While the city of Buenos Aires has enough attractions to keep you busy for days if not weeks and months, it also serves as a convenient base for day trips into the province of Buenos Aires and further afield in Argentina. From polo and horseriding in the open countryside, to watersports on the river delta, here are a few suggestions for other places to visit within an easy distance from the city.
The river delta
Just a short train ride north is the Tigre river delta, a labyrinthine network of waterways and wooded islands that offer opportunities to practice watersports, to take a riverside walk, or to relax at an island spa. Tigre, the main town on the Delta, is the starting point for regular passenger ferries to the delta’s islands, where there are several restaurants and accommodation options. Tigre itself has a number of historic rowing clubs, restaurants, a casino and an amusement park. Trains to Tigre leave regularly from Retiro train station, passing through Lisandro de Torre and Belgrano C.
La Plata is the capital city of Buenos Aires province. Founded in 1870, it was the first completely planned city in the Americas, and follows a tightly organized grid pattern with a small park or square every six blocks. Consecutively numbered horizontal and vertical streets are crossed at regular intervals by diagonal streets, leading the city to be dubbed the “City of Diagonals”. The city is also sometimes referred to as the “City of Linden Trees” because these deciduous trees line so many of the streets. Noteworthy attractions include the neo-gothic cathedral and the German Renaissance city hall, while children may enjoy the“República de los Niños” or Children’s Republic – a democracy-orientated theme park on the outskirts of the city with child-sized parliament, courthouse, port, airport and hotel. Legend has it that Walt Disney was inspired to create Disneyland after visiting the park during a trip to Argentina in 1950!
Once you leave the urban area surrounding the city, the expansive, flat countryside of the pampas seems to go on forever. The pampas were once roamed by gauchos, Argentina's answer to the cowboy, and many estancias around the town of San Antonio de Areco (pictured) organize “gaucho days” paying tribute to traditional horseriding skills and often giving guests the chance to ride themselves before enjying a traditional asado. You can stay on a working estancia (farmstead), and even try your hand at polo at some destinations - check Tripadvisor for estancia recommendations. San Antonio itself has an old town centre with streets that look like they have barely changed in 100 years, a gaucho museum (Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes) and a couple of traditional restaurants. Crowds come to the town for the annual Día de la Tradición festival in November. There are regular buses to San Antonio from Retiro coach station.
Rosario is the city where the Argentine flag was first raised during the battle for independence and it has a large monument to the occasion – which is where the president of Argentina usually commemorates June’s annual “flag day” national holiday. Birth place of revolutionary leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara and soccer star Lionel Messi, Rosario is now Argentina’s third biggest city and benefits from a new train service from Buenos Aires. It has a cosmopolitan cultural scene, and, thanks to its location on the Paraná river, good fish restaurants and a beach.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
This quaint 17th century colonial town of cobblestoned streets and flowering bougainvillea is just a short hop across the Rio de la Plata river in Uruguay. The historic quarter is a UNESCO world heritage site and retains a relaxed charm despite tourism from Argentina and Brazil. You can visit the old lighthouse and see the entrance to the old fort, or just enjoy wandering the parks and cobbled streets. Three companies, Buquebus, Colonia Express and Seacat, offer regular ferry crossings from Buenos Aires.
Located north of the city in Escobar, Temaiken is a biopark with exhibits of animals and other wildlife including tigers, hippos and lemurs, as well as native Argentine species. It aims to put a greater emphasis on education and conservation than traditional zoos and makes for an entertaining family day out. The public bus number 60 goes there from the center of Buenos Aires.
If you’ve got a bit more time to spare, you could head to the coast. Mar del Plata is historically the favorite holiday destination for Buenos Aires residents. The beach gets very crowded during school summer holidays in January and February, but is much more relaxed outside of the peak season. For smaller, more relaxed coastal towns, try Pinamar and Mar de Las Pampas. And if it’s hills you’re looking for, climbers and mountain bikers will enjoy Tandil, four-hours south of Buenos Aires. Several companies organize sports activities, and after you've got your adrenalin fix, you can take advantage of the city's famous charcuterie. There are regular coaches from Retiro coach station.
And looking even further afield, Buenos Aires’ Jorge Newberry Airport has regular domestic flights to destinations throughout Argentina, meaning that even with only a couple of days to spare, major attractions such as the Perito Moreno glaciar, the Iguazú falls, and the vineyards and wineries of Mendoza are easily accessible from Buenos Aires.