Part III: Mendoza, Rosario, Cordoba, Salta and Puerto Iguazu
What a country! Yes, we are back in Argentina and it is hard to believe that a country can offer such an exhaustive amount of diversity – really from the European metropolis of Buenos Aires and the delta of Tigre to the luminous natural beauty of Bariloche to the Gem’s of Patagonia’s Ruta 40 - El Bolson, Esquel, El Chalten (Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy), El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier and the end of the world at Ushuaia…and to think this country still offers more!
So here is the finale for Argentina…..enjoy!
After 19 days in the also very wonderful country of Chile, we were heading back to Argentina – destination Mendoza, which was about 8 hours from our place of embarkation in Valparaiso, Chile.
After a spectacularly winding and ridiculously picturesque route across the Andes (check out our pictures) we were finally greeted by the world famous wine region of Argentina – Mendoza!
Mendoza is located in the foothills and high plains on the eastern side of the Andes. Mendoza city has a population of about 120,000 people and the metropolitan population is about 900,000 people, which makes Greater Mendoza the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. The region around Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in Latin America.
On 2 March, 1561, Pedro del Castillo founded the city and named it Ciudad de Mendoza del Nuevo Valle de La Rioja after the governor of Chile, Don García Hurtado de Mendoza. Before the 1560s the area was populated by three tribes, the Huarpes, the Puelches, and the Incas.
The Huarpes devised a system of irrigation that was later developed by the Spanish. This allowed for an increase in population that might not have otherwise occurred. The system is still evident today in the wide trenches (acequías, popularly known as 'yanqi traps' – it is truly an amazing system), which run along all city streets, watering the app. 100,000 trees, which line every street in Mendoza. The Spanish founded the city at the bank of river Rio Mendoza, only later realizing that the "river" was a wide irrigation canal dug by the indigenous Huarpes people.
Less than 80 Spanish settlers lived in the area before 1600, but later prosperity increased due to the use of indigenous and slave labor, and the Jesuit presence in the region. When nearby rivers were tapped as a source of irrigation in 1788 agricultural production increased. The extra revenues generated from this, and the ensuing additional trade with Buenos Aires, no doubt led to the creation of the state of Cuyo in 1813 with José de San Martín as governor. It was from Mendoza that San Martin, others Argentinean patriots and Chilean patriots organized the army with which they won the independence of Chile and Peru.
Mendoza suffered a severe earthquake in 1861 that killed at least 5,000 people. The city was rebuilt, incorporating innovative urban designs that would better tolerate such seismic activity. Mendoza was rebuilt with large squares and wider streets and sidewalks than any other city in Argentina.
Whilst in Mendoza we did one of Deborah’s world famous walking tours (she is so great at devising these tours) that took in the five main city centre squares and also the massive General San Martin Park. A fabulous day ended by reaching the lookout over Mendoza in time for sunset!
Through our good friend in Jersey (Dave Elgie) we were put in touch with his good friend in Mendoza, Mr Martin Mantigini, who not only has an unchallengeable knowledge of the local region and history, but is also one of the finest sommeliers on the continent. Thanks for taking us to the Maipu wine area and giving us so much advice / information on wines. Very interesting experience and also we were very appreciative to meet your good friend at Trapiche (if you go to Mendoza make sure you get to Trapiche - a world class bodega!!!).
It was most definitely an honour to meet you, your beautiful wife and cute daughter! Thanks also for including us on the food / beer tasting evening with your students, family and friends. A marvelous experience in all and finally thanks for the meat feast sandwich on the last night – 1 metre long meat sandwich!
Wonderful, wonderful time!!!
After a few days in Mendoza we were off to Cordoba…
Nine hours on from Mendoza and we arrived in the metropolis of Cordoba!
Cordoba is a city located near to the foothills of the Sierras Chicas on the Suquia River about 700km northwest of Buenos Aires. Cordoba is the second largest city in Argentina after Buenos Aires with about 1.5 million people.
The city was founded on 6 July 1573 by Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera, who named it after Cordoba in Spain. It was one of the first Spanish colonial capitals of the region that is now Argentina. The Universidad Nacional de Cordoba is the oldest university in Argentina. It was founded in 1613 by the Jesuit Order.
Cordoba has many historical monuments preserved from the times of Spanish colonialism, especially buildings of the Roman Catholic Church. The most recognisable is most likely the Jesuit Block which consists of a group of buildings dating from the 17th century, including the Montserrat School and the colonial university campus. Other buildings / places of significant note were Los Capuchinos Church, Libertador Theatre, Sarmiento Park, Plaza Espana, Colon Avenue and Catedral de Cordoba.
A big thanks to Albert’s jefe in Cordoba, Marcelo, who helped us out with accommodation. Thank you for all your help as it was greatly appreciated. Thank you also to Albert’s colleague, Belen, who along with her husband (Fede) and daughter (Katalina) took us out to the countryside for lunch. It was very kind and generous of you guys to treat us to lunch and take time out of your schedule to see us. We very much so enjoyed getting to know you in the short time we had together. Thank you x
We enjoyed our few days in Cordoba walking around the city centre and discovering all the magnificent buildings – it is a very easy city to see on foot! Also, we must say that the best empanadas in South America trophy now goes to Cordoba…I ate a world record 7 empanadas at our apartment one night!!! Empanadas = taste great, but not great for the wasteline!
After 4 fabulous days in Cordoba we were back on the bus and heading north to Salta…12 hours ahead of us on the bus!
Salta was only a stop over en route to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile (to do the salt flats trip to Uyuni in Bolivia). Therefore, we had absolutely no expectations whatsoever and this is probably the reason we found Salta surprisingly fascinating!
Salta is located in the Lerma Valley at 1,152m above sea level in the north west part of Argentina. Salta, including the metropolitan area, has a population of 550,000 people (an interesting or you may think useless fact is that Matt Damon’s wife comes from Salta).
The city center features a number of impressive buildings dating back to the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Around the Plaza Nueve de Julio is the French style Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cabildo (in former times, the city's town hall, nowadays a historical museum) and the neoclassical Museum of High Mountain Archeology, which houses artifacts from the Inca civilization including the magnificently preserved mummies of three Inca children. Within walking distance of the Plaza Nueve de Julio are the impressive Saint Francis Church and the city's three pedestrian streets: Alberdi, Florida and Caseros.
Across to the east of the city is San Bernardo Hill. We walked up the cerro, which takes about 30 minutes from the bottom at a steady pace. The view is definitely “vale la pena” as you get a magnificent panoramic picture of the city in the foreground, which is hugged by the Andean range in the background.
Although we only had one day in Salta we were well impressed with what it had to offer from a historical and architectural point of view. Other travelers spend many more days in Salta exploring the outer regions and hiking paths well worn.
Puerto Iguazu has been included in this section of the blog and picture release because geographically it is in the same region. However, as you may know we visited Puerto Iguazu some time ago when we did the other side of the falls at Foz do Iguacu in Brazil.
The falls on the Puerto Iguazu side are magnificent and for us we would have to say the Argie side takes the cake for the being our favourite side, mainly because you feel closer to the action when you are walking around the park.
Nothing can beat the adrenalin rush being on top of Devil’s Throat and seeing / hearing the explosion of the once gentle waters now smashing into the vast space of nothing below. Check out our photos and hopefully soon we will upload a video for you to experience Devil’s Throat!
Rosario, like Puerto Iguazu, has been included in this edition of Argentina due to it geographical relevance to the region. Again, we discovered Rosario around the same time as Puerto Iguazu back in March.
Rosario is known to be the third largest city in Argentina and also the birthplace of Marxist revolutionist Che Guevara. Rosario is located some 300km northwest of Buenos Aires on the western shore of the Paraná River. It has a population of just under 1 million people.
One of its main attractions includes the neoclassical architecture that has been retained over the centuries in hundreds of residences, houses and public buildings. The Port of Rosario is subject to silting and must be dredged from time to time.
We only had 2 days in Rosario and a bit like Salta unexpectedly thoroughly enjoyed what we saw. We walked almost the entire city in one day and then that evening enjoyed a very cheap “all you can eat” parilla!
So that is it for the fabulously, exciting, mind blowing, breathtaking, vibrant, full of culture and extremely diverse country that is Argentina. We have travelled Argentina from top to bottom and then back up to the top – all by land – and can say that after 43 days we definitely feel like we have experienced almost everything this wonderful country of Argentina has to offer!