Argentina is imbued with a rich culture ”“ at once both Latin American and European. Which makes it a lot more interesting than Disneyland in my book ”“ and certainly more educational for the kiddies.
Buenos Aires. The best place to start exploring this city is in the famous Plaza de Mayo (May Square) where you can wave at the “Pink House” palace balconies that Evita once waved back from.
Everything significant in Buenos Aires’ political history had its central point here so it’s a great place to start ”“ especially, as we have, with a knowledgeable guide.
Our guide, Veronica Lampon from Say Hueque Tours, tells us the history of the city with enough passion and personality to engage even a teenager.
Next stop ”“ La Boca, Buenos Aires first port and one of the poorest and most colourful districts. The buildings here are a vibrant palette of red, yellow, orange and green, all leaning on each other at various angles, revealing hidden alleyways and passages that are great fun to explore.
La Boca is also the birthplace of the Tango and there is a great selection of Tango restaurants here where you can enjoy a lunchtime Argentine steak and watch the floor show.
Not to be missed (if you happen to be here at the right time) is a football game at the nearby Boca Juniors Stadium. Diego Maradona played for Boca Juniors before going on to global infamy with the controversial “Hand of God” goal that knocked England out of the World Cup in 1986.
There are markets all over the city and three that are definitely worth a visit include Mercado de San Telmo, Mercado de Belgrano and Mercado de Recoleta, which sits outside the Recoleta Cemetery ”“ also well worth a visit if only to visit Evita’s grave.
It may seem macabre but our kids just love racing through this miniature city, peering inside the vaults and reading the inscriptions.
For a more energetic day out, La Bicicleta Naranja will deliver bikes to your hotel and provide a guide to take you through some of the cities expansive parks. It’s a great city to cycle through ”“ bike paths everywhere and hardly any hills (so no complaining kids).
We make our way to the vast Palermo Park ”“ joining, it would seem, most of the city’s families. Everywhere you look there are families cycling, roller-blading, taking aerobics classes (yes, really), picnicking, dancing and rowing boats in the lakes. It’s a great way to spend our last day in the city.
Our next destination, in the foothills of the Andes, is Bariloche in Patagonia’s Lake District and it’s gob-smackingly beautiful.
The city itself sits on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and its surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park.
The architecture here is a reflection of the early settlers to the region ”“ mainly Austrian, German and Slovenians ”“ the Bariloche Civic Centre is a great example of this. In the square outside you’ll invariably find a few St Bernard dogs waiting to pose for a photo with you (for a small fee).
Before heading out into the surrounding wilderness be sure to grab some chocolate and ice cream from Bariloche’s so-called Street of Chocolate Dreams”, Mitre Street ”“ the chocolatiest street in the world.
Out in the wilderness there is a wide range of outdoor activities to wear out the kids with. We head off with expert guides from the Kawen Adventure Company for a walk through the forest before moving onto kayaks on one of the many surrounding lakes.
The other activities on offer around Bariloche include horse riding and mountain bike trail rides. And for the beer lovers among us ”“ it happens to be the micro-brewery capital of South America, with 14 micro breweries nearby.
We finish the day with a trip up the Campanario Hill Chairlift ”“ to take in yet another spectacular view of the lakes and surrounding mountains.
Just for kids:
- Prohibido No Tocar (Forbidden Not to Touch): a fantastic interactive science museum: http://www.mpc.org.ar/index.html
- Caballito historic tram ride: it’s free and it runs all sat, sun and holidays in the afternoons. http://www.tranvia.org.ar
- Temaiken Bioparque: an hour’s drive from the city, but according to the locals well worth the journey and much better than the city zoo.