Guide to Argentina: Escape to the “Happy City” of Mar del Plata
The sultry South American summer annually draws travelers from all corners of the globe. In Argentina, where the heat is particularly magnetic, swarms of sun-seeking visitors and locals flock to the eastern coast to soak up the intoxicating Argentine rays.
From December to late February and often early March, the beaches of Buenos Aires are crammed full, and for many travelers, such crowds significantly detract from the experience. The weather may be beautiful and the water perfect, but tripping over someone else’s umbrella is not anyone’s idea of a relaxing day at the beach.
However, venturing south of the city brings a pleasant surprise: a short flight from Buenos Aires takes you to Argentina’s oldest and most famous resort – Mar del Plata. Dubbed “ciudad feliz” (happy city) by its inhabitants, Mar del Plata is a thriving beach town with entertainment and sparkling white-sand beaches galore.
Mar del Plata’s 29 miles of gleaming shoreline is blessed with plenty of glorious beaches. Among them is posh Playa Grande, known as the city’s best shopping and hotel location. While the popular Playa la Perla is a local favorite, the best all-around beach in Mar del Plata is, without a doubt, Playa Punta Mogotes.
On all the beaches, visitors can try their hand at paragliding, sailing, boating, and windsurfing – among myriad other activities.
Sometimes called a miniature Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata isn’t just a beach town. The city’s topography also features towering cliffs and deep ravines. It is also a small, but lively cultural and entertainment powerhouse, home to excellent shopping spots along Plaza San Martin, a gorgeous cathedral, and a collection of turn-of-the-century mansions at the end of the well-known Avenida Colón. For nature lovers, it also houses a 988-acre (400-hectare) brilliantly-preserved forest, Bosque Peralta Ramos.
Summer in Mar del Plata is chock full of activity. If you go in December, check out Fiesta del Mar, a wild, exuberant celebration with rowdy live shows, colorful parades, and the coronation of a festival queen. Early March brings the world-famous International Film Festival, a quieter, but equally exciting showcase of both Argentine and international cinema.
Don’t forget that Mar del Plata is first best known as the fishing capital of Argentina. In January, the city hosts its annual National Fishing Festival, a jubilant affair that welcomes fishermen from all over the country. As one might expect, Mar del Plata offers some of the tastiest, most creatively-prepared seafood in all of Argentina.