Experiencing the endless diversity of Argentina

Hello everyone! On this sunny summer day, I would like to tell you a little bit about my second trip to Argentina.

Check out my blog to learn more about my first trip there. Back in 2018, I visited the region of Patagonia, El Calafate, Bariloche as well as Torres del Paine in Chile.

My today’s article though is from one year later. I made this trip in March-April 2019. This time I went to see Córdoba, Mendoza, San Martín de los Andes, and Buenos Aires.

The second biggest city in Argentina

It all started in Córdoba. I was in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, on the investment tour with some business partners and friends prior to my arrival in Argentina. From Asunción, the city I am a resident of, I flew all the way up to Córdoba. This is the second-largest city in Argentina and is pretty famous also due to the beautiful architecture of its central part with its whole lot of churches. Nevertheless, I came to Córdoba basically to explore the surroundings, as well as the Jesuit monasteries and missions in the area, where they converted the indigenous people to Christianity.

Visiting Jesuit Estancias

Jesuits arrived in South America yet in the 16th century. After Cordoba had been founded in 1573, the king of Spain allocated some land to them, which they gratefully accepted and began to build the capital of the future Jesuit province of Paraguay (that included parts of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Chile). In order to train the priests who wanted to work in the missions of this province, the Colegio Máximo de Córdoba was created. It later became the first university in Argentina and the second one in Latin America. Other students also attended the university, as education has always been one of the key ways of evangelizing the Jesuits.

Estancia de Jesus Maria

To support the educational and spiritual work in Cordoba, the Jesuits bought large tracts of land that they cultivated for food and financial resources. This is how a certain system of large ranch-like farms was developed. They got the name “estancias”.

I went on the tour with a couple of other people to explore the missions and it turned out to be pretty exciting. We were basically cruising through the area all day long, and apart from the Jesuit sites, we saw some nice mountains (which are not so big as the Andes and are more hill-like) as well as some river and had lunch at a nice place there. That’s pretty it about our first day in Cordoba.

On the roof

On the second day, I went to explore the German places and the surroundings of Argentina. There are lots of German towns and villages as well as cultural sites in this country. One such town or rather a village is called Villa General Belgrano. It owes its not-too-German name to the creator of the Argentine flag, Manuel Belgrano. Apart from that, it looks just like a black forest town or a Swiss town with the houses built in a typical Bavarian style. One can try German food in a variety of local restaurants. All the apple strudels, leberwursts, spätzles, and beers attract tourists to this place all year long. I enjoyed some nice schweinshachse (pork nuggets) there.

Villa General Belgrano was founded in 1930. Having noticed the agricultural potential of the area, two German profiteers decided to found the village in this place. Immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria have been attracted to this cozy little Alpine nook since then. Today it is a small mountain village with only 6,260 inhabitants.

At the end of 1939, as a result of the Battle of La Plata, the British sank the German heavy cruiser Admiral Graf Spee, and 130 surviving German sailors from its crew came to what is now called Villa General Belgrano (Villa Kalamuchita back then). The German government demanded that the sailors be handed over to them for trial, but the Argentinean government rejected this claim.

So the new settlers landscaped the mountain ranges of the region with the red-roofed, wood-frame houses, microbreweries and pastry and chocolate shops peculiar for German, Austrian, and Swiss cultures. All this gave this place the unique look that distinguishes it from all other places. Every year lots of Argentinians and foreigners crowd there to celebrate Octoberfest, the German beer festival, as well as other festivals of German culture.

German beer festival in Argentinian Cordoba

The history of the name of the village, Villa General Belgrano, is quite fascinating as well. In 1943, there was a debate in Argentina regarding the possibility of the country’s entry into the Second World War. Three of the German sailors living there were said to have burnt the Argentine flag. Even though it wasn’t possible to prove their guilt, the authorities decided to change the name of the village to Villa General Belgrano in honor of the author of the flag of Argentina.

Indeed, there are a lot of Germans all around Argentina. After World War II, thousands of German officers and the wartime collaborators who supported the regime were looking for a new home. Many of them knew that they might be trialed and judged for their crimes and actions. So their goal was to flee from the Nuremberg Trials as far as possible. Many of them chose Argentina as their new home. Once the allies raised their flags on the eve of May 8th, 1945 the whole European continent wasn’t a safe place for them to stay. The then president of Argentina, Juan Domingo Peron, was more than ready to welcome Germans with open arms. President Peron was an admirer of the German ideology of their time. He helped numerous war criminals to flee with the support of his own diplomats and intelligence agents deployed in Europe. Besides, there was already a significant population of German speakers living in Argentina from migrations that started in the late 19th century. It meant that escaping Nazis had a community to go to, and would be better able to blend in and hide there.

There are also some other towns and lakes in this area, which is actually located not far away from the mountain range of the Sierras de Córdoba. As a big fan of Che Guevara, I was pleased to visit Che Guevara museum in Alta Gracia, another picturesque town of the region, which is there due to the fact that Che Guevara came from the place nearby. The museum is actually the house where he spent his childhood and teenage years. The rooms of the museum have an exhibition of the photos highlighting the events and people who made an impact on young Ernesto and who shaped him as a personality. This time, though, I didn’t wear my Che Guevarra T-shirt 🙂 it was still extremely interesting to see. Having taken a short tour around the museum, I had a nice lunch in the local restaurant.

Che Guevara Meseum

At that point, I already had my private guide, a very nice Argentinian guy who drove me all around those towns and made me discover the Sierras de Córdoba and the German heritage of the region. I didn’t really see a lot of Cordoba itself, only having a brief look at some cathedrals. Other than that, I stayed in my hotel room and the shopping center with a nice restaurant nearby.

On the next day of my trip I had a direct flight from Cordoba to Mendoza. This town has an unofficial name “the city of the sun and good wine”, and it explains everything about this place. It is always warm there, which makes Mendoza wines so famous all over the world. This is the fastest-growing wine-producing region in the world and it is Argentina’s most popular spot to travel to for wine tours and tastings. The leading grape variety cultivated here is Malbec. The city is small, neat, filled with beautiful squares, parks, fountains, monuments.

At the foothills of the Andes

I came there right when they had wine harvest. I enjoyed my time there a lot and I must say it’s perhaps one of my favourite cities in the world so far. People normally have dinner after ten there, most of them eat around midnight, having great steak and red wine.

So what I did first of all was explore Mendoza a little bit, went to the restaurant and then to the party (there’s a great nightlife in this place). And they have this one spring of red wine in the city. I was in Mendoza for only one full day, which was a bit sad. I used that day to make a wine tour around the local vineyards.

Wine spring 🙂

There are three wine-producing areas in the Mendoza wine region to visit: Maipu Valley, Lujan de Cuyo, and Uco Valley. It takes a minimum of two days to be able to visit all three regions. We did a 1-hour drive to Uco Valley, which is surrounded by the big Andean 6000 meter mountains and is particularly famous for its Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Harvest season

In March, which is autumn time in Argentine, the caps of the mountains were already full of snow. It was fantastic to see these high mountains and fully ripe wine which was being harvested right when we were there. We went on a tour around a few vineyards and wineries where we saw how they produce wine there. I got very drunk enjoying lots of different excellent red wines that went with some great food. In the evening, we went back to Mendoza for another night.

A perfect area to produce red wine

The next point on my itinerary was Buenos Aires from where I had a flight to San Martín de los Andes. It would be much closer to get there from Mendoza, but the domestic flights in Argentina are quite rare. So in order to get somewhere, people have to go to Buenos Aires first and then they have to fly to their destination point. Due to this fact, I decided to spend three nights in Buenos Aires first. In fact, it wasn’t my first time in this marvelous city. I was going to meet a friend, Moritz, and we were going to have a nice time in one of my favourite cities in the world.

Buenos Aires is the biggest city in Latin America south of Mexico. Its population is around 17 million people. It is a bit similar to Paris, but it’s a huge city with lots of various quarters. Again I was staying in Palermo, which is like Kreuzberg, a hippie young party district of Buenos Aires. I stayed in a nice hotel there. And I did what I always do in Buenos Aires – go to the outskirts of the city which is famous for some channels. One can hire a boat on Airbnb Experiences and have a great motorboat tour through these channels. I had done it before and was eager to try it again.

Boating in Tigre

So the place we went to is called Tigre delta. There is a big river called Rio de la Plata that goes into the Atlantic there. And that’s basically the Tigre delta where 350 rivers and streams meet. The delta is divided into four parts – three hundred and fifty rivers, streams, as well as canals intersect there.
Only half an hour out of Buenos Aires, this place is about getting away from it all, going over the channels with a small boat under the sun, enjoying the nature and the area. It was cool. We also enjoyed having some beers, lying on the deck of the boat, and being slowly navigated through the waterways. Having had a quick lunch at some restaurant in the woods, we were back in Buenos Aires for some party.

Buenos Aires is quite famous for its nightlife. It’s pretty active there, going on 24/7. It’s also famous for its secret bars, also called “speakeasy” bars, which you can’t find unless you know where to search. I had done it the year before already. And I did it that year as well along with Moritz and the guide who brought us to quite nice establishments of the capital of Argentine.

In Buenos Aires one has to wait over an hour to get a seat in a popular steakhouse. At least they serve champagne for free there 🙂

Before that we went to one ourselves, which is also a secret place because you can’t spot it from outside, but it is still accessible. Its theme was Jules Verne, who is actually one of my favourite writers. They served great cocktails relating to fictional characters of Jules Verne novels there. It was a dark and very cozy place with great interior design. Then we also went to some night club. It was basically the bar that was hidden behind bookshelves in the sushi bar. So first you have to order some sushi, then name a secret code, and then you can go through the hole in the wall to the hidden area that turns out to be a saloon with nice cocktails. Before we went to all the bars that night, we also had a nice dinner in one of the most famous steakhouses called La Cabrera in Buenos Aires, where we had a delicious steak and some really good wine to go with it. This is how the typical life in Buenos Aires looks like: having a good steak and then partying till the morning 🙂

When your cocktail is served smoked in a lantern

That was all about my short stay in Buenos Aires. I flew to San Martín de los Andes after three wonderful days in the capital. San Martín de los Andes is the city close to Bariloche, actually, two hours off Bariloche where I was one year before. From San Martín de los Andes you can take a famous five lakes tour to enjoy a beautiful mountain scenery along several lakes until you get to Villa La Angostura – one of the last towns before Chile.

Mountains again

And from there you can take a bus over to Chile which I did again like one year before when I did this 5-lakes tour by boat. Now I did another 5-lake tour a bit north, over other lakes and then continuing by bus to Chile. San Martín de los Andes is a nice little town. I got there by plane. After the short drive a wonderful valley with lots of trees and nice lake opens in front of you. San Martin de los Andes is located on the shores of Lake Lacar. There are two attractions in this area: Lake Lacar itself and Mount Cerro Chapeico. It’s a cool little town with a population of around 27 000 people. I knew one German guy living there, who also wanted to get to know me and agreed to bring me to Villa La Angostura the next day by car stopping at the various lakes.

Divine view of San Martin de Los Andes

We were lucky with the weather the next day. So went to the Villa La Angostura which took us a couple of hours to get there and made stops at all of those five lakes on our way. To say this place is very scenic is to say nothing about it. Having had some lunch, I went to get the bus to Valdivia, Chile. It was actually the first time I used my Paraguayan ID card. It was the only thing I needed to travel around Mercosur – the Union of South American Nations. I have never tried it before but it worked. You don’t need a passport to enter Chile, for example. I just showed my ID card, they checked it with their computer to see if I’m Paraguayan, which I’m not, but it still worked and I didn’t need to show my passport to cross the border. The bus ride was also quite scenic because the road goes through the high mountains most of the time. We even got into snow parts at some point when the road took us high enough. Argentina was left behind.

Villa La Angostura