South America is the home of some amazing countries that have a reputation all over the world. Brazil is home to great food, amazing wildlife, and glorious beaches. Peru is home to ancient Incan ruins. Chile is home to some of the world’s most diverse terrain, with Patagonia in the south and the Atacama Desert in the north (not to mention Easter Island offshore). Ecuador, of course, is home to the world famous Galapagos Islands with all its unique nature. But what can Argentina offer the average solo traveller?
Unless you already live in the Americas, then the flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina will be a very long one, probably with at least one stop enroute (although British Airways fly direct from London Heathrow). Even if you’re based in North America, the southbound flight to Argentina will still take you upwards of 10 hours. So you need to be sure you know why you’re coming here in the first place.
Most people will ask “is it worth travelling to Argentina?” and my response would be “Maybe”. It all depends on what you want out of your visit here. I have spent some time in the capital Buenos Aires, and I enjoyed myself a lot, although one of the things that struck me was the lack of ‘real’ tourist attractions. It’s not like London, or New York, or Bangkok, or Beijing. Buenos Aires is certainly the most ‘cultural’ place I have ever visited – in fact, it almost made me feel uneducated!
Outside of the capital, there are plenty of things to experience, but they are what I would call ‘specific experiences’ that you would need to be interest in before you booked your flight to Argentina, rather than the kind of things you would wake up to one morning to try something different. An example of this is wine-tasting. Argentina is known for its wine more than any other South American country (Chileans, don’t hate me!) and vineyards are aplenty, especially in the west of the country. All over the country, you can find some amazing Argentina steak to go with your wine. Steak is one of the main dishes in Argentine cuisine and you cannot come to Argentina without trying some of the traditional variety!
Whereas in Europe or North America, we may visit the theatre, cinema, or concert after our meal, in Argentina they love their tango dancing! Not everybody performs, but it is the national dance – and tourists are encouraged to participate! Argentina has a long history of tango dancing, and sometimes even in restaurants as you eat your steak and drink your wine you will see and hear tango dancing to cool flamenco music. Another huge passion in Argentina is football. The country has a fierce rivalry with Uruguay and especially Brazil as they each compete for regional – and world – supremacy. Attending a football match with the national team in Buenos Aires at the epic River Plate stadium is a great sight to behold – but let’s hope Argentina win or there could be mayhem in the grandstands!
Aside from steak and wine, Argentina is not generally known for its cuisine, however when you come to the country it is always a good thing to try some of the local snacks, and you cannot get any more “local” than Alfajores! These are like the Argentina version of Oreo Cookies. Basically, they are two shortbread biscuits either side of a generous dolloping of dulce de leche. Also, the Argentine version of a hotdog is called a choripan – and actually these remind me of the Gatsby that is available in South Africa. The choripan is a huge sausage stuffed in between a long bread finger roll, usually with a multitude of toppings and sauces to add on even more calories!
I would be foolish if I was describing the tourist opportunities in Argentina and didn’t mention the Iguassu Falls. This incredible waterfall (the most picturesque in the world, in my opinion) straddles the Argentina/Brazil border and arguably the views from the Argentine side are even better than from Brazil! Even if you’re travelling solo like me, it is really worth booking yourself a day trip down here, you won’t regret it! One final thing to mention is the gaucho culture. In Argentina, you will find ranches everywhere, but especially the south and the north west. Gauchos are excellent horsemen, and they work in the ranches (estancia) all year round to herd cattle atop their horses. A gaucho is effectively the Argentine version of a cowboy and they are a national symbol of the country. If you get the chance to visit a ranch (or even better, stay in one), then you will no doubt be impressed by this gaucho culture – but don’t get in their way!