Argentina is a country of contrasts, with the east bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and the western edge by the spectacular Andes, a mountain range with rugged canyons, high deserts, deep blue lakes, and the “Roof of the Americas” – the continent’s highest peak – Cerro Aconcagua.
You couldn’t pick a more spectacular place to travel, and when you combine your trip with life-changing volunteer experience, your senses will be on overload from the exciting fútbol games to the sensual tango, to the powerful Iguazú Falls.
Another contrast is Buenos Aires, the capital city with its wide boulevards and its European cosmopolitan flair. “Buenos Aires” is translated as “fair winds” and with around 15.6 million residents, is the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas.
A melting pot, Buenos Aires is a multicultural city and home to multiple ethnic and religious groups. Several languages are spoken in the city in addition to Spanish, contributing to its unique culture. The city’s wealth and influence overshadow the rest of Argentina and had created decades of political and social unrest.
Economics and Politics
Buenos Aires was first established as Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre(translation: “City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds”) in 1536 by a Spanish expedition led by Pedro de Mendoza after a failed foray into the region by Juan Díaz de Solís, the first European to reach the Río de la Plata in 1516. Both were repelled by the indigenous people of the area. Finally, in 1580, Juan de Garay sailed down the Paraná River from Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay) and created a permanent port – the Puerto de Santa María de los Buenos Aires.
Thanks to its status as a trade port and its population of wealthy immigrants, Buenos Aires became an affluent town, but not everyone has enjoyed the riches.
During the 1930s, shanty towns and slums grew around the city’s industrial areas and these laborers championed Juan Domingo Perón and the Peronist ideal: social justice, economic independence, and political sovereignty. Peronism rejects both capitalism and communism. The Revolución Libertadora was a military and civilian coup that overthrew the Peron regime in 1955, however, in 1970 popular opinion once again placed Peron, and his wife, Eva, at the head of the country. By 1976, the ailing Peron died and his wife was ousted by another military coup.
This chapter of Argentina’s history is dark and the dictatorship and ensuing conflict are known as the “Dirty War,” which targeted people “deemed subversive, especially leftists, including left-wing Peronists.” In 1983, democracy was restored and nearly 300 people, including the leading officers, were charged, convicted, and sentenced for their crimes. Some were pardoned, but the Argentine government repealed those pardons in 2006 and continues to investigate crimes against humanity and the genocide.
Culture and Community
Culture is an important component of Argentina’s charm. Home to 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the country is filled with amazing destinations, and Buenos Aires has been a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network since 2005 after it was named “City of Design.” Often called the “Paris of South America” Buenos Aires has the busiest live theater industry in Latin America! Just check out these UNESCO sites and add a few to your itinerary:
- Los Glaciares National Park
- Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes (Brazil)
- Iguazu National Park
- Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas
- Península Valdés
- Ischigualasto / Talampaya Natural Parks
- Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba
- Quebrada de Humahuaca
- Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement
- Los Alerces National Park
The city of Buenos Aires is separated into 48 barrios, small neighborhoods that are based on the Catholic parishes for administrative purposes, although many are informally broken into smaller neighborhoods. A popular Tango song “Cien barrios porteños” (The 100 barrios of Buenos Aires) keeps this claim alive. Many of these unique barrios are filled with charm, quaint restaurants, and exciting nightlife. The most populous and frequently visited are Palermo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero, Belgrano, San Telmo, La Boca, Monserrat, and Caballito. Check out this guide to the neighborhoods before you go.
Featured Volunteer Abroad Programs
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) has sent over 100,000 empowered travelers abroad on meaningful projects with sustainable objectives. Founded in 2007, IVHQ is a trusted volunteer organization that works with local organizations and NGOs in more than 40 destinations worldwide. It offers 200+ safe projects programs that are designed to be responsible, and deliver sustainable value for the environment and underserved communities. IVHQ provides affordable volunteer travel experiences that are responsible that are designed to heighten global awareness and cultural understanding.
Price: from $590 for two weeks
Duration: Two to 12 weeks
Travel to vibrant Buenos Aires with IVHQ and choose from a range of opportunities to volunteer on uplifting, worthwhile projects that not only improve the lives of people in Argentina but also help you develop skills and gain a cultural understanding. Volunteers are based in Argentina’s capital city, with placements located throughout the Barracas area, 20 minutes’ travel time from the accommodation in the Recoleta neighborhood. An affordable Spanish language crash course is available as well. Choose from a variety of projects including:
- Childcare – Support and nurture children from marginalized communities as you work in a local soup kitchen. Engage in games and activities, such as arts and crafts, songs, and games.
- Teaching/Education – Assist educators with an integrative project, aimed at addressing the issues of poverty and illiteracy in low-income communities.
- Construction – Provide hands-on help with renovation and maintenance activities within schools, soup kitchens, and other spaces within low-income communities.
- Healthcare – Medical students and healthcare professionals can gain a firsthand understanding of the healthcare system in Argentina while assisting the staff in one of the biggest teaching clinics in Buenos Aires. Services provided by the clinics include general medicine and surgery, nursing, pediatrics, physiology, dentistry, gynecology, x-ray, ultrasound, and mental health.
- Sports Education – Strengthen communities, improve quality of life, and support educational outcomes as a volunteer, assisting with coaching sessions and drills, along with games and activities.
Spend your weekends discovering the bustling city of Buenos Aires, or exploring nearby areas. You might even take a boat over to Uruguay! There are short flights and overnight buses to Mendoza (a wine region near the Andes), Córdoba, and Rosario. If you’re adventurous, tack on activities like trekking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, paragliding, and rappelling. IVHQ’s team in Argentina can help advise or coordinate weekend travel arrangements. Read more and apply here.
Love Volunteers offers 120 affordable programs, many starting at only $280. Since its founding in 2009, Love Volunteers has placed more than 20,000 volunteers and interns on meaningful projects abroad. A nonprofit organization with a transparent policy, Love Volunteers works in 34 countries worldwide. With a mission to empower communities, Love Volunteers staff reviews each program for safety, social responsibility, and impact, and sends 90% of its fees to its partner charities and hosts.
Price: from $559 for one week
Duration: One to 12 weeks
Pack your bags and join Love Volunteers in Argentina! Love Volunteers offers four programs in Buenos Aires, ranging from one week to three months. Choose an option from below:
Animal Rescue – Care for animals in need at an animal rescue and sanctuary founded in 2010 by a mother-and-daughter team, in Buenos Aires. Compelled by the ill-treatment of animals, the duo now cares for approximately 150 rescued animals, including pigs, goats, rabbits, cows, horses, cats, dogs, ducks, guinea pigs, chickens, and parrots.
Medical Internship – Provide quality health care as you work closely with a supervising doctor or nurse. Shadow them on daily rounds, and depending upon your qualifications, experience, and/or comfort level, you may administer care and interact with patients.
Community Development – Choose from one of three valuable community development projects in Argentina. You may provide educational support for the impoverished and at-risk children of Ciudad Oculta, or help celebrate the children of impoverished communities and build their sense of worth by hosting birthday parties for those who would otherwise go without, or improve the health and long-term wellbeing of the marginalized indigenous community of Perutí.
Childhood Nutrition – Give technical and educational assistance to hundreds of children and their families as a volunteer on this project. The goals are to provide healthy food options to disadvantaged families and to educate families and children on the importance of nutritious foods.
Buenos Aires is an exciting city that’s filled with amazing architecture, fun nightlife, and cultural activities. While you’re there, learn the tango, the traditional dance of Argentina! Click here to read more and apply.
GoEco offers more than 150 projects worldwide, including some in Argentina. GoEco focuses on improving conditions for vulnerable people by sustainably improving community development and infrastructure. Its partners range from local community groups to renowned global organizations. Founded in 2006 by school friends Jonathan Gilben and Jonathan Tal, all of GoEco’s projects are carefully vetted to ensure every volunteer experience meets an excellent standard. More than 15,000 people have contributed more than one million volunteer hours on GoEco projects, ranging from humanitarian aid and wildlife rehabilitation and ecological conservation within local parks and reserves.
Price: from $1,400 for two weeks
Duration: Two to four weeks
Work with children from underprivileged backgrounds and improve your Spanish-speaking skills on a volunteer trip to Buenos Aires. This is an intensive Spanish course that also has you working 20 hours per week with children in an afterschool program. The goal is to provide healthy development, happiness, and a hopeful future for these marginalized children. Volunteer tasks include:
- Playing sports and recreational games
- Engaging in arts and culture workshops
- Helping and supervising homework
- Helping to organize special events, such as birthday celebrations
If you prefer, you can choose from other volunteer opportunities here including:
- Teaching English – provide English language classes for both adults and children.
- Supporting a Children’s Home – Provide support to children ages 2-15 who have been removed from the care of their parents and live in these homes temporarily.
- Assisting the Elderly – Support low-income seniors feel part of the community by assisting with workshops, preparing snacks, leading activities, and games.
When you travel to Argentina with GoEco, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialize with students and Argentines alike and practice your Spanish outside the classroom setting. Some of these events include neighborhood walking tours, cooking or Mate tasting classes, and even theater workshops. Tack on low-cost activities such as wine tastings, bike tours, and tango lessons. Click here to learn more!
A well-respected organization, A Broader View oversees more than 245 programs and between 1,500-2,000 volunteers join them each year. Since its start in 2007, A Broader View has placed volunteers in more than 25 countries throughout Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Projects range from one week to three months, with placements customized to your interests and background. ABV partners with local NGOs, private institutions, and community organizations to support and guide volunteers on carefully-selected projects.
Price: from $895 for one week
Duration: One to eight weeks
Combine a volunteer experience with an eye-opening trip to Argentina with A Broader View. Choose to work on a project that has you exploring the fields of teaching, social work, working with animals, special-needs care, and journalism. Here are a few exciting opportunities in Argentina with ABV:
- Childcare/Special Needs – Compassionate volunteers can assist at the Therapeutic Education Center, which offers a home to children and adolescents diagnosed with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities.
- Language Immersion Cordoba – Have an unforgettable experience with a language immersion program. Designed to help the volunteer to understand the culture and context of Argentina, the immersion classes can be combined with any volunteer project.
- Animal Rescue Center – Work at a rescue center that improves the quality of life of street dogs, and educates people about responsible ownership. Tasks include cleaning, feeding, walking, dog training, maintaining kennels, and caring for 70 dogs and 30 horses.
- Youth Disability Center – Work with children and youth with disabilities, using equine therapy, which requires you being near the horse and children, ensuring their safety and supporting what is happening on the track.
- Journalism Program – Volunteer at a local radio station that promotes Argentinian rock and news. Organized and led by a team of young communication professionals, this is a great hands-on experience for anyone wanting to learn more about operating a radio console, running radio programs, and helping with the soundcheck for bands.
- Conservation / Environment – Lend a hand at an animal reserve, and introduce tourists and visitors to one of the most beautiful areas of the Calamuchita Valley. Gain hands-on training in areas such as construction with alternative materials, nutrition, and wild animal handling, tourism, managing native seed bank, conservation, and more.
Ready to visit Argentina with A Broader View? Some of this trip’s highlights include the Iguazu Falls, Salta’s mountains, Mendoza and its wines, Patagonia’s glaciers, as well as a menagerie of animals that include penguins, whales, and sea lions. Learn more and sign up here.
Frontier has placed more than 103,000 volunteers and interns overseas in their first three decades. Founded in 1989, Frontier is one of the most trusted names in volunteering, known for inspirational and affordable volunteer abroad adventures. Frontier has more than 400 high-quality volunteer travel programs, which include important research as well. Frontier scientists and staff have contributed to and published more than 600 research papers.
Price: from $1,995 for two weeks
Duration: Two to 12 weeks
Immerse yourself in a new culture with the trip of a lifetime to Argentina with Frontier. Learn new skills, share your own professional expertise, and make new friends as a volunteer in Buenos Aires.
- Journalism Internship – Gain experience and new skills in the journalism field in Buenos Aires. Working with an NGO to research, create, edit, produce, and broadcast a range of causes through various media streams, including radio, print, and web.
- Teaching in Buenos Aires – Help to defeat poverty as you educate the local children here. You’ll play an important role in strengthening the understanding and cooperation between cultures.
- Learn Spanish & Community Project – Experience a new and exciting destination, volunteer with the community through an uplifting program, learn Spanish, and practice your skills as you absorb the Latin American culture.
- Medical Volunteering – Work alongside medical professionals, assisting in a variety of tasks to provide an improved quality of life for people of Buenos Aires.
- Antarctica Voyage – Take a voyage of a lifetime around the Antarctic Peninsula and enjoy the most dramatic scenery and the largest variety of wildlife in the continent.
Argentina is a fascinating destination with impressive mountains, the expansive deserts, and powerful waterfalls. Landscapes aside, it’s also a captivating country with a creative culture with its combination of European influences and intoxicating Latin American spirit. Read more here.
Atlas Obscura’s Guide to Interesting Sites in Buenos Aires
Atlas Obscura is an informative site dedicated to inspiring wonder and curiosity about the world. This global community of explorers has built a database of stories about the world’s interesting places and foods. In addition to its stories and books, Atlas Obscura hosts unique events, from tours to workshops. It also leads people on trips, so if you’re a traveler who enjoys adventures, you may want to check out their upcoming trips.
If you’re planning a trip to Argentina soon, take a look at the list below of recommended sites in Buenos Aires:
- El Ateneo Grand Splendid – A lovely bookstore housed in a palatial theater.
- Xul Solar Museum – This museum is dedicated to Xul Solar, a unique artist, and inventor.
- Palacio Barolo – The Divine Comedy memorialized.
- Cementerio de la Recoleta – Eva Perón is buried in the city of the dead.
- La Manzana de las Luces – The entrance to mysterious underground tunnels.
- Caminito – Tango history in a small, colorful alley in La Boca.
- El Zanjón de Granados – More underground tunnels and a small museum dating to the region’s earliest settlements.
- The Tomb of Rufina Cambacérès – A tragic story of a girl buried alive in her coffin.
- Floralis Generica – A massive metallic flower blooms anew every day.
- Cementerio de la Chacarita – Argentinian tango stars are only some of the celebrities buried in this necropolis of elaborate mausoleums.
- Parque de la Memoria – Memory Park – A war memorial of Argentina’s “Dirty War.”
- Tierra Santa – South American theme park filled with Bible stories.
- La Casa Mínima – At 10 feet wide, it’s the narrowest house in the city.
- Fuente de las Nereidas – A glorious fountain that was sculpted by a female artist.
- Original Tomb of Tomás Guido – Hand-built, humble tomb of an Argentine general.
Ready to Travel?
Argentina emerged from the global financial crisis of 2008 in strong shape, however, remember that this is a country of contrasts with pressing social and economic issues. Its people struggle with the inequity of the nation’s wealth, and there are urgent needs for improvement with education, women’s empowerment, poverty, and health care. As a volunteer in Argentina, you can help people work towards sustainable solutions.
Want to know more about volunteering and traveling in South America? Check out these articles: