Here is the beauty of a good friend: you watch their kid for an afternoon, they return with a margarita as a thank you. As I wrote my last article on updated COVID restrictions, I knew it was an important and timely topic, but it was like poking my eyes out to read all of the information.
So, after a longer-than-it-should-have-been day of working on that article (and I was still not finished by the way), my friend got her kid and left me a drink. I poured the margarita into a proper glass, put on some Tango music on Pandora and went back to writing. Of course, margaritas have nada to do with Argentina and they certainly don’t have anything to do with COVID travel restrictions, but both just felt right (margaritas and tango music, not COVID).
Almost immediately, the music took me away to Argentina. Dreaming is a lot more fun than trying to decide when and how to travel these days. And so my heart went with the music to Argentina. By the time that Por Una Cabeza came on, I had completely lost my concentration.
Several years ago, Bill and I took a trip around the world, visiting 22 countries over the span of a year, including Argentina. People often ask me what my favorite country was to visit. Without question, two places come to mind: Thailand and Argentina. Most people sound surprised at that answer and want to know why. Today, I want to tell you why Argentina should on your bucket list. But first, let me address a couple of questions that you may have:
Where is Argentina?
Argentina is in South America. It shares borders with Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile.
Is it safe to travel to Argentina?
Yes! It is one of the safest countries in South America. Like any place, you should be aware of your surroundings, but we felt very safe traveling around Argentina.
Argentina has a similar timezone to the U.S.
Argentina does not adjust for Daylights Savings Time. They are currently just two hours ahead of CST or 1 hour ahead of EST. So while a flight to Buenos Aires may take a long time (10+ hours), you don't have to adjust much to the timezone difference. They are also in the southern hemisphere which can be great if you are looking to enjoy the summer during our wintertime or vice versa. We actually went towards the end of their winter and had a blast with winter sports.
Buenos Aires is just as romantic as Paris (yep, I said it)
The city of Evita, parillas, tango, and wine. What is there not to love? Certainly, I can think of nothing.
In Buenos Aires, the people are very stylish and dress with a European flair. In fact, if you didn't know that you were in South America, you might think that you were in Europe. From the architecture to the clothes to the world-class museums and nightlife, Buenos Aires has everything you could want in a big city. Watching the tango and listening to the accompanying, unmistakable music is a popular date night activity. There are several places to go watch the tango, including Café Tortoni. It dates from the late 1800s and is a beautiful cafe with detailed mahogany tables and gorgeous stained glass windows. You can also take your date to La Boca in Caminita and watch couples tango in the street.
If you like romance mixed with a bit of eeriness, a walk through Recoleta Park and through the cemetery could fit the bill. To top it all off, there is an amazing market in front of the cemetery on Saturdays and Sundays where you can leather, silver, glass, and artwork. If it's a Sunday, continue on to Feria de San Telmo and buy some fun antiques with your honey.
The landscapes (like Patagonia!) are unforgettable
From mountains to the jungle to beaches to glaciers, Argentina has it all! As we made our way across the country, Bill and I were amazed at the vast difference of each place. Iguaza Falls borders Brazil in the northeast and is in the jungle. By contrast, Patagonia is a cold and sparse desert surrounded by mountains and extinct volcanoes. The pampas are beautiful grasslands residing within flat plains.
In Patagonia, The Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate, is amazing. As you look out from the vantage point, you can hear - and often see - large pieces of the glacier calving off in front of you. Near Puerto Madryn is Puerto Valdes, which I mentioned in a previous article about the best wildlife, is amazing. Orcas, Southern Right Whales, sea lions, and penguins abound.
Mendoza is a wine lover’s paradise
Mendoza is breathtaking. Rows and rows of grapes pose in front of the Andes mountains in the background. Bill and I did an inexpensive wine tour and then we realized that you get what you pay for and decided to do a "do-over" with a more custom place, The Grapevine Wine Tours. This ended up being worth the price as we had a tour guide to ourselves and had unparalleled access to winemakers at five different wineries. Our guide, Charles, would take a sip and then ask us to take a sip and describe what we tasted. "I taste leather, raspberries, maybe a hint of chocolate," I would say. "Yes, yes, I agree," Charles would reply then ask Bill what he tasted. "I also get hints of blueberries," Bill said. "WRONG!!!!," exclaimed Charles. This happened all day long. Bill and I still laugh about it.
The Lake District is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland
The Lake District straddles both Argentina and Chile. It is easy to take a bus from one country to the other and then zig-zag back. Here, glacial lakes reside around beautiful forests of pine trees. You can hike, climb extinct volcanoes or do many water activities. It is nicknamed "Argentina's Switzerland" because of its wooden chalets.
Steak and Wine Every Night
Because of the currency conversion, we were able to get decent bottles of wine at the store very inexpensively. We made dinner at a parilla a regular occurrence while there, paying just around $10 for steak and wine. I'm pretty proud of Dallas steakhouses, but this was every bit as good and at a fraction of the cost.
Note: A parilla is cooking over a metal grate, usually with charcoal. Although the steak is sometimes served with a chimichurri sauce, it is usually just seasoned with salt.
Enjoy the Scenery and Road trip by Taking a Luxury Bus
Most of us take an airplane or a car when we travel. I really enjoy taking different forms of transportation. Oftentimes, the details of how I get there outweigh what I remember about the destination itself. Now I've ridden many buses too but most leave something to be desired. That is until we traveled across Argentina by luxury bus. For an upcharge, we got seats that reclined and were fed delicious meals. On one memorable bus ride, we even got a toast of champagne at midnight. We had servers on the bus!! If you have the luxury of more time to really see the countryside, I highly recommend taking a bus. We sometimes took them overnight if it was a long-distance so we saved the price of a hotel or hostel and were able to sleep on the ride. I wouldn't recommend that with kids but if you are solo or traveling with other adults, it's a good way to get from Point A to Point B.
If you want even more reasons to add it to your bucket list, and also to bide the time until the borders are open, check out Lonely Planet's Virtual Vacation to Argentina. They've included podcasts, music, movie and book lists to learn more.