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111km (69 miles) NW of Buenos Aires

San Antonio de Areco is a quiet little town about 90 minutes north of Buenos Aires, deep in the heart of Argentina's famous Pampas. The city is best known as the center for gaucho culture, Argentina's version of American cowboy tradition. Few people stay in San Antonio, choosing to visit it as a day trip from Buenos Aires, or as a base for exploring the nearby estancias that surround the town.

The city is compact, built in 1730 around an old colonial church dedicated to San Antonio of Padua, from which the town takes its name. Colonial and turn-of-the-20th-century buildings abound, all reached on walkable cobblestone streets that radiate from the church and Plaza Ruiz de Arellano, the town's main square. The Río Areco divides the town in two parts. Here along the river is a monument-lined green space called Parque San Martín, crossed by an old pedestrian bridge to Parque Criollo, where the city's most famous site, the Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes, sits.

The city's main shopping streets are Alsina and Arellano, heading south from Plaza Arellano. It's a year-round tourism destination, but it lives for the annual Día de la Tradición, generally held around November 10. Gauchos, real and wannabe, fill the town, playing gaucho games of skill such as the sortija, in which they catch rings from poles while riding horses, giving them as gifts to beautiful women in the audience. San Antonio doesn't have many hotels, and those it does have fill up fast at this time of year. (Of course, there is always the gaucho's pad, if he hands you his sortija ring.) All estancias are within a short drive of the center of San Antonio.

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