Argentinawithfriendstravel’s Weblog

December 18, 2010

Penguins, Dolphins, and Welsh History in Patagonia, Argentina

One of the most fascinating and enjoyable day trips from Puerto Madryn, Argentina is the journey south to visit the penguin reserve at Punta Tombo. With stops along the way for Dolphin watching and a traditional Welsh Tea in the historic town of Gaiman this is a full day of unequaled activities. The Flamenco Tour agency offers this day trip starting at about 9AM in the morning and returning to Puerto Madryn by about 6PM. With bilingual tour guides who are knowledgeable on the region and comfortable vehicles, this day trip is a must for those who enjoy nature and unique experiences.

The small peninsula of Punta Tombo is on the Argentinian Patagonian coastline. Thousands of tourists gather here to be amazed, entertained, and educated by one of the most fascinating shows performed by nature at the Magellan penguin colony. Approximately half a million penguins come every year in order to breed. The first of them arrive in September and stay until about mid-March, but the best time to observe them is after November, once the babies are born. One of the greatest features of this Nature Reservation is the fact that you can actually walk among the penguins, follow them and learn their habits, see how they feed their babies, the rites of pairing, the fights for the defense of their territories, how they build their nests, and the unending walks they take to and from the ocean. This is a truly singular experience with wonderful photo opportunities. Penguins and their individual style of waddling and behavioral patterns are always entertaining.

Punta Tombo is also a paradise for other sea birds that have chosen this site to nest. Kelp gulls and dolphin gulls, skuas, two species of cormorants—the king cormorant and the rock shag—steamerducks, snowy sheathbills, and several species of terns and giant petrels all make their nests in this region. Be sure to bring your binoculars to enjoy the bird watching.

At Puerto Rawson the boat tours head out to sea where the dolphin sightings are a major attraction.

Usually the Commerson’s dolphins—called Toninas locally—and also known as bottlenose dolphins, can be observed year-round. This is one of the few places in the world where these dolphins may be watched in their natural environment. Semi-rigid boats leave from Rawson’s harbor in the afternoon because in the mornings the dolphins remain feeding in the ocean depths. Theses dolphins are not at all shy and love to dart back and forth in front of the boats’ bows and leap into the air performing a great show for the passengers on board. On one boat trip it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe numerous of these fascinating sea creatures having fun in their natural environment.

For a change of pace the next stop is a visit to the town of Gaiman where the first settlers arrived in 1865 by boat from Wales. These immigrants were escaping from the English domination of their homeland as well as from the attempt of the latter to impose their culture upon them. They were looking for a virgin territory to be able to establish the “New Wales” where they could follow their own rules and customs without being attacked. Patagonia offered this safe haven. Today much of the Welsh culture is still apparent in the historic buildings, architectural style, and street names. Even the Welsh language is still spoken and taught in the schools, and real Welsh Tea Houses are open for all to enjoy a traditional Welsh Afternoon Tea. The Welsh village essence and small farms retain the charm and character created by these original settlers even in today’s modern society. This is a bona fide step back in time with historical overtones for an incomparable Patagonia experience.

From wildlife to local history this day trip from Puerto Madryn is a fascinating education of the local culture and yore. The gay and gay-friendly staff at Flamenco Tour agency will be happy to arrange this journey for your enjoyment and will also ensure that you learn from your time spent with nature and yesteryear.


JESS Kalinowsky Professional Travel Consultant

Friends Travel LLP


October 15, 2008

Experience Buenos Aires like a local with

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city best experienced through its monumental passions rather than its monuments.

Argentines adore steak and red wine dinners that stretch on for hours, the sultry nostalgia of tango dance halls, a nail-biting match between rival soccer titans and spirited conversations that keep the vibrant cafe` culture humming — and their fervor is contagious.

Visitors get the most out of their stay delving into these pockets of passion in Argentine life, rather than scurrying from cathedral to war monument — many of which are often less impressive than their European counterparts.

When London or New York City has called it a night, portenos — as Buenos Aires’ port-dwelling residents are called — are just putting on their dancing shoes, heading out until dawn to tango halls, clubs pounding experimental cumbia music or bars that only kick out frolickers once the sun comes up.

The city is also a bargain compared to Europe or the U.S. The Buenos Aires tourism industry has grown accustomed to the steady wave of visitors since the Argentine peso plummeted to a third of its value following a devastating 2001 economic crash. While some tourist hot spots have hiked up prices, there are ways to keep costs down while exploring portenos’ many passions.

June 27, 2008

Argentina South America with

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Argentina South America

Argentina has been called the “Land of the Six Continents”. Although this title communicates the country’s great geographic diversity, we struggle to limit ourselves to six. Each region in its 3,000 mile territory is special and distinct.

The country’s northern half is rich in culture and natural beauty. The high northwest cradles ancient towns, where villagers honor their Andean roots. In the northern rainforests of Misiones, Iguazu Fall’s great waters roar on endlessly. At the edge of the wide Rio de la Plata, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires bustles to the staccato steps of the Tango. The dusty central pampas are home to the Gauchos, the cowboys who herd Argentina’s famous beef cattle. On the western border, Mendoza’s prized vineyards produce the world’s finest Malbec.

In the south, innumerable penguins, whales and sea lions struggle against the elements on the wild Atlantic coastline of Patagonia. Bariloche and Calafate compel exploration of the outdoors, tempting visitors with crystal blue mountain lakes, towering glaciers and perfect powder. And at the end of world, the sparkling port of Ushuaia is the last haven of ships bound for Antarctica.

Argentina offers you an endless collection of beauty. No matter what part this vast land has captured your imagination, our expert travel counselors will help you craft the perfect experience.

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel reservations.

JESS Kalinowsky

Buenos Aires: Cultural Capital of Latin America with

Buenos Aires: Cultural Capital of Latin America

Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan town with European flair. The city is known for its active cultural and social scenes, with special emphasis on tango, opera, theater, night-life, soccer, polo, fine beef and excellent wines. To this rich mixture, add the myth of “Evita”, the gaucho tradition and the Pampas, the river ports, art galleries, handcrafted clothing and sidewalk cafes. You will then start to understand the heart of this city—an original society born from migrant ships and open to all cultures.

We suggest a three-day visit to this irresistible metropolis. A stay in Buenos Aires is ideally paired with side trips to a private ranch, a cruise on the delta of the Parana River, or an excursion to historic Colonia, Uruguay. Longer extensions can be arranged to Iguazu Falls or the beach resorts of Uruguay.

One of Buenos Aires’ highlights is the fashionable district of La Recoleta, known for its cafés, architectural masterpieces and parks. Recoleta’s grand cemetery has been called “a place to die for.” The innumerable mausoleums resemble Greek temples, chapels, pyramids and Roman rotundas. Here, the rich and famous are buried in style. Among them is Eva Peron, the famous former first lady of Argentina.

Buenos Aires is ideal for walking. One notable pedestrian area is Florida Street, an open air shopping mall lined by chic boutiques and shops selling designer clothing, leather goods, chocolates, jewelry and books. The street itself is an attraction; the concourses of shoppers are dressed at their best, while guitarists, singers, jugglers and tango dancers perform in their midst. Other neighborhoods ideal for a stroll include Recoleta, Palermo and San Telmo.

Our city tours can be designed to meet your wishes. Although most visitors are eager to see the Casa Rosada and the colorful port neighborhood of La Boca, we can easily customize a tour to fit your distinctive interests.  We’ve designed tours highlighting artistic, religious, culinary, sporting and historical aspects of porteño culture.

One popular element of this culture is tango. This powerful dance, born in Buenos Aires in the early decades of the last century, is marked by strong syncopation and staccato movements. An evening dinner and tango show is a must when visiting Buenos Aires. For those with a deeper interest in this art form, we can arrange private lessons with world-class instructors.

We are happy to recommend fine restaurants (including the world’s best steak and pasta houses), cafés, bistros and gelaterias. In some cases, private or rooftop dining can be arranged. Many of the city’s best kitchens are found only a short distance from our suggested hotels.

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” – Samuel Johnson

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel arrangments.

JESS Kalinowsky

Salta: Beauty of the North of Argentina with

Salta: Beauty of the North

Argentina’s mountainous Northwest has only recently been discovered by international travelers. Rich in colonial architecture, the picturesque province of Salta offers visitors a rainbow of landscapes infused with indigenous Andean culture.

Salta, originally founded by the conquistadores in 1533, was declared a province of Argentina in 1814 following liberation from Spain. The exquisite colonial architecture of the capital city is evidence of powerful European influence. Completed in 1625, the iconic red and gold San Francisco Church, boasts the hemisphere’s tallest belfry. The city’s centerpiece, 9 de Julio Plaza, is shaded by towering palm trees and surrounded by sidewalk cafes. Here, the air is infused with the scent of fresh empanadas and the gentle strains of accordion music. The pink hued Salta Cathedral serves as the plaza’s impressive backdrop. Nearby, an enormous handicraft market bustles with local artisans, who sell pottery, woolen goods, and Wichi woodcarvings.

The surrounding countryside is some of South America’s most colorful terrain. To the south, National Route 68 crosses the Calchaquíes Valleys, known for their red hills, adobe towns, and centuries-old traditions. In the southern town of Cafayate, visitors can admire the local architecture, enjoy regional cuisine, and delight in the remarkable spirit of the people. Cachi, a small historic town in eastern Salta offers similar opportunities.

“Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” – Lawrence Darrell

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class, or Coach air travel arrangements from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel reservations.

JESS Kalinowsky

Train to the Clouds ascends an Andean plateau with

Train to the Clouds

One of South America’s most remarkable rail journeys begins in Salta: the Train to the Clouds or Tren a las Nubes. Departing from the city’s train station shortly after sunrise, this rustic railway carries passengers deep into the region’s canyons, gliding across slender bridges (including the high, 740-foot La Polvorilla Viaduct) and through rough hewn tunnels.

This trip to the heavens ascends an Andean plateau, reaching nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, before returning to Salta late in the evening. Along the way, it zigzags through subtropical and desert climates, stopping in San Antonio de los Cobres, a colonial village known for its handicrafts.

Friends Travel Services plans customized trips to Argentina’s Northwest. We offer hotels, guides and transportation, including excursions on the Train to the Clouds.

“It is almost axiomatic that the worst trains take you through magical places.” –

Paul Theroux Train of the Clouds

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class, or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel arrangements.

JESS Kalinowsky

Jujuy: Land of the Incas with

Jujuy: Land of the Incas

Jujuy is the cradle of Argentina’s Andean cultures. This northernmost province, which borders southern Bolivia, was conquered by the Incas in 1480. After the Spanish Conquest, Jujuy was part of colonial Peru until the late 16th century. Today, the province is emerging as an international destination, desirable for its rich traditions and breathtaking Andean landscape. The Humahuaca Gorge, declared a UNESCO World Cultural Landscape in 2003, is extensive canyon of colorful rock formations inhabited by free-roaming herds of vicuña and dotted with charming towns.

San Salvador de Jujuy, the province’s capital, is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture and spacious plazas. Approximately 40 miles north of the city is the quaint adobe village of Purmamarca (the “Town of Virgin Land” in the Aymara tongue). Purmamarca is located at the base of the vivid Hill of Seven Colors, a mountain striped with hues ranging from purple to orange to white. Villagers gather in Purmamarca’s central plaza each morning for a traditional crafts market. The local church, St. Rosa de Lima, was built in 1648 and contains priceless artworks.

Twelve miles north of Purmamarca is Tilcara, another quiet village known for its adobe homes, steep roads, archeological museum and colorful terrain. Nearby is the Painter’s Pallet, a jagged mountainside distinguished by its zigzag bands of yellow stone. One of Tilcara’s most important historical sites is the fortified mountainside of Pucara. Here, amid towering green cacti and open skies, stone corrals and settlements provide visitors with a glimpse of pre-Inca times.

Northwest of Tilcara, is Humahuaca, a town set at 10,000 feet above sea level. The town’s narrow cobblestone streets lead past the craft market to the central plaza. Each day at noon, residents gather here in silence for a unique display of faith. As the church bells play Ave María, a pair of oxidized metal doors open in the clock tower, revealing a mechanical representation of San Francisco Solano. The world’s first animated saint then looks to the heavens before moving his arms in a blessing on the town.

“For where does one run to when he’s already in the promised land?” – Claude Brown

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel arrangements.

JESS Kalinowsky

Movitrack: Northwest Safaris Argentina with

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Movitrack: Northwest Safaris

For those seeking an adventure off the beaten path, Movitrack provides off-road excursions through Argentina’s rough northern terrain. With set departure days each week, these tours leave Salta city early in the morning and return in the late evening, either the same day or the next. With custom vehicles designed specifically for the north’s unique conditions, Movitrack allows travelers unprecedented access to the beauty of Salta, Jujuy and Tucumán.

The Movitrack Safari to the Clouds, perhaps the most popular tour, begins in Salta and follows the famous path of Train to the Clouds, through the jagged and vibrant Toro Gorge and up to San Antonio de los Cobres. From there, the safari continues over the high plateau to salt flats of Jujuy, las Salinas Grandes. Before returning to Salta, the safari passes through the village of Purmamarca, known for its vivid Hill of Seven Colors. These trips can be extended with an overnight stay in the town of Maimará and scenic journeys through the Humahuaca Gorge.

Other excursions include journeys through the Calchaquíes Valleys of southern Salta and the historic towns of Cachi and Cafayate. For those interested in discovering Tucumán, Argentina’s smallest province, two-day safaris can be arranged through the valleys of Salta and into the ancient city of Quilmes.

Depending on the day’s activities, trips are done either as “open air” (with an open roof) or “pure air” (with an oxygenized and micro-filtered air system).

Friends Travel Services designs customized trips to Argentina’s rugged Northwest. Our expert travel counselors can arrange lodging, transportation, and tours—including the Movitrack safaris.

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.” –

Louis L’Amour

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class, or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel reservations.

JESS Kalinowsky

El Colibrí: Cordoba’s Best with

El Colibrí: Cordoba’s Best

Once in a great while, a special place is added to the landscape. El Colibrí is just such a place—an instant tradition. This new estancia has enlivened the rolling pampas of Cordoba, inviting a new generation of guests and receiving them with warmth and charm.

El Colibrí is the creation of Raoul and Stéphanie Fenestraz, whose family has a long heritage of operating fine French hotels. In order to make the posada look and feel like an Argentinean estancia at the beginning of the 20th century, they traveled around the country for over a year, searching for the best craftsmen, the finest materials and authentic antique furniture. Their estancia is designed like a home where every room is decorated differently and every detail is inspired by a story.

From 170 unspoiled hectares of farm land, the Fenestraz family created an authentic example of the Argentinean campo where the wild forest has been transformed into a natural park and the rest of the grounds are looked after like a private garden.

El Colibrí is a colonial-style mansion designed with modern comforts. With only nine rooms, each guest is assured a warm reception and personal service. Meals feature the best Argentinean meats and wines.

The main house features a bar, library, spa, and swimming pool. Nearby, you’ll find the ranch’s club house and polo fields. Guests can relax on the grounds or enjoy horseback riding, biking, golf, polo, fishing and dove hunting. A treetop adventure track and go-cart racing are available for younger guests.

The El Colibrí estancia is just a short flight from Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. PanAmerican Travel Services arranges stays at El Colibrí and other destinations within Argentina and Chile.

Some of our clients who visited El Colibrí recently provided the following reviews:

  • “The highlight of our vacation was certainly El Colibrí. This is a spectacular place. I highly recommend it as a destination for individuals as well as families. My kids said it was the best vacation they’ve had. The hosts are incredible!”
  • “The Estancia El Colibrí exceeded our very lofty expectations. It is, quite simply, the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. The rooms, food, staff, and facilities were first rate.”

“No one traveling on a business trip would be missed if he failed to arrive.” – Thorstein Veblen

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class, or Coach travel reservations from your hometown to South America, and your pre and post hotel reservations before or after your tour or Cruise.

JESS Kalinowsky

Patagonia: Land of Explorers and Adventurers with

Patagonia: Land of Explorers and Adventurers

Patagonia is a land where nature manifests itself in awe-inspiring granite peaks, rolling plains, and vast Andean ice fields. It is a land of discoverers, including Sarmiento de Gamboa and Magellan, and adventurers like Antoine Orllie I, the self-proclaimed emperor of Araucania and Patagonia.

The isolation of Patagonia offered a refuge for immigrants from European nations. The Welsh arrived in the 1800’s and settled the barren land, which at the time was populated by fierce Indian tribes. The Welsh are still a strong presence in Patagonia. Towns and cities such as Trelew, Madryn and Trevelyn were founded by those pioneers.

Further south is the Island of Tierra del Fuego, with its virgin forests and rugged peaks. Patagonia is also a paradise for fly fishing, where the sea-run brown trout reach almost 30 pounds in weight. This is a land of pure rivers and glacial lakes. Many of our clients enjoy horseback riding, trekking and bird watching here. Patagonia is a rewarding destination for all those adventurous enough to explore it.

“Why then—and this is not only my particular case—does this barren land possess my mind?…I find it hard to explain…but it might partly be because it enhances the horizons of imagination.” – Charles Darwin

JESS Kalinowsky will make your First Class, Business Class or Coach air travel reservations from your hometown to Argentina, South America, and your pre and post tour or cruise hotel reservations.

JESS Kalinowsky

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