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From Buenos Aires to Patagonia: Custom Jewish Heritage Tours in Argentina

Argentina is one of the biggest and most beautiful countries in South America and has a Jewish history going back centuries. The Jewish community in Argentina is vibrant and welcoming and has its own distinctive culture. A trip to Argentina – with the metropolitan bustle of Buenos Aires, the tranquil rolling grasslands of the Pampas, and the splendid icy beauty of the Antarctic – is the adventure of a lifetime.

Gil Travel offers tailored Jewish heritage tours in Argentina with a chance to explore important Jewish cultural treasures, enjoy the best kosher Argentinian food, and build links with some amazing members of the community!

The Background of Jewish Tours to Argentina

If you’re planning a Jewish heritage tour, Argentina probably isn’t the first destination that comes to mind. Most people think in terms of a trip to Israel or to historical Jewish sites in Poland and other European countries. Argentina is well outside our usual frames of reference for Jewish history and culture. Argentina is deep in Latin America and Buenos Aires is at least 5,000 miles from New York. Argentina is definitely not a country that most of us associate with Judaism…

In fact, Argentina has a large Jewish community – one of the oldest in the Americas – and a rich Jewish cultural history. We’ll explore Argentina’s thriving Jewish culture in this blog post, as well as how to plan customized Jewish tours to Buenos Aires and tours to Patagonia, the Pampas, and some other fascinating locations. Argentina is a wonderful (and affordable) country to visit and is generally a safe and welcoming destination, both for Americans and for Jews. 

Jewish Argentina: 500 Years of History

Argentina’s colonial history began in 1516 when the explorer Juan Díaz de Solís became the first European to land in what is now Argentina. As the region was colonized by Spain, it attracted Sephardi Jews and conversos fleeing persecution at home. These adventurous immigrants and traders were the nucleus of a Jewish community that now numbers an estimated core population of more than 180,000.

Most people assume that Argentinian Jews are descended from the Sephardi immigrants who left Spain and Portugal. It’s a logical assumption, but one that’s completely wrong. Argentina accepted waves of Jewish immigrants from Europe, Russia and also the declining Ottoman Empire. Many Argentinian Jews can claim Moroccan or Syrian descent. Jewish tours to Buenos Aires usually include opportunities to sample some seriously tasty kosher Middle Eastern food like shawarma and lajmashin.

In the 20th century, many Argentinian Jews emigrated to Israel and others drifted away from the countryside to the towns. The modern Jewish community mostly lives in Buenos Aires, as well as the cities of Rosario and Cordoba. Argentinian Jews are friendly and warm people with a passion for sport, amazing cuisine, and a distinctive culture that’s a blend of Jewish and Latin American outlooks.

Plan Customized Jewish Heritage Tours in Argentina

Custom Jewish Heritage Tours in Argentina group

Argentina is a big country (only Brazil is bigger in South America) there’s a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover once you get out of Buenos Aires. Although educated Argentinians enjoy speaking English, Argentina is very much a Spanish-speaking Latin American country. Gil Travel will help you to plan a customized itinerary that takes you to the most important and beautiful Jewish heritage sites, as well as your choice of other cultural sites and events, and Argentina’s areas of outstanding natural beauty. 

Your tour organizers and professional guides will draw on their local knowledge and personal contacts to ensure that you enjoy a smooth and relaxing itinerary, and visit the latest kosher restaurants and Jewish cafes and snack bars. Food is an adventure in Argentina and you’ll love the full range of Argentinian Jewish food and wine (ask for a wine tasting in Mendoza’s vineyards). Recommended dishes include kosher sushi, empanadas – or even kosher McDonald’s. Argentina is a major beef producer with some of the world’s best natural grasslands. Argentinian steaks are on a whole new level for size, taste and quality and the local asado or parrilla (BBQ) cooking style is close to carnivorous perfection. 

Jewish Cultural Tours in Buenos Aires

Waves of Jewish immigration left their mark on Buenos Aires and there are some wonderful Jewish heritage sites. It’s definitely worth exploring the synagogues, museums and memorials with a professional guide who can give you a detailed explanation of each site. Your guide can arrange excursions that include private tours and a chance to meet interesting members of the local Jewish community. Gil Travel can also plan each day to include sites that are conveniently located close to each other (and with some great restaurants en route). 

The Grand Temple of Paso

  • One of Argentina’s best-known synagogues
  • A beautiful old building with a stunning interior
  • Conveniently situated near to the bustling Lavalle Street

The Templo Libertad

  • Arguably the oldest synagogue in Argentina
  • Spectacular Byzantine-style architecture
  • Adjacent to an interesting Jewish museum

 Yesod Hadath Synagogue 

  • Founded by Jewish immigrants from Aleppo
  • Traditional Syrian Jewish style worship
  • Beautiful and imposing building with superb architecture

The old garment district of Once and the old Russian Jewish neighborhood of Villa Crespo are still great places to wander around and take in the sites. There is plenty of good kosher food (Empanadaría Kosher does the best empanadas and pizza in town). Walking around the old Jewish quarters, you can catch a real glimpse of how life must have been for past generations of the Jewish community in Argentina. 

Other Jewish sites that are well worth a visit include the Anne Frank Center (Centro Ana Frank) and the Holocaust Museum. The museum is close to the Balvanera Quarter which still has many Jewish businesses. If you’re in the mood for a cultural evening, ask your guide about the IFT Theatre or a visit to the IWO Foundation library.  

Beyond Buenos Aires

A Custom Jewish Heritage Tours in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the vibrant hub of the Argentinian Jewish community, but it’s only a small part of the wider Argentine experience. Jewish heritage tours in Argentina can be easily adapted to take in the fertile expanse of the Pampas grasslands, once home to the legendary Jewish gauchos or cowboys (actually tough agricultural settlers in the province of Santa Fe).  More remote regions like Bariloche and El Calafate contain some of Argentina’s most beautiful national parks with exciting hikes and wilderness trails. Whatever your fitness level or age, there are options to suit all the family.

Tours to Patagonia

Patagonia contains some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. It covers Argentina’s south and neighboring Chile. Gil Travel can arrange customized tours of Patagonia that explore temperate rainforests, fjords, the Perito Moreno glacier, a section of the Andes mountain range, and even deserts. It’s a beautiful and varied region that extends all the way down to the freezing fringes of the Antarctic. Another adventurous option is an Ocean cruise from Puerto Madryn. If you love the water, try a leisurely boat trip along the immense La Plata River.

When you’re planning a Patagonia trip, you need to pay attention to the weather. Argentina is in the southern hemisphere which means that the US summer coincides with the Argentine winter. Parts of Patagonia can be cold and get some wild (but spectacular) weather. Your tour guides have expert local knowledge (including wildlife knowledge) and will help you to prepare for all weather conditions. Tours to Patagonia are an adventure, but the region is safe and trips can be as easygoing or as challenging as you want to make them.

Enjoy Luxury Jewish Tours to Argentina

Argentina is a modern country with a US-style infrastructure. It’s easy to get around and big cities like Buenos Aires are generally a lot safer than similar sized cities in the US. The food and wine (and local beers like Quilmes) are excellent and the people have a directness and a passion for life that is really refreshing. Argentina, with its relatively low cost of living and favorable exchange rate, is a great place for a luxury vacation. Jewish tours to Argentina are arranged to bring you the best of everything, from kosher hotels and food to luxury transport. 

As well as ensuring that you travel in style, Gil Travel will use its local knowledge to help you create the perfect itinerary when you visit this beautiful country. Whether you want to check out the nightlife in Buenos Aires, lounge on the beaches, shop for arts and crafts in local markets, see whales and dolphins on a boat trip or need help planning an adventurous trip to Patagonia, Gil Travel has the contacts and the expertise to turn your tour into a dream vacation!

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