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Argentina See And Do

Calle Museo Caminito
Pedro de Mendoza
La Boca
Buenos Aires
Argentina

The open-air tchotchke market and boisterous tango zone that operates along the colorful, scimitar-shaped byway known as Caminito is the city's only outdoor museum. Lined with rickety dwellings topped with corrugated metal roofs and painted every color of the rainbow, Caminito is both a cheesy tourist trap and a can't-miss destination, as well as a poignant love letter to La Boca's—and B.A.'s—immigrant past. The name "Caminito" ("little walkway") was lifted from an old tango chestnut whose sad lyrics are enshrined here on a commemorative plaque.

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 6 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.

Casa Rosada
219 Hipólito Yrigoyen
Centro
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1064
Tel: 54 11 4344 3804
www.museo.gov.ar

The Casa Rosada (Pink House)—taking up the entire east end of Plaza de Mayo—is Argentina's presidential palace, from whose storied balcony Juan and Evita Perón (and later a lip-synching Madonna) wooed the masses. Resembling a colossal wedding cake covered in strawberry icing, the Casa Rosada originally got its rosy glow from the curious Argentinean practice of adding ox blood to whitewash. A small museum displaying relics from Argentina's presidential past seems perennially 'closed for repairs', but at weekends uniformed grenadier guards conduct guided tours of the palace's echoing chambers and palm-shaded, colonial-style interior patios—show up at 50 Balcarce to get your name on the list.

Open Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 10 am to 6 pm.

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Cementerio de la Recoleta
1760 Junín
Recoleta
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1133
Tel: 54 11 4803 1594
www.cementeriorecoleta.com.ar

A who's who of Argentinean bold-faced names rests among Recoleta Cemetery's tombs and mausoleums, from the Alvears and the Dorregos to heavyweight boxer Luis Ángel Firpo. Foreigners come largely for Evita, whose remains returned to Buenos Aires in 1974 after a decades-long detour through Milan and Madrid and now lie in her family's simple crypt. Until recently, her late husband Juan Perón was buried across town at the less regal Chacarita Cemetery, a vast necropolis built during the city's 1871 yellow fever epidemic. Peronist party loyalists have since moved his remains to a grand mausoleum at El General's former home in the rural town of San Vicente.

Open daily 7 am to 5:45 pm.

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Comarca Andina (Andean region)
Argentina

This less-traveled district, falling broadly along the 42nd parallel south, is a gently rolling, cypress-forested mountain region where fruit, berry, and hop farms fuel a strong tradition of locally manufactured beer, liquors, and preserves. The only air access is to Esquel in the south (Aerolineas Argentinas operates three flights a week from Buenos Aires, see Fact Sheet), where a narrow-gauge steam railway, La Trochita, still puffs gamely across the Patagonian steppe; the 3.5-hour Esquel–Nahuel Pan excursion departs once a week in winter, daily in summer (54-2945-451403; www.latrochita.org.ar; $16 per person). Welsh settler culture thrives in nearby Trevelin, but most visitors to Esquel come to hike in Los Alerces National Park (pictured), set up to protect ancient stands of alerce trees, some of which are more than 3,000 years old. Esquel offers few real hotels. Hostería Cumbres Blancas, the best of the bunch, offers a competent restaurant specializing in locally caught trout and game, a modest spa, and 20 cozy, light-filled rooms (54-2945-455100; www.cumbresblancas.com.ar). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid favored the bucolic Cholila Valley, just north of the park, where in 1901 they built a cabin and settled down as law-abiding ranchers—until Pinkerton detectives caught up with them four years later. Cassidy was enthralled by Cholila's benign climate and lush pasture; a century later, Argentine winemaker Bodegas Weinert cited the same qualities when it set up a vineyard in the nearby Epuyén valley, becoming the most southerly winery in the Americas. The valleys around El Bolsón, the northernmost town in Comarca Andina, provided protection of a different sort in the 1970s, when hundreds of hippies fled Argentina's fiery urban politics to live on communes.

El Centro
Buenos Aires
Argentina

Buenos Aires and its suburbs form one of the world's largest metropolitan regions and its throbbing heart—all commercial bustle and sensory overload—is the Centro. The area hinges on the Plaza de Mayo, home of the Casa Rosada, and it includes the teeming pedestrian mall of Calle Florida, the theater row along Avenida Corrientes (the Broadway of B.A.), the nearly 500-foot-wide Avenida 9 de Julio, the soaring (if somewhat pointless) Obelisco, and the magnificent Teatro Colón, one of the world's great opera houses. For a respite, duck into Café Tortoni on the rambla-like Avenida de Mayo for a quick cortado (espresso cut with milk).

El Zanjón
755 Defensa
San Telmo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1065
Tel: 54 11 4361 3002
www.elzanjon.com.ar

In 1985, local businessman Jorge Eckstein bought a semiabandoned San Telmo town house built in the 1830s by the wealthy Miguens family. While dredging accumulated silt and sludge from the basement, he discovered a network of tunnels dating from the 1580s, the years in which Spanish adventurer Juan de Garay founded Buenos Aires in the Río de la Plata marshland. After a detailed restoration, the labyrinth of ancient dwellings, cisterns, creeks, and courtyards now functions as a private archaeology museum and offbeat event space.—Colin Barraclough

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 4 pm, Sundays 1 pm to 6 pm.

Estancias
Argentina

The pillars of rural Argentinean life are its estancias, ranches built by the owners of sprawling properties on the fabled pampa. Many were established by 19th-century European immigrants, who mimicked the idiosyncratic country houses of their fatherlands by decking them out in the style of French châteaux, English Tudor piles, or Italianate villas. Some still remain in the hands of their founding families, who offset high maintenance costs by accepting paying guests. Standards vary greatly, but a handful do get it right, providing an unparalleled view of gaucho culture, authentic country cuisine, and the chance to gallop across the pampa into the sunset.

The following properties lie within a three-hour drive of the capital:

Estancia El Rocío
San Miguel del Monte
Tel: 54 2271 420 488
www.estanciaelrocio.com

Stables and polo attract a horse-loving crowd to El Rocío, an exclusive, pastel-washed ranchito with a level of service rarely found in Argentinean country homes. Nonriders can also enjoy its 400-acre parkland, swimming pool, and French-influenced gourmet cuisine.

El Ombú de Areco
San Antonio de Areco
Tel: 54 23 2649 2080
www.estanciaelombu.com

Gauchos have been hitching their mounts to this estancia's namesake—a giant ombú tree (Phytolacca dioica) that presides over the lush 750-acre grounds (including two swimming pools)—for over a century. El Ombú's main attraction is the chance to observe (or participate in) the workaday life of managing the estancia's stock of Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle.

Feria de Mataderos
Avenida Lisandro de la Torre at Avenida de los Corrales
Mataderos
Buenos Aires
Argentina
Tel: 54 11 4342 9629
www.feriademataderos.com.ar

The gaucho spirit lives on at this Sunday fair in the outlying barrio of Mataderos, a 30-minute cab ride from downtown B.A. It's the ideal place to soak up some rodeo-style horse antics, chow down on choripan (grilled sausage on a bun, the Argentinean version of a hot dog), and wander the endless craft booths in search of a perfect maté gourd (the traditional vessel for drinking a highly caffeinated local herb tea) or that horse-hoof ashtray you've always dreamed of.

Open Sundays 11 am to 8 pm, March through December.

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Fishing and Marine Life in Argentine Patagonia
Argentina

Introduced from Europe nearly a century ago, trout and salmon thrive in Patagonia's unpolluted water courses. Many grow to record weights: Rainbow trout are routinely landed at 22 pounds, and brown trout can reach an astonishing 33 pounds. Both species are notoriously difficult to catch. Serious anglers with enough cash have snapped up tracts of Patagonian land in order to guarantee permanent access to some of the world's most stimulating fishing spots. At a price, visitors can troll, fly-fish, and spin in the transparent lakes and rivers fed by meltwater from the snow-capped peaks of the Patagonian Andes. Landowners sell a small number of permits each year via local outfitters. Fees can be steep: Expect to pay $600–$1,000 per day at a leading fishing lodge, including permits, guides, boats, equipment, local transport, food, and unlimited alcohol. Among the best are Estancia Tipiliuke (54-2972-429466; www.tipiliuke.com), Estancia Arroyo Verde (54-11-4801-7448; www.estanciaarroyoverde.com.ar), and Estancia Río Quillén (www.quillen.com.ar), all in Argentina's Lake District. Alternatively, Bariloche-based Travel Ideas arranges inexpensive fishing trips with clients staying in Bariloche hotels (54-2944-424659; www.travelideas.com.ar). Argentina's Atlantic waters are also bursting with wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, Magellanic penguins, and sea lions. Unlike Chile, Argentina has no scheduled sea voyages, although Antarctica-bound cruise ships regularly dock at Ushuaia. Shorter expeditions by yacht or sea kayak offer the only practicable way to explore Argentina's coast.

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Hiking and Climbing in Argentine Patagonia
Argentina

Argentine Patagonia rivals its Chilean counterpart for the sheer number of trails that wind among Andean peaks, valleys, fjords, and glaciers. Covering a huge variety of terrain, routes range from half-day strolls to ten-day hauls requiring advanced wilderness skills. Spectacular, well-marked trails traverse Lanín, Nahuel Huapi, Los Alerces, Los Glaciares, and Tierra del Fuego national parks, although most official trails are limited to one or two days' duration. For demanding cross-country forays through rugged backcountry, it's best to look beyond park boundaries. Hikes are best attempted between November and April—heavy snow can close trails the rest of the year—although snowshoe-equipped hikers find winter trails blissfully empty. Even in summer, full-length waterproofs, warm underclothes, and sturdy hiking boots are required. Hiking poles are strongly advised. With myriad crystal-clear lakes and streams, Patagonia has plenty of potable water sources. Official campsites are all situated near water, but remember that refugios, or mountain huts, are usually uninhabited. Much of Patagonia is still true wilderness, with little human settlement, so don't expect clusters of villagers offering portering services; discard any thought, too, of airborne medical evacuation in emergencies. Given Argentina's woeful lack of topographical maps, even hard-core outdoors enthusiasts should consider using a local outfitter. Check in with one of the services found within Condé Nast Traveler's Travel Agent Finder; alternatively, contact Bariloche-based outfitter Meridies (54-2944-462675; www.meridies.com.ar) or, in Ushuaia, Compañía de Guías de Patagonia (54-2901-437753; www.companiadeguias.com.ar).

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Horseback Riding in Argentine Patagonia

Argentines admit they're obsessed with horses—every estancia will offer guests the chance to saddle up. The horse still remains the preferred mode of transport for the country's gauchos (pictured), the hard-living cowboys and workhands of the pampas and the steppe. Riding the gauchos' trails is a great way for visitors to explore Patagonia's landscape, too. Most outfitters arrange one-day cabalgatas excursions on well-trained steeds close to towns, estancias, or lodges; cross-country routes are best planned ahead of time. Buenos Aires-based tailor-made travel firm Mai10 can help plan more-complex cross-country trips (54-11-4314-3390; www.mai10.com.ar).

Horse Racing
Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo
4101 Libertador
Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1426
Tel: 54 11 4778 2800
www.palermo.com.ar

Argentina has always been mad about thoroughbreds, and this palatial racetrack is an embodiment of that enduring ardor: Growing out of the original 1876 grandstand, the Hipódromo's opulent shell was designed by French architect Louis Faure-Dujarric and completed in 1908. The place can accommodate an impressive 100,000 fans of what the Argentines—in British fashion, since the sport was introduced here by Britons—call "turf." The top racing event is the annual Gran Premio Nacional each November.

Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays
3951 Santa Fe
Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina
Tel: 54 11 4831 4527
www.jardinbotanico.gov.ar

This welcoming green haven, built by the prolific French-Argentine landscape architect Carlos Thays in 1898, is an ideal place for a Sunday-afternoon ramble. With its meandering lanes, Romulus and Remus statue, assorted fountains, and greenhouse brought back from the 1900 Paris Exhibition, the Botanical Garden mixes charming Beaux Arts–built elements with 8,000 varieties of global flora (and a robust smattering of feral cats), ranging from the flowering angiospermae (magnolias, et al) to orchids to the park's conversation piece, an ultrarare Chinese Tree of Gold. The garden's recently restored brick mansion, in which Thays's family once lived, now houses an art gallery. Bilingual experts lead guided visits (Fridays 10:30 am, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays at 10:30 am and 3:30 pm) and, once a month, an atmospheric night tour (last Friday of each month, 9 pm).

Jardín Japonés
Avenida Casares at Avenida Figueroa Alcorta
Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1425
Tel: 54 11 4804 4922
www.jardinjapones.org.ar

Buenos Aires is one of the greenest of world metropolises, with avenidas, calles, and plazas generously planted with grand, locustlike tipas (the branches look like antlers), lavender-blossomed jacarandas, elephantine ombúes, and majestic London planes. The Parque Tres de Febrero, designed by Carlos Thays and nicknamed the "Palermo Woods," is a sylvan retreat whose most inviting corner is the Jardín Japonés, a whimsical preserve of Japanese flora, from black pines to ginkgos, set amid pagodas, ornamental bridges, and lakes brimming with well-fed golden koi. Be sure to take some green tea in the traditional teahouse overlooking the Zen garden.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.

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La Boca
Buenos Aires
Argentina

The salty old harbor of La Boca—with its working-class swagger, old-school cantinas, and copious graffiti—is thought to be the barrio where 19th-century Genovese immigrants first danced the tango. Modern-day practitioners can be seen strutting their stuff along the rainbow-hued alleyway known as Caminito, La Boca's open-air museum, art gallery, and souvenir market (see above). It's a total tourist trap, but an irresistible one that even the locals profess a grudging affection for. La Boca is also the stomping ground of Boca Juniors, the beloved soccer powerhouse whose stadium, La Bombonera (805 Brandsen), makes up the center—spiritual as well as geographic—of the neighborhood.

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Lake District of Argentina
Argentina

Argentine Patagonia's most-visited region was formed when pre–Ice Age glaciers punched jagged holes through the Andean cordillera, leaving a network of forested valleys and emerald lakes. Now Neuquén, Río Negro, and Chubut provinces provide excellent opportunities for hiking, fly-fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, and skiing. Serious climbers focus on 12,500-foot Volcán Lanín, a dormant volcanic cone that dominates the horizon. Higher rainfall around San Martín de los Andes supports large stands of lenga, a high-altitude southern beech tree, which carpet 7,900-foot Cerro Chapelco, where the Nieves del Chapelco ski resort's 31 pistes wind prettily through the woods (54-2972-427845; www.chapelco.com.ar). Snaking southward, the Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive) connects San Martín de los Andes with Villa La Angostura, a charming, tourist-oriented village on Lake Nahuel Huapi's northern shore. Villa La Angostura is favored by winter visitors to the exclusive Cerro Bayo ski center and summer fishermen intent on staking out the mouth of 300-yard-long Río Correntoso, a renowned spawning site for trout (54-2944-494189; www.cerrobayoweb.com). Bariloche, the region's main city, is the jumping-off point for multiday hikes through Nahuel Huapi National Park (contact Bariloche-based outdoors outfitter Meridies; 54-2944-462675; www.meridies.com.ar) and for 54-piste Catedral Alta Patagonia, Argentina's largest ski resort (54-2944-409000; www.catedralaltapatagonia.com).

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Los Glaciares National Park
Santa Cruz
Argentina

Los Glaciares National Park is one of South America's most compelling natural spectacles. It is here that the 250-mile-long Southern Patagonian Ice Cap—the largest expanse of permanent ice outside Antarctica and Greenland—spills over into 13 glaciers that cascade through sheer-sided fjords to milky-turquoise meltwater lakes. The most viewed is the three-mile-wide Perito Moreno glacier (pictured), which regularly calves huge columns of ice that collapse spectacularly into Lake Argentina. Drive the 50 miles yourself or take a taxi from El Calafate; alternatively, from September to March, local bus companies Interlagos Turismo (54-2902-491179) and Taqsa (54-2902-491843; www.taqsa.com.ar) run day trips from town. Hielo & Aventura offers guided hikes onto the glacier itself, crampons included (54-2902-492205; www.hieloyaventura.com). Topography and transport conspire to funnel all visitors through fast-growing tourist trap El Calafate, where poor service and unjustifiably high prices have long gone unpunished. The village of El Chaltén, at the northern end of the national park, once a rustic cluster of chalets and huts inhabited by climbers and nature lovers, is now connected by paved road to El Calafate airport. It has become a bustling outdoor-activity center, favored as much by hikers doing the day trails around the park as serious alpinists intent on tackling 11,073-foot Cerro Chaltén (also known as Cerro Fitz Roy) or 10,278-foot Cerro Torre, twin peaks of unparalleled beauty, renowned as among the toughest ascents in South America.

Malba
3415 Figueroa Alcorta
Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1425
Tel: 54 11 4808 6500
www.malba.org.ar

This sleek modernist slab on the edge of Palermo Chico—the choice address of B.A.'s television personalities and diplomats—was designed by a triumvirate of young Argentinean architects and opened to deserved fanfare in September 2001. It houses the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires/Colección Costantini, better known as MALBA, a museum and performance space devoted to Latin American art from the exalted likes of Fernando Botero, Miguel Covarrubias, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. Homegrown faves are also represented here, including Clorindo Testa, the artist-turned-architect who created B.A.'s provocative Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).

Open Mondays noon to 8 pm, Wednesdays noon to 9 pm, Thursdays to Sundays noon to 8 pm.

Maté
Buenos Aires
Argentina

Popularized by Argentina's gauchos, the hard-living cowboys of the fertile Pampas, yerba maté has become an Argentine obsession. The bitter infusion is derived from the leaves of the yerba plant, which grows widely in the steamy forests of northeastern Argentina. Aficionados—and all Argentines claim to be aficionados—place the dried yerba leaves in an ornamental gourd known as a maté, infuse them in hot (but not boiling) water, and suck the resulting brew through a metal straw, or bombilla. The surrounding ritual is complex and rife with debates about its idiosyncrasies, but maté consumption transcends barriers of class and race, providing the focus for daytime gatherings of family and friends. For an outsider, it's not easy to join the true circle of maté drinkers—it's usually best to enlist the help of friendly locals. Failing that, it is possible to order maté at the following venues:

La Provisión de Enciso
3909 Fernandez de Enciso
Devoto
Tel: 54 11 4504 8283

Set back from a charming plaza in Devoto, a self-contained barrio in the western part of Buenos Aires, this neighborhood parrilla steakhouse offers a full maté service every afternoon (4 to 7:30 pm), along with all the necessary paraphernalia, including a tin kettle, gourd, metal straw, savory nibbles, and strong yerba leaves. Owner Juan Carlos Cremona is usually on hand to explain the ritual's unwritten rules to first-timers.

La Peña del Colorado
3657 Güemes
Barrio Norte
Tel: 54 11 4822 1038
www.delcolorado.com.ar

This popular folk-music venue serves maté with chipá, or cassava bread rolls, in the afternoons (Mondays through Saturdays from 3 to 7 pm), with a second sitting when performances end around midnight.

La Biela
596 Quintana
Recoleta
Tel: 54 11 4804 0449
www.labiela.com

While purists would sneer at the maté listo (made from a travelers' kit of throwaway plastic), this landmark Recoleta café is nonetheless popular for its people-watching and the vast, 200-year-old gomero tree that overhangs its terrace.

Museo Evita
2988 Lafinur
Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1425
Tel: 54 11 4807 0306
www.evitaperon.org/eva_peron_museum.htm

Great controversy still surrounds the life of Eva Duarte, who rose from humble beginnings to become a star actress and wife of the populist dictator Juan Perón. Argentines rarely celebrate her memory in public, but visitors can trace her life story at the Museo Evita, run by the same social-work foundation that Evita, as she is best known, herself established. The well-presented collection includes Eva's luxurious gowns displayed alongside photographs that depict her wearing them at state events, her first paycheck as a struggling actress, and official records from school, church, and state. An authentic curio is Eva's national ID card, numbered 00-000-001—the first issued to a woman in Argentina. Evita-label wine and copies of her autobiography, La Razón de mi Vida (My Mission in Life), are on sale in the souvenir shop.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 7 pm.

Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo
1902 Libertador
Recoleta
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1425
Tel: 54 11 4806 8306
www.mnad.org

Since 1937, this stunning neoclassical mansion, formerly the Palacio Errázuriz, has operated as a museum devoted to the decorative arts. (It was declared an official historic landmark in 1998.) Built in 1911 by French architect René Sergent for a Buenos Aires power couple (Josefina de Alvear and Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar), the house continues to wow visitors by providing a peek into just how good Argentina's filthy rich once had it. But there are also some 4,000 amazing objets to go along with the eye-popping architecture, including an arresting El Greco in the 54-by-64-foot Gran Hall. Check out the spiffy café, formerly the palace's gatehouse.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 2 to 7 pm.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
1473 Libertador
Recoleta
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1425
Tel: 54 11 5288 9900
www.mnba.org.ar

The terra-cotta-colored Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a former pump house in the city's waterworks system, opened its doors in 1933 and remains Argentina's number-one fine arts museum. With 32 galleries and 11,000 individual works, the institution features an impressive collection of Argentinean art to go along with paintings, drawings, and sculptures from such international big names as Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Vincent van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock.

Open Tuesdays through Fridays 12:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9:30 am to 8:30 pm.

Palermo
Buenos Aires
Argentina

Palermo is B.A.'s largest barrio, and, with its numerous sub-barrios and 350 acres of parkland, it feels like a city unto itself. There's the wonderful Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays with its frisky population of feral cats; the century-old Palermo polo grounds; and the palatial Hipódromo Argentino (4101 Libertador), a thoroughbred racecourse that makes Churchill Downs look like a shotgun shack. But the real action goes down in Palermo Viejo, the hipster hangout centered around Plazoleta Cortázar and subdivided into Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood, an area of tipa-lined streets, designer-soap emporiums, cocktail bars, and cutting-edge bistros like the Scandinavian-themed Ølsen. The outlying Las Cañitas is a throbbing nightlife zone popular with pub-crawling yuppies and out-past-curfew teens.

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Peninsula Valdés
Chubut
Argentina

Peninsula Valdés, in the northeast of the southern Chubut Province, appears at first to be a near desert, a sliver of windswept Patagonian steppe that juts out into the choppy Atlantic waters. Patience reveals much more: Large populations of guanaco, rhea, gray fox, and mara, a large Patagonian hare, thrive among the thorny, parched scrub. The peninsula's real strength, however, lies beneath the waves and along the rocky, cliff-lined shore, where bottlenose dolphins, elephant and leopard seals, Magellanic penguins, and Southern Right whales live, breed, and hunt in large pods. Day trips depart from the Welsh-populated settlements of Trelew and Puerto Madryn (Argentina Vision; 54-2965-455888; www.argentinavision.com; or Flamenco Tour; 54-2965-455505; www.flamencotour.com). Up-close contact is maximized by staying on the peninsula itself, though, either at Puerto Pirámides (the peninsula's only village and the departure point for June–December whale-watching tours), or at isolated estancias along the coast, such as El Pedral Lodge. Punta Delgado, the peninsula's southernmost point, and Caleta Valdés, a sheltered cove farther north, are popular spots for observing penguins, elephant seals, and sea lions, while Punta Norte, at the peninsula's northern end, is renowned for killer whales, which launch dramatic beach raids on slow-moving seal pups in October and November.

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Plaza de Mayo
Buenos Aires
Argentina

The grassy Plaza de Mayo is B.A.'s village green. Originally laid out in 1580, the plaza was the site of the important uprising against Spanish rule that blew up on May 25, 1810 (thus the name). These days, the Plaza de Mayo plays host to countless tourists, a healthy pigeon population, and, every Thursday afternoon at 3:30 pm, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, the activist-mothers who have protested the desaparecidos ("disappeared") of Argentina's 1976–1983 Dirty War for 20 years. At the Plaza de Mayo's center, one finds the Pirámide de Mayo, an obelisk commemorating the May uprising, and the square is bordered by the impressive Banco de la Nación, the old colonial Cabildo (town hall) and the Casa Rosada.

Plaza Dorrego
San Telmo
Buenos Aires
Argentina 1065

The heart of San Telmo, formerly the playground of B.A.'s 19th-century elite, is this Spanish-style plaza, the site of several busy open-air cafés and the ever-popular Sunday afternoon Feria de San Pedro Telmo. The bustling bazaar—a great venue for street-level tango, where dancers throw down plywood boards over the plaza's cobblestones—hosts nearly 300 stalls stacked high with all order of antique Argentine bric-a-brac, from dolls and tango memorabilia to leather goods and gaucho-inspired curios.

Plaza San Martín
Buenos Aires
Argentina

Perched on a high bluff, the picturesque Plaza San Martín is one of B.A.'s most recognizable landmarks and a popular rendezvous point. Laid out by the indefatigable Carlos Thays, the park is planted with more than 300 trees, including a towering stand of tipas and what might be the city's most illustrious plant citizen: an absolutely Brobdingnagian gomero tree, complete with straining supports to keep the branches—some as thick as a car—aloft. Borges used to love to wander here, as do modern-day porteños, who thrill to the view of the Big Ben–like Torre de los Ingleses.

Polo
Campo Argentino de Polo
Avenue del Libertador at Dorrego
Buenos Aires
Argentina
Tel: 54 11 4777 6444
www.aapolo.com

Argentina is of course one of polo's global hot spots, and the action really heats up in November (BA's springtime), with the storied, century-old Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentinean Open). The stately Campo de Polo is set like a jewel in the heart of Palermo's expansive parklands, with a seating capacity of 45,000. It's a pleasant way to while away an afternoon, even if you could care less about chukkas or mallets.

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Puerto Madero
Buenos Aires
Argentina

It's still shocking to many porteños that Puerto Madero—once a run-down dock area—has now surpassed Recoleta as B.A.'s highest-rent district. It's a barrio that didn't even officially exist until 1994, when massive renewal transformed a jumble of derelict brick warehouses and deserted streets into the TriBeCa of South America. These days, the four diques (locks) that define the old port are home to Cabaña Las Lilas, the best steakhouse in Argentina; Santiago Calatrava's lyrelike suspension bridge, Puente de la Mujer; and Faena Hotel + Universe, the mind-bogglingly over-the-top hotel that design superstar Philippe Starck carved out of a 1902 industrial grain warehouse.

Recoleta
Buenos Aires
Argentina

The tony enclave of Recoleta feels like the 16th arrondissement of Paris or Manhattan's Upper East Side. Its leafy streets are lined with ornate townhouses, Polo and Cartier outposts, the occasional embassy and, at its heart, the posh fortress of the Alvear Palace Hotel. Recoleta's most famous resident remains Evita Perón, who, oblivious to her daily cavalcade of visitors, rests in peace at the must-see Cementerio de la Recoleta, a 13-acre necropolis founded in 1822. Avenida del Libertador, a wide parkway, leads to B.A.'s own museum mile, featuring the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, a former Belle Époque palace.

Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur
1550 Tristán Archával Rodríguez
Buenos Aires
Argentina
www.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/med_ambiente/reserva/

Accessible from calles Viamonte or Brasil, on the riverward side of Puerto Madero, the expansive Costanera Sur ecological reserve—built over a landfill—feels worlds away from the urban hubbub of Buenos Aires. A sprawling expanse of wetlands filled with foxtail pampas grass, the reserve is the kind of place where you're likely to encounter some of its 200 bird species and a handful of lizards sharing their habitat with joggers, bikers, and picnicking weekenders. The monthly "Walking Under the Full Moon" tours are a special treat.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 8 am to 6 pm (April through October), Tuesdays through Sundays 8 am to 7 pm (November through March).

Sailing

Given the Río de la Plata's importance to Argentina's maritime trade, it's odd that Buenos Aires turns its back on the widest estuary in the world. (True, the Plata's shallow waters are chocolate brown, thanks to sediment scoured by its tributaries, and tricky tides add to the challenge of navigating its waters.) Aquatic activities concentrated in the Zona Norte are nonetheless increasingly popular, where enthusiasts strike out on sailboards, wakeboards, and surf skis. Motorboats and yachts can also be rented in the nearby town of Tigre for a cruise in the Paraná Delta, where 4,000 square miles of tiny bamboo-strewn islands are divided by hundreds of channels, canals, and tributaries. A handful of sailboat operators also rent fully crewed yachts from Puerto Madero in the city center.

Moored in Puerto Madero, Smile on Sea's 32-foot yachts are manned by experienced skippers and can be chartered for half-day sails on the Río de la Plata, providing a waterborne vista of the Buenos Aires skyline. On balmy days, consider leaving at dusk for an on-deck sundowner and night-time return to harbor. Longer outings include a full-day cruise to the Paraná Delta or an overnight crossing to Colonia del Sacramento, a former Portuguese colonial settlement on Uruguay's shoreline.

San Antonio de Areco
San Antonio de Areco
Argentina

A popular weekend escape and a mere 70 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, the sleepy outpost of San Antonio de Areco is the place to get in touch with your inner gaucho. The town, which sprouted up in the 1720s along the main road to Peru, was once perched on the border between Spanish territory and uncharted native lands, and the frontier feeling survives. There are cobblestone streets, rustic one-story buildings, traditional parrillas (steakhouses), and even a museum devoted to gaucho history and culture (Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes). Best of all, San Antonio de Areco (easily reachable by bus from B.A.) is surrounded by endless grassy plains—those famed pampas that have fed untold generations of blue-ribbon Argentine cattle. To get the most out of this cow town, check in at one of the many estancias (ranches) scattered around the surrounding country. These outback retreats were once (or may still be) the gracious country homes of Argentina's cattle barons and landed aristocracy. They range in architectural style from adobe fortresses to French château to Tudor mansions, and they meld the manorlike gentility of the great English country houses (à la Brideshead Revisited) with the cowboy spirit of, say, Ponderosa.

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San Telmo
Buenos Aires
Argentina

With its faded Italianate tenements (once the mansions of the Buenos Aires upper-crust) and cobbled calles, San Telmo is one of the most atmospheric of B.A.'s 48 barrios. Every Sunday, Plaza Dorrego hosts the Feria de San Pedro Telmo, a lively urban bazaar full of antique stalls and impromptu tango. (The neighborhood is known for its abundant antique dealers.) During the week, the plaza, with its outdoor cafés, becomes an ideal oasis for a coffee or an ice-cold Quilmes, the Budweiser of Argentina.

Soccer

There's a slew of teams around Buenos Aires, one of the great soccer towns, but Club Atlético Boca Juniors, dating back to 1905, is the one that inspires the maddest devotion. After all, Boca launched Diego Maradona, the compact dynamo who won a couple of World Cups for Argentina before heading into a star-crossed retirement, complete with drug abuse and a near-overdose of empanadas. You can catch Boca Juniors—clad in iconic blue and yellow, a color combo seen all over B.A.—at the beloved stadium known as La Bombonera ("the bonbon box"; capacity 49,000). Be sure to duck into the adjoining, and highly amusing, Museo de la Pasión Boquense, devoted to all things Boca.

If the salty Boca Juniors represent B.A.'s proud working class, their archrivals, River Plate, whose fans are known as Los Millionarios, represent the other extreme. El Estadio Monumental, River's state-of-the-art home, lives up to its name: It's the largest soccer facility in Argentina (capacity 57,921); it's safe and provides an actual seat to each paying hincha (fan). Wherever you go in Buenos Aires—or in Argentina, for that matter—be prepared to answer the question of whom you support, River or Boca. (You can always answer "Independiente," the third team in the contentious pecking order of Argentine fútbol.)

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Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia
Argentina

Argentina and Chile share ownership of the archipelago dubbed the "land of fire," their border bisecting Isla Grande, the largest island, in a north–south line. Separated from the continent by the Magellan Strait, Tierra del Fuego draws summer hikers and winter skiers in equal measure; Antarctica-bound passengers, too, disembark at Argentine town Ushuaia on cruise ships heading for Cape Horn and beyond. A ruggedly charming frontier town, Ushuaia provides a natural base for forays into the island's glacier-scoured interior, to scale Mount Olivia's distinctive peak, ascend the Martial or Vinciguerra glaciers, or cast for trout on fast-flowing rivers. Chartered yachts and 150-berth catamarans ferry visitors along the Beagle Channel (pictured), the boats followed in the air by giant petrels, black-browed albatrosses, and rock cormorants, and in the water by sea lions and Magellanic penguins. Dramatic Tierra del Fuego National Park lies ten miles west of Ushuaia, with fauna that includes Andean condors, gray fox, and guanaco, along with a destructive population of introduced beavers. The island's oldest farm, Estancia Harberton, lies 53 miles east of Ushuaia, where English missionary Thomas Bridges settled in 1886 in his bid to convert Fireland's now-extinct Yamana, Aush, and Ona tribes. Bridges' son, Lucas, who grew up among the Yamana, vividly described his childhood in Uttermost Part of the Earth, the best-known account of early pioneer life in Patagonia.

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Water Sports in Argentine Patagonia
Argentina

Despite its frigid waters, Argentine Patagonia offers unlimited opportunities for most water sports, offering both thrilling white-water descents in inflatable rafts and placid sea-kayak paddles across still lakes. If the Atlantic swell is up, breakers can be surfed at the resort of Las Grutas in northern Chubut province, while there are plenty of dive sites and shipwrecks along the Atlantic coast, particularly around Peninsula Valdés, where the rich marine life adds an extra dimension. Dives can also be made in inland waters such as Lake Nahuel Huapi or Lake Traful, near Villa La Angostura, where a submerged forest, 100 feet down, draws both the curious and the expert (contact diving outfit Buceo de los Andes; 54-2972-425522; www.buceodelosandes.com.ar). White-water adrenaline junkies should head for the hills: While Argentina cannot compete with Chile's Río Futaleufú, whose adrenaline-pumping Class V rapids have become the embodiment of Patagonia's extreme outdoor challenges, fast-flowing meltwater rivers such as the Aluminé and Manso that run off Andean peaks come close. Bariloche-based Patagonia Rafting has a good list of options (54-2944-522438; www.patagoniarafting.com). For a more relaxed alternative, consider kayaking or canoeing the lakes and rivers around El Bolsón or Bariloche, the Beagle Channel, or along Patagonia's 1,900 miles of Atlantic coastline.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.