Around Buenos Aires

If you don't relish the frenzy of a big city, especially at the end of a trip exploring some of the widest landscapes on earth, you'll be relieved to know there are calm rural estancias (cattle farms), the fascinating Tigre (river delta), and cowboy towns which celebrate an authentic gaucho culture - all within an hour or two of Buenos Aires.

Mataderos is on the western edge of the city, and worth visiting only on Sundays, when it's the site of a wonderful market, with displays of gaucho horsemanship, the air is filled with the smoky aroma of grilling steak on asados, and there's even tango dancing. If gaucho culture intrigues you, it's worth setting out for the impeccably preserved 1900s gaucho towns of San Antonio de Areco to the west of the city, or to Chascomus in the south (handy for Ezeiza International Airport). There are lots of grand estanciasnear both towns, where you can try horse riding or simply lap up the luxury. Details on these places are in the next chapter, Buenos Aires Province.

Closer at hand, the two most popular destinations for day trips are north of the city along the coast of the Río de la Plata, easily reached by train from the city. San Isidro is a beautiful old colonial suburb where you can find huge luxury residential mansions, a wonderful church on the plaza and a ring of smart shops in the charming old quarter, making it a pleasant place to stroll around, especially at weekends when the craft market is on. Also appealing is the Tigre river delta which is a maze of overgrown waterways that can be explored by boat or local ferry. Find a waterfont restaurant, or a romantic boutique hotel on stilts hidden away up a lazy river and spend a few days relaxing.

Finally, you could take a boat trip across the Río de la Plata to the quaint Portuguese colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento (which is in Uruguay). Stroll around the antique buildings on this quiet peninsula, or hire a bike: there's nothing much to do here except eat and gaze at the views, but the architecture is very appealing and there's an amazing sense of calm. After the constant bustle of Buenos Aires, Colonia is a welcome retreat.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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