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The Homeland of the Tango.

Comprising almost the entire southern half of South America, Argentina is the world's eighth largest country, covering an area of 2.8 million square km. Argentina possesses some of the world's tallest mountains, expansive deserts, and impressive waterfalls, with the diversity of the land ranging from wild, remote areas in southern Patagonia to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires in the north. 
Lake and mountain scene
Buenos Aires, known as “The Paris of South America”, is a great metropolis with eleven million inhabitants and one of the largest in the world. It is also the most elegant and busy city in South America and is in some way the essence of the variety of the Argentinean.

Buenos Aires is a city that is open 24 hours a day.

Whilst of modern construction and dynamic activity, it has managed to preserve old traditions and charming corners. One is fascinated by the atmosphere, the individual personality of each of its neighbourhoods, the cordiality of its people and the wide selection of its cultural and commercial opportunities. This complex, energetic, and seductive port city, close to the splendid countryside surrounding it, is the great cosmopolitan doorway to South America.
Tango in Buenos Aires
With its wide boulevards, ornate architecture and love of statues, squares and gardens it is a delightful city for walking in and observing. From the old port to the chic boutiques of Florida with the outdoor cafes there is a sophisticated lifestyle which is famous throughout Latin America.

Buenos Aires is a city that is open 24 hours a day with some of the best restaurants and bars in the world and its own special “New World “ dynamism which has developed with the great mix of European and South American cultures all in one city.

 For all its diversity, the elusive spirit of Argentina as a country is present everywhere in Buenos Aires. The national dance, the tango, is perhaps the best expression of that spirit - practiced in dance halls, parks, open plazas, and ballrooms, it is a dance of intimate separation and common rhythm, combining both an elegant reserve and an exuberant passion. A deliciously typical Argentine dinner followed by a traditional tango show will be one of your highlights when in Buenos Aires.

A visit to one of Argentina's ranches.


A visit to one of Argentina's ranches provides you with a perfect experience of stepping back in time to a bygone era of rich traditions and being at one with nature.  Located amidst 350 hectares of beautiful and unspoilt age-old landscape for as far as the eye can see. Relax and enjoy the gentle heat of the sun on your cheeks, the warm breeze blow through your hair and take a deep breath of the pure and fresh air, this is the best that Argentina's countryside has to offer.  The ranch is self-sufficient and boasts a full organic orchard were produce is grown and then used in the restaurant. Even the bread is made in traditional mud ovens at the ranches own bakery each day.  

For relaxation the ranch offers a swimming pool set in its tranquil surroundings, a coffee house, where once the farm workers used to meet up after a hard days work and enjoy some traditional beverages.  There is also a stage where some exciting and colourful entertainment will be shown a museum which houses a fine collection of antiques, carriages and farming machinery, and there is even a Souvenir Shop where you can purchase traditional produce like honey and cheeses to traditional handicrafts like the colourful ponchos.  
Asado with achuras (offal)
Asado is cuts of meat, usually beef, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire. Asado is quite popular in the Pampa region of South America, and it is the traditional dish of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile and the Southern States of Brazil. Asado is also a dish in the Philippines and it differs from the Latin American version because instead of grilling, the beef is cooked in a sweet tomato-based stew that is usually accompanied by potatoes, carrots and other vegetables.  In Brazil, asado is called churrasco, and although the method of cooking is similar, it is seasoned with Brazilian spices. Charcoal is predominantly used instead of embers of wood, and Brazilians tend to cook the meat on skewers. In some places, the meat is seasoned with salt and a bit of sugar.

An Argentine asado typically has a sequence of meats presented by the asador (the cooker). 

First are the chorizosmorcillas, chinchulines (chitterlings), mollejasprovoleta, a grilled cheese dish. Sometimes these are served on a coal-heated brasero. Then costillas or asado de tira (ribs) are served. Next comes vacío (flank steak), matambre and possibly chicken and chivito (baby goat). Dishes such as the Uruguayan Pamplona, pork and Patagonian lamb are becoming more frequent, particularly in restaurants. 

An asado also includes bread, a simple mixed salad of, for instance, lettuce, tomato and onions, or it could be accompanied with verdurajo (grilled vegetables), a mixture made of potatoes, corn, onion and eggplant cooked on the parrilla and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Beer, wine, soda and other beverages are common. 
Read also: The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.

An asado can be made al asador or a la parrilla. In the first case a fire is made on the ground or in a fire pit and surrounded by metal crosses (asadores) that hold the entire carcass of an animal splayed open to receive the heat from the fire. In the second case, a fire is made and after the coals have formed, a grill (parrilla) is placed over with the meat to be cooked. 
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Another traditional form to mainly roast the meat, used in the Argentine and Chilean Patagonias, is with the whole animal (specially lamb and pork) in a wood stick nailed in the ground and exposed to the heat of live coals, called asado al palo.  

The meat for an asado is not marinated, the only preparation being the application of salt before and/or during the cooking period. Also, the heat and distance from the coals are controlled to provide a slow cooking; it usually takes around 2 hours to cook an asado. Further, grease from the meat is not encouraged to fall on the coals and create smoke which would adversely flavor the meat, indeed in some asados the area directly under the meat is kept clear of coals.

The asado is usually placed in a tray to be immediately served, but it can also be placed on a brasero right on the table to keep the meat warm. Chimichurri, a sauce of tomato, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, lemon, oil and vinegar, or salsa criolla, a sauce of tomato and onion in vinegar, are common accompaniments to an asado, where they are traditionally used on the offal, but not the steaks. In Chile it is usually accompanied with pebre, a local condiment made from pureed herbs, garlic and hot peppers.

Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park in the south west of Santa Cruz province, Argentina. It is one of the most important tourist attractions in the Argentine Patagonia. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that are not retreating. Periodically the glacier advances over the L-shaped "Lago Argentino" ("Argentine Lake") forming a natural dam which separates the two halves of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore. With no escape route, the water-level on the Brazo Rico side of the lake can rise by up to 30 meters above the level of the main lake. The enormous pressure produced by this mass of waters finally breaks the ice barrier holding it back, in a spectacular rupture event. This dam/rupture cycle is not regular and it naturally recurs at any frequency between once a year to less than once a decade. 




The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km wide, with an average height of 60 meters above the surface of the water, with a total ice depth of 170 meters. It advances at a speed of up to 2 m per day (around 700 m per year), although it loses mass at approximately the same rate, meaning that aside from small variations, its terminus has not advanced or receded in the past 90 years. At its deepest part, the glacier has a depth of approximately 700 m. The glacier first ruptured in 1917, taking with it an ancient forest of arrayán (Luma apiculata) trees. The last rupture occurred in March 2006, and previously in 2004, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1977, 1975, 1972, 1970, 1966, 1963, 1960, 1956, 1953, 1952, 1947, 1940, 1934 and 1917. It ruptures, on average, about every four to five years.

The Perito Moreno glacier, located 78 km from El Calafate, was named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile.


Argentina was born as an open land to immigrants who came from all over the planet.Click to Tweet

Images Photo Gallery.




The ruins of Quilmes can be reached from Cafayate (Salta) or from Tafi del Valle (Tucumán).

This location is just stunning, unique and majestic.

The ruins of Quilmes, as they are known, belonged to the Calchaquí natives who settled on the hillsides and on the mountain range called Calchaquí, from which the tribes got their name: Quilmes and Calchaquí.
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The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.

About 5,000 people resided the area starting about 850 AD.  For almost 100 years prior to the arrival on the Spaniards, about 1530, the Quilmes fiercely fought the Incas who came south from Peru. 

Location.

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The ruins are located at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,500 + feet) elevation. 



The ruins were rediscovered about 1890.  Work was started to restore the ruins in 1978.

My tour guide told me that only about 10 % of the ruins have been restored. 
Read also: Colony of Magellanic Penguins in Peninsula Valdes.
Satellite pictures of both the general area of the ruins and the restored areas are shown below.

Restored area of Ruinas de los Quilmes.

Only about 10% of the ruins have been restored.  This view is courtesy of Bing Maps.
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Conclusion.

I did not know anything about the Quilmes prior to my visit to San Miguel de Tucuman.  I think this was the most interesting part of the visit.  RIQ is just not on the same scale of Machu Picchu (home of the ruler of the Incas). 
The Ruins of Quilmes are a true cultural heritage of indigenous culture.Click to Tweet



What I did learn today was a better appreciation of how large the Inca Kingdom really was, the will the the Quilmes to maintain their freedom from both the Incas and Spaniards, and how in the end they were hauled away as slaves.  It is a great story of the struggles of one of the many indian tribes in South American to maintain their independence for over 800 years.
Images Gallery.
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The National Park Lago Puelo is one of the most beautiful and unique reserves of PatagoniaThe Lago Puelo National Park  is a national park of Argentina, located in the northwest of the province of Chubut, in the Patagonia.

It has an area of 276.74 km². It was created in order to protect its wonderful landscape and the Valdivian flora, as an annex to the Los Alerces National Park, and declared National Park and independent reserve in 1971.


The National Lago Puelo.

The protected area is named after the Puelo Lake, and belongs to the Patagonic forest and steppes and High Andes eco-regions, with maximum heights of two hundred meters over sea level.

The mountainous zone where the park lies was modified by the action of glaciers, which created many rivers and lakes, including the one (Puelo Lake) that gives the park its name. The rivers of the region show high levels of glacier sediment (silt), which gives Puelo Lake its blue color.

The National Park Lago Puelo is one of the most beautiful and unique reserves of Patagonia.Click To Tweet

Climate.

The climate is cold and wet, although more temperate than other parks in the region.Mean temperatures range from 5 °C (41.0 °F) in winter to 17 °C (62.6 °F) in summer. Mean annual precipitation is around 1,400 mm (55 in), most of it being concentrated between May to August. Occasionally, snowfall can occur during the coldest months.

Flora and Fauna.

Some of the flora of the park belongs to the Valdivian rain forests (avellano, tique, lingue, ulmo). It also includes the ciprés de la cordillera, the coihue, the lenga, the radal, and the arrayán. The rosa mosqueta is an exotic plant.

The fauna includes the pudú, the huemul, the red fox, the cougar, and the coipo. Among birds we find the huala, the pato vapor volador, the bandurria, the pitío and the zorzal patagónico.



The lake features native fish such as the perca, the peladilla and the puyén grande, and foreign species of trout.

History.

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The south of Chile and Argentina is a hiker’s dream.

The melange of craggy mountains crowned with glaciers and glistening with waterfalls, scrubland dotted with pale glacial lakes, flowering meadows, marshlands, and windblown cliffs that skirt the Magellan Strait present countless opportunities for exploration on foot.

 Mt. Fitzroy starts to clear, just 1.5 hours walk, one way, from El Chalten in Parque Nacional Los Glacieres. From day hikes to a week-long trek around Tierra Del Fuego’s most inhospitable mountain range, here are our five favourite hikes in the region.

El Chalten Activities.

El Chalten ( pop. 140 and growing rapidly), a tiny and imperfectly formed village four hours by bus from El Calafate gives easy access to possibly Argentina's best hiking, ice treks and climbing in the Andean peaks of Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia.
The best hiking in Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego, El Chaltén.Click To Tweet

Hiking.

Mt. Fitzroy is the undisputed king of this castle, with Cerro Torre next in line.
The walks are magnificent, well marked and range from about one hour to seven hours (one-way), with most around three or four hours one-way. The average gradient rise during that time is about 300metres.

Other areas with first-class mountain hikes in Argentina are Ushuaia, Bariloche and Mendoza.
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A typically easy hiking trail in the El Chalten area. And no altitude problem!
The Rio de las Vueltas flood plain in the centre and backed by the Cordon de los Condores mountain range. Of course, if you prefer a tough trekking challenge there are plenty of hikes that will ring your bell!

Best Hiking Season.

The very best hiking months in Patagonia are March and November with fewer bugs, neither too hot nor too cold, no snow on trails but snow up high.
Summer is OK and runs from December to February but the narrow trails get congested, facilities are more costly, big bugs appear and plenty of them, and hiking becomes warm work. Winter is from May-August with snow in the valley and deep drifts higher up.
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A hiking trail in the next valley to El Chalten.
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Argentina's newest town/village, El Chalten.

Chalten Village.

Hurriedly slapped together in 1985 to claim the land before Chile could get their hands on it, Argentina's El Chalten is an uncontrolled mess of randomly sized, styled and placed buildings in varied materials and colours, replete with half-dug trenches, dangling cables and carpets of dandelions. El Chaos would be a better name for the place. This is tragic because the location is totally magical and deserves a coherent, well-constructed base, not a half-assed mishmash of partly-assembled junk.

Is there a governor out there? If so, he should be strapped to Fitzroy's heights until his head clears.
On the positive side, there are some excellent people, hostels and eateries in El Chalten and the trekking is stupendous.

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Mt Fitzroy - from a different angle - and two of the Lago de Los Tres. Photo by Chris Schoenbohm.

This is a longer route to Mt Fitzroy than the photo at top, curving around to approach from the west. Ours was about 8 miles round trip while the Lago de Los Tres is about 15 miles (25kms) with a 700m vertical. That neatly demostrates the versatility of El Chalten's hikes - same base, same destination, same rock and awe - but one pair of easygoing hikers versus one group of trail-hardened trekkers.
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Cerro Torre on the right and Glacier Grande on the left, a three hour hike, one way from El Chalten.

Hiking is the clearly favourite activity in the Andes foothills around El Chalten. 


The walks are as easy or difficult as you choose to make them. We're not hardened hikers but really enjoyed the cool - but not cold - reasonably flat trails up to the Andes range, taking from a couple of hours return to eight hours, depending on how much time was 'wasted' just looking at the incredible panoramas. We stayed away from actual snow walking but got very close.

Images Gallery.

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Fly fishing is another popular activity in Patagonia.
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And then there's cycling...Photo by Jason Hollinger
Read also: The Piltriquitron is considered a reservoir of positive energy.
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....or horseback riding, pony trekking, whatever, four legs good...
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...or even bird watching apparently, though we didn't see many twitterers.
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