Argentina tips from locals

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Argentina is a vast country with a wide variety of landscapes and cultures. Where to start, what to see? We asked Jack Bol who settled here one day to never leave again. His huge knowledge of Argentina is now put into Tipica Travel. A travel agency specialized in travels through in his new homeland.

My name is Jack Bol, Forty something and living in Bariloche in the middle of the Argentine Lake District. I own Tipica Travel. In a distant past I did not enjoy traveling at all. I was very content living in the Netherlands. That one day I would share my Argentina tips was something beyond my wildest dreams.

Argentina tips by Jack

To me flying was a disaster, two weeks Greece was the maximum I could handle for a break away.

But after being fed up with the continuing stories of my former girlfriend about her great-distance travel, I yelled in a fit of insanity: “Ok, let’s go long distance! We’re going to … uh … Argentina! ”

Buenos Aires

To this his day, I honestly  do not know why I said Argentina. But it happened. And when I called my parents after arriving in Buenos Aires, I blurted out: “I have just come home.”

that was how it felt and it stayed that way. I was taken in by the people and their personalities, especially in Buenos Aires. The average “Porteño” is in fact extremely arrogant, but then again in a fun way and luckily they don’t hesitate to make fun of themselves.

Patagonia

But once outside of the capital it’s very different. In the south of Patagonia the population is more at a distance and very European. Further north, people are more South American in their ways and in their looks. Friendlier but also slightly more reserved.

In terms of Argentina tips, nature has due to its size a lot to offer: You find whales and penguins on the coast at the Peninsula Valdes. Or the mythical Tierra del Fuego with Ushuaia as the southernmost city in the world and starting point for a cruise to Antarctica.

Bariloche

The magnificent glaciers and huge icebergs in El Calafate in the middle of Patagonia. The special lakes around Bariloche (with a view from Cerro Campanario, in the top 10 of most scenic views in the world!) And many sports options.

The vast vineyards all around Mendoza Aconcagua, with the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, in the background. The magnificent surroundings of Salta in the northwest, where you really get the feeling of South America with its drought, high cacti and beautifully colored mountains.

Iguazú

The area around the city of Cordoba reminds one of Britain. Than there are the huge water / marshlands at the Esteros de Iberá and of course the magnificent waterfalls at Iguazu.

Making friends in Argentina is easy. It happened to me that I literally took my parents to the airport in a taxi and the driver invited me on the way back to the weekly asado (Argentinian barbecue) at his home!

Travel Agency in Argentina

That my future would lie in Argentina was clear, but what did I do? It hit me when my parents indicated they wanted to come to Argentina for a few weeks. I decided to put together a trip for the three of us and suddenly knew what I wanted to do: start a travel agency specialized in Argentina! Naturally with good Argentina tips.

Of course I ran into a few fairly significant problems. My knowledge of the Spanish language included no more than si, no and 2 cervezas por favor. In addition, I had no experience in the travel industry. Fortunately, I met my wife at that very same time.

Llaollao hotel in Bariloche

More Argentinian than dulce de leche. Fortunately she spoke English fluently and worked in one of the most famous hotels of Argentina, the Llao llao hotel in Bariloche (where, for example King Willem Alexander first met his in-laws. (So did my wife as it happened)

Personal contact and specialization have remained the most important ingredients for us. Customers who come to  Bariloche during their trip are always invited for dinner at a nice restaurant by me and my wife. It has led to many fun evenings and lasting friendships.

Chili en Peru

In that respect we are very different from the major tour operators. My goal was and is: to convey my enthusiasm for Argentina to my clients. The only reason we now also offer Chile and Peru because Argentina has become increasingly expensive in recent years.

But also for Chile and Peru stands that we are a real specialists. And if you call your a specialist, you must make it come true. And now the Argentina tips  from… Jack Bol.

Argentina tips

It is difficult to form a top five, as the country has so much to offer. But my personal favorites and Argentina tips are as follows:

1. De Esteros de Iberá

A swampy area the size of the province of Utrecht. Arriving there is already an adventure. There are only two roads and both of them are in very poor condition. By bus you can travel to Mercedes from Buenos Aires, where you can equally visit “Gauchito Gil”.

Colonia de Carlos Pellegrini

From there it’s a few hours in a van to the Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, which lies in the Esteros. There are excellent lodges but also simple B & B’s.

Mobile phones have no coverage, there are no ATMs ad forget about a gas station. In the evening generator shuts down. Because of this you can see on clear days the most impressive starry sky. It is rightfully an off the beaten path destination, but keep in mind that it is not an easy destination, It requires good planning and a lot of travel time and you go fairly back to basics.

2. Tren Patagonico

One of my other Argentina tips is the Tren Patagonico. This is the only long-distance train journey you can make in Argentina. The train runs only once a week, from Viedma on the coast in the province of Buenos Aires, right through Patagonia to Bariloche located at the Andes.

The train departs from Viedma in the afternoon and should arrive the next day around noon in Bariloche. However, do not be surprised if the train has been delayed a few hours. Or even derailed, what has happened some of our customers two years ago. But it is an adventure! Wel een avontuur!

Camarote

The train has several classes, we let our customers genrally travel in Camarote: private double sofa sections. The train is definitely not touristy and mainly used by locals. The dining car is great, with windows on both sides, simple wooden tables and chairs and waiters who really only speak Spanish. But what a great experience to travel so!

3. Waterfalls of Iguazú

Often people think when reading the “waterfalls”, that it will be a tourist trap and not worth the visit. Wrong! It is a very vast area of waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The Brazilian side offers mainly views, with a fixed “circuit” that you are walking.

Half a day is more than enough. But one of my Argentina tips is that you definitely need a full day for the Argentine side to walk the different circuits with viewpoints and to touch the falls literally. Additionally, you can also book a boat excursion. It is only 10 minutes, it is quite pricey, but what a great experience!

Iguazú at full moon

You are literally immersed in the violence of the waterfall and doe not keep a dry thread on your body. Fortunately, it is generally warm in Iguazu, so a refreshing shower (which takes your breath away!) is certainly welcome.

If plan your trip well and are around full moon in Iguazú, you can have a night walk to the Argentine side to see the waterfalls in the light of the full moon. Really a true fairy tale, not of this world.

4. Buenos Aires

There is no way around it most trips to Argentina start here of course. A city tour led by a good guide is highly recommended, we work a lot with a tour desk with guides who have lived here for years.

But it is also a city to be discovered quietly on your own, wandering the streets of Palermo, eating in the modern district of Puerto Madero, grab a beer in the city center and dance the tango in San Telmo. The famous colored houses are located in the Caminito street in the (unsafe) neighborhood of La Boca, but that is really a tourist trap so if you give it a miss, fine!

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

My top tip for but Buenos Aires is to visit a bookstore. El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a huge bookstore, located in an ancient theater. When you walk in you don’t see it yet, but walk through to the back and you gazes in this wonderful “shop”. With seats in the loges to enjoy reading and a Confiteria with tasty snacks and drinks in the wings. An absolute must!

Besides the city itself, there are also fun day trips: visit the Tigre Delta and take a boat through the numerous channels with its typical houses along the side. Or visit an estancia in San Antonio de Areco, where performances are given by gaucho’s and you can enjoy a huge asado.

Uruguay

You can also cross the wide Rio de la Plata river to visit the fortified town of Colonia in Uruguay (do not forget your passport!). Keep in mind that the crossing takes about an hour with the catamaran, or even three hours by large ferry.

5. Salta en omgeving

Want to get to know the “real” know South America? Follow my last Argentina tip: rent a car for at least a week and explore the surrounding area of Salta in the northwest.

Beautifully colored mountain roads that run through misty forests, a very friendly population, vineyards Cafayate (Torrontés), the Salinas Grandes (biggest salt lake in Argentina) and the beautiful city of Salta itself. All very worthwhile.

Traveling independently

It still happens regularly that we get requests from people who want to do Argentina in two weeks with a rental car. Simply impossible. It is the 8th country in the world. And especially in the south there are few roads and often these are unpaved. It may happen that during a day you encounter no oncoming traffic.

The south is not really suitable for a drive by yourself. We suggest that people either visit the South (Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego), or the north. All at once is possible but  you definitely need 5-6 weeks to not rush at all.

Double decker buses alternative

Traveling by yourself is not a problem in Argentina. It is a safe country and most places have an airport. In addition, there is an extensive network of night buses, which are very comfortable. Modern double-deckers with lots of leg room. In the luxurious classes seats can even completely be made into a flat bed. A nice way to travel the alternative way.

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