April 14, 2013 by Guest Author
Filed under Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cycling, Eating and drinking, Fishing, Guest post, Leisure, Misc, Nature, Sightseeing, South America, Spa & Pampering, Walking, World
When it comes to appreciating the great outdoors, there are a multitude of destinations around the world which fit the bill, however, nowhere does it in quite as much style as Argentina. There’s a huge amount to see in this vast country, from waterfalls to wildlife, city streets to gaucho ranches, wine estates to stunning beaches. Here’s a low-down on the very best places for adventure in Argentina.
For some adventurous souls, Argentina’s southern state of Patagonia is the jumping off point for cruises to Antarctica. But there’s a lot more to this beautiful wilderness. Try heading down to the Los Glaciares National Park – filled with lakes, mountains and quaint local townships – for great treks and ice-walking. Crampon your way up the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier and watch as huge blocks of ice falls away into the ocean as the glacier slowly advances into the water.
The Valdes Peninsula
It’s all about the wildlife in the Valdes Peninsula. Go offshore for some staggering whale-watching and feel the thrill as a humpback whale swims beneath your boat. A tour will also introduce you to some of the other residents of the area: orcas, dolphins, penguins, elephant seals and sea lions.
The kind of adventure on offer in Argentina is more of a gastronomic kind. Indulge in tours of the various wineries and dine at the indulgent in-house cafes and restaurants. Back in town, you can wander through the colonial plazas and leafy streets for a relaxing few days of fun.
The Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls is a sight to behold. From the Argentinian side of the falls you can thread your way above, below and through the waters and surrounding jungle on brilliantly designed wooden walkways. Because of this, it is sometimes said that ‘from the Brazilian side you see the falls, and from the Argentinian side you live them’. For a real taste of adventure, take a motorboat up to the very edge of the falling water – be deafened and drenched by the longest stretch of cascading water in the world!
If you’re a huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ kinda gal or guy, you might want to try your hand at dove shooting. Cordoba – Argentina’s second largest city – is one of the best places in the world for this sport. Stay on a ranch for the ultimate experiences and trek, cycle or horse-ride up into the surrounding hills for magnificent views and a lungful of fresh air.
The Lake District
From the city of Bariloche travelers can explore the snow-capped Andes and lakes of this stunning part of the country. There’s plenty of hiking, fishing, golf and horse riding on offer in the area, as well as some glorious spas and luxury hotels. Particularly adventurous types might want to attempt the lake crossing from Bariloche across into Chile – but only if you don’t mind leaving Argentina behind!
This article was brought to you by the luxury travel experts at Exsus, specialists in arranging luxury, bespoke holidays in South and Central America as well as other adventurous destinations around the world.
Photo credits: Perito Moreno by Matito, Peninsula Valdes by Berlotti, Peatonal by betta design, Iguazu Falls by Malingering, Dos Lunas Estancia by longhorndave, and San Carlos de Bariloche by Miradas.com.br.
More tales from South America
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In Podcast 11 in my travel podcast series, I talk to Craig and Linda from Indie Travel Podcast about their 4 months travelling with friends in South America, visiting Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay. They pick out the highlights of their trip, and give some advice on travelling by bus, how to avoid scams and pickpockets and how they enjoyed staying with locals on this trip.
- Craig and Linda flew into Santiago because of the cheap flights from Auckland in New Zealand. The city is surrounded by mountains and can be bathed in smog although Craig & Linda enjoyed their time there with museums and great street food.
- Patagonia in southern Chile has amazing scenery although Craig & Linda didn’t visit, as it is one of the most expensive regions to visit in South America and they didn’t have enough time.
- The island of Chiloé is a great place to relax and slow down, with a Pacific Island feel with food being cooked in underground ovens, and a place you can spot seals and dolphins.
- In northern Chile, the area around San Pedro de Atacama is beautiful although the town itself is a tourist trap. You can use San Pedro de Atacama as a base for trips into the surrounding area but as an alternative you can approach from the north from Uyunay in Bolivia. This region is known for its natural beauty with mountains and salt flats.
- Craig and Linda enjoyed an astronomy tour with a Frenchman who has set up telescopes in his house to view the very clear night skies in this area that has very little light pollution.
- Linda and a friend spent a weekend in Valparaiso in Chile with plenty of street art, funiculars and brightly coloured houses where the local government had commissioned open air murals around the town. They also visited Viña del Mar, the coastal resort of the region.
- Unfortunately, Chile is one of the most expensive countries in South America for food and accommodation, along with Uruguay and Argentina.
- Craig and Linda travelled by overnight bus from Santiago to Antofagasta and up to Lima and spent 7 weeks in Peru, 3 of which were in Cusco where they attended a local language school to learn Spanish.
- Cusco is not representative of Peru as a whole as it is very touristy, being the main jumping off point for trips to Machu Picchu. We discuss the pros and cons of visiting Machu Pichu which is a major site but also expensive and crowded by comparison to other sites that receive far less visitors.
- From Cusco they enjoyed a trek through the Sacred Valley, visiting local villages that were well off the tourist trail.
- Craig and Linda didn’t visit Machu Picchu preferring to spend time at some other lesser known pre-Incan sites near Trujillo such as Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.
- They especially enjoyed their time in the northern cities of Trujillo, Chachapoyas and Chiclayo and wish that they’d spent more time there than in Cusco.
- From Peru Craig and Linda travelled to the shores of Lake Titicaca, stayed at Cococabana and did some walking on Isla de Sol, a large island in the lake.
- They visited the Uros floating islands made from reeds that were constructed as a refuge for the local people but have now become a major draw for tourists and brought more prosperity for the locals.
- They had mixed feelings about La Paz which Linda loved as they stayed with locals and she enjoyed the street-food. Craig found the city dirty and felt unsafe as they were targeted with 3 pick-pocket attempts while they were there.
- From Uyuni in Bolivia Craig and Linda visited the salt flats for a 3 day 4 wheel drive tour staying in a salt hotel and ending at San Pedro de Atacama. They loved the amazing play with perspective, coral islands covered with cactus and the heat haze with the mountains in the distance.
Argentina and Uruguay
- Craig and Linda visited the Iguazu falls from both the Argentinian side which they found more developed but also more crowded and from the Brazilian side which had less visitors. The car to take them to the falls was arranged through their hostel and was only a little more expensive and more convenient than taking public transport.
- From Puerto Iguazu they took the bus to Montevideo in Uruguay where they stayed with a friend who took them to his grandmother’s Lake House. This was close to the popular beach and surfing resort of Punte del Este which was reputed to have the best surfing on Uruguay’s east coast.
- They also enjoyed Montevideo which was a relaxing place with plenty of culture and galleries, a contrast to the buzzing atmosphere of Buenos Aries. They also spent some time in in the town of Colonia in Uruguay.
- In Argentina Craig and Linda did some wine tasting in the Mendoza and la Plata regions but found it difficult to take part in the wine tasting unless you were part of a tour as the wineries would only open their cheapest wines to try.
Tips for travelling by bus in South America
- As they were travelling on a budget, Craig & Linda used long distance buses to get around, normally travelling overnight, despite the fact that Linda finds it difficult to sleep on buses.
- The standard of the buses were best in Chile and Argentina and in Peru there was also a wide range of standards with some very high quality buses.
- At best these buses can be similar in style to air travel with comfortable, reclining seats, airline style meals and drinks and even sometimes on board wifi.
- Depending on the bus, you can book semi-cama seats that recline 45-60 degrees, Cama with 160 degree reclining, and even full cama that lie flat.
- Craig and Linda suggest that you research your options and book with an bus operator that has a good reputation, even if it costs a little more.
- Always keep your valuables with you on the bus and keep hold of any day-packs , especially when sleeping.
- You may like a seat at the front of the bus that has more leg-room and you should also check the position of the toilet before selecting a seat to avoid unwelcome smells.
Couchurfingand meeting locals
- On this trip Craig and Linda enjoyed staying with locals through Couchsurfing.org – even though their options were more limited as they were travelling in a group.
- They combined this with staying in hostels which also gave them a break from speaking Spanish and an opportunity to catch up on the work for their Indie Travel Podcast site, as they also earn a living through the website.
If you enjoyed this travel podcast please check out my other podcasts in my Travel Podcast Archive
Other Indie Travel Podcasts on South America
Photo Credits: All photos by Craig and Linda and can be seen on their Mars-Hill Flickr site
More South American stories to enjoy
My guest post today takes us to the Bahia region of Brazil, which offers a relaxed way of life, stunning beaches, wildlife and national parks and is bigger than most European countries – lucky we have my guest writer Modi to guide us.
Bahia is one Brazil’s most colourful regions and definitely the one that strikes westerners more than any other part of the country when it comes to cultural diversity. Brazil’s immense size, which is a bit smaller than the US and bigger than Europe (excluding Russia), makes it obligatory to plan your trip carefully well in advance, unless you have a few years available to travel in that beautiful country.
With an area of 564 square kilometres and a population of almost 14m people, Bahia is greater than Spain in size and twice bigger than Great Britain. For the European standards that feels like visiting another country. And when it comes to culture, tradition, history and nature Bahia really stands out from the rest of the country. It was there that the Portuguese “discovered” Brazil in 1500 and made it part of the Portuguese empire. However, the Dutch took over for a short period of time and it was there that a vast number of African slaves were sold as cheap labour to work in the plantations all around the country.
After slavery was abolished and it wasn’t profitable anymore for the Portuguese to carry on with the coffee plantations, they left all those millions of slaves on their own destiny. This is why Bahia, is until today the most colourful part of the country and where people of European descent are a small minority. For the same reasons it is one of Brazil’s poorest parts and unemployment soars, especially in the capital city of Salvador.
Places of interest vary from stunning national parks and scenic valleys, to pristine beaches and a few magnificent islands. The biggest and most well-known national park is that of Chapada Diamantina which is a plateau of steep cliffs and incredible wildlife which includes snakes, large mammals, birds, insects etc. Another interesting destination is the beautiful beaches around the touristic town of Porto Seguro, such as Trancoso , Caraiva (a remote sea-side village built on the sand where still there’s no electricity other than that produced by petrol generators), Itacare (where the Brazilian surfing championship takes place once a year).
Caravelas, a sleepy village located between a river bank and the sea is another great place to experience proper Bahian life and culture as it is a place that doesn’t attract tourists, apart from Brazilians. Another great reason to visit it is because from there you can get a boat to Abrolhos National Marine Park, where Charles Darwin made a stop over to do some research in that group of remote islands. Scuba diving, snorkelling and the like is possible in the transparent water full of the most colourful and exotic fish you can imagine.
Bahianos (Bahian people) are different to all other Brazilians in a sense that they are very friendly, simple and open. They are what we would call in Europe or the US “cool” people as they don’t seem to know what stress is about, they are always up for a laugh, a dance or a chat and they seem to enjoy their time. So much they envy them, the more posh and rich southern Brazilians, that the main stereotype of any Bahiano is that he’s lazy and never works. Bahia is also recommended for anyone who wants to learn Portuguese as the people there speak in a quite slowly and in a relaxed manner and they are very patient with “gringos” (foreigners of any occidental country).
The best part of Bahia though, is daily life which still has a very strong African impact in all aspects. From food (mainly seafood) to music (axe, forro) and from religion (the Yoruba derived system of Candomblé) to martial arts (Capoeira). There’s no need to mention a visit to the Salvador – Bahia’s capital, as it is impossible not to pass through it if you’re travelling in Bahia.
Although many tourist guides claim that Bahia is a dangerous place, if you avoid the big cities and do not try to show off by walking around with your mp3 player, mobile phone and digital camera, wearing that expensive watch and sunglasses you shouldn’t have any problem. Showing a bit of respect to all those people who don’t have as much as you do is not such a big deal and it will make your life easier too. Especially in the small places there’s nothing to fear about and you will feel that straight way. Common sense is all you need to have and a little bit of insight into people’s problems.
Many Thanks for this guest post to Modi Sodek, who is is a keen internet marketer who loves travelling and currently works for a company that organises river cruises
Photo Credits: all photos copyright Modek Sodek