02/12/2013 06:52 GMT | Updated 30/01/2014 05:59 GMT

The Petra Trail - Highlights of Argentina


Smug travellers will regale you with tales of how they got off the beaten track and how they avoided the major sites and discovered a part of a city or country other tourists never got to see. I on the other hand hardly think its worth flying to the other side of the world and not seeing the major attractions, they are after all "must sees and must dos" for a reason. It would be sad to go to Argentina and not see the Iguazu Falls, legendary Patagonia or a tango show and therefore The Petra Trail merrily set out to experience all 3.


Forget Disneyland, The Iguazu Falls could possibly be described as the happiest place on earth. Everyone you encounter has an ear to ear grin, thats the power, the majesty and the beauty of the falls for you and that includes those soaked to the skin after the requisite boat ride to get as near to the falls as possible. I'd done the Niagara boat trip over 40 years ago, dressed in long rain coat, swamping my little 7 year old self. At Iguazu, there's no point even thinking about trying to stay dry, as you approach the falls the equivalent of literally a full bucket of water is tipped straight over you time and time again as you and your fellow passengers shriek hysterically with laughter, know-one seems to mind. Its better and decidedly wetter than any theme park ride I've ever done. The high speed boat trip is organised by IGUAZU JUNGLE who also organise a more leisurely paddle down the Upper Iguazu River from the Devil's Throat Falls. I'd recommend you do both, along with seeing the falls from both the Argentinian side, where you get up close and personal with the falls, standing on platforms underneath or above them and the Brazilian side where you're rewarded with a more overall, panoramic view.


Tips for independent travellers, get there early, on the first bus out of Port Iguazu if possible and start with the lower walking circuit, before taking the Iguazu Jungle boat trip and then a shorter boat ride over to Isla San Martin for yet more awesome views of the falls. Next up the Upper walking circuit and at the end of the day take the train to the park's high point the Garanta del Diablo, followed by a leisurely boat ride back in the evening sun. This way, you can't be guaranteed to have the park to yourself but you will avoid some of the hundreds of tour groups.


I'm not a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, I'll admit I've never watched it (or The X Factor or Masterchef for that matter) but I do love a show and it would be a crime to visit Argentina and not see a Tango Show. There are Tango displays in countless restaurants and on Sunday's in St Telmo's Plaza Dorrego but for the real Rolls Royce of Tango Shows head for TANGO PORTENO. It's not cheap, the equivalent of a West End theatre ticket, but the show is of West End quality with a full orchestra and a 3 course meal as well. The evening starts with a Tango lesson from a couple of professional dancers from the show itself. The dancers explain extremely patiently the 8 basic steps and by the end of the hour, we'd grasped these, although perhaps not as passionately as the stars of the show. It really makes you wonder at the speed and precision of the dancers, when you've had a go yourself. Tango Porteno recreates the golden age of the 40s with set and costumes to match and it's all set in a very centrally located magnificent art deco theatre. Not to be missed.


Buenos Aires various hubs, St Telmo, Centro, Palmero La Boca are easily walkable and can be discovered independently but one tour I'd suggest would be to TIGRE an hour north of Buenos Aires and a popular weekend destination. The town itself is nothing to write home about, set on the water with countless rowing clubs, you're instantly reminded of Henley or Windsor. It's the boat journey there through the delta from Buenos Aires that's the real appeal. Roads are replaced by waterways, it's like the Norfolk Broads but with palm trees and considerably more sunshine. Wonder at the houses that line the banks in all manor of architectural styles and enjoy the sub-tropical lush scenery. All in all it's a relaxing way of escaping the big city vibe for the day.


I've clocked up now many a bus mile on Argentina's long distance bus routes. 20 hours might seem a long journey, but an afternoon watching the sun setting over the endless pampas, then a good night's sleep (the seats recline to beds) and you wake up in what feels like a totally new country. I'd headed south to BARILOCHE in Argentina's lake district and in seat 3 at the front of the top level of the bus I was rewarded with panoramic views of endless blue lakes surrounded by a glorious splash of yellow. It's spring time and the retama (Scottish broom) blossom is out in force. For a gentle introduction to the region, an afternoon's kayaking on Lago Guitierez was in order. It's unbelievably scenic with crystal clear water, so clean in fact that other paddlers I spotted had attached a mug to their kayak, not as I thought initially for baling out but instead to dip into the water for a refreshing drink. The whole area is very alpine, a mini Switzerland complete with cable cars and chair lifts, chocolate shops and St Bernard dogs. A charming place to re-charge ones batteries or to walk or cycle of all that chocolate before heading further south to the more windswept and wilder parts of Patagonia.