Posts

,

A beautiful, bruising trip to Salta Argentina

Visitor finds goods to admire, sand to be mired in, turns that cause gasps and views almost too stunning to grasp.

TRAVELING in this province is rough. Even on a guided tour and traveling in comfortable vans and cars, I encountered bumps. I bounced over miles of unpaved road, got stuck in a tour van in treacherous sand, gasped in fear at steep drops and sharp switchbacks, and gave up sleep for days that started before dawn and ended too late for dinner.

Argentina Travel - Salta - Balconies

Argentina Travel – Salta – Balconies

But every bit of discomfort was worthwhile, because Salta’s scenery is spectacular. The remote, crescent-shaped province in northwestern Argentina has dramatic gorges that stretch for miles, mountains that show off brilliant mineral hues and castle-like rock formations, green fields, cactus-strewn desert and treeless tundra so high that the clouds float far below.
Much of this province is uninhabited. Llamas roam free. Wild burros munch scraggly plants and nose at water seeping through rocks. Condors circle overhead.
I first heard about Salta while touring in Argentina’s Mendoza wine country, where I tasted Torrontés, a lovely floral white wine unique to Salta. One sip and I wanted to visit the region to learn more about the wine.
So I came here in April, which is autumn in Argentina. The lowlands were warm, but fierce, frigid winds drove me from a summit.
Except for one overnight trip, I toured by day from my base in the province’s capital city, a two-hour flight north of Buenos Aires.
Salta, founded in 1582 by Hernando de Lerma, governor of Tucumán to the south, is a pleasant city. People lounge at outdoor cafes around a tree-filled central plaza. Nightspots called peñas present shows of boisterous northern music and dance. Women sit in the main square outside the cabildo, a colonial building that was once the seat of government, and sell woolly socks, caps, gloves and shawls. I bought a llama-wool sweater from one.

salta-balcones01

Argentina Travel – Salta – Balconies in colonial Spanish styles

I also shopped the large public market, which offered a variety of products, including the herbal brew maté; bright, striped cloths from Bolivia; and produce such as corn, a staple used for, among other dishes, the stew locro and humitas, which are fresh corn tamales. Spice stalls sold pimentón (paprika) from Cachi in the Calchaquíes Valley, where the sweet red peppers are sun-dried.

The market was also a place to buy coca leaves, which are reputed to aid digestion and prevent altitude sickness. Every restaurant I visited served soothing, delicate coca-leaf tea. The leaves do yield cocaine, but small amounts aren’t intoxicating.

I stayed at the older, traditional Hotel Salta by the main plaza. A veranda opened off my floor, but I never had time to relax there. What mattered to me was that the breakfast buffet was in full swing by 6 a.m. Most tours start at 7 a.m., and once I had to catch a 6:15 bus, giving me only a few minutes to down a glass of orange juice, swallow a few bites of ham and cheese and grab small, gooey facturas (pastries) and medialunas (crescent rolls).

Travel agencies clustered near the plaza energetically hawk tours, and most offer the same itineraries at the same price. Tour prices generally do not cover meals or overnight accommodations. Understanding Spanish is an advantage, because on my tours, little was translated into English. Many are outdoor adventures. Mine were tame compared with horseback, rafting and trekking excursions.

Cardones - Salta - Argentina Travel

Cardones – Salta – Argentina Travel

Some agencies handle tours better than others. I had one poor experience — an uninformative guide, a wretched hotel — and another that was exceptional. That trip went up the Cuesta de Obispo (Bishop’s Peak) to Los Cardones National Park, named for the tall, branching cardóncactus that thrives at high altitudes, then on to Cachi, a town where raised walkways enabled colonial women to step from their dwellings to carriages without dirtying their long skirts in the street.
David, the guide, a music professor by profession, kept up a lively conversation about history, music and folklore, fed us alfajores (cookies sandwiched with caramel filling) and drove smoothly and tirelessly for almost 12 hours.

A rocky road trip in Salta Argentina

ANOTHER tour took me to Iruya, a town tucked into a craggy, precipitous gorge about 200 miles from Salta. Because of the many stops we made, the journey there and back took two days. Along with a couple from England and another from

Quebrada de Humahuaca - Jujuy - Argentina Travel

Quebrada de Humahuaca – Jujuy – Argentina Travel

Switzerland, I set off for Quebrada de Humahuaca, a 96-mile-long gorge that runs through Jujuy province to a turnoff for Iruya, which is in Salta province.
Leaving the city, we rode through fields of sugarcane and other crops. Wisps of cloud floated through hills in the distance. The driver said this parklike land was the “ugliest” part of the trip. The Swiss couple said it reminded them of Switzerland.
Farther on, the highway passed cornfields shaded by poplars, and cemeteries placed on hills so the dead would be closer to heaven.

This rough land, once part of the Inca empire, breeds hardy people. Here, Spanish settlers mingled with indigenous people, unlike in Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires, which has a mostly European population.
At one rest stop, I came across a stack of rocks littered with bottles, cigarette packets and other trash. What looked like the refuse of thoughtless tourists was in fact an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth), a reminder that pagan rites survive in modern-day Salta.

Adobe homes in this area are so isolated that children may have to walk hours to school. Water comes from rivers or wells, and the kitchen stove is an outdoor beehive adobe oven. People eat what they can raise, including goat, lamb and llama. I had goat stew for lunch in the town of Humahuaca, about 150 miles north of Salta, and noticed llama on the menu.

The Humahuaca gorge was the site of many battles after the struggle for independence from Spain broke out in 1810. Salta’s great hero, Gen. Martín Miguel de Güemes, easily outwitted Spanish troops unfamiliar with the challenging terrain. His gaucho guerrillas wore red ponchos with black trim — now the colors of Salta.

Güemes became mayor of the city at 25 years old and was slain at 36. Each year on June 16, gauchos assemble at his statue in Salta for an all-night vigil, followed by a parade the next day, the anniversary of his death.

Soon after Humahuaca, we turned off the highway onto a dirt road so rough it took two hours to traverse the final 35 miles to Iruya. We splashed through running streams and climbed to 13,123 feet to admire extraordinary vistas of mountains. Below, switchbacks cut through red rock to Iruya.

When we stopped, a little girl, accompanied by two shepherd dogs, rushed up to the car to beg for un caramelo (a candy). Children in this remote area rarely get such a treat.

We arrived in Iruya at twilight, which left little time to explore its steep, rock-paved streets. I did find a tiny shop that sold handicrafts, and for $2 I bought a fuzzy brown wool llama made by a woman named Matilde Díaz.

The guide dropped us at a crude hostel that had no comforts — not even things to wash up with. A young English backpacker in my tour group said it was the worst he had seen. But the view from the back veranda was astounding — I could almost touch the mountains.

After a simple meal of humitas, empanadas and coca-leaf tea in the town’s one decent restaurant, the Café del Hostal, I shopped for soap and a towel, and then listened to kids shooting baskets outside my room until after midnight.

Purmamarca road - Argentina Travel

Purmamarca road – Argentina Travel

Early the next morning, we were rousted out of bed for a breakfast of dry bread and coffee, then departed for Purmamarca. This town on the old trail to Peru made up for my disappointment in Iruya. It is shoppers’ heaven.
The entire main plaza had been turned into a dazzling marketplace and was loaded with colorful blankets, wall hangings, sweaters, dolls, belts, maté containers, jewelry and bunches of clattering animal claws that musicians use to beat rhythm.

Purmamarca Salt Pans - Argentina Travel

Purmamarca Salt Pans – Argentina Travel

We bought sandwiches and drinks to go and left the town for the salinas grandes, or salt fields. There, we ate our purchases in a restaurant under construction. The tables and benches were fashioned of thick salt slabs, and coarse salt covered the floor. Oddly, though it was hot, the salt furniture was almost as cold as ice.
The sparkling salt fields look like a vast frozen lake, and I couldn’t shake a worry that our heavy van might break through its surface. We did run into trouble — not on the field but on the dirt road that emerged from it. The van became stuck so firmly in deep sand that no amount of pushing could budge it. Luckily, a driver came along and helped get the van moving again.

Blacked out

BUT the delay cost us. The last part of the tour was to parallel the route of the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds). One of the highest railways in the world, the train traverses switchbacks and a soaring viaduct. We did drive the route but in total darkness — so we missed the scenery that makes it one of Argentina’s top tourist draws.

Never mind. In nine days I had seen enough to realize that the words in a local folk song, “Salta toda linda” — Salta, where everything is lovely — were too modest.

This historic province — despite its hardships — is more than lovely. It’s magnificent.

Source:Los Angeles Times – By Barbara Hansen, Times Staff Writer

Belgrano NYC’s Upper West Side southern equivalent

Another Buenos Aires district: Belgrano

Belgrano is one of the 48 districts of Buenos Aires. It is full of art and tradition and it would be the equivalent to New York City’s upper west side. Definitely make Belgrano one of the stops on your next Argentina vacations!

It is divided into five unofficial sections: Belgrano C, Belgrano R, Belgrano Bajo, Chinatown and Barrio River. It also has the second most transited cross streets in BA: Cabildo and Juramento. However, what makes Belgrano distinctive is its beauty and tranquility.

But we will let you judge it for yourself.

TripAdvisor travelers voted Buenos Aires a top South American destination

,

Jewish Argentina – Special Singles 35+ 10/8/09 Departure!

Jewish Argentina – Special Singles 35+ 10/8/09 Departure!

Price: $1,740 per person

Itinerary:

10/8/09 – Thursday: Departure to Buenos Aires, Argentina from your city.

Urban Suites Recoleta Hotel

Urban Suites Recoleta Hotel

10/9/09 – Friday:  The Jewish Argentina All inclusive vacation starts when you arrive to the Ezeiza airport where you will be transported to the Urban Suites Recoleta Hotel.  You will then be picked up to enjoy a welcome lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon be ready for our famous Recoleta Cemetery Tour, the architecture of Paris in Buenos Aires tour and later you may attend services at the Libertad Temple and partake of a wonderful Shabat dinner.

Buenos Aires - Libertad Temple

Buenos Aires – Libertad Temple

10/10/09 – Saturday: After breakfast, enjoy the exclusive Jewish Buenos Aires tour. Visit several Jewish Temples while sightseeing Buenos Aires and the site where the Israelite Association bombings took place. In the evening you will enjoy dinner with a Tango show and dance.

10/11/09 – Sunday: Morning breakfast and tour of San Telmo (colonial Spanish neighborhood) where you will be able to shop for wonderful antiques! Then the Onassis route and the Nazis in Buenos Aires tour. Discover how they caught Eichmann and many others! Afternoon shopping tour.

10/12/09 – Monday: Breakfast and afterwards visit Palermo; Barrio Norte, downtown Buenos Aires! Today enjoy the unique All about Evita Tour: Listen to Evita’s voice! Casa Rosada or Presidential Palace – CGT – the Congress –  and Plaza San Martin sightseeing tours. Return to the apartment to get ready for a traditional Argentinean steak dinner at an internationally acclaimed Buenos Aires restaurant.

10/13/09 – Tuesday: Depart on a tour of the famous Mayo Avenue and hear incredible stories. A stop at the Café Tortoni, the oldest bar in Buenos Aires to continue along Corrientes avenue, the Obelisco and the 9 de Julio avenue, the widest avenue in the world.  Lunch at Puerto Madero followed by more astounding Buenos Aires history. For dinner, the famous pizza and pasta of Buenos Aires followed by drinks at a local pub.

Buenos Aires Travel - Obelisco and Avenida 9 de Julio

Buenos Aires Travel – Obelisco and Avenida 9 de Julio

10/14/09 – Wednesday: Morning available for personally chosen activities. In the afternoon you will visit La Boca (Caminito, Boca’s Stadium and Museum) and Barracas – and listen to stories of murder in Argentina. Afterwards, the famous tango tour that includes the house of Carlos Gardel, a typical 5 o’clock tea followed by tango lessons. Dinner will take place at one of the famous Puerto Madero restaurants.

10/15/09 – Thursday: Morning: Romeo & Juliet in Buenos Aires. Afterwards a visit to the Malba Museum (a replica of the Guggenheim). Farewell 5 o’clock tea with wonderful biscuits and pastries.  Back to the hotel to pack and relax and transportation to the airport.

—-

Notes:

-The Hotel stay includes the room double occupancy rate and all of its services.

-Tips are not included

-Alcoholic beverages not included (unless specified)

-The Tours of the city of Buenos Aires and its professional guides are included

-Tourists will be accompanied by bilingual personnel thorough their whole stay

-Airfare and taxes not included

-Feel free to request information on special stays

-We can build your own departure date: Minimum 10 people

Contact us via email at argentourism@gmail.com

Buenos Aires nights - Argentina Travel

Buenos Aires nights – Argentina Travel

TripAdvisor travelers voted Buenos Aires a top South American destination

Crazy Argentinean ideas to celebrate Int’l AIDS Awareness Day

Buenos Aires - Obelisco and Avenida 9 de Julio

Buenos Aires – Obelisco and Avenida 9 de Julio

San Nicolas or the city (financial district)

San Nicolás (Downtown), the most important financial and commercial district in Buenos Aires. In this area of town, you will find many touristic and cultural places, from the famous Buenos Aires obelisk, that commemorates the second establishment of the city, to the ‘La City Porteña’ or “the city”, name given to the financial district, where most of the most important international banks and financial companies have their Argentinean headquarters.

The actual area was the point of first European settlement. Its north-south axis runs from Monserrat in the north to Retiro railway station in the south. Its east-west axis runs from Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve and Puerto Madero.

The Obelisco is one of the defining monuments of Buenos Aires. It was inaugurated in 1936 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first, and unsuccessful, founding of the city by Pedro de Mendoza. (The city was later re-established in 1580.) It sits at the intersection of Corrientes and Avenida 9 de Julio, which is the heart of the city and the Theater District.

The Obelisco is the focal point of the vista between Plaza de Mayo and Diagonal Norte, meant to mimic the vistas found in Paris around Place de la Concorde. A church was demolished to create the site, and on both sides, Corrientes bulges into a circle to accommodate it. An oval parklike cutout with a gentle hill along Avenida 9 de Julio surrounds it, along with bronze plaques representing the various Argentine provinces.

When Argentines have something to celebrate, the Obelisco is where they head. If you’re in town when Argentina wins an international event, you can be sure hundreds of people will gather around the Obelisco with flags in their hands, waving them at the cars that honk in celebration as they head past. Certainly, the Obelisco would have a great vista, but it is not a structure built as a viewing spot. Renovations near the site are ongoing, so access might be restricted during the time of your visit. As the city’s preeminent phallic symbol, it was graced with a very large condom on December 1, International AIDS Awareness Day.

Don’t cry for me Argentina famous balcony

You will marvel at the 17th century architecture of the Manzana de las Luces and the mysterious underground tunnels that worked as secret passages. Let’s virtually visit the Don’t cry for me Argentina famous balcony and its historic neighborhood.

Manzana de Las Luces and Barrio Montserrat

The old neighborhood of Montserrat covers the oldest part of the city and it is one of the most attractive districts for cultural tours in Buenos Aires.

Montserrat’ sidewalks feature some of the most important buildings in the city, including the presidential palace (known as Casa Rosada), the colonial town hall, the Parliament and the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. All of them a must see when you travel to Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires - Casa Rosada - Front

Buenos Aires – Casa Rosada – Front

The Presidential Palace or Casa Rosada, was built under President Julio Argentino Roca in 1882. The Casa Rosada has been the center of presidential activity ever since.   With the pink side facing the Plaza de Mayo, and the beige sides calling less attention from surrounding streets, it is Buenos Aires’ version of The White House.

The house is full of impressive national treasures include the bust room full of marble impressions of past presidents.  Tour the house and don’t miss the Escalera de Italia (Staircase of Italy), fashioned from thick beige marble in true Italian style.  Look up to see the Capilla de Christo Rey, a life-size version of Christ on the cross, as you make your way through the house.   Also inside is the Museo de la Casa Rosada, which displays many presidential artifacts.

On the outside, the centered high balcony became famous for presidential public addresses.  Some of the most notable orations came from the Peron’s, who claimed to speak from a lower, left-hand (facing the building from the Plaza de Mayo) balcony in lieu of the stately centered, high perch in order to be closer to the people.  To film the Evita movie’s most famous scene, Alan Parker made a personal request for the use of the famous balcony from which Evita addressed the huge crowds who rallied to cheer her outside Government House in Plaza de Mayo, but the request remained unanswered by Argentinian president Menem for many weeks. Parker and the producers hoped to film Madonna singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” on the real Casa Rosada balcony, but they were of course also prepared to rebuilt the balcony in a film studio.

Madonna provided the biggest help in obtaining the “real” balcony. She asked many time to people close to the president to be invited along with Alan Parker by President Menem, to discuss and explain the intentions of the film.

Buenos Aires - Manzana de las Luces

Buenos Aires – Manzana de las Luces

Parker recalls: “Everyone told us no. I’d begged everybody. We had the American ambassador helping us and, also, the British ambassador. But we got turned down time and again. Then, one night, Madonna, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce and I got invited to meet President Carlos Saul Menem. It was surreal. He served us pizza that he insisted was the best in the whole world. Then Madonna suddenly said, “Can we cut to the chase here? Are we going to get to film on your balcony or not?” The president said, “Yes.” We were so stunned we didn’t finish our pizza.

However you experience Argentina, it’s nearly impossible to get a complete picture without heading to the Casa Rosada for at least a brief afternoon in Argentina’s past.

Manzana de las Luces

You will marvel at the 17th century architecture of the Manzana de las Luces and the mysterious underground tunnels that worked as secret passages. This is a sightseeing tour not too many tourists find out about when they travel to Buenos Aires. Speculation regarding the original use of these tunnels still remains! Its interesting history began in 1675 with the construction of the Church of San Ignacio and the Colegio de la Compañía by the Jesuit monks. Meant to be a centre for higher learning, and headquarters for Jesuit land holdings, the first medical school was also set up here.