A couple of weeks ago I went to Mar del Plata to visit people and relax a bit (more) before I began teaching. Had I not known people who live there, I probably wouldn’t have gone. But I am so glad I did because it is such an amazing place, even in the Autumn (being in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons in South America are the opposite of the UK).
Mar del Plata is a seaside city. I initially thought and wrongly assumed that it was quite a small place, but no, it is, in fact, quite large. It’s on the coast, and it is located about five hours or so south of Buenos Aires. It’s where all the portenos (people from Buenos Aires) go for their holidays. It’s a place that not a lot of backpackers go to. I know this from two things: in my Lonely Planet guide book, Mardel only has one page, which to the book users often means it’s not worth visiting. This is wrong, because it is! And secondly, the lack of hostels there- I found only five or six different hostels on hostelworld.com. There is a multitude of hotels, in the city centre and lining the sea front. I think that you can also rent out beachside apartments, and the best place for these is Playa Grande, which is the main beach area there.
I don’t really know why it’s not a popular backpacker destination. I think it should be, it is truely beautiful.
There is a lot beach, and I know it’s a popular surf area. There a few surf schools, unfortunately I never got the chance to surf there as it was too cold. There is also a lot of green areas- a lot of the Plazas had large areas of green.
One of my favourite things about Mardel (it’s given nickname) was the fact that there was a mixture of old buildings and new buildings. There new apartment blocks standing behind older-looking houses. I thought this was a beautiful contrast.
Now isn’t that just a stunning contrast?
As far as sightseeing goes, there are a few things to do. I really enjoyed walking around San Martin, one of the main shopping areas. I’m not a massive fan of shopping, but I just enjoyed the atmosphere there. And the fact that there were a few tourist shops I could buy my all-important pin badge souvenir.
There is also the beach, if you go when the weather is nice. And the surfing, as I’ve mentioned.
See, it doesn’t look too bad for Autumn!
Mardel also has a port, and I think you can take boat trips from there. There is also a nice restaurant area near the port (and shopping, so I’m told).
Not too far from the port is the Aquarium. I forgot that it was low season when I was there, and therefore didn’t check the opening hours so I turned up to a closed Aquarium on a Thursday. Check before you go! It looks big, and from what I gather, it’s outdoors. If I had more time in Mardel I would have tried to go again, it looks like it’s worth a visit.
Another place to visit in Mardel, well just outside Mardel, is Sierra de los Padres and Laguna de los Padres. I only briefly went to to Sierra, and didn’t get a chance to go to the Lagoon but I’ve heard it’s good.
Mar del Plata is also the place where they make Havanna Alfajores. These are one of my favourite things about Argentinean food (I will write more about that in a later post). And there are some lovely cafes to go to as well. A lot of them also sell alfajores.
When I was in Mardel, I accidentally got the bus to Santa Clara del Mar, which was the opposite way to where I wanted to go. There isn’t a lot there, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but getting lost in a new place is never going to do you any harm (as long as you’re careful). And it gives you a funny story to tell people.
I was warned by a few people to be careful when walking around Mardel, but I think it’s only as safe as everywhere else in Argentina. I never felt unsafe there, and as long as you’re sensible, just like in the rest of South America, then you should be ok.
I felt really welcomed by everyone I know there (you know who you are). I don’t think my experience would have been the same without everyone. And Mar del Plata is such a beautiful place that isn’t too well known by foreign tourists, and I don’t understand why. I love it there, it is so pretty and the locals are so friendly!