Buenos Aires – one week in the spectacular Argentine capital

Buenos Aires is an amazing city with a great energy and culture about it. Founded in the early 1500s, the city has a deep Spanish history and long tradition of immigrants from all over Europe, making it the “melting pot” of South America.  
I arrived in BA from Ushuaia in the early afternoon on a Friday and spent an entire week in that great city. The districts are so varied and each have their own little culture and style. It’s a very walkable city, though the metro and bus systems are so cheap and easy to navigate it’s hard not to use them! Since I spent a while here I’ll split it into chunks to make it easier to read (and write!). 

  • Buenos Aires has a number of free walking tours that are excellent. I did two with the same company and had a great time on both. The morning tour went through the Recoleta district, while the second focused on the centre and the classic sites.    
    National Congress Building
      
    The obelisk from near Plaza de Mayo
      
  • The Recoleta Cemetery is a large and gorgeous cemetery in the fancy Recoleta district. The mausoleums are all for the rich and famous, including the former president’s wife Eva Peron. This is probably the #1 thing to see in BA. I spent a good amount of time looking at the large graves (and inside the ones that were cracked open!).   
    Recoleta cemetery
      
    Grave of Eva Peron
       
  • Buenos Aires has the largest number of bookstores per capita in the world.  It’s easy o spend a day popping into the many used bookstores around the city.  My favorite was El Ateno Grand Splendid, which is housed in an old theatre!   
    El Ateno Grand Splendid
  • Plaza de Mayo and the nearby area has a lot of the main attractions of the city, such as the Jesuit church and the cathedral. I managed to accidentally attend the beginning of a mass in the church when trying to see the inside (but the Pope used to live here, so that’s cool).    
    The Pink House
      
    Buenos Aires Cathedral
      
    Jesuit Church in Plaza de Mayo
     
  • The La Boca neighborhood is the colorful part of the city always shown in postcards. What they don’t show, however, is how disgustingly touristy the whole area is. I didn’t particularly care for it, but unfortunately the surrounding area is so dangerous it’s not possibly to explore the less traveled parts to get a true feel for the district.   
    The famous Caminito
        
    Tourist centre of La Boca
     
  • If you need to change US Dollars to Pesos, Florida Street is the place to go. Just talk to the least sketchy person yelling “cambio, cambio” and they’ll take you into a little kiosk to change money. At the time of writing the Dolar Blue rate was 15.86 to $1, which is way better than the official 9.33 to $1.    
    Florida street
     
  • The hipster Palermo district is the place to be if you’re looking for good food and bars in Buenos Aires. The old part of the city is really nice with its quirky cafes and cobblestone streets. I spent an afternoon walking around the district and it was a nice way to spend a relaxing day. There are a large series of parks that connect Palermo and Recoleta that are great to wander about for an afternoon. The Japanese Garden is especially nice. There’s also a park with a metal sculpture shaped as a flower which supposedly opens/closes during day/night. 
    Palermo street art
       
  • The National History Museum in San Telmo (in Spanish only) was nice for killing a bit of time in the neighborhood. I went on a Wednesday and it was free, though the 20 peso entry fee isn’t too bad for the days it isn’t.   
    National History Museum
     
  • The San Telmo district, like Palermo, is also really nice to wander around. There are lots of antique shops around, and every Sunday there is a huge weekend market where you can buy anything old and vintage.  
    Shops in San Telmo
      
    San Telmo Market
     
  • For a piece of BA history, spend some time in Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. The submarino there was excellent, and they have free wifi! I wouldn’t recommend having lunch there, but it’s great for a hot drink and a dessert.     
    Cafe Tortoni
     
  • If you want a cheap and excellent Argentine steakhouse, you must go to Las Cabras in Palermo. I went twice, first alone and then with friends. The first time I had the “Gran Bife Las Cabras” which was a steak with all sorts of sides like pumpkin, rice, and fries. The second time, I came with a friend I met in Puerto Varas, the German guys I saw everywhere, and an American girl from my hostel. Three of us split the parrillada completo, which had a number of steaks, chicken, sausages, blood sausage, intestines, liver, and a side of fries. While I wasn’t a fan of the innards, the rest was amazing and totally worth ordering.   
    Gran Bife Las Cabras
      
    Full Parrillada
     
  • Burger Joint in Palermo has amazing burgers for a really great price (60 pesos for a burger or 90 for a meal). The goat cheese and arugula burger was amazing, as was the Jamaican. 
    Burger Joint
       

I didn’t do anything particularly touristy in Buenos Aires, and visited almost none of the famous museums, buildings, or theatres, but I had an amazing time. I could very easily see myself living in this city at some point. Unfortunately I’m at the end of my trip, so I have to say goodbye and head to my 25th country, Uruguay!

El Calafate and Ushuaia Рfive days in Argentine Patagonia 

El Calafate is a town in Argentina known for one thing – Perito Moreno glacier. This is the world’s only glacier which is not shrinking, but rather at a state of equilibrium. At the far south of the country lies the city of Ushuaia, the southernmost city on earth. In contrast to the rest of Patagonia, Ushuaia was covered in a thick layer of snow and slush. Because of this, during the winter months the town is alive with skiers and snowboarders from around the world.  
My first sight in Argentina was the Perito Moreno Glacier. I had to take a tour to the glacier from Puerto Natales, Chile, in order to see it at all, as I had to change my plans due to lack of buses. This involved a 7 AM bus, a very easy border crossing in the middle of nowhere, and a very long and convoluted route to El Calafate before continuing to the glacier.  

 

Chilean border office
  
Crossing into Argentina
 We got to the glacier at about 3 PM and had two hours to wander around the many boardwalks and viewpoints. Since I brought lunch with me, I went straight for the boardwalks instead of eating in the very overpriced cafeteria attached to the visitor centre, and it was perfect. Just as I made it to the first viewpoint, I heard a large crash and saw a huge chunk of ice calving off the glacier and fall into the lake below. It was impressive, especially since the snow was falling so hard I could barely see the glacier in the first place, but this part was crystal clear. The snow cleared up after about 40 minutes, showing much of the 14 kilometers of ice behind the front cliffs. In warmer and clearer weather, I think that 2 hours would not be enough to enjoy the entire area, but with cold and snow it was plenty.  

 

The barely visible glacier
  
Perito Moreno glacier once the snow let up
  
The boardwalks
  
The ice is extremely blue
 The bus left for El Calafate at about 5, and we made it back a little after 6. I was the only one who was staying in the city, so I got dropped off at the gas station and walked to my hostel. I stayed at America del Sur and it was incredible. They have heated floors. HEATED FLOORS. After freezing in Bolivia and then again in Patagonia, heated flooring was pretty much the greatest thing. The staff was great, breakfast was included, and it was so warm. When I got here, I also ran into my French friend from the previous two towns and the Brazilian guy from my hostel in Puerto Natales.  

 

Shops in El Calafate
 
I spent the last hour of daylight walking around the downtown area of El Calafate. It’s super touristy, but unlike Puerto Natales, it was actually open! There were lots of crazy overpriced tourist shops and restaurants, but the area was nice enough to make up for it. I went back to the hostel after dark and then went to dinner with my Brazilian friend at a nearby restaurant which was recommended by the hostel. I hadn’t eaten in a restaurant in a few weeks so I was ready so spend a bit more than normal. The place we went was the #1 in town and quite upscale, and the food was incredible. I had a huge portion of Patagonian lamb in a calafate sauce (it’s a local berry). By the time it was all said and done I spent 300 pesos ($20 at the blue dollar rate) but it was worth it!

 

Patagonian lamb dinner
 
The next afternoon, after dealing with the hassle of cancelled flights and talking with customer service in Spanish, I flew to Ushuaia. The flight was short, though it was almost prolonged due to a snowstorm at the airport when we were about to land. We ended up landing 20 minutes early somehow and I made it to my hostel by 4. I just walked around the centre for a bit and saw the city for the first day, which was quite nice. The “Fin Del Mundo” sign was only 2 blocks from the hostel, so it was very conveniently located for walking about. The park along the waterfront was really nice, though my photos kept getting bombed by ski teams from random countries (especially the Polish team) who were in the city for a competition.  

 

Lago Argentino from Above
  
Ticket vendors along the Ushuaia streets
  
It’s the End of the World!
 
The next day I decided to go winter hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park. On the way to the bus station, I had my passport stamped with an “End of the World” stamp at the information centre near the port. The bus to the park was an outrageous 300 pesos ($20 at the blue rate) though it was only 15 km. However, the park was worth the cost. When I arrived, it was snowing quite hard but it quickly let up, with only random heavy downbursts of snow throughout the trek. I spent most of the walk with an older Argentine couple who both had studied some English and wanted to practice, so we had an interesting talk in basic English with Spanish to fill in the blanks. The hiking circuit took about 3 hours, at the end of which was an overpriced cafe for the cold and wet hikers who spent the day in the park. I caught the next bus and made it to the hostel by 4, where I spent the rest of the day keeping warm in the lounge area. I also met a group of Filipino travelers at the hostel and spent most of the night hanging out with them.  

 

Tierra del Fuego National Park
  
   
The following morning, I slept in way longer than anticipated, but when I finally made it to the lobby, my German friends I had run into so many times were checking into the hostel. Since they showed up, we ended up all trying to hike to the Glaciar Martial but had to turn around near the top due to the weather and the sun going down. The walk wasn’t bad though, just a bit slushy in the streets. We made it back by nightfall and I went to bed early, as I had an early flight to Buenos Aires the following morning.  

 

Shopping streets
  
Stranded ship in the port
  
Mountainous landscape surrounding the city
  
So close to Antarctica!