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5 unique Buenos Aires tours

September 26, 2013

For visitors to Buenos Aires ready to look past the city’s well-trodden tourism circuit of legendary tango shows and killer steakhouses, these five tours with a twist are sure to shine a new light on the Paris of South America. I just returned from a two-month tour of Buenos Aires, and herewith are five personally vetted choices for the best outside-the-box tours brewing in BA today.

1. Foto Ruta iPhoneography

The message from the photography fanatics behind Foto Ruta is clear: Don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone camera. These nifty half-day tours, held in the hip Palermo ‘hood, were launched last summer and are led by a professional photographer (and Canadian expat) who demonstrates just how advanced today’s smartphone cameras and assorted photography apps can be. After a quick tutorial on the scope of current iPhone camera technology and photo-snapping techniques, hone your skills along the lively streets of bustling Palermo and at the Mercado de las Pulgas, a quirky flea market brimming with photogenic curiosities. The day culminates with a group review of the day’s best images, shared over a glass of vino in a corner café. foto-ruta.com

2. Graffitimundo

Sign up for a Graffitimundo outing, and you’ll never look at graffiti in quite the same light again. Any visitor to Buenos Aires will quickly discover a city façade that doubles as an ever-changing canvas for street artists, who have plastered public spaces here with everything from quickly scribbled tags to political propaganda to massive murals. Discover the history, culture and artists’ stories behind this thriving urban arts scene with a Graffitimundo tour, which takes travelers off the beaten path in the Colegiales and Palermo neighborhoods to graffiti hotspots, open-air galleries and an artists’ studio. Then wind down in a street-art-themed bar and gallery (where you can pick up some artwork to go). graffitimundo.com

3. The Man Tour

Boys will be boys—tap into that testosterone in no time while seeking out some Latino-flavored, old-school machismo culture in Buenos Aires. Crafted and hosted by the amicable and animated American expat Jed Rothenberg, owner of tour company LandingPadBA, this jam-packed half-day itinerary will kick things off over a shared mate (traditional Argentinean tea), while participants get insight into city architecture, culture and history. Next up, taste some of the city’s best empanadas paired with cold brews, check out a 100-year-old hat-making workshop, and then set out for a straight-razor shave at one of the city’s (and perhaps the world’s) most atmospheric barber shops. Finish off the afternoon over cigars, stiff drinks, snacks, conversation and newfound camaraderie. It is all good fun—even if you’re lacking a Y chromosome (tours are open to couples, too!). landingpadba.com

4. Urban Running Tours

Staying in shape while hitting the road can be downright challenging. Happily, Buenos Aires’s Urban Running Tours proposes an inventive solution: Take in the sights while you take off that weight (especially since those juicy steaks and generous pours of Malbec can really add up!). Customized running tours offer travelers a selection of running circuits around the city, which pair guided runs with informative commentary en route. Popular tracks take in the parks of Palermo or the riverfront and ecological reserve in Puerto Madero. The guides, all trained runners, can create loop routes from and to your hotel and adapt tours to your pace, incorporating specific site requests or preferred distances to cover. Bottled water, a running T-shirt and digital pics snapped by the guide are all included in the package. urbanrunningtours.com.ar

5. E-Bike Tour

Take to the city on two wheels, and when you get tuckered out, keep powering through, courtesy of the battery-assisted boost offered by an electric bicycle. Give the mod “e-bikes” a whirl on tourist office-sponsored circuits, held twice daily on weekends and holidays. All guided tours depart from the city’s planetarium and touch on Palermo’s green spaces and lakes. Sign up for the morning outing for a focus on area monuments, or try the afternoon tour, which emphasizes area museums, all the while pedaling without breaking a sweat. Spots are limited—reserve yours, along with an English-speaking guide, in advance via email: turismoendosruedas@buenosaires.gob.ar