|s/y Nine of Cups
Inland Travel in Argentina
September - October 2006
|Republica de Argentina
Capital City: Buenos Aires
Land Area: 1,073,519 sq miles
South America's 2nd largest country
Currency: Argentinian Peso ($3 PA = $1 US)
Highest Point: Cerro Aconcagua - 22,831 feet above sea level
Political Units: 22 Provinces, 1 island territory, 1 federal district (like our D.C.)
Note that the "island territory" is Islas Malvinas claimed by
the British as the Falkland Islands.
Exports: Beef (it's the best!), lamb, grapes (wine), wheat, wool
electrical equipment, chemicals
Argentinian wines are phenomenal and inexpensive. They are particularly known for
a particular varietal, Malbec. Additionally, ice cream is outstanding here.
|A rather circuitous itinerary...
|Valle Calcachiques Tour
|San Ignacio de Mini
|We left Cups "on the hard" in Piriapolis, Uruguay and set out by bus for a tour of
northern and central Argentina with a sidetrip to Paraguay. With Lonely Planet
Argentina as our guide, we caught several buses which took us from Piriapolis out of
Uruguay and north towards Posadas and the Iguazu Falls. We planned to visit Iguazu
first, return to Posadas then travel to Paraguay from there. Our itinerary changed as we
decided to include some cities/towns we hadn't considered earlier or stay longer than
anticipated. The luxury of making changes on a whim was not lost on us. We relished
the thought of taking our time, seeing what we wanted and not missing out on anything
which caught our fancy.
|Marcie (wet from spray) with Iguazu Falls in the background.
|The Iguazu Falls, one of the world's largest waterfalls, consist of
more than 275 cascades along a two mile stretch of the Iguazu
River. Located on the Brazil/Argentina border, there are two large
national parks...one on either side of the Falls. Discovered in
1541, this area was established in 1984 as a Natural World
Heritage Site by UNESCO. We stayed in the little town of Puerto
Iguazu for a few days...an easy commute by local bus back and
forth to the Falls.
|Panoramic views are stupendous as viewed from an
elaborate set of "pasarelas" (catwalks) and footbridges
throughout the park.
|Coati (we call them coatimundis) were quite
common, roaming freely, snuffling for good
|Caiman are also quite common and we caught this
fellow as he lazed in the sun nearby the footbridge.
|Lots of birds and butterflies. Above, a
pair of plush crested jays.
|The ruins at San Ignacio de Mini
date from the 16th century.
Founded by San Ignatius de
Loyola in 1534, this Jesuit mission
was dedicated to education and
the teaching of Catholicism. When
they became a bit too influential in
the eyes of the Spanish
landowners and the Pope, they
were summarily expelled from
Argentina. To the right, the walls
of one of the buildings remain. A
museum displays the history of the
Jesuits in the area and in Argentina.
|Salta, jewel of the north
|From San Ignacio, we bussed to Posadas.
Lonely Planet listed several interesting things
about the town including a great Natural
History Museum and the fact that the
specialty of the town was frog's legs.
Unfortunately, the museum was closed due
to lack of funding and frog's legs were no
longer served, but rather exported to places
like France and Canada according to the
waiter who served us chicken instead.
From Posadas, we crossed the border to
Paraguay for a few days and then crossed
back into Argentina to Resistencia and on to
Salta, the "jewel of the north".
|View from Posadas of the International Bridge
across the Rio Parana to Encarnacion,
|A gorgeous flowering tree known by the locals as
"pacho" was in bloom and quite flambuoyant.
|The Andean Northwest is considered to be the most
"traditional" part of Argentina and Salta is its hub. A
city of ~500,000 people, the city maintains a colonial
ambiance due to its well-preserved architecture.
Above the Cabildo was the colonial city hall and now
houses the Museum of the North which was terrific.
Salta is also a good hub for exploring the
Calcachiques Valley and the Parque Nacional Los
|There were many churches in town, but
the most impressive was the ornate Iglesia
de San Francisco.
|Salta's "teleferico" transports people 926'
upwards to the top of Cerro San
Bernardo for an unsurpassed view of the
|We checked out all the tours in
town and found one to our liking.
We opted for a 2-day, overnight
covering a 320 mile circuit over
unpaved roads into the Andean
foothills. The tour included a route
through a national park, several
scenic "quebradas" (gorges), stops
in small Andean towns to check out
the fine weaving and crafts and
finallyl winetasting in the vineyards
of Cafayate. We shared the tour
with a pleasant couple from Madrid
who spent their time correcting the
Spanish of our guide.
|One of the first interesting sights was a huge
crowd of "peregrinos" (pilgrims) making their
way on a 5-day pilgrimage to Salta for an
annual religious festival.
|A guanaco, member of the camelid family, is relative
to the llama, alpaca and vicuna and one of two found
in the wild of the Andean foothills.
|The Parque Nacional Los Cardones was a massive
expanse of desert and cacti with a backdrop of the
|The scenic plaza in the center of Cafayate.
|We toured several wineries in Cafayate, sampling several of the
local wines. Torrontes, a sweet white, is a specialty of the area.
|One of many roadside stops we made to check out the local
crafts and offerings.
|We stopped at numerous little towns
along the way to stretch our legs,
have a snack and check out the
landscape. To the right, the
picturesque little town of Cachi with
its whitewashed buildings and
cobblestone streets dates from the
late 18th century.
|Cordoba ... City of Bells
|A city of 1.3 million people,
Cordoba is the second
largest city in Argentina,
dating from the 17th
century. With seven
universities, it is also the
educational center of the
country and maintains the
best preserved colonial
architecture. It was our
favorite city on our tour and
we enjoyed several days
here exploring all it had to
We took a walking tour of
the city including the
Manzana Jesuitica (Jesuit
Block) in town as well the
discovered only recently by
the local phone company
when trying to lay new
We also took a side tour to
several Jesuit estancias
(ranches) in the surrounding
countryside. In 2000,
Manzana Jesuitica and five
Jesuit estancias in the area a
World Heritage site. The
tour was lovely and gave us
a feel for the richness of the
|View of Cordoba's city plaza from our hotel room window.
|Estancia Santa Catalina founded in 1622 is the largest
and most majestic of the estancias in the area.
|Mendoza is known for its vineyards, wine and olives and in fact, produces 70% of the country's wine. We spent several days exploring the
local area and sampling wines at local restaurants by the "flight". Each "flight" offered a glass of different wine with each course of the meal.
|We took a bus to the top of Cerro
Gloria, the highest point in the city
adorned by an enormous military
statue and topped by Lady Liberty.
|Even the ice cream reflected the
"wine" theme of the city offering
Vanilla Malbec, Peach Syrah and
Pineapple Viognier. We tried them
and prefer to keep them separate.
|General San Martin Park was absolutely splendid. From
its ornate entrance gate to its stunning lakes and paths, it
was a delightful way to spend the day and a gem in the
middle of the city.
|Across the Andes and Home Again
|From Mendoza, we decided to take a bus across the Andes...mostly because we'd never done it before and also because we hadn't visited
Santiago, Valparaiso or Vina del Mar on our trip along the Chilean coast. The trip was hair-raising...what a rush!
|In the midst, Cerro Aconcagua stands regal at 22,831 feet above
sea level.. It is not only the highest mountain in Argentina and
South America, but the highest in the western hemisphere.
|The roads on the Argentina side were well-maintained and though
steep, no more difficult than I70 in Colorado. The roads on the Chile
side, however, were unbelievably scary. We sat in the front row of a
panoramic view bus and man, oh, man, the view was stupendous as
the bus slowly wended its way around 28 switchbacks with no guard
rails and crumbling road edges.
|We returned across the Andes with much less drama since the
switchbacks were behind us, not in front. We passed through
Mendoza once again and headed on to Buenos Aires which
deserves a page of its own. To tour the fabulous city of Buenos
Aires with us, click here. After a month on the road, we were
happy to return to tranquilo little Piriapolis, Uruguay and move
back aboard Nine of Cups.