I am a planner through and through and I typically research future travel destinations scrupulously for months in advance, noting every detail from the most delicious restaurants to transit instructions and the best neighbourhoods to stay. However, 2019 had something different in mind.
After months of careful planning a bucket list trip to visit the Bolivian Salt Flats and the Atacama desert in Chile – civil unrest broke out in not one, but BOTH countries. Riots in Santiago (our first stop) and political upheaval in Bolivia a mere 3 weeks prior to departure caused us to make the painful decision to cancel our trip. With the time already booked off work and the desire for adventure still burning, my frequent travel buddy Megan and I decided to switch to… Argentina!
We’d both always wanted to go and although we didn’t quite have enough time to see everything (only 7 nights), we figured it was the best way to salvage our flights to Santiago. In exactly 2 days, we were able to cancel and rebook everything for our new destination, and we may have ended up with an even better trip than we originally planned.
We barely had time to get excited as it was so last minute, but let me assure you that this trip was every bit as bucket-list worthy as Bolivia. We split our time between three destinations and in an order that continued to build, furthering our excitement as the week progressed.
Days 1-3: Buenos Aires
We still flew to Santiago (to use our original flights) but then met up at the airport and connected to EZE arriving in the afternoon of Day 1. We were both leaving winter weather behind, and couldn’t wait to feel the summer sun of South America. Our first day was about getting fresh air and fighting jet lag, which we did by visiting the prettiest book store in the world (El Ateneo Grand Splendid) and getting patio tapas and drinks in Retiro.
On our second day we took an Uber to San Telmo for the famed Sunday market, which was every bit as adorable as we’d hoped. We found an instagram hot spot (alley of umbrellas) as well as the best coffee around (Coffee Town) before moving on to check out the Parque Lezama followed by a free walking tour of the city centre. Our guide explained more about the history and politics of BA including the famous Evita Peron. In the evening we grabbed drinks at Floreria Atlantico, a bar ranked in the top 50 worldwide. We expected the drinks to be super pricey but they were actually very reasonable. And in true Argentian style we had steak and Malbec for dinner at a spot next door.
On our third and final day in Buenos Aires, we explored more of the beautiful Recoleta neighbourhood starting with the Floralis Generica, a sculpture made of steel and aluminum located in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. We then wandered through what some may call the world’s best cemetery, where the graves are as unique as the stories of its residents. We ended the day with one of my favourite activities of the whole trip – high tea on the patio of the 5 star Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt. We sipped champagne while overlooking the luxurious patio gardens, feeling truly spoiled, while somehow managing not to break the bank.
Days 4-5: Iguazu Falls
We arrived in the tourist town of Puerto Iguazu in mid-afternoon, just in time to spent the afternoon sipping cocktails on our rooftop pool overlooking the border jungles of both Argentina and Brazil. After walking over 20,000 steps a day in Buenos Aires, our feet were in need of an afternoon off. But, the main event happened the next morning when we arrived at the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls.
We hired a taxi to drive us to the park entrance in time for the opening. Our first stop was to grab tickets for the tram from Estacion Central to Estacion Garganta. We strategically planned to start at the closest lookout to the falls and work our way back throughout the morning. This strategy allowed us to beat the huge crowds that would form throughout the day. After we got off the train we enjoyed crossing the walkways over stretches of the river ultimately leading us to Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) where the spray from the massive falls had us soaking wet in seconds.
The rest of the day was spent wandering down the other trails to various lookout points offering us stunning views at every turn. The size of the park with its many trails allows the visitors to spread out, meaning that we often found ourselves alone at lookout points, ensuring we could take as many photos as we liked – and we certainly did. After about 4 hours at the park, we felt like we’d seen (and walked) as much as we could so we headed back to the hotel for lunch (steak and malbec, again!) and another relaxing afternoon by the pool.
Day 2 in Iguazu was quite the adventure… our mission to check out the Brazilian side of the falls and make it back across the border in time for our flight. We started the day once again with a taxi who was tasked with also helping us cross the border. With passports in tow, we arrived at the nearby border to go inside for our stamps (yay!), and a swift seamless crossing. Our taxi driver left us at the Parques das Aves to enjoy touring a mostly empty bird park while we waited for our HELICOPTER! That’s right, we splurged on a 10 minute, short but sweet, helicopter over the falls.
After flying overhead it was finally time to get up close and personal. The Brazilian side of the falls is much smaller but the walkways take you right under the thundering falls. We had arrived later at the park so we were caught up in the throngs of people walking along the one pathway, but it was still worth it to see, hear, and feel the falls all around us. Truly unforgettable… and now I finally understand why Eleanor Roosevelt said “Poor Niagara.”
Days 6-7: Mendoza
After spending two days chasing the most epic waterfalls we’ve ever seen, we wondering what could possibly top it. Queue the wine! If you don’t know anything about Mendoza, all you need to know is that it is Argentina’s top wine region and home of the Malbec, which not so coincidentally happens to be my favourite wine. On our last full day in Argentina we booked the most incredible wine tour that I’ve ever experienced, and after tours in the Hunter Valley, Marlborough, Stellenbosch, Okanagan, and Napa Valley, that’s saying something.
Our small group Wine Tour of Valle De Uco with Trout & Wine picked us up from our hotel and drove us by air conditioned van to our first stop, Familia Blanco, a small, modern, family winery where they rolled out the red carpet for both our tour and tasting with the owner.
Then we continued on to Bodega Passionate Wines, which is an old style winery that has been completely revamped to give a very modern, bohemian aesthetic – plus the outdoor tasting setup was divine!
And the final stop of the day was Bodega Andeluna with stunning views of the Andes Mountains in the distance and a exquisite 6 course lunch paired with 6 wines! And all of the pours throughout the day were very generous… worth every penny to be wined and dined in such beautiful locations.
We could not have had a better trip in Argentina. We know that there are many things we didn’t have time to do and regions we didn’t have time to see, but that just means I’ll have to return… Patagonia still calls me!
A few things that we learned while travelling in Argentina, is that it really helps to come with cash. We ran into many empty ATM machines and the ones that did have cash had incredibly low allowances so we always felt cash poor and struggled to pay with credit card in some places. But overall the experience was very positive and we were able to get around easily. All of our regional, budget flights were on time which was a relief after some of the scary review we read online.
Argentina is a beautiful, diverse, interesting and affordable country to visit and I will most certainly be back.