Pages

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Puerto Iguazu

Puerto Iguazu is probably the number one tourist destination in Argentina because of the incredible Iguazu waterfalls nearby. The Iguazu Falls are not the biggest or highest in the world but they are some of the most spectacular. In South America only the Angel Falls in Venezuela can rival the Iguazu Falls. And the added reason why they are so popular: they are accessible from Buenos Aires by many luxury over-night buses.

The Iguazu Falls are in a National Park in the North East of Argentina on the border with Brazil. Indeed you can cross over to Brazil to see the Falls - in Brazil they are called Foz do Iguacu. Beware many nationalities need to pay for a Brazilian visa which is not cheap. Nearby also is the border with the lesser visited South American country, Paraguay. The entry point for Paraguay is Ciudad del Este. The city of Ciudad del Este is nothing but a duty free shop but nearby is the Itaipu Dam (the second biggest in the world).

Iguazu Falls

The Iguazu Falls cost $16 for foreigners to enter and a lot less for Argentine nationals. There are a number of walk ways and jungle paths to explore. The walk ways take you very close to several water falls. The most spectacular viewing point is called the Garganta del Diablo - the Throat of the Devil. For some reason Argentines see the devil everywhere in nature. There are also a number of boat journeys you can take including one very wet one that goes very close to the main falls. This boat journey is exhilerating but over-priced for the few minutes it takes.

As you walk around the park there are a number of birds and mammals you can stop if you look carefully enough. My wife and I saw a monkey, a coati begging food in the restaurant and several big colorful butterflies.

Coati

It takes all day to do Iguazu National Park properly. It is in the jungle and very hot so bring sun block, water and insect repellent. There are buses leaving every hour from Puerto Iguazu bus terminal to Iguazu National Park that cost about $1.50.

Accommodation in Puerto Iguazu is based in two areas. The first is near the bus terminal in the town center and the other is on the road to Iguazu Falls. Generally the later accommodation has more space and bigger pools but staying on the road to The Falls means you have little option but to spend all your money in the hotel or resort.  Hostel Puerto Iguazu is in this area. It charges $10.55 for a dorm bed (not great value). 

In the center of Puerto Iguazu there are numerous hostels and hotels to choose from. Many have guest use kitchens, swimming pools, organized tours, ticket booking desks.  Several of the hostels are most definitely 'party hostels' which means loud music and alcohol fuelled noise until the wee hours every night. Whatever hostel you choose it is not likely to be cheap by Argentine standards. It is very easy to just turn up and get a place to stay. If you are the sort of person who books in advance then scrutinize the reviews carefully. Many places have glowing reviews in poor English and bad reviews in good English!

Better value are the two camp sites in Puerto Iguazu: one is Costa Ramon Camping (they will pick you up from the tourist information in town) and the other is Camping El Pindo.

There are a number of expensive bars and restaurants in the town center and one very handy supermarket that has a deli counter with freshly made food. You can eat in the supermarket at the back. If it wasn't for the water falls I would never go to Puerto Iguazu as it as classic example  of how tourism ruins traditional culture and values.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Humahuaca


Humahuaca is a small town in the north of Argentina not far from the Bolivian border. The town has a strong indigenous feel to it and the population is mostly Quechua speaking. The town is surrounded by amazing Andean scenery. You don’t have to walk for very long to be literally in the middle-of-nowhere, amongst the surreal moonscapes of high altitude rock faces.

It only takes an hour or so to take in the sights of the town. In the town center there is a town hall with a clock tower. At noon every day a life size figure of Saint Francisco Solano emerges from the clock tower and makes the sign of the cross. On the main plaza there is an impressive monument to Argentine Independence and opposite is the beautiful Iglesia de la Candelaria.

The real reason to visit Humahuaca and the reason why Humahuaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the surrounding area and villages. Nearby is the beautiful village of Purmamarca which has a rock face with stratas of seven different colors. Also nearby is the remote village of Iruya that seems untouched by time. And there are the pre-Colombian ruins of Coctaca to visit.

Humahuaca is a good place to start horse trekking tours of the area. Or if you prefer to walk then it is easy to find a company offering guided treks of the area.

Cheap accommodation is limited in Humahuaca. The population seems keen to cash in on the small trickle of tourists the town attracts. One of the cheaper and better places to stay is Hostal Humahuaca. The hostel has dorms and private accommodation. The dorm beds are $9.50 per night. This price includes breakfast. The Hostal Humahuaca’s website claims that they have a guest use kitchen. When I visited that wasn’t the case.

Hostal Humahuaca is not affiliated to any booking engine. To contact the hostel directly you can visit their website: www.humahuaca.com.ar.

For more information on Humahuaca click the link

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tilcara

Tilcara is a beautiful small cobbled street town in the Argentine Andes near the border with Bolivia. It is a picturesque and tranquil spot to stay for a few days. The main historical point of interest in Tilcara is the impressive ancient ruins called El Pucara. It is a fort build on a hill side for defensive reasons. The lower parts of the walls have been carefully restored to give you a good idea of the advanced architecture used by the indigenous people of the region. The entrance fee is very reasonable and the ticket includes entry to the neighbouring botanical gardens and the archaeological museum in town.

Also of interest is the Museo Jose Antonio Terry which features paintings by the Buenos Aires-born eponymous painter. Also featured are pieces by local artists.

In August, Tilcara holds a big Pachamama Festival where people where animal masks and party all night and all day. Tilcara like Amaicha del Valle and other northern towns in Argentina has a strong indigenous presence and seems more allied with Bolivian culture than Buenos Aires culture. In the evening around the central plaza you can see live musica folklorica featuring pan pipes, guitars and other local instruments.

Tilcara is a friendly and laid back place that is generally safe to walk around at night.

The surrounding countryside is breathtaking. There are a number of walks you can do, including the one hour hike to Garganta del Diablo, which is a narrow gorge with a waterfall.

Accommodation in Tilcara is plentiful. It ranges from expensive hotels to basic hostels to camping. Recommended is La Albahaca Hostel run by a local family. There are dorms and private rooms with and without en suite bathrooms on offer. The family is very friendly and lets you use their kitchen. There’s a small bar and a roof top terrace to look at the piercing bright stars at night.

The bus station is just a short walk from the central plaza and La Albahaca Hostel. El Pucara is signposted. The path for El Pucara starts up the hill just past La Albahaca Hostel.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Salta

Salta is one of the biggest cities in the north of Argentina. It is a pleasant city with a number of interesting things to see and do. It is also a good base from which to pursue adventure activities.

Salta has a population of nearly 500,000 people. It is a spread out city with a big hill near the centre called Cerro San Bernardo. You can catch a teleferico (cable car) to the top or spend 30 odd minutes following the winding path up to Parque San Martin. On a clear day the views are great.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Cafayate

Cafayate is a small town with a population of about 12 thousand people that is in the mountains at an altitude of 1600m. The town is noteworthy for two things in particular. The first is its proximity to the strange rock formations of the Quebrada de Cafayate and the other is its vineyards. The altitude, soil and micro-climate make the area around Cafayate perfect for wine cultivation.

Cafayate feels like a small town. It is easy to walk everywhere. Around the main plaza are a series of restaurants and tourist souvenir shops. On the outskirts of town and in the nearby countryside are a number of Bodegas, many of which are open to the public. It has become a popular tourist activity to hire a mountain bike and head off for the day to visit some wineries and sample the local vintages. Care of course should be taken not to get too drunk if you are in charge of a bicycle.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Amaicha del Valle

Amaicha del Valle is a beautiful town 55 kms from Tafi del Valle. It is a sleepy small place with a micro climate that has 360 sunny days a year.

The town is high up in the Sierra de Aconquija and is the traditional home to the Calchaqui Diaguita Indigenous community. It is said that inhabitants of Amaicha have the purest indigenous blood in all of Argentina.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tafi del Valle

Tafi del Valle is delightful small town in the mountains in the north of Argentina. Tafi del Valle is in the Sierra da Aconquija mountain range and is at an altitude of 1,976 m above sea level. It is about 100 km from Tucuman.

The great thing about Tafi is the scenery. The area is in a huge valley plain with a big lake and towering mountains. There are many treks to do. Within a few minutes walking you are out of town and in pristine countryside. Many Argentines come here during the hot summer months to escape the heat and crowds of the city. When you have visited Tafi it is easy to understand why – it is a tranquil area perfect for fishing, horse back riding, trekking, mountain biking, camping or just plain lazing around and having a barbecue or picnic.


Thursday, 8 April 2010

San Miguel de Tucuman

San Miguel de Tucuman or as it is normally referred to, 'Tucuman' is the eponymous capital of Tucuman Province and the largest city in northern Argentina.

Tucuman is not a particularly exciting city to look at but, nevertheless, Tucuman is of extreme importance to Argentine culture.

There are a few beautiful colonial buildings to visit, the most famous of which is the City Hall (Casa de Gobierno) which is lit up at night. Other places of interest include the Museo Folklorico Manuel Belgrano which displays artifacts from Indigenous cultures in the region, Casa del Obispo Colombres, an 18th Century House with agricultural exhibits, Le Mercad Church, Independence House (where independence from Spain was first declared) and Timoteo Navarro Museum on 9 de Julio.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Cordoba

Cordoba is a city of about one million inhabitants which was named ‘Cultural Capital of The Americas' in 2006. Not only is there a great many places of cultural interest to visit in Cordoba but also Cordoba has a great nightlife (thanks to a massive university student population) and nearby there are many adventure activity possibilities.

The center of Cordoba is quite compact. It is a short walk from the bus terminal to the city center and most of the accommodation options. The central plaza is San Martin Plaza. Near the central plaza there are several beautiful churches to visit including the Iglesia Catedral and the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus. The Iglesia de Santa Teresa has a museum of religious art. Very close to Cordoba Backpackers is the Museo Provincial de Belles Artes Emilio Caraffa which has free admission to a stunning collection of paintings. On Rosario de Sante Fe Street is the Museo Historico Provincial Marques de Sobremonte. It was built in 1752 and is one of the oldest buildings in Cordoba.


Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Rosario

Rosario in Santa Fe Province is Argentina's third largest city. It was named after the Virgin of the Rosary. Rosario is next to the Rio Parana river and has lots of great river beaches. It is also a city of culture with many fine colonial buildings on display. Rosario, however, is best known for two historical events. The first is that in 1812 General Manuel Belgrano raised the newly created Argentine flag for the first time in Rosario; and the second is that Che Guevara was born in Rosario.

One of the curious things about Rosario is that it feels a lot smaller than it is. After coming from the sprawling metropolis of Buenos Aires, Rosario feels more relaxed and compact. Most of the historical sites, museums, bars, restaurants and hostels are in walking distance of each other. Furthermore, the port or estacion fluvial where you can catch a ferry to the beaches is also near by.


Monday, 29 March 2010

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is one of not only the great cities of the Latin world but one of the great cities of the world. It has a wealth of fine colonial architecture and a vibrant and wide-ranging culture. It is inexpensive as capital cities go and relatively safe for a Latin American capital. In short, it would be a crime to visit South America and not visit Buenos Aires.

The city centre is divided into districts. To the north is Recoleta where the upper class lives. There you can masses of dogs being walked, the labyrinthine necropolis where Eva Peron is buried and the excellent Museo Nacional de Belles Artes which houses a good collection of European, Colonial and Indigenous art. In complete contrast is La Boca, the working class area and home to the famous Boca Juniors football team. The houses are colourfully painted and there’s a weekend market with live street shows.