South American spotlight: coronavirus in Argentina

Argentina is famous for its jaw-dropping landscapes, its sophisticated capital city, and its sexy dance – the tango. We caught up with our local expert to understand more about coronavirus in Argentina.
Amazing view of Iguazu Falls. Photo: Rodrigo S Coelho/Shutterstock
Amazing view of Iguazu Falls. Photo: Rodrigo S Coelho/Shutterstock

With the dazzling landscapes of Patagonia, a capital city to write home about, the mighty Iguazú Falls, a tantalizing cuisine, and the gaucho culture of the Pampas, Argentina holds a whole lot of magic within its borders. During the coronavirus pandemic, the country was one of the first to shut its borders and halt commercial flights, announcing way back in April that a flight ban would remain in effect until 1 September. Now that date has been extended. But what do restrictions look like in Argentina, and when might visitors be allowed to return? We caught up with our local expert, Guadalupe Corvalán, to learn more.


In conversation with Guadalupe

Guadalupe Corvalán. Photo: private archive

Q: You are based in Cordoba. Do you see any differences between your experience and those of people based in Buenos Aires or more remote places like Ushuaia in regards to restrictions? 

A: Yes, there are some differences between different cities in the country. Here in Cordoba for instance, almost all economic activities have restarted their operations. Restaurants and bars reopened about a month ago, with all the necessary protocols of course; gyms reopened a couple of weeks ago, and dance academies are opening this week. But we still can’t leave the city to go to the river or to the hills.

In Buenos Aires, where there are more cases, they still have strict isolation policies and people can’t go out, even for a walk.

In more remote places, like  Patagonia, people can at least explore the surroundings. There are no risks in open spaces for example. I have a friend who lives in Ushuaia and he always posts videos on Instagram of him snowboarding or going up the hill in the chairlift.

San Martin Square and Cordoba Cathedral. Photo: Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Q: Argentina’s borders remain closed, with no official date for reopening announced so far. What about domestic travel and travel in the region? Do you think domestic and regional travel will pick up first, potentially with travel bubbles to other Latin American countries?

A: I do believe that domestic travel will pick up first. Our Tourism Minister said a couple of weeks ago that we’ll have a summer season. People in Buenos Aires like to go to the beach in summer. We have a very long coast on the Atlantic side. Mar del Plata, Villa Gessell, Pinamar are some of the most chosen beach destinations. In Cordoba we have our beautiful small river beaches too.

Domestic flights were supposed to restart the operations on 1 September, but it was postponed. The Tourism Ministry hopes that this will still happen in the next 60 days or so.

La Boca, Buenos Aires. Photo: Peter Zaharov/Shutterstock

Q: What is the ideal itinerary in your eyes for a first-timer to Argentina?

A: Any international flight to Argentina lands in Ezeiza airport, in Buenos Aires, where you can spend a couple of nights to explore the city, which is full of history. Maybe enjoy a tango show.

In case you have the option to travel to Cordoba city instead (depending where you depart from) we’ll be happy to receive you as well! We have plenty of beautiful scenery in our province: hills, valleys, rivers.

If you prefer to avoid the big cities, there are plenty of options to fly straight to Puerto Iguazú. You can’t miss the Iguazu Falls! These make up one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

After two or three nights, fly to Salta, in the Northeast area. Both Salta and Jujuy provinces have wonderful landscapes, with their colorful hills and huge ‘cardones’ (like big cactus). Without mentioning the warmth of the local people and the delicious regional gastronomy. Try the ‘humita’ and the ‘empanadas’! One of the fabulous things about this region is that it’s the perfect place to take a self-drive experience! And now, we really suggest this way of travel after Covid-19.

Finally, you can go from the North to the Wine Area on a direct flight. You are in Mendoza and you can’t leave Argentina without tasting a good Malbec red wine of the Andes lands. And if you like adventure you can do some trekking, biking, or horseback riding in the vineyards.

Mendoza vineyard, Argentina. Photo: sunsinger/Shutterstock

Q: What are your hidden gems in the country?         

A: Throughout these hard months of the pandemic we’ve been virtually exploring our vast country, and we have carefully created and selected some “Post Covid-19” programs. They have been specifically chosen for the future travelers, who will definitely prefer remote places, open spaces, and being in contact with nature.

Some of the destinations include: the Iberá Wetlands, ideal for wildlife watching; Central Patagonia, the virgin and wild Patagonia; sustainable tourism in the North (Salta and Jujuy), where you can meet local families and enjoy their beautiful deserts and colorful lagoons; and our Yacutinga lodge programs, where you can immerse yourself and disconnect in the subtropical jungle.

Little mountain town of Iruya in Salta, Argentina. Photo: sunsinger/Shutterstock

Q: The solar eclipse will cross South America in December 2020, with fantastic opportunities for travelers to watch. You have some amazing itineraries available to witness this spectacle, what do you think are the odds that international travel will be allowed by then? 

A: We still don’t have any official statements as of now. Nevertheless, everything seems to show that together with our summer holidays, we will be able to receive foreigner travelers into our beautiful country. Some international flights had been confirmed for September, but they were later postponed for a bit as it seems we are in the peak of the outbreak in our country. So, we remain optimistic and we hope that when the situation improves a little bit we will open our borders – as some of our neighboring countries are already doing.

Capybara (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris) in Ibera Wetlands. Photo: buteo/Shutterstock

Q: Argentina is known for its fantastic cuisine. What are your favorite dishes and/or drinks? Do you have a favorite restaurant in either Cordoba or Buenos Aires?

A: The star of Argentinean cuisine is, of course, the ‘asado’ (barbecue), which HAS to be paired with a good red wine, preferably Malbec.

This is my favorite meal, but I love empanadas (especially if they are made with the ‘Salteña’ recipe) – and pasta! Most people in Argentina descend from Italian (also Spanish) people, so we share a lot of food: lasagna, pizza, and stuffed pasta (sorrentinos, ravioles, canelones).

‘Milanesa’ with smashed potatoes is very typical, too. And I drink ‘Mate’ daily. This makes me 100% Argentinean!

The best asados are made at home actually, but if I have to recommend a ‘parrilla’ (steakhouse) it would be Don Julio or La Cabrera in Buenos Aires city. If you have the budget to spare, there’s a restaurant in Mendoza called Siete Fuegos by Francis Mallmann, which is one of my favourite ones!