There’s much more to Argentine cuisine than steak, but Argentine’s eat beef like it’s their job, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s high-quality, tender, delicious, and far less expensive than it is in the United States.
You will easily find an Argentina parrilla, a restaurant that specializes in steak, because they are plentiful here.
There are so many cuts of steak offered that it is easy to get overwhelmed when you look at a menu.
The good news?
It’s all tasty.
After being here for over two months now, I can say with confidence that grass-fed beef definitely tastes better.
If you’ve traveled in the southern US, you might have tried chicken fried steak, steak that’s battered and fried.
A milanesa is similar, but very thin, a bit tougher, and more lightly breaded.
Milanesas often come on sandwiches, and the steak can be replaced by other meats.
A choripan (on the left in the photo below) is a tasty sandwich made of chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread).
Add a little chimichurri sauce and you’re in for a treat. It’s simple and delicious.
Lomitos are amazing steak sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and whatever sauces you decide to add.
You can also get a lomo completo (or lomito completo), which usually comes with cheese, ham, and egg on it.
The best lomito I had was just outside the nature reserve in Buenos Aires.
These tasty little sandwiches are layers of ham, cheese, and very thinly sliced bread.
We made the mistake of getting too many for a bus ride and got sick of them.
But the ones we had were good. Argentines eat them as a snack between lunch (at 1pm or 2pm) and dinner (at 9pm or 10pm).
Argentina has amazing pastas.
They’re always homemade, even in restaurants, and generally inexpensive.
We’re tried everything from gnocchi to ravioli to tortellini in cities across the country.
It’s all been delicious.
If you’re ordering pasta in Argentina, look closely at the menu.
Oftentimes, the pasta itself has one price, and the sauce costs extra.
Did you think you would be eating pizza in Argentina?
You can definitely see the Italian influence when you walk down the street in any Argentine city — there are pizza places everywhere.
And it’s not Domino’s-style, either.
It’s homemade, well-seasoned, and delicious.
The great thing about pizza is you can get it any time of day.
So if you don’t want to wait to eat dinner until 9pm like the locals do, you can order a pizza instead.
The quality, style, and flavor of empanadas vary from region to region.
These delicious pastries can be filled with meat and olives, ham and cheese, spinach, corn, and even apples.
With the exception of the sub-par one I had in Iguazu Falls National Park, the empanadas I sampled were quite delicious.
My favorites were the roquefort one (below) I had in Buenos Aires and the many flavors I tried in Trelew.
In the Lakes Region of Argentina, trout is a local specialty.
It’s generally more expensive than we like our meals to be (though still not as much as it would be in the US), so we only tried it once.
The dish we ordered came with a mushroom sauce and a side of amazing grilled veggies (a welcome alternative to french fries).
It was delicious — one of the best meals we had in Argentina.
Growing up in Texas, I’ve had my fair share of quality venison.
But the deer meat we ordered in San Martin de los Andes was some of the most interesting, most tender venison I’ve tasted.
It was served with spaetzel, which was a nice compliment.
I’m not sure this qualifies as a national food of Argentina, but there are pancho (hot dog) restaurants all over country.
Curiosity got the best of me in Mendoza, and I decided I had to know what the fuss was all about.
I ordered this super pancho, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
The taste was good, but I felt a bit sick afterwards.
Ice Cream / Helado
The helado (gelato-style ice cream) in Argentina is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
It’s creamy, rich, and delicious.
Plus there are tons of flavors, and you don’t have to pay extra to get more than one on your cone.
Argentina has some of the best baked goods — from cookies and cakes to bread and scones — I’ve ever had.
The country is well-populated with panaderias (bakeries) where you can get them fresh, so it’s no wonder that Argentine’s eat more sweets per capita than anyone else.
Restaurants serve fresh bread, which they’ve either baked themselves or bought from a nearby panaderia.
Croissant-like medialunas come in two varieties — plain and slightly sweet.
When they’re fresh, they’re quite good.
But since these compose the main (and usually only) course of an Argentine breakfast, I’ve had my share of mediocre medialunas in hostels and cafes.
Bariloche in Patagonia is the chocolate capital of Argentina, which you’ll know after just one walk down the chocolate shop-covered street.
We sampled a lot of chocolate in Bariloche, and I especially enjoyed the more exciting flavors like mint and honey.
But I have to say I still like Russian and German chocolate the best.
Argentine Dulce de Leche
This thick, sweet, milky sauce falls somewhere between jelly and caramel. It’s hugely popular here.
Argentines eat it on bread and medialunas, but you can also find it in cookies and ice cream.
Personally, I think it’s a little too sweet, but some people love it.
Argentina is known for these cookie sandwiches, which usually come filled with dulce de leche.
The best ones are from a bakery, but you can also get them pre-packaged in supermarkets.
The best version I had was from a bakery in Buenos Aires and was dipped in white chocolate.
Something interesting about alfajores is they’re not just desserts.
The buses in Argentina serve them with coffee as a sugar-filled breakfast.
Argentina doesn’t have a ton of variety in its cuisine.
Spicy food, for example, is nearly impossible to find.
But it sticks to what it does best — mouthwatering steaks and sandwiches, delicious pizzas, and sensational baked goods — and will satisfy any foodie’s cravings.
Want to try your hand at Argentine cooking?
Check out Argentina Cooks!
Treasured Recipes from the Nine Regions of Argentina and Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way.
What do people in Argentina eat?
We listed the must-try foods and the best of Argentine cuisine… but we couldn’t forget the must-try drink.
Walk down any street in any town in Argentina at about 3:00 in the afternoon and you’ll see someone pouring hot water from a thermos into a gourd, drinking it through a straw, then passing it to a friend who repeats the process.
They’re drinking yerba mate (pronounced mah-tay), a bitter herb that’s high in caffeine and is brewed like tea.
It’s usually consumed from a hollowed-out gourd, though some people drink it from tiny metal mugs.
You drink it through a metal straw-like utensil (called a bombillo) that has a filter on the end so the mate leaves can’t get through.
It’s almost always shared with someone else.
Drinking mate is a social activity and offering mate to a stranger isn’t uncommon.
Everyone drinks it.
Teenagers sit in parks passing around a gourd, just as elders share it on porches.
It’s the perfect way to pass siesta, the break everyone goes on from 12-5 pm.
After two weeks in Argentina, we couldn’t resist the urge to try mate for ourselves.
We bought a gourd and bombillo from a store in Rosario, then headed to the market for yerba mate and a thermos.
We searched online “how to drink mate” and read that you have to cure a mate gourd before you use it, so we waited impatiently for two days while our gourd cured.
When it was finally ready, we were nervous.
We’d read all about how mate has an incredibly strong flavor and is an acquired taste.
Argentine cuisine and drinks are something to look forward to
But we didn’t give up. We found that adding sugar, as some Argentines do, helped with the bitterness.
And the more water you add, the weaker it gets, so we started watering down our mate even bit.
We shared mate with others on occasion, with people who worked at hostels and a tour guide.
Perhaps yerba mate, with its high caffeine content and herbal benefits, will become a trend in the US.
I like to think that I eventually acquired a taste for it, even though that first sip always had more bite than I expected.
Foods in Argentina
I’m glad we gave yerba mate a try.
Like the other foods on our Argentine cuisine list, this really is part of the ultimate Argentine experience.
After sampling typical, authentic Argentine cuisine and trying yerba mate, we felt so much more a part of the culture and less like a tourist.
Here are some other articles about our travels in Argentina and South America.
Alas, to my disappointment, typical Argentine breakfast foods consist of a cup of coffee with milk (café con leche), a few croissants (medialunas), and a shot glass of carbonated water.
Not exactly gut-busting, or even filling.
After two months in Argentina, I’ve gotten used to supplementing my hostel breakfast with fruit or yogurt to satiate my American desire for something more substantial.
It’s not just in cafes where I’ve found the Argentine breakfast a bit lacking.
We’ve eaten at enough breakfast-included Argentine accommodations to know it’s universal.
In hostels you’re lucky if the pastries or rolls are somewhat fresh, and you’ve really struck the jackpot if there’s cereal and milk, too.
Even in a nice bed and breakfast we were just served fresh rolls, jam, and coffee.
It’s completely different from breakfast in Europe or the United States; breakfast just isn’t a big deal here.
Maybe it is because dinners in Argentina are eaten so late….
But with only 4 days left in Argentina, we decided to hit a cafe for one more typical Argentine breakfast.
We went La Puerto Rico, a famous Buenos Aires cafe that’s been around since 1887 and is just a block away from the president’s offices (Casa Rosada).
The medialunas were amazing — soft and fresh with just a hint of sweetness.
The coffee was quite good, too, and the shot glass of water was slightly larger usually.
The breakfast ended up costing about $10 US, which is twice as much as it would have been around the corner.
But for the quality of the food, it was worth it.
Although it was far from well-rounded, my last Argentine breakfast was satisfyingly delicious.
Thanksgiving in Argentina: Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, and Ricotta Tartlets
In addition to daily breakfasts in Argentina, something else we were lucky to experience was Thanksgiving in Argentina.
As foodies, we love the American holiday that gives you an excuse stuff yourself full of all sorts of delicious foods — Thanksgiving.
Several years ago we spent Thanksgiving in a small town in Egypt where we couldn’t eat many fresh foods because of contaminated water.
Therefore, for Thanksgiving we ate fried eggs and rice.
It was by far the least authentic (though memorable) Thanksgiving ever.
We are trying to enjoy our Thanksgiving planning when holiday ads abound and kids and adults alike are already thinking up their must haves this holiday season.
This year in Argentina we planned to do it differently.
But, we had to move the holiday up a few days to make sure we’d have access to a kitchen so that we could cook our own nearly-authentic Thanksgiving meal.
Two days early, we cooked mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.
We bought some bread from the local panaderia (bread shop) and Portuguese chicken (couldn’t find turkey anywhere) from the rotiseria (take-away restaurant).
I’m not sure what made it “Portuguese,” but it came with a side of fried potatoes and red peppers.
We even had some raspberries from our time volunteering at Chacra Millalen, outside of El Bolson.
It was delicious!
And we even had leftovers for Thanksgiving sandwiches. For dessert we had ice cream with mini pies — apple, strawberry, and ricotta — from the confiteria (sweet shop).
For anyone else traveling who is looking to have a taste of home today, try these recipes for mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.
They require very few ingredients, making shopping a bit easier.
Traditional Mashed Potatoes Recipe
Potatoes – Russet or Yukon Gold
Peel and quarter the potatoes.
Boil until tender.
Drain and mash with butter, milk, and salt to taste.
For 3 potatoes we used a good bit of butter (maybe 3-4 tablespoons) and about a quarter cup of milk.
Sweet Potatoes with Orange Juice Recipe
Sweet potatoes or yams
Brown sugar (white sugar or honey could also work)
Orange juice (we used juice fresh from an orange)
Bake sweet potatoes in oven until very tender.
Remove from oven, peel, and mash with butter, sugar, and orange juice to taste.
For 2 large sweet potatoes we used 3-4 tablespoons of butter, 1-2 tablespoons of “black sugar” (which happens to be just white sugar with coloring, but we didn’t know this until after we came home from the market), and juice from 1 orange.
You will be sure to enjoy trying new foods while traveling in Argentina.
From Buenos Aires to Bariloche to Peninsula Valdes and beyond, we enjoyed the traditional, typical Argentine breakfast as well as making most of our own Thanksgiving mini-feast.
Shop for groceries and snacks before you go, or just after you arrive.
If you’re traveling by plane, pack whatever snacks you can for en-route, and bring your reusable water bottle.
If you’re traveling by car, you’ll need a quality cooler and ice packs, and plenty of organization to take food on the go.
We bring three reusable grocery bags: one for breakfast foods, one for lunch foods, and one for snacks.
This way, we only need to carry the appropriate bag into our hotel for the night.
We also bring two resealable, easy-to-clean containers for fruits and vegetables.
For mid-trip restocks, it can be a fun cultural experience to shop in a local grocery store (assuming you’re outside the US… otherwise it’s just business as usual).
Think about longevity.
Don’t pack snacks that will melt in the car, and buy breads and cheeses that will last longest without spoiling, such as bagels instead of sliced bread and Babel cheese wrapped in wax instead of singles.
Depending on your cooler space, you can buy fruit that doesn’t need to be kept cold, like bananas.
You can buy small amounts of vegetables to keep in your cooler.
Buying smaller quantities more frequently will be fresher, eliminate waste, and save money.
Take advantage of hotel room amenities.
You may think you can’t make many meals in your standard hotel room, but you can!
Luckily, almost all rooms now include mini-fridge. In-room coffee makers can double as hot water heaters for oatmeal, hot chocolate, instant lunches and noodles, and tea.
You can use your microwave to reheat leftovers.
While it’s nice to have a condo or house with a kitchen, it’s not crucial for eating healthy meals on vacation.
Remember cutlery, bowls, and plates.
You’ll need something to pour that cereal into!
While reusable bowls and spoons are best, they’re sometimes impractical.
We like to use eco-friendly biodegradable plates and cutlery.
Store them in the meal bag they’re needed for.
Having the right supplies on hand will make it much easier to stick with your vacation food budget.
Issue everyone a reusable water bottle, and a selection of drink mixes.
Water bottles, soda, and juice can really add up when on the go, so we give each of our kids their own stainless steel water bottle, and refill it with sugar-free single serving drink mixes they don’t enjoy at home.
This makes water fun, so they don’t ask for expensive drinks when at rest stops or during layovers.
Buy fun and ‘treat’ foods.
When shopping for our breakfasts and lunches for a trip, I try to purchase healthy but fun foods we don’t normally enjoy at home, such as artisan rolls, gourmet spreads, and kid-friendly crackers and candy.
This makes eating lunch ‘in’ a treat instead of a punishment.
No one will mind passing up the McDonald’s in favor of the park picnic.
Splurge on dessert.
No one in my family minds eating two packed meals because we often have money in the travel budget for fun desserts out.
We can say yes to street-side crepes or ice cream parlor sundaes because we’ve had healthy and cheaper sandwiches for lunch.
Use your sack lunch or dinner as an excuse to seek out parks and local recreation areas.
We like skipping the crowds at fast food stops and finding local parks and visitors centers where we can spread out our picnics.
In winter weather, we search for indoor play spaces or museums with our car’s GPS, or ask locals where the indoor fun is.
Make snacks portable.
Having healthy snacks readily available in the car helps keep you on track with your vacation food budget.
A simple tip to make it easy: bring reusable plastic cups — one for each member of the family.
With them, we refill everyone’s snack portions: fill the cups with pretzels, dried fruit, crackers, M&Ms, or all of the above.
Bring packaged snacks like fruit leather or granola bars to put in everyone’s pocket before setting out to city tour or hit a museum.
How do you save money while eating on vacation food budget?
Argentina Organic Farm – We had the experience of a lifetime volunteering at Chacra Millalen, an organic chacra (farm) just outside of El Bolson.
It was spring when we went so there was plenty of farming work to do.
We also helped cook and clean and participated in other daily activities.
We were on an extended stay in Argentina, and stayed in Buenos Aires a week before traveling to other parts of the country.
We had no idea what to expect so we went there with open hearts and adventurous spirits.
We scheduled to be on the farm for 5 days. Here’s our story….
Argentina Organic Farm
Going to Chacra Millalen
We took a public bus from nearby El Bolson to the tiny town of El Hoyo, then taxied out to Chacra Millalen, the small organic farm in the Patagonia region of Argentina where we’d spend the next 4 days volunteering.
Help Wildlife in Belize – Since it became an independent nation in 1981, Belize has devoted itself to the conservation of its extensive natural resources.
The country’s rugged interior has meant that, throughout its history of colonization, most human activity has focused on the coastal areas, leaving the inland mountains and forests relatively untouched by logging and agriculture.
Today, 26 percent of Belize’s marine and land territory is under government protection, with a further 17.8 percent under private protection.
More than 540 species of tropical birds, 150 species of mammals, 600 species of marine and freshwater fish, 150 plus species of reptiles and amphibians, and 3,408 species of plants call Belize’s diverse ecosystems home.
Help Wildlife in Belize on a Volunteer Conservation Trip
All this makes Belize an ideal destination for eco-tourists, many of whom come to volunteer with scientific research and conservation efforts focused on the forests, beaches, islands, mountains, and coral reefs of this Mesoamerican nation.
Volunteer conservation travel lets you make a difference to help save endangered species and protect vulnerable ecosystems, while gaining experience on a real research team and learning more about the natural world.
Volunteer Conservation Tourism: What You Need to Know
Volunteer conservation tourism presents a way for students and ordinary people to get involved in conservation efforts in some of the world’s most exotic locales.
While you’ll have to pay a fee to cover travel costs, you’ll get to work with real scientists, observing animals and collecting data, protecting threatened ecosystems from invasive species, performing educational outreach in local communities, and rehabilitating injured or ill wild animals.
You’ll make new friends, gain work experience, and still have plenty of time to explore local attractions on your own.
Conservation Tourism Options in Belize
Thanks to Belize’s commitment to conservation, there are numerous options for volunteer conservation tourism in this small country.
Whether you’re interested in participating in a weeks-long research trip, or just want to spend an afternoon spearing lionfish, Belize offers something for every ecologically-minded tourist.
Wait – did we just say “spearing lionfish?”
Yes, we did!
The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific oceans and the Red Sea, but it’s believed that some specimens accidentally escaped, or were released, into the Caribbean in the 1980s or 1990s.
These fish, which prey on everything and reproduce rapidly, pose a huge threat to the delicate marine ecosystems off the coast of Belize.
Through them, you can spend time not just fishing for these invaders, but educating local residents on how to profit from the harvest and sale of lionfish, the only fish in Belizean waters that it’s permissible to kill with impunity.
Fortuitously, lionfish are delicious.
But, perhaps you’re more interested in saving, rather than spearing, marine life.
In this program, you’ll get the chance to participate in catch-tag-release efforts, collecting data on local shark populations while staying in an ocean-side research station and eating delicious, home-cooked food three times a day.
With Ecomar Belize, you can get involved with the Turtle Watch program, patrolling the beaches to collect data on sea turtle nesting, protecting nests from irresponsible individuals, or collecting data on turtles in the water during dive surveys.
With Frontier Gap, you can perform diving surveys to explore, map, and monitor the health of the coral reefs off the coast of Belize and its cayes.
You’ll record reef fish populations, help scientists perform annual reef health assessments, and record baseline biodiversity data on invertebrate species and marine plant life.
You’ll also have the chance to spot manatees and other marine life, take vegetation surveys of mangrove swamps, and work with local organizations to perform community outreach.
The Antillean manatee, subspecies of the West Indian manatee, lives in the shallow waters off Belize – for now.
There are only 800 to 1,000 of these animals left, and their preference for shallow water means they’re the frequent victims of boating accidents.
With Wild Tracks Belize, you can work to rehabilitate manatees injured by boats; the organization also raises and releases orphaned manatee calves.
Volunteer placements last from one to three months.
If you’re looking for a way to give back while enjoying the tropical sun and sandy beaches of Belize, volunteer conservation tourism may be for you.
You’ll get to help study and save endangered animals and their habitats, while making friends and gaining experience that will be useful for years to come.
Iguazu Falls consists of over 275 separate waterfalls on the Iguazu River.
One side of the river and waterfalls is Brazil and on the other side is Argentina.
Many people see the falls from both sides, but unfortunately Americans are required to get a $150 visa to go into Brazil so we only visited the Argentine side.
It is reported to be better overall, but with fewer panoramic views.
We visited Iguazu Falls National Park for two days — hiking the on and off the beaten track trails and taking in the grandeur of the falls.
Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat)
Garganta del Diablo is the largest of Iguazu’s falls at nearly 500 feet wide.
To get to these falls there are a series of catwalks nearly a mile long over the river until you get to the falls themselves.
Arriving at the end of the catwalks overlooking Devil’s Throat my initial instinct was to grab hold of the innermost railing and inch back closer to land — the waterfall is literally under your feet.
Once my survival instinct subsided I was astounded by the sight and sound of the falls.
The roar of the water rushing over the falls in one I’ll never forget.
The Devil’s Throat waterfall itself is massive and immediately to it’s left (from the Argentine catwalks) are the Union and Floriano Waterfalls making for an seemingly unending series of falls.
Salto San Martin, Mbigua, Mendez and Bossetti
While not nearly as massive as Devil’s Throat, the San Martin, Mbigua, Bernabe Mendez, and Bossetti waterfalls are just as breathtaking.
There is a series of upper catwalks which allow visitors to experience the falls looking down over them, and a longer lower circuit of trails that provides panoramic views.
Isla San Martin
We got to San Martin Island, on the Argentine side of the falls, via a short boat ride.
From the island there is an impressive front-and-center view of the San Martin Falls.
The spray coming off of the falls was so intense on the island that some people wore rain ponchos.
The side of the island facing away from the falls gives little indication of the tumultuous waterfalls that these waters flow through.
Sendero Macuco / Macuco Hiking Trail
On our second day visiting Iguazu Falls National Park we decided to get off the tourist path and hike the Macuco Nature Trail through the jungle.
While this wasn’t exactly traditional backpacking South America, we enjoyed a more tranquil part of the park.
Although we saw thousands of people while visiting the main park, we only ran into about a dozen during our three hours hiking this trail.
It was peaceful with only the sound of bird calls and a few nature sightings.
The Macuco Trail leads about 2.5 miles through the jungle to the Arrechea Stream Waterfall.
If you ever get the chance, make the trip to Iguazu Falls and the natural wonders within.
World’s Largest Rodent and Other Exotic Iguazu Falls Animals
After enjoying the fauna on Peninsula Valdes, we were excited to see what lived in this area.
Awhile ago I watched a PBS documentary about animals in South America.
It featured the capybara — which at 140 pounds — is the world’s largest rodent.
The image of a ginormous hamster-beaver-bear stuck with me, so I was psyched to learn capybaras live in Iguazu Falls National Park (Parque Nacional Iguazú). I went on a mission to find one.
Luck was on my side and a capybara did come out to pose for a photo, along with lots of other exotic wildlife — from toucans and kites to coatis and lizards.
I was surprised to see such a wide variety of species here.
You can’t tell how huge it is from the photo, but the capybara weighs 140 pounds and can be over 4 feet tall.
Think black bear-sized guinea pig. This one was scavenging near Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), one of the biggest waterfalls in the park.
This caiman — complete with a butterfly on his head — was lounging on a rock not far from the capybara.
It may look cute and innocent, but there were signs throughout the park warning visitors to hide food in the presence of coati, this raccoon relative, because they’ve been known to attack for food. So unlike the folks in this photo, I kept my distance from coatis and their sloth-like claws.
Not the best shot of a toucan, but they don’t stay still for long! You can see its beak pointing toward the bottom of the photo.
This isn’t a toco toucan (think Toucan Sam), though we did see a few of those fly by as well.
But they were too fast to snap a picture.
I have to admit I was a little bit afraid this very large ant would somehow leap off the ground and bite my hand.
But it didn’t and now you can see how huge these ants are.
I figure if a normal ant can carry a large leaf on its back, this one can probably carry a small child.
I’d never seen so many butterflies in my life.
They were everywhere — in blue, pink, green, solids, patterns — swarming around us as we stepped onto new paths.
One even landed on my head and stayed there for a full minute before moving on.
I used a super-zoom lens for this shot of a plumbeous kite, part of the hawk family.
There was a gigantic colony of vultures hanging out on a nearby rock, with dozens more circling in the sky.
Even scarier is the fact that this photo was captured without the help of a zoom lens.
These 3 foot long reptiles proved they weren’t afraid of people as they sunned themselves near hiking paths.
They looked intimidating, though, and we captured this shot with the zoom.
I’m not sure what this is called, but it was about the size of a guinea pig and didn’t seem to be afraid of people.
The second I learned is an agouti and was the size of a small beagle and was much more skittish.
It ran across the trail far ahead of us.
Guira Oga: Iguazu Falls Animal Rehabilitation Center
The bus driver saw the sign, slammed on his brakes, and pulled over on the side of the highway to let us off.
The Güirá Oga Animal Rehabilitation Center is sandwiched between the town of Puerto Iguazu and the main Iguazu Falls Park entrance.
We could have easily missed it, but I’m so glad we didn’t.
As the only visitors there, we got our own personal tour guide.
José, the son of a national park tour guide, grew up in Puerto Iguazu and recently returned from university in the province of Neuquen.
To begin the tour, we rode to the head of the trail in a wagon attached to a Güirá Oga truck.
Güirá Oga’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce injured or endangered animals to Iguazu Falls National Park.
They function as an animal hospital and rehabilitation center focusing primarily on birds, although plenty of cute furry animals are also rehabilitated at the park.
During our hour-long tour, we got to see up close many of the animals we saw at Iquazu Falls, plus others like the Capuchin monkeys and Oso Melero.
The most surprising and confusing part of the tour was when José showed us the nutrition/food preparation building.
He told us about how Güirá Oga grows partridges and mice. Despite José’s excellent English, we didn’t understand right away.
They breed the partridges and rodents at the center to feed to the other animals.
Unfortunately, because it was a Sunday and during siesta hours we didn’t get to see any of the hospital veterinarians in action, but we learned a lot about the animals and the park during our tour.
Güirá Oga does excellent work, and we enjoyed supporting it.
With so many falls to visit at Iguazu Falls National Park in Argentina, we could have stayed much longer.
It was a wonderful experience; one we would recommend to anyone.
The wildlife at Iguazu Falls was diverse and fun to see as well.
And while you are in the area, be sure to visit Güirá Oga Animal Rehabilitation Center, which rehabilitates animals for release to Iguazu Falls National Park.
Peninsula Valdes in Argentina is the only place on the planet where Orcas beach themselves to catch seals.
Of course, that only happens at certain times of year, and even then, it’s rare.
We were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Peninsula Valdes and enjoyed every minute of this magnificent place.
This nature reserve is a sanctuary for wildlife.
After much research and meeting with other green travelers on past excursions, we knew if we ever went to Argentina, we wanted to visit Peninsula Valdes, so that we could experience the amazing fauna and see the southern right whales on the whale watching tour.
We were also excited at the prospect of seeing penguins.
What could be cooler than penguins on a beach?
We arranged our whale watching tour for later in the week.
In the meantime, we debated going on an arranged tour of Peninsula Valdes, but we’d heard they can be a bit rushed. We really wanted to take our time.
So we paid a bit extra, and the owner of our hostel gave us a private tour of Peninsula Valdes.
The desert-like landscape was fascinating and so unlike other parts of the country, including our time enjoying volunteering at Chacra Millalen, an organic farm in Argentina.
Diverse fauna in Peninsula Valdes
We didn’t see any Orca whales, but the elephant seals, penguins, ostrich-like rheas, llama-esque guanacos, seals, and seal lions more than made up for it.
Please note, wherever we go, we never, ever touch, feed, purposely come close to, or disturb wildlife in any way.
This peninsula is a sacred habitat for so many species and also has a huge tourism population.
It is so important to be respectful of the surroundings here.
Rheas & Guanacos
We were less than 10 minutes into our tour when we spotted a rhea (similar to an ostrich) with 11 chicks on the side of the road.
Our guide told us they usually have 10-12 babies in a litter.
Next we were fortunate enough to see some guanacos, llama-like animals that are abundant on the peninsula.
They often travel in groups of five or more, but we found these two alone.
Then we stopped at my favorite point where we saw penguins.
When we first walked toward the rope that keeps people off the beach, we were disappointed because we didn’t see any penguins in the distance.
Then we looked down, and there they were, just a few feet away.
This penguin greeted us with a wave and stayed posed for lots of photos.
This cutie was standing close to us.
This penguin and many others on the beach were nesting.
We didn’t see any hatched chicks.
This penguin decided to take a dip in the ocean right before we left.
It’s interesting how much penguins look like ducks when they swim.
Elephant Seals, Sea Lions & Baby Seals
There were signs on the beach with sketches of male, female, and baby versions of these seal types, but from 200 feet away it was virtually impossible to distinguish one from the other.
The females are nearly identical, at least to my untrained eye.
But I’ll do my best labeling them.
One of the most fascinating parts of this experience was listening to the noises the animals make while they splash around in the water.
We weren’t sure which animal we were photographing when we took the picture, but based on its ginormous size (males can weigh up to 7,700 lbs), we were guessing an elephant seal.
Looks like we were right — see its trunk-like nose?
This little fellow was sleeping by himself on the beach sunning himself.
For the most part, all of the seals and sea lions looked like this — inactive to the point of being lifeless.
But no worries.
That’s just how they roll.
One of my favorite parts was seeing the sea lions walk out of the water using their feet-like fins.
See the trail of footprints this one left behind him?
These two are male sea lions, which you can tell by their thick necks.
Birds and Lizards
We saw so many interesting species on our visit to Peninsula Valdes.
We caught a glimpse of this pretty red bird off of a hiking trail near the beach.
There were also so many lizards on the beach trails near the sea lions and penguins.
The Salt Lake
Our guide pulled over on the way back to show us this expansive salt lake.
He said it was almost entirely salt, with very little water, and that they don’t take salt from it to eat.
It was difficult to capture its size in a photo.
It remains one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen.
We were hoping to see whales called southern right whales.
We learned from our guide that usually southern right whales spend summer in the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica.
They migrate north in the winter for breeding and are often found on the coasts of Argentina.
Our small boat rounded the corner into a bay of the Gulfo Nuevo in the Atlantic Ocean.
Immediately we saw three small whale tails and the mother whale’s head behind them.
During our two-hour whale watching excursion, near Puerto Madryn and Puerto Piramides, Argentina, we floated in the ocean and watched as the southern right whales nursed, played, and swam under our boat.
Southern right whales average about 40 ft long and weigh 27 tons.
It is reported there are only about 8,000 of them left in the world, 400 near Peninsula Valdes, because they were hunted to near extinction.
Hunters favored them because they are slow and float on the water’s surface when killed.
Southern right whales also float when they’re nursing.
We learned that of the three babies (ages 4-6 months) we saw, only one was this mother’s.
The guides recognized a second as an orphan who has been nursing from other mothers in the area.
Although not all mothers will nurse an orphan.
They didn’t know where the third baby came from.
While this whale let him nurse on this particular day, we learned it was unlikely she would continue to do so as each baby eats over 200 liters of milk a day.
Another interesting fact: Southern right whales have hair in many of the same places humans do, like eyebrows above their eyes.
Sadly, even with the ban on hunting, these whales are still not safe from predators.
The seagull population has expanded rapidly, and one seagull colony has started eating off live whales’ skin.
The southern right whale has incredibly sensitive skin, and the seagulls bring infections.
Despite this depressing fact, I couldn’t be anything but awestruck at these majestic creatures.
They swam close to the boat and made magical whale noises.
The tour operators stressed the importance of being quiet.
It was a magnificent two hours and money well spent.
A visit to Peninsula Valdes affords one an up-close experience of the wildlife and beauty that abounds here.
It is an important nature reserve that is very important to our ecosphere.
Later in our travels we saw the majestic Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo, which was also incredible.
We were excited to see penguins and penguin chicks in Punta Tombo Argentina.
After seeing lots of them at Peninsula Valdes, we wondered how much different it would be visiting here.
Home to over 600,000 Magellanic penguins, it’s one of the largest penguin colonies in the world.
But we said “why not?” and booked the trip to Punta Tombo reserve, just south of Trelew, Argentina.
It turns out that seeing thousands of penguins in one place is exponentially more exciting than seeing a few dozen.
Penguins at Punta Tombo
The Magellanic penguins return to Punta Tombo year after year from September to April to nest and raise their chicks.
We arrived just in time to see the newly hatched chicks.
The parents share responsibility for the chicks.
While one sits on the nest, the other goes out to sea to find food.
My favorite part was when the penguin parents would tire of standing over their chicks and suddenly just plop (like a belly flop) right on top of the chicks.
It seemed like the chicks would get squished! Penguin chicks are so adorable.
We couldn’t decide between using our DSLR vs Point-and-Shoot camera, so we used both, just as we did while visiting Peninsula Valdes, Iguazu Falls, and Tikal National Park.
While these pictures seem close up, we were actually keeping a respectable distance, to be respectful to all wildlife.
More from Punta Tombo
Memorable time at Punta Tombo
Our visit to Punta Tombo was incredible.
Seeing thousands of penguins across the beach, adorable chicks, and penguins diving into the ocean was a truly unforgettable experience.
Stepping on penguins? Dilemmas in green travel
While I was at Punta Tombo, however, I felt we got a little too close for comfort.
Take one step without looking, and I could have literally stepped on a penguin.
We were warned to “not get too close.”
But what is too close?
No one told us the specifics.
Many tourists leaned within feet of the penguins just to get better pictures.
And of course the tour group was loud.
It was difficult to know our immediate impact.
It seems like in order to build the walking trail years ago, some nests would have had to be moved or destroyed.
And since the penguins return to the same nests year after year, what happened to the penguins whose nests were in the way?
Penguin population at Punta Tombo is getting smaller
Sadder still is that the penguin population is slowly dwindling.
The pollution and over-fishing in the Atlantic Ocean means that the penguins’ food sources are dying and moving further from shore.
Thus the penguins have to swim further away from their nests to find food.
Penguins are monogamous and share parenting duties.
One parent guards the nest while the other goes for food.
But because its partner is gone longer in search of food, sometimes the penguin on the nest will starve by the time the other returns.
Or the nesting penguin may abandon the nest to get food — leaving the eggs or chicks unprotected.
When that happens, the penguin is often so near starvation it dies before it even gets to the water.
And we were told that the chicks are getting smaller because they aren’t fed as frequently.
While I loved the opportunity to take lots of cute photos of penguins at Punta Tombo, I was struck with the dilemmas of being an environmentally conscious traveler.
How do I justify disturbing this place? And what can I do to prevent the pollution that causes these penguins to starve?
I felt a bit guilty after visiting Perito Moreno Glacier and Peninsula Valdes as well.
Both, like Punta Tombo, are major tourist attractions. Yet, they all come with a cost of destroying the natural habitat, little by little.
People and companies are profiting; tourists are “experiencing;” yet, the flora, fauna, and other natural surroundings are the ones who pay the price after thousands of people come traipsing through, year after year.
The visit was a reminder of how interconnected people and animals are, and that traveling doesn’t come without costs.
With the holidays just around the corner, a lot of us will be traveling.
Let’s try to make an even greater effort to be a little more environmentally conscious.
Whether it’s bringing a reusable water bottle to the airport, parking further away rather than driving in circles looking for a parking spot at the mall, or wrapping presents in the Sunday comics, every little bit helps.
While Punta Tombo was a wonderful experience, because I strive to be a green traveler, it is difficult to say whether I would recommend it or not.
Like the glaciers and other natural spaces, too much “people intervention” is detrimental.
I believe people, for the most part, try to do their part to respect their surroundings while visiting these places, in this case, the penguins, penguin chicks, and nests.
However, it is still invading on their natural habitat.
Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina – Great Glacier Pictures
We were in Argentina for two months and had Perito Moreno Glacier near the top of our list of things we wanted to see.
We always try to experience as many outdoor respites as possible, as we usually prefer nature-made over man-made.
Already we had enjoyed taking in the natural grandeur of Peninsula Valdes and Iguazu Falls.
We were anxious to see Perito Moreno Glacier, a major tourist attraction in southern Patagonia, in southwest Santa Cruz Province of Argentina.
This glacier is one of three in Patagonia that is not retreating.
We also learned that this field of ice is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh, not salt, water.
We took at least 1,000 glacier pictures that day as we couldn’t get over the beauty of the glaciers.
Of course, photos never can capture the true magnificence, but we still tried.
We were so lucky to have experienced the Perito Moreno Glacier. What now?
We had been in Argentina for months exploring so many places.
The magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier was the last of the “big things” we wanted to see.
Afterwards, we had several weeks to explore the rest of the country at our leisure.
Some of the other stops we made included Trelew, Punta Tombo, Mendoza, Maipu, and San Martin de los Andes.
Places we went to in addition to Perito Moreno Glacier
Trelew: Real life in Argentina
“What are you doing here?” a local teenager asked us after he learned we were from the United States.
Trelew isn’t exactly the top spot on most “Places to Visit in Argentina” lists.
But perhaps it should be.
Situated between Puerto Madryn, Punta Tombo, and Gaiman (a Welsh village with tea houses), Trelew is a great stop for anyone on an extended visit in Argentina.
Because so few tourists visit, cheap accommodations were hard to find.
But if you do decide to stay, you’ll be rewarded with a true taste of Argentine life.
We stopped here during the middle of our trip for five days to relax and get some work done.
While there, we enjoyed doing things Argentines do: shopping for groceries and chatting with the checkout person; ordering and waiting for made-on-the-spot empanadas and sampling Argentina parrilla; and sitting on the park bench in the center of town watching kids throw water on each other to celebrate the end of the school year.
Because it was November, not exactly the end of the school year for Americans, it took us a while to figure out what the teenagers were doing when they were ripping up notebooks, playing drums and singing, and flinging liter bottles filled with water.
In Trelew, there’s also a paleontology museum with some interesting exhibits — including one where visitors can touch a real dinosaur bone.
We stayed in an apartment with a view of the city.
There was a fantastic owner, Miguel.
I accidentally left some posters at the apartment, and a few days later Miguel emailed and arranged to ship them to us in Buenos Aires, where we were going to be at the end of our trip.
I am so thankful to him for doing that.
If you’re on extended trip in Argentina and looking for a place to sit back, relax, and settle down for a few days, check out Trelew.
Still thinking about the Perito Moreno Glacier, we made our way to Mendoza
Buses and buses.
We were excited to take the trip to Mendoza, the heart of Argentina’s wine region.
We were looking forward to a wine tour by bike.
Is is hard to believe we could be on a boat beholding the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier and then days later be on a wine tour by bike in Mendoza.
Hiking to the Mirador Arrayan Tea House: San Martin de Los Andes
After experiencing the amazing Lake Agnes Tea House in Lake Louise, Canada, I was excited to learn that San Martin de los Andes, Argentina has the Mirador Arrayán Tea House.
The local city guide pamphlet promised the tea house would have “excellent bakery pastries that can be also appreciated … and eaten.”
Appreciated and eaten?
We set out for our 10 km hike late morning on the part paved, part dirt road that leaves San Martin de los Andes near Lake Lacar.
San Martin is a cute town of about 20,000 people nestled in a valley in the Patagonian Andes.
A gorgeous spring day with just a few clouds in the sky provided the backdrop for our hike and within 15 minutes of our hike we had a spectacular view of the city below.
Despite the trek being on a road and not a trail (you can drive to the viewpoint) we only saw a dozen or so cars.
The hike was peaceful, and we made it to the Mirador Arrayán in about an hour.
We marveled at the view, trying but failing to capture its majesty on film.
Glancing to the west you see the entirety of Lake Lacar with snow capped mountains in the background.
Looking to the east is the city of San Martin de los Andes.
We hiked the 1km further up the road, looking forward to the Mirador Arrayán Tea House, and to appreciating and eating its pastries.
We approached the Tea House, only to find a sign on the door indicating their hours of 4pm-8pm.
We weren’t going to hang around for another four hours so we turned back to the lookout point, lunching instead on our backup food– smoked trout and cheese, a local specialty.
I guess we’ll never experience the Arrayán Tea House’s pastries, but the view and serenity were well worth the hike.
Bike & Wine Tour in Maipu: It’s Better After a Bottle
We had high hopes for our wine tour by bike through Maipú, in the heart of Argentina’s wine region.
What could be better than a leisurely bike ride through a cute old town with wineries on one side and the Andes on the other?
But our experience didn’t quite match up with our expectations.
We hopped off the bus in Maipú and rented two rickety bikes.
Winery map in hand, we started pedaling toward the first winery.
Based on the map, it should have only been a few blocks away.
Then again, the map didn’t have a scale.
Eight kilometers later we pulled into the old-fashioned bodega, exhausted and happy to be there.
The bike shop didn’t have any helmets and the bike lane ended after a few blocks.
The wine route turned out to be a run-down major road, with cement trucks whizzing by at 70 mph, barely swerving to avoid us and kicking up dust and spewing exhaust in our faces.
Not quite the majestic, peaceful experience we’d hoped for, but we tried to look on the bright side.
Not the scenery we’d imagined
Two large dogs greeted us at the first winery, which consisted of five unlabeled buildings.
We ventured into one and found a winery tour in progress.
We tagged along for 15 minutes during which I learned.
You should always store wine on the first floor of your house and the bottle should be kept horizontal.
When you buy wine at the store, take a bottle from the back of the shelf because it’s been exposed to less light.
At least I think that’s what the guide said.
It was all in Spanish, and I struggled to keep up.
Then the tour group went to do a tasting, which was a bit too expensive for us, and we left.
The next winery looked close, but I feared the map might be deceiving us again.
Fortunately, it only took 10 minutes to get there, and this bodega was much more scenic, less busy, more reasonably priced, and served food.
That’s more like it.
We did the tour, ordered a delicious meal, and proceeded to split a bottle of wine.
Wine and food — that’s more like it
Feeling content, we stopped at one last winery.
We walked through its museum and saw an entire cow skin that had once been used to filter wine.
We sampled one of their wines, then decided it was time to call it quits for the day.
We headed back to the bike shop, stopping only to sample exotic liqueurs at a store along the way.
A delicious but bad idea after aforementioned bottled of wine.
Content after a five hour day of bodega tours, we returned our bikes and got on a bus headed for Mendoza.
The day wasn’t what we expected, but we still had fun.
With good weather and good wine, you can’t go wrong.
A wonderful time at Perito Moreno Glacier and afterwards
We were lucky to be able to have time to explore Perito Moreno Glacier and many more cities while spending time in Argentina.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is a must-see spot. Given the extra time we had, we were fortunate to also experience off-the-beaten-path locales of Trelew, Punta Tombo, Mendoza, Maipú, and San Martin de los Andes.
Lonely Planet Argentina guidebook
Eyewitness Argentina guidebook
Small Langenscheidt Spanish dictionary
Penguin Spanish phrasebook
Spanish grammar book
Books for plane
Journals, pens, tape
I’ve lived in Washington, DC for almost five years and am getting ready to move.
As with many places I’ve lived, I’ve enjoyed “playing tourist” while I living here.
However, even after doing so many things and seeing so many sites, I still have a few things I either want to do again or to experience for the first time.
I also put together a list of what I will miss and won’t miss living in Washington, DC as it helps me appreciate what I had and at the same time, it helps me to remember what I didn’t like, hopefully making moving a little bit easier.
Here are some things to know about Washington, DC, whether you are visiting for a short stay or moving here.
So, if this summer you have that “must get out of the city now” feeling, throw your tent on your back, strap on your bike helmet, and pedal to the nearest campground.
If you’re just visiting D.C. for a weekend this would be a great way to stay travel green and save money.
More things to know about Washington, DC: Best green restaurants
Are you looking for variety and sustainable dining in your choice of restaurants?
Even in the city with a reputation for being obsessed with politics, you can find quality, organic food in eco-conscious restaurants.
You just have to know where to look.
Coppi’s Organic Restaurant (U Street)
How it’s green: The Green Pledge on this bicycle-themed restaurant’s website outlines the steps they take to be green, including: sustainable seafood, local organic produce, grass fed, free range meats and poultry, a wood burning oven, wind power electricity, and low wattage light bulbs.
1414 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009.
Metro: U Street / African America Civil War Memorial / Cardozo (green and yellow)
Java Green (downtown / K Street)
How it’s green: Java Green, which bills itself as an “organic eco-cafe,” concocts its dishes with organic and fair trade ingredients, uses wind power, “uses real chinaware to reduce the use of disposable containers,” and also offers “biodegradable serving ware and carry-out bags made from corn, sugar cane fiber, and potato starch.”
1020 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036
Metro: Farragut North (red) and Farragut West (blue and orange)
Sonoma Restaurant + Wine Bar (Capitol Hill / Eastern Market)
How it’s green: Like other DC area green restaurants, Sonoma prepares its food with naturally-raised, seasonal, and local ingredients.
Its website also mentions using renewable energy, though it doesn’t specify the sources.
223 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003 http://www.sonomadc.com
Metro: Capitol South (blue and orange)
Restaurant Nora (Dupont Circle)
How it’s green:
Restaurant Nora was the first American restaurant become certified organic.
According to Nora’s menu (which is printed on recycled paper with environmentally-friend dyes), Chef/owner Nora Pouillon concocts her dishes with ingredients “from certified organic farmers and products who do not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or GMOS.”
Even the water is from the tap, filtered by their “special system,” which eliminates the environmental impacts associated with bottled water.
2132 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Metro: Dupont Circle (red)
How SweetGreen is green:
As its website touts, “not all ingredients are organic, but a lot are.”
The walls are made of recycled wood; their carry-out containers and utensils are biodegradable; and they use energy-efficient wiring.
3333 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Metro: Rosslyn or Foggy Bottom-GWU (blue and orange
U.S. National Arboretum – free and fun
We headed to the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC in mid-May for a day-long retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Even though the Arboretum is in DC, it’s quiet and peaceful.
And we were lucky enough to catch some of the azaleas in bloom.
The weather was perfect – not too hot or humid, a rare occurrence around here – and it wasn’t very crowded.
There was even a wedding happening by the dogwood trees.
The National Arboretum is free, accessible by public transportation, open every day (except December 25) and with 446 acres, it’s so big that it’s rarely crowded.
If that’s not enough to convince you to go, maybe our photos will.
On a related note, recently I read a depressing Washington Post article about the hardships the arboretum faces after the federal government cut $2 million from its budget this year.
The budget shrinks more every year and the arboretum is having to cut back on staff and programs.
You can pitch in.
Donate to support the U.S. National Arboretum or, if you’re in DC, volunteer to be a gardener or tour guide, among other positions. Training is provided.
With a little bit of research, you will easily find more options to experience.
If you happen to work on the Hill, you’ve probably noticed that your dining options have recently gotten greener.
According to the Washington Post, under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Green the Capitol project, even Congress is greening its lunch offerings, which now include sustainable seafood and organic, locally grown produce in the House cafeterias.
They’re even using compostable plates and cutlery.
There are so many things to know about Washington, DC that you will never be at a loss for something historical, cultural, or entertaining to experience.
What are your favorite things to know about Washington, DC that must be shared?
A trip to Washington DC may seem to be overwhelming with the sheer number of interesting and exciting things to see and do, but with some careful planning you can see the best sights in Washington DC no matter how long you have to explore use this Guide to Washington DC.
Guide to Washington DC
The first thing you have to do is prioritize – there are three major components to the attractions in DC: the monuments, the Government buildings, and the museums.
Choose which of those you want to see the most of and plan accordingly, because any one of those three choices can take a good long while to explore fully.
There are popular locations like Arlington National Cemetery where you can see the eternal flame marking the grave site of John F Kennedy, the eternally patrolled tomb of the unknown soldiers, and the final resting sites of many other notable people in the history of America.
Other sights not to miss are the Vietnam War Memorial, and the chilling Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Pentagon Memorial dedicated to those who were killed during the attack on September 11th, 2001.
Then there are the monuments honoring Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson.
You can choose to take a tour and see them all in a few hours, or spend as long as you like basking in the history and majesty of some of the greatest architecture in the United States.
Being the centralized seat of government for the United States means there are no shortage of government buildings that are located within the city limits, but a great deal of them are open to the public and have a lot to teach about the way our government operates and the daily goings on that make the machinery move.
The most famous sites to tour are the White House, the Capital, and the Supreme Court, but there are also many other fascinating buildings to explore like the Treasury Building, the headquarters of the CIA and FBI, the Library of Congress and the National Archives.
Another great thing about touring these buildings is that many of them do not charge an admittance fee.
Again, before you embark on going to experience all that there is to see, you should have a plan in place.
You won’t want to miss the Air and Space Museum, nor the Natural History Museum.
Art lovers have a wide variety of Smithsonian museums to choose from, and for a family friendly and fun filled day, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the National Zoo.
And apart from the Smithsonian museums, there are many others in Washington DC to see and learn from, including the famous International Spy Museum, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, and the US Navy Museum.
So no matter what route you choose when deciding how best to use your time in Washington DC, there are a lot of great attractions to choose from.
Moving to Washington DC? Checkout the professionals, and their moving tips, at Craig Van Lines.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.
I hate to give the game away right here at the beginning of a whole book devoted to the subject… Eating a little meat isn’t going to kill you, though it might be better approached as a side dish than as a main. You’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than process food products.”
In Defense of Food – Quotes, Guidelines, and Review
I first saw a copy of In Defense of Food while browsing at Barnes & Noble.
At the time it struck me as just another dieting fad book.
The second time I saw the book was in the ship’s library on our Alaskan Cruise.
I started the book but didn’t have time to finish it before the cruise was over.
The third time I happened across In Defense of Food was at the local library.
I guess the third time really is a charm.
In a nutshell, In Defense of Food changed my life.
For several years I have tried to eat local and to eat many fruits and vegetables.
Just like many others, I’ve read all about the health and environmental benefits of doing so.
But, convenience often took a front seat, and I bought produce shipped from all over the world and low-calorie bread with more ingredients than calories.
In Defense of Food didn’t just change my attitude about healthy eating.
It also changed my shopping and dining habits.
Now I go to farmer’s market at least once a week (and not just for a fun outing) and even make my own bread.
One of the reasons In Defense of Food is such a good book is that it’s easy to read.
Pollan can be funny and he pulls in all sorts of interesting facts and random tidbits.
Kind of the way Freakanomics or The Tipping Point brings science to an almost pop-culture-non-fiction scale.
Partly because my last book review post Eat, Pray, Love Quotes was well received and partly because I selfishly want to have my notes from this book in one place for a reference, I pulled together my favorite quotes from In Defense of Food.
I also posted the outline of the final section of the book, which lists Pollan’s guidelines for healthy eating.
I highly recommend In Defense of Food to anyone interested in food, health, the environment, and travel.
Travel may seem a stretch to some people.
However, the book actually goes fairly in depth about food from other cultures and Pollan discusses these eating habits in a way that any traveler will find fascinating.
In Defense of Food Quotes
“My aim in this book is to help us reclaim our health and happiness as eaters. To do this requires an exercise that might at first blush seem unnecessary, if not absurd: to offer a defense of food and the eating thereof… But I contend that most of what we’re consuming today is no longer, strictly speaking, food at all, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and, increasingly, alone– is not really eating, at least not in the sense that civilization has long understood the term.”
“But who knows what else is going on deep in the soul of the carrot. The good news is that, to the carrot eater, it doesn’t matter. That’s the great thing about eating foods as compared with nutrients: You don’t need to fathom a carrot’s complexity in order to reap its benefits.”
“A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished…”
“Food consists not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people.”
In Defense of Food Advice
Eat food: Food Defined
Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
Or don’t eat anything that doesn’t rot.
Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or include d) high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid food products that make health claims.
Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible– shake the hand that feeds you.
Mostly plants: What to Eat
Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
You are what what you eat eats too.
No that is not a typo
If you have the space, buy a freezer.
When you find a good source of pastured meat, you’ll want to buy it in quantity.
Eat like an omnivore.
Remember to eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
Eat wild foods when you can.
Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
Eat more like the French.
Or the Italians.
Or the Japanese.
Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
Have a glass of wine with dinner. (Fine to skip this!)
Not too much: How to eat
Pay more, eat less.
Do all of your eating at a table.
No not a desk — a table.
Pay Attention To Your Food When You Eat.
Avoid eating mindlessly!
Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
It’s been awhile since we’ve written about volunteer travel and since summer is here (or so it feels in Minnesota today) with summer vacation planning underway, I thought I’d revisit the subject focusing specifically on volunteer travel abroad versus volunteer travel locally.
Local vs. Abroad Volunteer Travel
Whether its sandbagging for a flood emergency in Fargo or picking strawberries on an organic farm in California there are plenty of opportunities to take 1 or 2 days and see a place (relatively) near your home and volunteer the same time.
You don’t have to travel far to find a place to volunteer.
The trick is finding a place you want to visit for a vacation that also has a volunteer opportunity.
Generally, there are two ways to search for a volunteer travel program: by place or by opportunity.
For US based volunteer travel I find it more exciting to search for an opportunity and then find out what else there is to do in that city or town.
Whether you WWOOF or choose one of these below, there are many options, including:
Crossculturalsolutions.org: Offers volunteer programs in 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand.
idealist.org: An extensive volunteer database with environmental listings, connections to local nonprofits, financial aid information, internships and a kids and teens page.
Current opportunities include teaching environmental awareness to Nepalese villagers and developing a fruit-drying program for Ghanan villagers, among many others.
volunteerabroad.com: Listings include opportunities to protect Australia’s environment and conservation projects in Costa Rica.
volunteerinternational.org: Conservation programs in Thailand, creating a Holocaust Memorial Park in Poland and making eco-friendly soap with disabled persons in Japan are just three of the unique opportunities you’ll find on this site.
i-to-i.com: Work to conserve Madagascar’s lemurs, care for endangered wallabies in Australia or help maintain biodiversity with indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.
Tim Ferriss’s take on volunteering abroad lists 5 international volunteering organizations under “Volunteering Mini-Retirements” experiences:
Burners Without Borders– Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed south into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area to help people rebuild their devastated communities.
After several months of working along the Gulf Coast, BWB has set up a project in Pisco, Peru to assist with earthquake relief work.
Project HOPE– Nearly 50 years ago, Project HOPE was founded on the willingness of doctors, nurses and other medical volunteers to travel the globe on a floating hospital ship, the SS HOPE, to provide medical care, health education and humanitarian assistance to people in need.
While we now operate land-based programs in more than 35 countries, Project HOPE has again returned to sending medical volunteers on board ships around the world to provide medical assistance, long reaching health education programs, vaccinations and humanitarian assistance.
International Relief Teams – International Relief Teams mobilizes volunteers and distributes medical supplies to support the organization’s four missions:
Domestic and international disaster relief,
Medical education and training,
Surgical and clinical outreach,
Public health. Since 1988, IRT has provided more than $5.6 million in volunteer services, and more than $112 million in medicines and supplies to families in desperate need in 42 countries worldwide.
Relief International – Relief International is a humanitarian non-profit agency that provides emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance, and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide.
RI is solely dedicated to reducing human suffering and is non-political and non-sectarian in its mission.
Habitat for Humanity – Build houses for people who can’t afford them with this well-known U.S.-based organization.
Doctors Without Borders -You don’t have to be an MD to provide medical care to people in developing countries.
They’re currently seeking doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, technicians, logisticians, and others.
Engineers Without Borders USA – Projects “range from the construction of sustainable systems that developing communities can own and operate without external assistance, to empowering such communities by enhancing local, technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills.”
Conservation Volunteers in Australia. – Links to various conservation programs and organizations in Australia.
Volunteer Match – A great resource for providing you with volunteer opportunities (including many in the US) that match your interests.
Looking for more resources for volunteering abroad?
Smaller conservation projects and one-off involvement is also key.
Maintaining a level of flexibility in the budget allows a company to make pledges to a variety of different projects as they come up.
eco Tourism to Africa
Safari Consultants has assisted small-scale projects such as providing school equipment in school, and football boots for a local team.
Examples in the UK
It’s necessary to keep up with peak industry bodies such as The Travel Foundation and Ethical Tour Operators Group (ETOG) of Tourism Concern to keep up-to-date with projects and industry news and demonstrate a commitment to ethical tourism.
Taking care of the environment has been extended to onsite practice at Safari Consultants HQ in Suffolk, where low energy light bulbs are used, and electricity runs off 100% renewable resources.
They have an in-house green travel policy for all staff, plus a comprehensive recycling scheme in the office.
As climates change ever more rapidly, it becomes increasingly essential to do as much as possible to mitigate the impact that humans have on the environment.
The onus is on both tourism companies and travelers, who can choose to support ethical tourism providers, especially when travelling in the delicate ecosystems such as while on safari.
In Africa and wherever you are going — should also take personal responsibility while abroad – from taking care of the environment while visiting to offsetting carbon emissions, there are many ways to ensure the lightest possible footprints are left.
It was evident that Shanti Uganda has grown far beyond its original vision of bringing conscious birth to communities experiencing trauma in Uganda.
It’s become a center for women and children’s health education, vaccinations, and preventive care.
And it’s become a community activity and education center for teens, and a work and skills training site for rural women who, through Shanti Uganda’s initiative in developing cottage industries, are earning an income for the first time in their lives!
And this amazing work takes place in a beautiful organic garden setting with solar-powered energy and a cistern-based water collection system, making Shanti Uganda off-the-grid and self-sufficient.
Learn about WWOOF before you make your plans to volunteer in Uganda.
My trip with Shanti Uganda was ten days, and it included a trip to a national park and the impressive Murchison Falls.
We also experienced a safari with elephant, hippo, giraffe, lion, baboon, crocodile and warthog sightings; a white water rafting experience on the Nile; and time exploring the local markets and amazing restaurants of the capital, Kampala.
But the truly unique part of our travel was living and working with and learning from the women of the Shanti Uganda community center.
Through Shanti Uganda, I discovered a way to support meaningful work, both actively with my time and more passively with the money and supplies I could bring to the center.
I felt like my contributions could make a real and palpable difference in the lives of people I grew to know and care for.
It is rare to find a way to truly immerse yourself in another culture and live it, not just peer at it through a camera lens or on a tourist bus.
Shanti Uganda afforded me that experience and I am eternally grateful.
Volunteering in SE Asia: Getting Your Foot on the NGO Ladder
Volunteering in SE Asia can be a wonderful, life-changing experience.
Getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder in the conservation and humanitarian sectors is a chicken and egg kind of situation – you want a job to gain experience but the employers want to employ someone with experience which you can’t have until you get a job!
Through searching the web and talking to career advisers, you will probably come to the conclusion that to take that first step you often must volunteer.
Volunteer travel is now big business and as the pool for governmental and corporate funding is continually shrinking, which is worsened by the increasing number of fund seekers.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are turning to volunteering as a way to fund their conservation or outreach activities.
Paying to volunteer in itself sounds wrong, but when you think of yourself as a voluntourist and, if you volunteer, 100% of your money is paid directly to the project then this blow is lessened.
Editor’s Note: While we don’t necessarily advocate for paying for volunteering, (since there are ways to volunteer without paying, like through WWOOF) the author makes a good point that if you are going to pay you should only pay the volunteer organization directly and not a middleman.
Volunteering direct is booking and paying the organization directly rather than pay through an agent.
Many excellent projects around the world are crying out for paying volunteers and would be more than happy for you to come along and help out.
There are many benefits for joining these smaller organizations.
The most important will be that you will increase your contacts and network within the relevant NGO sector.
It’s “who you know”
The more you delve into the world of conservation and community development, the more you may realize that it is not what you know but who you know.
Many positions are filled even before the job is publicized.
Many of the top leaders in conservation actually started as a volunteer.
The contacts you can make by volunteering directly can lead you to places you never thought possible.
I personally was offered a PhD position in Australia in ecotourism as a result of people I worked with when I volunteered in Borneo.
After volunteering on my own I set out to help more people to volunteer directly and started Ecoteer.
We now help around 2,000 members to find volunteering positions directly.
We have scores of projects on our site and have introduced a member assessed rating system to help our members when they are choosing which projects to apply to.
Through the past years of running Ecoteer and extensive travels and volunteering in SE Asia, I have found many small projects in need of volunteer help.
Below I have listed my top 5 volunteer projects in Southeast Asia which could help you get on the first rung of the ladder.
Kalaweit means Gibbon in Indonesian.
This project shows what can be achieved by a traveler with a mission — it is a sheer inspiration to any budding conservationist.
In 1999, Chanee, an 18 year old Frenchman, set off on an adventure to save the Gibbons of Borneo.
He found a small wildlife center in the center of Kalimantan, Borneo, where he first volunteered and started to buy gibbons from villagers who kept them as pets.
At the wildlife center, Chanee helped the Gibbons back to full strength and then set them through the long and tedious process of rehabilitation.
Chanee also started a radio station with hourly messages about gibbon conservation and requests for listeners to report caged Gibbons.
The Kalaweit organisation now rehabilitates 300 Gibbons and Siamangs, and employs 50 people (veterinarians and keepers).
Before you pay to be a volunteer, it is worth learning about volunteer travel programs.
Founded in early 2008 by Paul Ferber, Marine Conservation Cambodia has committed itself to the comprehensive protection of Cambodia’s marine environment.
They assist local communities in the sustainable use of their marine resources and provide alternative forms of income generation through ‘true’ eco-tourism and scuba diving.
The project plays a big part in marine research in Cambodia and has an online photographic directory of marine species in Cambodia.
MCC has had a positive ID on a seahorse species never found before in Cambodia – Hippocampus mohnikei.
MCC has empowered the community at Koh Rung Samleom, who are now self-protecting a globally significant seahorse breeding ground.
Borneo Child Aid Society
In Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, it is estimated that over 50,000 children are not given any schooling.
Non-Malaysian children are not entitled to state schooling.
The Borneo Child Aid Society is helping to address this issue and are providing basic education for about 10,000 children.
The project started in the mid-1990’s and is led by Torben Venning, a Danish humanitarian activist.
The society works very closely with the Palm Oil Plantations and is helping to provide education for their foreign workers’ children who are not entitled to state education.
The Borneo Child Aid society learning centers provides the children with basic math, science, Bahasa Malaysia and English lessons.
Afternoon activities for the children are conducted with environmental awareness sessions at least once a week.
The Borneo Child Aid Society is expanding its learning center network to offer floating schools to the sea gypsies of the Sulu Sea (Bajau Laut) who live on boats off the coast of Semporna and the southern Philippines.
Ban Roean Ram Workcamps
Ban Roean Ram was founded in 2008 by Jatuporn Jitprapan and Uthai Tongkamkeaw, two passionate and caring Thai women.
They now have a team of five Thai people and a few past volunteers are now helping them develop their network internationally.
The purpose of the NGO is to develop sustainable development in villages in Southern Thailand.
The centers provide locals with education about community development, traditional Thai culture and folk wisdom, (which is being lost) the local environment and nature.
In cooperation with temples, schools, local government and with the community, Ban Roean Ram is aiming to establish groups around Southern Thailand with six objectives:
1. collect folk wisdom from sages
2. stimulate cultural as well as economic life in the village
3. improve opportunities for children and youths teaching them about Thai traditions
4. offer activities such as music, sports and establish a shop with local products
5. found local museums
6. found libraries
Volunteering in SE Asia is a valuable opportunity
Our world is full of amazing, inspiring and life-changing places to volunteer.
Fistula Horror Stories: Socially Conscious Travel & Human Rights
I didn’t want to get married. They would find a husband, throw a party and send me away. I ran away many times. I refused to go back, but my father kept beating me. I was about 10 or 11 years old. I kept running away until I finally stayed with the fourth one because I got pregnant. I told my father, “You beat me and kept sending me back and look what has become of me.” If my mother were alive, she wouldn’t have let this happen. I won’t go home without being cured because no one will accept me. My other choice is to kill myself.
— Wubete, 17 years old, in A Walk to Beautiful
I seriously considered becoming a physician so I could travel to Africa and volunteer.
In the end it didn’t work out (chemistry is not my friend), but I’m still fascinated by public health.
Frankly, find it abhorrent that the US doesn’t provide medical care to everyone who lives here.
But I digress.
At Go Green Travel Green, we’re advocates for social responsibility and volunteering at home and abroad.
In honor of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights, I want to bring to light an issue that I just learned about on Tuesday: the obstetric fistula epidemic in Ethiopia.
I watched the PBS documentary A Walk to Beautiful about a hospital in Addis Ababa dedicated to treating women with this condition.
What Is Fistula?
The Fistula Foundation defines an obstetric fistula as a “hole between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs” – namely, her bladder and/or rectum.
And according to the World Health Organization, “2 million women have untreated fistula” and “approximately 100,000 women develop fistula each year.”
These days, fistula of this sort is seen primarily in developing countries when women are in labor for many days without the care of a doctor or midwife.
Ethiopian girls like Wubete are often married off before they hit their teens.
Their young age, coupled with the fact that malnutrition has stunted their growth, means that their pelvises are under-developed for childbirth.
That causes labor to take longer and often leads to fistula. And, ultimately, the “root causes of fistula are grinding poverty and the low status of women and girls,” says the Fistula Foundation.
On top of the physical pain associated with a long labor and a gaping hole between internal organs, women affected by fistula suffer psychologically.
They’re outcast in their communities because of incontinence and their husbands reject them.
Fortunately for these girls and women, Drs. Catherine and Reginald Hamlin have founded hospitals in Ethiopia dedicated to treating fistula patients.
Australia-born Catherine lives in Ethiopia, where she’s been for 30 years, treating women affected by fistulas.
In the documentary, she says her husband would still be with her in Addis Ababa if he were living.
There’s definitely something for everyone, so choose an activity that you’ll enjoy.
Some programs give you food and lodging at no additional cost.
Others provide lodging, but you’re expected to pay extra for it.
Still others point you in the right direction by giving you recommendations, but you have to book and pay for it.
Figure out what your program provides and what you can afford.
If getting out and exploring the region is important to you, figure out how much free time you’ll have.
Some programs give you days off, while others expect you to be available the entire time you’re there.
Do your research, and decide what will work best for you.
As an example, while we were in Argentina volunteering at Chacra Millalen, we didn’t realize they do not have their volunteers work on the weekend.
Had we realized that, we might not have planned on Saturday-Sunday as part of our stay.
It was wonderful being there, but we were there to work.
Dig around online, scour forums, and ask for references if you have doubts.
If the company or organization you’re considering seems sketchy, it might be.
Or they might just have a small budget and no website.
Do your research and try to speak to a real person about any concerns.
You can look up U.S.-based organizations (or orgs with a U.S. affiliate) on Charity Navigator, which evaluates non-profits and gives them 1-4 stars, and GuideStar, which provides information on thousands of non-profits.
Additional resources for volunteering abroad traveling and WWOOF ‘ing: