in the 19th century, Mercado de San Telmo houses stalls that sell local food, coffee, fresh produce, antiques, souvenir items, postcards, old maps, records, clothes both new and pre-loved, toys, and many more fascinating thing, making for an eclectic mix of past and present.
20. Friendliness and hospitality of porteños
Gabriel & Freddy are only 2 of the friendly local porteños I’ve met. They own and serve dining customers in their hole-in-the-wall Nuestra Parilla located in Mercado de San Telmo. Argentines are basically friendly, warm and hospitable. Although some of them could not speak fluent English, they tried their best to communicate with me and reply to my queries.
21. Choripan, and more Argentinian meat
It would be a huge regret on my part if I have missed to taste the arguably best Choripan in Buenos Aires. Thanks to Google Map and Maps.Me apps on my phone, I was able to locate Nuestra Parilla in Mercado de San Telmo. The hole-in-wall eatery run by Gabriel and Freddy is non-pretentious and modest that serves best tasting chorizo sandwich I’ve tasted thus far! For only ARS 45 (or USD 2.50) I was able to sink my teeth in that perfectly seasoned and grilled chori-sausage that was butterflied and placed in between good tasting pan-bread too. The chorizo was made better by smothering generous amount of chimichurri rojo y verde which is a green sauce that’s a mixture of parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar, plus the red sauce made up of red pepper flakes and oil for that mouthwatering, lip-smacking kick.
Other than the famous choripan which became my personal favourite, Nuestra Parilla also serves grilled Morcilla or blood sausage (the black ones on photo above) which I skipped as my tongue’s not that adventurous as my feet; they also have Bondiola/vacio or flank steak (sandwich costs ARS 90 or USD 5.20, and a slice or portion costs ARS 110 or USD 6.40), and Milanesa a la Napolitana or meat topped with cheese, tomato which I thought initially was a slice of pizza but instead of baked dough, it has meat as its base. Nuestra Parilla also serves soda and wines for ARS 35 (or USD 2) per glass. I sampled a plate of chori, bondiola/vacio and milanesa plus a glass of Coke which cost me ARS 300 or USD 17- the early afternoon heavy meal lasted me until almost midnight, I just ate my takeaway choripan as midnight snack.
22. Obelisco de Buenos Aires
Every city in the world has its national monument and Buenos Aires is not an exception. Obelisco de Buenos Aires stands proud in Plaza de la República, located in the intersection of avenues Corrientes and nueve de Julio, it was erected to celebrate and commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of the city.
Undoubtedly, Tango in Argentina is more than a passionate and soulful dance on a melancholic and dramatic song, it’s actually a way of life or at least a part of the lifestyle of porteños. There are a lot of Tango shows with dinner and Tango classes in most parts of the city; I chose to witness free Tango performed for free in al fresco papilla restaurants in La Boca, Buenos Aires.
Pizza, like empanadas, papilla or BBQ, choripan and burgers are a big hit in Buenos Aires. But to be honest, nothing compares to authentic pizzas particularly Margherita that I’ve tasted in Naples, Italy.
25. Cabildo de Buenos Aires
The white imposing building across Plaza de Mayo is the Buenos Aires Cabildo or Ayuntamiento during the colonial times however, today it serves as one of the city’s museums.
26. Patagonian beef
The entire country of Argentina prides itself as prime meat producers in the world, so while I was there, I took advantage of sampling best-tasting yet affordable beef dishes they have. In my hotel in Patagonia, La Cantera Boutique Hotel, I wolfed down Bife chorizo and Ossobuco on separate dinners, with glass of local white wine (which was a personal preference instead of red). Perfecto!
27. Fascinating tree-lined streets and wide avenues
Lush green and tall trees, coffee and flower shops, magazine stands, restaurants subte stations and convenience stores line the major streets and alleys of Buenos Aires. The city has remarkable wide avenues too.
There’s no shortage of monuments in Argentina! There’s one in almost every corner or major parks. On the first photo above is the monument in Plaza San Martin, to honour the General who freed Argentina, Chile and Peru to obtain their independence. The second photo is the monument of Mariano Moreno, who lived as a lawyer, journalist and politician and also played a relevant role in the May Revolution that led to the declaration of independence of Argentina from Spain. While the third and the last photo I took from Monserrat district, the monument dedicated to one of the Argentine presidents, military high official and statesman, Lieutenant General Julio Argentino Roca.
29. Palermo Hollywood
Palermo Hollywood is barrio in northeast Buenos Aires where new meets old. It has lots of home-grown coffee shops, clubs and bars, film and TV studios, affordable and upscale restaurants notably frequented by celebrities. It is also where I spent my last 4 days and 3 nights specifically in Home Hotel Buenos Aires, a very warm, chic and friendly hotel in Honduras Street, Palermo Hollywood. The area is said to be an unofficial gastronomic hub in Buenos Aires.
Love her or hate her, Evita or María Eva Duarte de Perón left an indelible mark in the history of Argentina being an actress, a wife and the First Lady to President Juan Perón. A visit to Familia Duarte mausoleum inside the Recoleta Cemetery where her remains was laid to rest is one of the favourites must-do for tourists when in Buenos Aires.
31. Cementerio de la Recoleta
Never in the world have I included a cemetery in my itinerary until I visited Buenos Aires. La Recoleta Cemetery is one of Buenos Aires’ most visited places, it has become a favourite of tourists and travelers for it houses most famous Argentines including Evita Peron. The tombs and mausoleums inside Cementerio de la Recoleta are lavishly and ornately built, reflecting the lives of those who were buried there, enough to draw attraction to visitors who enter with free admission.
32. San Telmo
I stayed in San Telmo on my first 2 nights in Buenos Aires. I was welcomed in Patios de San Telmo Hotel. This part of Buenos Aires has uniquely charming character, owing to a great fusion of traditional and contemporary. The quaint alleys and streets that lead you to stroll to downtown Buenos Aires are lined by old bookshops, mini-groceries, bars and restaurants, the tourist-magnet -Mercado de San Telmo, hole-in-the-wall-eateries, street arts and murals, coffee shops and a lot more!
33. Palacio del Congreso Nacional Argentino
While other end of Avenida de Mayo is where Casa Rosada is, the Palace of the Argentine National Congress is located at its western end. Other than having imposing architecture fit for a government building, it’s interesting to note that beside the Congress lies the marker for Kilometre Zero, where all National Highways in Argentina originates. In front of Congressional building is a massive Plaza Congreso, one of the favourite public parts of local and foreign tourists.
34. Expansive public parks and plazas
Buenos Aires is also rich in expansive plazas and public parks where most porteños and foreign tourist meet up, gather, relax and bask in the sun. I took the photos above from Plaza de Mayo, Plaza Lavalle, and the last 2 pictures were from Plaza San Martin.
35. Plaza de Mayo
Plaza de Mayo deserves a separate entry here as it has been a hub for to express political issues in Argentina since the scene of the 25 May 1810 revolution that led to independence. The plaza is surrounded by iconic landmarks in Buenos Aires – the Cabildo, Catedral, Casa Rosada, Banco de la Nacion Argentina, Hacienda Palace, Diagonal Sur and Norte, Buenos Aires City Hall and Avenida de Mayo.
36. Street Murals
Unlike in other countries where graffiti and murals are considered as vandalism, it’s colourful, larger than life socio-poltical expression in Buenos Aires. In fact, they form part of Argentine urban art. Some tours are conducted by NGOs like Graffitimundo to raise awareness regarding this street murals in the city, too bad I failed to join as I read they’re conducted every Saturday.
37. Freedom of Expression
“Argentine law guarantees freedom of expression and Congress decriminalized libel and slander in 2009. Argentina’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Academic freedom is a cherished Argentine tradition and is largely observed in practice. Private discussion is vibrant and unrestricted.” ~sourced from www.freedomhouse.org
38. Coffee shops and bars
Coffee culture has reached Buenos Aires since God knows when. There’s more commercialised Starbucks that are usually built in century old-looking buildings, then there’s a string of branches of the Argentine coffee shop, Havanna, and a lot more. Nocturnals, insomniacs and party-goers in Buenos Aires also have lives after dusk as bars of various varieties cater to their hearts’ delight.
39. Palacio Barolo
Dominating the skyline of Avenida de Mayo, Palacio Barolo is one of Buenos Aires’ landmarks and a skyscraper with the height of 100 meters. It was considered the tallest during the time it was built. It has 18 floors with a lighthouse at its summit, illuminating the city every 8PM, with light that shines upon Rio de la Plata and reaches its twin building in Montevideo, Uruguay, that’s also built by the same Italian architect, Mario Palanti – the Palavio Salvo. Palacio Barolo was built out of inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy with floors representing Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
Currently, the mansion of Italian immigrant, Luis Barolo, houses offices for travel agencies, law firms and others. Palacio Barolo offers guided tours in various languages, allowing tourists to marvel in awe with its structure and the Buenos Aires skyline.
40. El Calafate, Patagonoia
With airport and bus stations, El Calafate in Santa Cruz, Argentina serves as the gateway to Patagonia! I took 3 hours and 25 minute-flight via LAN airlines from Buenos Aires (I purchased the return tickets on sale at AED 535 or USD 145 only instead of USD 490 regular price). I stayed at La Cantera Boutique Hotel during my 4 days and 3 nights in El Calafate.
41. Caminito, Barrio La Boca, Buenos Aires
Caminito in Barrio La Boca is an open air museum! Accessible by tourists through taxi cabs or Bus 29 from Avenida de Mayo, it’s a traditonal (representative) village where Italian immigrants from Genoa built their homes from excess paints and whatnot from their shipyard, hence the colorful alleys.
“The place acquired cultural significance because it inspired the music for the famous tango “Caminito” (1926), composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto.”~ sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caminito
42. Argentinian flag
“The blue and white colors were chosen by Manuel Belgrano, the leader of the Argentinian revolution against Spain, and represent the blue sky parting to reveal white clouds, as is said to have happened when the Liberation demonstration began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 25, 1810.” sourced from www.enchantedlearning.com
One of my friends on Instagram commented that the blue from the flag looks like Perito Moreno glacier!
43. El Chalten
From El Calafate where my hotel was, I reached the town of El Chalten in Patagonia through the prearranged bus pick up also through La Cantera Boutique Hotel. I paid ARS 1000 for my bus tickets (or USD 58) for the transportation from El Calafate to El Chalten and return. The trip took 3 hours one way, with photo-op stops and a bladder-and-coffee-break at La Leona Hotel (excluded on the bus ticket price).
The town of El Chalten is the gateway for hikers and campers to visit and appreciate Mount Fitz Roy.
44. Mount Fitz Roy
The road trip to El Chalten from El Calafate teased us, bus passengers of incredible views of snowcapped mountain range of Southern Patagonia. The first glimpse to Mount Fitz Roy during our photo-op stops from the side of the road made us all excited to reach El Chalten, and to hike to its viewing points. The weather was sunny yet cold at below 5 degrees that day. Glad I brought my 230mm lens and was able to capture a clearer view of Mount Fitz Roy despite I had no 8 hours for one way (16 hours return) at least to burn hiking to Laguna de los tres, one of the best viewing points to appreciate what remains to be among the most technically challenging mountains for mountaineers on Earth.
Following our arrival at the Tourists’ Information Center at El Chalten where mandatory briefing conducted in both Spanish and English was held, to advise all visitors about the hiking path, I decided to just hike up to the first viewing area up in the mountain. At Miradores los Condores, I was able to breathe crisp, fresh air, eat my packed lunch of chicken sandwich, and savour every moment when I was there. The entire experience was like no other.
***Like details about Perito Moreno Glacier Park, I shall write a separate article or photoessay about my day in El Chalten.
Here’s a quick summary of my 9-day-trip :
- September 15, 2017 : Flight from Dubai to Buenos Aires via Emirates for 20 hours with 1 hour and 30 minutes layover at Rio de Janeiro, arrival at Ezeiza International Airport.
- September 15, 2017 : Check in at Patios de San Telmo Hotel.
- September 16, 2017 : Strolled from San Telmo to Plaza de Mayo via Peru Street.
- September 16, 2017 : Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, Cabildo, Catedral Metropolitana, Avenida de Mayo, Cafe Tortoni, Congresso.
- September 17, 2017 : Flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate via LAN Airlines from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery International Airport for 3 hours and 25 minutes. Arrived at El Calafate at 09:50AM.
- September 17, 2017 : Check in at La Cantera Boutique Hotel in El Calafate. Went to grocery nearby.
- September 18, 2017 : Whole day at Perito Moreno Glacier Park.
- September 19, 2017 : Whole day at El Chalten, to view Mount Fitz Roy.
- September 20, 2017 : Flight from El Calafate to Buenos Aires
- September 20, 2017 : Check in at Home Hotel Buenos Aires in Palermo Hollywood.
- September 20, 2017 : Subte to Catedral, then went to Obelisco.
- September 21, 2017 : Subte to Catedral, then bus to La Boca.
- September 22, 2017 : Palacio Barolo tours.
- September 23, 2017 : Flight from EZE Airport to Dubai.
- September 24, 2017 : On board Emirates.
- September 25, 2017 : Arrived in my flat at 1AM.
My trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia would not be possible with the generosity of the following sponsors :
- Patios de San Telmo Hotel
- La Cantera Boutique Hotel
- Home Hotel Buenos Aires
- Palacio Barolo Tours
My travel buddy, @gelothebear was happy to travel to Argentina!
*****While I was a sponsored guests at the 3 hotels mentioned and in Palacio Barolo Tours, all words and photographs were never influenced, and all opinions are my own.
Follow my Instagram at @iamdocgelo.
Have you been to Buenos Aires and in Patagonia? How was your experience?