Buenos Aires and Las Pampas
The "Paris of South America" most definitely feels European. This place is truly magical, an amazing mix of cultures, music, classes and architecture. The city is divided into barrios; wander through these stopping for coffees and empanadas to spot the tango dancers in the streets, the colourful buildings and street artists of San Telmo, people watch the stylish and trendy of Palermo, pay homage to Evita's mausoleum in Recoleta and visit the political heart of the city at Plaza de Mayo.
If you want to escape the buzz of the city head out to San Antonio de Areco and step into gaucho-land. Situated in Las Pampas, the fertile plains of Argentina, it is home to the cowboy farmers known as los gauchos. These 'proper men' dress in a traditional beret-like hat, plus-fours, boots and iconic multi-coloured belts and usually seen with a cigarette in mouth and a cup of mate in hand. Staying in one of the many estancias is an incredible experience and perfect for any beef-lover and horse-rider. Ride through the plains, visit the milking stables, drink mate and feast on beef cooked on the asados.
The Jesuit Block and Estancias of Cordoba
Cordoba, the second largest city in Argentina, is a historical and 'learned' city known for having the first university in the country, Jesuit priests, the Sierra de Cordoba Mountains and the Che Guevara museum.
The Jesuits arrived from Spain in the early 17th century and set up schools, churches and the university in what is now known as the Jesuit Block of the city. They also operated six stunning estancias outside of the city to financially support the running of the schools; these are now UNESCO world heritage sites. One of these estancias, Alta Gracia, which gave its name to the city built around it, is home to the Che Guevara museum, where the revolutionary spent his childhood years; on display are photos and correspondence letters from him to his family.
Cordoba is definitely worth the trip; we recommend staying in an estancia outside the city and taking half-day trips to see the sites and then saddling up and riding through the plains and Sierra Mountains or paragliding in La Cumbre.
Salta and the drive to seven coloured mountain
This colonial city has had a revival in recent years, new life has been breathed into it and now the city itself is worthy of a visit, though can be quite touristy. It is a very easy and enjoyable city to walk around by day and night and is famous for its traditional folk music played in clubs known as penas. If you are feeling energetic climb, (if not catch the teleferico), up to the San Bernado Hill to San Martin park to get a view over the city and surrounding hills.
As much as we are fans of revitalised Salta, it's the surrounding areas which remain the attraction for us. If you are feeling adventurous hire a car and drive through the Valley of the Shells to Cafayate, stopping to jump out of the car and investigate and pose with the wind-sculpted rocks such as the toad, castle and the amphitheatre, and taste the region's unique goat cheese. Overnight in Cafayate a quiet hippie town, known for making honey from grapes and rent a bike and ride out of town into the vineyards. Next day drive on to Humahuaca and its seven-coloured mountain, this may be one of my all-time favourite, though difficult, drives. The road takes you through different seasons and eco-systems; you set off in spring time Cafayate and soon drive through snow and ice before climbing into the tropical Cloud Forest of the Yungas, and then out to the cool autumn-like San Lorenzo gorge and the seven-coloured mountain of Humahaca. This is a must!
Wining in Mendoza
This is the Argentinian wine capital. The city of Mendoza is full of tasting rooms and twin pairing restaurants sampling the wines from the surrounding vineyards. Mendoza is home to the Malbec grape, which makes for a robust, dark, fruity and smokey red.
This is the place to rest your tired feet and unpack the suitcase for a few days: take a trip to the spa and enjoy visiting the vineyards, eating your fill of grilled meats, ride horses till your heart's content, bike through the General San Martin park and even paraglide over the Arco Peak if you are feeling brave.
Bariloches and the lakes
If it's adventure you want then this Swiss Alpine-like town of San Carlos de Bariloche, sitting on the shore of the Nahuel Huapi national park lake is the place to have it, that and eating chocolate! The jaw-droppingly picturesque surrounding snow-topped mountains and lakes offer a long list of extreme sports from hiking, white-water rafting, kayaking to skiing, paragliding, boating.
Trek up to the Refugio Frey, the easiest of the treks and then try the Frey por el Filo if you are feeling strong for breath taking (literally!) views. You will then find yourself at the bottom of the Catedral ski slope, 300m+ of steep couloirs, this is probably why you would come to Bariloche in the first place. Also try the Tres Marias and El Monge slopes.
You can also tour the 3,776 meter high Lanin volcano, or take a day trip to Villa La Angostura, a small town in the on Chilean border, and enjoy walking through the forest in Los Arrayanes national park.
Whatever activity you do, end your days with a trip to the local chocolate shops and cafés and treat yourself to patisseries, ice creams and of course, chocolate!
For further information about this great country please see www.southamericaodyssey.com