A Green Travel Guide: Buenos Aires, Argentina

A view of Buenos Aires from The Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve
Olivia Balsinger

Buenos Aires is a muse of a city. You can feel a sense of eclectic romanticism when careening its cobblestone streets, hopping cafe to cafe in new custom leather shoes. Known as the “Paris of South America,” Argentina’s capital stands at the crossroads of Latin America and Europe. Ruled by Spain until the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires entered its independence with a remarkable identity that preserved the particular charm of its European influences as well as its roots and customs shared among its continental neighbors.

This distinct and diverse character is the city’s breath, which makes all who inhale and experience it feel intensely alive, inspired. It is a metropolis that allows you to spend your days in quiet, enriched escape and your evenings enthralled by an exciting nightlife scene.

With luxurious accommodations, stellar shopping, and delicious dining, Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan urban center with coquettish charisma. It is an ideal destination for any traveler, whether you plan a rigid itinerary of cultural attractions or leave a few days open to wander around and explore its alluring nooks and crannies at your leisure.

Where to Stay

For both luxury and convenience, check in to The InterContinental Buenos Aires. Located in the neighborhood of San Telmo, this five-star hotel is just minutes away from some of the city’s hottest attractions (a bonus: you can walk or ride a bike around town in lieu of a taxi!)  The hotel sits walking distance from The Teatro Colón Opera House and four kilometers from The Centro Cultural Recoleta Exhibition Center. Even inside this dually modern and classic hotel, the spirit of Buenos Aires shines.

With an ambiance that exudes old-world luxury, the accommodations at the InterContinental invites its visitors, weary from a long day of sightseeing, a romantic escape to rest their head like royalty on a cozy bed.

The hotel's spa offers luxurious massages, saunas, and steam baths, as well as treatments like facials, foot reflexology, and neck reflexology…everything you need to energize body, mind, and spirit. The hotel also has a fitness center with Cybex equipment, and personal trainers on staff if you want to put some extra fire in your workout.

Then head to the indoor heated pool to ease those muscles. While I could have spent the entire day relaxing and indulging in the hotel's decadent offerings, I knew that the city of Buenos Aires calling my name to further explore.

And after my daily adventures, I returned home to my hotel room and slept easy knowing that I’ve made a responsible choice of where I laid my head. InterContinental is operated by Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), which implement their Green Engage System to assure their facilities are as eco-friendly as possible.

The System monitors and controls certain operations in order to reduce energy, water, and waste, as well as to cut carbon emissions, ensuring the utmost safety of the locale’s natural environment.

Places to See

In a city whose pulse is synced with the downbeats of a sensuous tango rhythm, I would have been remiss if I had not tried my own hand (and legs, and arms and hips) at the traditional dance. I decided on The Dinner & Tango Show at El Querandi – San Telmo, a restored house from 1920. Prior to the show, my mouth watered at a mere skim of the menu options--a mixture of traditional Argentine meals and modern fusions. My head still spins when I think about the dips and the turns, the beats and, the seduction and passion of the dancers and musicians onstage.

  The show brings the history of the dance to life, beginning with immigrants to the land at the end of the 19th Century and ending with post-1955 modernism of the dance. 

Things to Do 

The most sustainable, environmentally friendly (and in my humble opinion, most fun) way of exploring the colonial streets of Buenos Aires is on two wheels. I enjoyed a tour with Biking Tour: Biking Buenos Aires so much that I showed up again the next day, keen on jumping on a bike to explore more. The company's sincerity shines through in its friendly staff who help you plan your own personal tour of the diverse city. They offer a wide variety of tours designed to show you the many pockets of the eclectic city’s most popular attractions, historical significances, or sprawling, astonishingly beautiful parks and plazas.

On their Ultimate City Tour, you will experience an extensive, seven-hour long view of Buenos Aires’ historical sites, which takes you to where it was first discovered, to the famous Recoleta Cemetery, and back to life again in the central Plaza de Mayo. For a more intimate experience of the more central parts of the city, The Heart of City Tour is ideal. Learn about the origins of Argentinian traditions at the sites in which they were born. During this five hour trip, you will visit the old port of La Boca that welcomed many European immigrants, the wealthy, quaint neighborhood of Puerto Madero (whose history is told as a Cinderella story), and, of course, the extremely significant stage of Argentinian’s history: The Plaza del Mayo.

For bucolic scenery, sign up for the Important Parks & Plazas Tours. For five hours, you will see the more pastoral corners of the city’s green public spaces, while also visiting the Flor Generica, a metal flower that has become a modern symbol of the city. You will then head to Palermo Soho, where you can pass by the bars, restaurants, and boutique shops and plan out where you might pop your head in to reward yourself after a long, exhilarating bike ride. If you’re looking for a memorable ride, be sure to reserve in advance, as only 12 people are permitted per tour.

For something more infinite, Biking Buenos Aires also offers private tours.

The Costenera Sur Ecological Reserve was admittedly my favorite area of the city. As I wandered about, I got the sense it isn't one of those places that tourists would traditionally flock to, as there is a certain authentic mystique marked by rolling greenery and picturesque vistas. Located on the southern tip of Buenos Aires and running the length of the Puerto Madero neighborhood, the 360-hectare ecological reserve serves as a needed refuge and literal breath of fresh air from city life.

I rode my bike with Biking Buenos Aires through the vast nature and expansive verdant areas. The park was declared a National Park on Earth Day in 1986. The park has at least six species of parrots, swans, and kingfishers, as well as turtles, Vipers, and nutria scattered throughout the willowing weeds aligning the dirt paths. It is also home to three lagoons, the Laguna de las Gaviotas, Laguna de los Patos and the Laguna de los Coipos. You are free to stroll the reserve on any day except Mondays.

The origin of the reserve is fascinating, as its foundation is built on the remnants of demolished buildings and construction debris, discarded into the Rio lat Plata, which were mixed with the river’s sand to create the marshy surface upon which the beautiful park now flourishes. It is not maintained to pristine standards and serves to remind those wondering from the vibrant city center of the surrounding natural beauty.

What to Eat and Where

For the true epicureans and open-minded, you do not want to miss your chance to attend The Argentinean Experience, a three hour “interactive dining experience” that allows guest to learn about the country’s culture and cuisine while preparing their own three-course gourmet meal.

Once a small closed-door restaurant based out of a small apartment in 2011, the Argentine Experience’s innovative appeal led to its success as an exclusive 28-seat restaurant and bar in the thriving nightlife center of Palermo Hollywood. Sip on a Malabeca cocktail and socialize with the other guests as eager as you to embark on your gastronomical journey. Start by preparing gourmet ingredients for empanadas, which you will fill and wrap yourself. After, indulge in traditional favorites such as provoleta, chorizo and chimichurri.

Better save room because the main course features, what else, but a thick cut steak and delicious sides. For dessert? Assemble your own alfajores, two biscuits stuck together by dulce de leech, topped with chocolate fondant and coconut flakes.

Finally, you will learn the ceremonial preparation and serving of mate, a tea made from the dried leaves of yerba mate, a local species of holly. The Argentinean Experience is definitely a gem for anyone looking to not only indulge in the country's delectable cuisine but to interact and understand the passion that goes in the food that makes it oh so delicious. 

On the Way to the Airport

And en route to the airport for my flight home with Copa Airlines, I made a pitstop at Holiday Inn Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport, another hotel of IHG operating under the Green Engage System located close to the airport for a jetsetter's convenience. Only a five-minute drive to the airport, this hotel is the quintessential spot to relax before a red-eye flight. Attached to the restaurant is El Mangrullo, a steakhouse with plenty of traditional Argentinean dishes to satiate that last craving of South American cuisine.

With a rustic, warm atmosphere, you will feel compelled to take your time perusing through their options of meats grilled to perfection, sumptuous starters like empanadas, mollejas, and cheese platters.   

And with a full stomach and heart, I said a remorseful "Adios!" to Buenos Aires. But I have a feeling I will be greeting the town with a big ole "Hola!" again sooner rather than later.