Argentina – Latin American adventure with a taste of Europe
By Roy DuffieldArgentina. A country that blends the Latin American adventure with a taste of Europe, yet all the while retaining an unmistakably distinct identity of own. If you’re thinking of teaching English there, then you’ll most likely be based in the capital, Buenos Aires.
“The Paris of the Southern Hemisphere” has something for everybody. Walk the multi-coloured streets of La Boca. Peruse the quirky street markets and dusty antique shops of historic San Telmo. Party the night away in Palermos Soho, Viejo and Hollywood. Stumble upon a street tango. Fill your stomach with tender asados (steak) on La Costanera. Catch a football match between arch-rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. Hop on the short ferry over to Uruguay. Share yerba mate with friends at one of Recoleta’s many ferias, or simply gorge yourself on the wealth of delicious Argentine snacks, from pan relleno and empanadas to dulce de leche filled alfajores.
Argentina’s second coolest city? That would be bohemian Mendoza, where jugglers perform for you while you wait for the traffic lights to go green. Mendoza province is Latin America’s largest wine-growing region, giving this provincial capital its artsy edge and cultural flair. As well as being surrounded by many of the world’s finest wineries, Mendoza is also just a stone’s throw from the Chilean border, Puente del Inca, and Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Southern and western hemispheres – making it a great destination for summer hiking and winter skiing.
No trip to Argentina would be complete without catching at least a glimpse of the world famous Iguazu Falls, one of the most incredible sets of waterfalls in the world, where thick spray casts glittering rainbows in every direction.
Equally as astounding, if not more so, is the Perito Moreno Glacier, located in Santa Cruz province in the far south of the country and the heart of wild and beautiful Patagonia. This awe-inspiring sight is only the tip of the iceberg; the brilliant blue edge of a natural phenomenon that stretches over almost one-hundred square miles.
The best base from which to visit the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is the chilly little tourist town of El Calafate. A long bus journey connects Buenos Aires and El Calafate or, for the even more adventurous, you can try navigating Ruta 40, the winding, un-surfaced, mountain road that runs parallel with the Andes range and features in The Motorcycle Diaries, the story of Ernesto Guevara, “El Che” – Argentina’s most famous export and everybody’s favourite revolutionary.
Head north on Ruta 40 and you’ll come across the dazzling blue lakes and verdant green forests of the Bariloche region; a series of picturesque towns such as San Martin de los Andes, Junin de los Andes and Villa La Angostura. Don’t miss El Bolson, a hippy village in the heart of the forest where you can fish, raft, climb and hike the extensive network of nearby mountain trails, staying in refugios – basic overnight shelters where you can bed down for free.