A week in Argentina: The perfect spontaneous trip

A week in Argentina: The perfect spontaneous trip

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.

Summary

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.

2019: A Year in Review

2019: A Year in Review

2019 was a transition year for me, which meant that travel for personal interest had to take more of a backseat. I started a new job at the end of February and prioritized visiting friends and family over my travel bucket list. That being said, I still managed to squeeze in some restful escapes and exciting adventures – including my highly anticipated return to South America (the continent that launched my blog) after nearly a decade pursuing other regions. It feels fitting to bookend the 2010s the way it started so as always, I’ve captured the highlights of the past year in the list below.

1. San Diego, California (February)

It doesn’t take much to encourage me to book a quick weekend getaway to Southern California but when I found out that my boyfriend had never been, we used a cold snap as the perfect excuse to fly south for the winter. My friend Jennie hosted as per usual and we spent our days introducing Markus to Coronado, La Jolla, Liberty Station, Pacific Beach… oh and all the craft beer and tacos!

2. Kauai (April)

My friend Mindy and I may have fallen into a slight travel rut as of late, but who really cares when that rut is Hawaii! This time we maximized a 4-day long weekend and a couple of red-eye flights to explore my 4th Hawaiian island, Kauai! The amount of time we had was perfect since this island is much smaller than some of the others. We rented a car and drove all over the island – soaking up the beaches and hiking the gorgeous Waimea Canyon. I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.

3. Toronto, Ontario (May)

For someone who has travelled to 38 countries on 6 continents, it came as quite a surprise to many that I’d never been to my home country’s largest city. But, when my brother moved to nearby Waterloo in 2017 it felt like time to finally make the journey East. We spent 3 days exploring cool neighbourhoods like Queen West and Kensington Market, took in a showing of the fantastic and very Canadian musical Come From Away as well as an obligatory trip to the top of the CN Tower. I had very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Toronto was to visit and if our paths cross again, I won’t be too disappointed.

4. Point Roberts, Washington (June)

For this year’s annual girls trip, we decided to stay close to home as we had a stowaway in the form of Crystal’s 4 month old baby, Jack. But, we still wanted to go somewhere new and seeing as none of us had ever visited the odd little American exclave of Point Roberts. Only accessible by land from Canada, Point Roberts is a sleepy little town, with one grocery store and a handful of restaurants. It was the perfect place for us to get away from the city and enjoy the quiet woods and beaches.

5. Kelowna, British Columbia (June)

I typically try to get to Kelowna at least once during the summer. It’s somewhere I’ve been going since I was a child and there’s something about boating on the lake that brings back so much nostalgia. Now as an adult, I love exploring the plethora of excellent wineries in the area and this trip was no different. I’ve previously visited the wineries in West Kelowna, Summerland, and Naramata and now added Grey Monk, Arrowleaf, and Ex Nihilo in Lake Country to the list. The weekend actually ended up being a bit of a family reunion with my cousins from Portland making the trip up with their new baby in tow. I always feel so lucky that my cousins are some of my most favourite people!

6. Pender Island, British Columbia (July)

To me, there is no place more tranquil and restorative than the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. When I found out that my boyfriend spent summers on Pender Island as a child, I knew that we had to plan a getaway for him to show me his favourite spots. We stayed in the most adorable little cabin complete with an outdoor bathtub overlooking the ocean and spent lots of time reading books and sipping wine on the patio. I stayed on brand with a visit to the local winery, Sea Star and checked out lots of different coves and beaches. It was everything I love about summer and I’m already planning a return trip in 2020.

7. Winnipeg, Manitoba (September)

I’m on a bit of a hot streak with trips to Winnipeg having recently visited in both 2017 and 2018. This time, I snuck in a long weekend with my best cousin, Teri-Lynn to capstone the summer. We visited her new ice cream store, Fête,  which was still under construction at the time, but I did get to taste test all her latest creations. We also tried to burn off some of the calories by hiking in the Pinawa Dam Provincial Park, which was a beautiful little oasis that I had no idea existed. I also made it back to the Forks, which is touristy but always a fun stop for snacks and shopping. Winnipeg and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

8. Raleigh, North Carolina (October)

My second-ever trip to North Carolina had me re-visiting Greensboro for my travel bestie Megan’s wedding and a little side trip to check out nearby Raleigh. While the city itself left me a little underwhelmed, we did enjoy the craft beer scene, southern comfort food, and the unseasonably warm weather. The 25°C temps in mid-October saw us renting a canoe to float around William B Umstead State Park in near isolation. While it may not have been thrilling, it was relaxing, and sometimes that’s enough.

9. Buenos Aires, Argentina (December)

I didn’t expect to be writing about Argentina in 2019 but here I am. Due to some dramatic events in South America, my travel bestie, Megan and I, ended up cancelling our intended trip to Chile/Bolivia a mere 3 weeks before departure and re-scheduled to nearby Argentina. While originally disappointed and honestly quite stressed about the change of plans, we both agreed that we may have ended up with an even better trip in the end. We spent 3 days soaking up the affordable luxury and warm summer sun in Buenos Aires exploring markets, eating steak, drinking Malbec, strolling through cemeteries, and wandering through parks. It was a great teaser for what was still to come.

10. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil (December)

Our second stop on our whirlwind tour of Argentina was a major bucket list highlight. I’ve always loved waterfalls and Iguazu Falls is arguable the most impressive in the world. We viewed the falls from every possible vantage point, including both the Argentinian and Brazilian side (which yes, did involve some new passport stamps) and by helicopter. Iguazu was awe-inspiring at every turn and certainly warranted two days of exploring to do it justice. We coupled that with some rooftop pool hangs at our hotel and a last-minute visit to the Parques de Aves to see all the tropical birds including my very first toucan! Add this to your Must See list.

11. Mendoza, Argentina (December)

If there is one thing that you should know about me by now, it is that I love wine. And there is nothing that I love more than a wine tour in a new country. It also, just so happens that Malbec is my favourite type of wine, and Argentina is the king of Malbec… so you can imagine how much I loved exploring Argentina’s Uco Valley wine region during a full day tour with Trout and Wine. I’ve done a lot of tours in my day, both self-guided and professional, and I can without a doubt say that this was the best wine tour that I’ve ever been on. The three stops we made were all educational, unique, picture perfect, and very VERY generous with the pours. We even enjoyed a 6 course lunch with paired wines at our third stop (all-inclusive)! And Mendoza is an adorable little city with great night life as well. I can’t think of a better way to end the decade… more bliss in the 20s please!

2019: By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones) –  USA / Argentina / Brazil

States Visited: 4 – California / Hawaii / Washington / North Carolina

Provinces Visited: 3 – British Columbia / Ontario / Manitoba

Plane Rides Taken: 14 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Airports Visited: 13 (YVR, BLI, SAN, LIH, YYZ, YWG, SEA, RDU, MEX, SCL, EZE, IGR, MDZ)

Kilometres Flown in 2019: 55,933

Beds Slept In: 14. Of those, 5 were Airbnb rentals, 4 were hotels, 4 were crashing with family or friends, and one was my own bed!