The Real Argentina guide to tourism that gives a little back
Travelling is a beautiful thing but all that backpack country hopping from one tick list to another, can start to blur the senses and feel an incy bit gluttonous. Venturing in countries with an acute poverty divide pulls on more than your purse strings and in response, a range of environmentally and sociably responsible options are popping up, tailoring trips to the more conscious traveler. WARNING: Saving the world is not guaranteed by following this guide, but by considering how and where you spend your time and money, it may make a little difference and some better memories.
BUENOS AIRES VERDE. A very brief green background…
Buenos Aires, the city of ‘good airs’ is pretty fume choked as it goes. It’s a mega metropolis. Roads get jammed with belching buses and cars, obvio. But no Porteña takes a challenge lying down and la ciudad is no exception. It’s been working hard to improve its green edge, which paid-off when it bagged the Sustainable Transport Award 2014 for its Sustainable Mobility Plan. An EcoBici network has got more bums on bikes than ever, the number of pedestrianised streets in the centro upped, and the Metrobus system with its bus only lanes has cut down journey times. Recycling options are slowly becoming more widespread too as giant green bins pop up across the city. Over 9000 Porteños showed their support earlier this year when they pounded the streets in two running teams representing the organic and recyclable waste divide. Poop scooping after their beloved perros (dogs) however, is not most Porteños’ favourite hobby but plastic bag stands, for that purpose, are also cropping up around town.
TWO WHEELS = GOOD
You’re too old for waving at locals from an open top tourist bus right? No? Ok, well why not compromise and do it from a bike instead! BA’s more two-wheel friendly than it looks thanks to the newly expanded public bike-sharing scheme, open to locals and tourists, for whizzing around the decently designed bike lanes. There’s a nice wedge of concrete kerb to separate pedal power from petrol, which adds to the safety barometer, though keep both eyes peeled for motorbikes. A loud bell or firm permiso (excuse me) shouted at pedestrians will also serve you well for those who veer into your territory. Chat to staff at one of the EcoBici shelters dotted around the main centres to see about signing up. Unleash your free wheels down the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve in Puerto Madero. Giving views out to the Rio de la Plata, the former abandoned land-fill project is now full of flora and fauna, aquatic lilies and birds. Take a picnic and vamos!
If you prefer a guided tour, get Googling for bountiful options, but biking on bamboo bikes? That’ll be the job of Urban Biking. With over 10 years in the business, it’s a no brainer.
For local nocturnal adventures biking to lesser-known barrios (neighbourhoods), catch the free Masa Criticawhich sees hundreds of cycling adictos gather at the iconic Obelisco every month to take in a fun filled loop of the city. Expect sound systems, food sellers, buena bike onda and antics as you and your new friends send local hotheaded drivers loco blocking off roads as you temporarily reclaim the streets. The Facebook page has reliable info and full moon masas are particularly special!
Be sure to check out the government’s mapa interactivo app to search your best journey options by foot, bike and public transport too. Taxi’s and traffic jams are so last season.
Top tip: to fit in, in the bike lane, sing along out-loud to your favourite band and give someone you like the look of a special sonrisa (smile).
TRAVEL LIGHT… leave a footprint
If disconnecting is your idea of reconnecting, let your laptop miss you for a while and escape the city bustle to enjoy some responsible tourism. Here’s The Real Argentina’s pick of the best…
Tranquility, self-sufficiency and beauty about sums up the lifestyle that owners Kimberly and Marcelo continue creating and sharing with volunteers and local communities in the North East province of Misiones. Set in a lush oasis, pretty much everything you see on site was made with their hands and those of the waves of interns they’ve hosted over the years. Get your hands dirty Mama Roja style building cob houses, tending the vegetable patches and making homemade bread, yogurt and preserves. Making Pacha Mama (mother earth) proud with their renewable energy sources and composting, head there in butterfly season for a vibrant nature show and wonder for a cool dip in the waterfall during downtime before drying off and napping in a hammock. If you can’t commit to the intern program, ask about their tie-ups with Buena Onda Yoga who host popular retreats and Mama Roja’s sacred plant ceremonies. Mama Roja
More boutique than hippy chic, company founder Lorenzo and her expert team tailor luxury trips with a conscience. Lihue is about positively bringing changes to the more remote communities they visit. Contrary to the ‘zoo’ effect of tourist filled buses photographing local people, take the chance to visit the remote hamlet of Huachichocana, at 3200 meters above sea level, to meet the 11 students who walk up to an hour for classes with teacher Lorenzo. Share lunch and spend an afternoon of cultural exchange with the classmates as you help raise funds for their greenhouse project to combat levels of malnutrition. For nature look in to their Iberá Wetlands Pellegrini colony tour and the wildlife reintroduction project where poachers turned guides show off the wildlife they once hunted. Check the website: Lihue Expeditions
TOURS IN CAMINITO
No time to leave BA? Anda Travel’s La Boca Beyond Caminito tour leaves the tango tack behind to visit various projects benefiting the community including a cooperative alfajor factory. They can also hook you up to help out at a food bank or children’s centre for a day. Check the website: Anda Travel
Short on time but money no problem? Donate!
Huerta Niño works to educate and feed children in the poorest northern provinces of the country where malnutrition and hunger remain acute issues. Through their philosophy of education and building community allotments in rural schools, families are feeding themselves through self-sustainable food sources. Mama Roja also accepts donations. Check the website: Huerta Niño
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
PUERTA CERRADA – Delicias De Alicia
Indulge guilt free at Alicia’s beautiful closed-door restaurant, hosted in a typical San Telmo house, knowing all your extra calories (and pesos) are going to a good cause. Half of all profits go back into creating cooking and sustainability workshops in the poor communities of La Matanza, south of capital.
ETF, the 10 year project behind the recently launched restaurant initiative, is a little organisation that’s been making some big changes in families’ eating habits. Seeing how diets based on bread, fizzy drinks and meat were depriving the pibes (kids) of essential nutrients inspired Alicia to start giving cooking and nutrition workshops in the villa (slum) as a volunteer. Since 2013 she’s been providing a space for the 6 to 12 years olds to playfully learn, experiment and eat healthy delicious vegetarian food together. It’s all in the hope she’ll never again get asked, ‘What’s a vegetable?’ A real question posed by eight year old Lucía.
On the night you’ll feast on seasonal three course veggie delights as well as a welcome cocktail and appetizer at the intimate communal tables. Lovingly cooked and served up by Alicia and intern Diego, it’s a great chance to find out more about what they do. We love the high ceilings, original art decked walls and log burning fire to cosy-up to in winter. Bring your own alcohol optional. Check the facebook page to sign up for the next super supper!
Green Self Catering
If you’re on the hunt for DIY options get down to one of the these markets for fresh local produce for yourpicada…
Good for health food, crafts and plants, Mercado Solidario is a big community change-maker. One of the shops is operated by volunteers from the Movimiento Popular La Dignidade, an NGO working with disadvantaged people. Handmade clothes sales, fundraisers and public funds pay back into four free nurseries, after school tutorials and a food charity. The NGO works out of the cultural centre at the back of the market and hosts various workshops and events on a donation basis.
A barn tucked at the back of Chacarita train station between disused rusting tracks and a car park, doesn’t sound like the stuff organic dreams are made of, but go inside to discover an organic allotment and outdoor barbeque serving up agro-toxic free meat. The cooperative of stall-holders work together to upkeep the space originally created by former political prisoners and a percentage of what you spend goes into maintaining the barn. Stock up on organic frutas y verduras (fruit and veg), raw food, dairy, meat and skincare products before carrying it home in your own bags, reusuable of course! No plastic bags are sold but you can buy the Galpon’s handmade cloth versions. Open: Weds and sat. El Galpon
SABE DE LA TIERRA
Bringing producers closer to consumers with a focus on local and sustainable, the markets four sites across greater Buenos Aires, including cute out of town spot Vicente Lopez, host workshops and good prices on fresh health foods. Also caters to vegans and celiacs, hoorah! Visit the website: Sabe de la Tierra
BUENOS AIRES MARKET
It isn’t all organic or a cooperative but hosts a diverse range of local producers so you can find out where your food is coming from. It’s a very popular moving market so check the facebook page to catch where it will show up next and get there early! Buenos Aires Market moves around town twice a month.
NOW YOU’RE REFUELED, TIME TO SHOP VERDE!
Give your old clothes to the chicos at Galpon de Ropa to sell, recycle or donate while you have a snoop around for any bargains. They’re not into vintage, tie-dye or just any old tat though. Clothes need to be in good condition and known brands take preference. If they like what you’re offering they’ll name a price and you choose to take 30% of the sale value there and then, 40% when it sells or 50% credit to spend in-store. Hippy capoeira pants got rejected? No worries, they’ll point you in the direction of NGO’s to donate to and even recycle fabrics through the city’s recycling centres.
Talleres Sustentables live by the premise that, ‘no piece of furniture is more beautiful nor more useful than a tree,’ in their Palermo showroom you’ll find sustainably designed and produced pieces that are made to last. They also run courses to pass on their skills to help raise a self-employed independent workforce.
Pick up some hecho a mano (hand made) home accessories at the Palermo local of social initiative Yo no Fui on Fridays (2pm-8pm), who run workshops for women in, and recently released from, prison.
Just because it’s ethical doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful and URSA’s ethical textiles and accessories label proves just that. It works mainly with women’s cooperatives in and around Buenos Aires, helping to ensure better working and pay conditions for all.
Wrap up in Manto Abrigo’s ethical, chic and stylish textiles when the seasons turn. You’ll find modern designs hand made by Andean weavers. The labour intensive craftwork is reflected on the price tags but the quality of the exquisite coats, jumpers and accessories means they’ll last a lot longer than any mass-produced high street wannabe.
Support Argentine famers while you shop at fashion designer Alejandra Gottelli’s Cubreme boutique. Buy here and you’ll know that the chemical free cotton comes from Chaco, one of the poorest regions in the country, while organic wool from Patagonian sheep is transformed into tailored pieces for the men, women’s and homeware lines which reflect the natural palette of the provinces.
LAY YOUR GREEN DREAMS TO BED…
After all that exploring, eating and shopping you deserve a rest at one of these green options…
PALO SANTO HOTEL
Luxurious with a capital L, this new boutique hotel’s made a name for itself in eco-design. Adorned by lush vertical gardens with over 800 plants hanging from the facades, balconies, roof and patios, sip on a cocktail and take in the fresh jasmine scent. Built to US Green Council building standards, it’s the prettiest way to set-off carbon emissions we’ve seen and the impressive sustainability program has got it all covered from personal recycling bins in suites to furnishings made from certified Palo Santo wood. Eco and socially conscious, the hotel also works with El Ceibo, a cooperative business created by former cartoneros, to recycle rubbish and give jobs to those in need or people with disabilities. Palo Santo Hotel
An award winning Palermo design classic, Home has recycling and reusing high on the agenda and also collaborates with the El Ceibo community. All those sunny BA days get soaked up by the solar panel-heated pool surrounded by native trees, soft bushes and flowers. Peaceful, indulgent and good for the environment. Home Hotel
One of the earlier eco-friendly hotels, since 2008, this wellness centre of tranquility in the heart of the city has been flying the green flag with pride. All the construction materials are eco-friendly from certified Carolina Pine (Forest Stewardship Council) to the synthetic fiber fabric wallpaper to protect against deforestation. Peddle power rules as bamboo bikes are on hand to borrow, used hotel slippers are donated, recyclable materials delivered to local cooperatives and even cooking oil is donated for reuse in fuel production under a Local Authority initiative. They are a trusting bunch too. Make yourself at home and fix a drink at the ‘Honesty Bar’ where you decide what to charge yourself before heading for some relax time at the wellness boutique. Casa Calma Hotel
Latest posts by Sonja D'cruze (see all)
- BUENOS AIRES’ MEATY FEAST CHAMPIONSHIP - August 29, 2017
- Get the grapes in! Mendoza’s Vendimia Harvest Festival - May 15, 2017
- ARGENTINA’S SILVER LINING - October 6, 2016