For the last several months I have been planning a trip to Argentina for our 30th wedding anniversary. I finally have let my wife know where we are going so I thought I would share some of my research and findings. While on the trip I will be blogging on a regular basis to report on our experiences, so look for these blog posts in mid May. I will separate my research into the three separate posts based on the three locations we will be visiting starting with Buenos Aires, then Iguaçu followed by Mendoza.
Buenos Aires –
Lodging – this was easy since I used one of my tried and true methods for finding low cost lodging that cost me NOTHING. It’s called Home Exchange www.homeexchange.com. I was able to exchange our vacation home in Wrightsville Beach with someone who has a beautiful apartment in Buenos Aires for no cost. Since it is our vacation home we worked out a deal where we will use their apartment in May and he will use our beach house at a later time.
We do plan on spending one night in an estancia outside the city so we can enjoy the life on an Argentinean horse farm. My initial research on multiple travel sites indicated that the two best estancias are La Candelaria (www.estanciacandelaria.com/english/) and El Rocio (www.estanciaelrocio.com/new/english/index.html). La Oriental (www.estancia-laoriental.com/) was also recommended but is further from the city. Most of these estancias are all inclusive, excluding alcohol but including lodging, meals and horseback riding, and they are all fairly expensive, about $250 to $300 per night, per person. But I found a local Argentinean who recommended El Cencerro (www.estanciaelcencerro.com.ar/home.php?lang=en), it looks really beautiful and quaint and the cost is $150 per person.
Entertainment and things to do in Buenos Aires
I found a really neat and new concept that is springing up in Buenos Aires called “closed door restaurants”. A closed door restaurant is where a local chef opens their home to a small number of dining patrons, usually on Friday and Saturday night. This form of closed dining gives you a real feel for the culture as you enjoy a multiple course meal in a local Argentinean’s home. We are going to Dan’s house and have a five course Peruvian fusion meal complete with paired wine for $50 per person. Here are a list of some of the closed door restaurants in Buenos Aires.
Note you usually have to make a reservation well in advance and you need to bring cash.
Here is a list of things I just got from a friend who lived in Argentina on things to do and suggestions for Buenos Aires:
The main areas of Buenos Aires that people hang out in are Palermo, Recoleta, Belgrano (all on the north) and Sen Telmo (to the south). Santa Fe runs right through the first three neighborhoods.
As for recommendations, I tend to live by the time out guide – there was a book published recently, but as everything changes here so rapidly, I would recommend looking for a time out BsAs magazine. Some of the more touristy stuff…
Plaza de mayo is the main square downtown and worth visiting, its the center of a lot of the city’s history, the pink house, the national bank, the cathedral, etc…
The Recoleta cemetery – one of the cooler tourist sites in the city, there are something like 3,500 mausoleums inside and some of the sculptures are really compelling. There’s a cool crafts fair there on Saturdays and its a good spot to buy souvenirs.
La Boca – a pretty run down neighborhood but the home of the colorfully painted houses that characterize BA, its not the most amazing thing in the world, but you are supposed to go there if you visit, this is also home to one of the most famous soccer teams here, Boca juniors. One of my friends did a walking tour she liked a lot too.
San Telmo – There’s a big market on Sunday, it’s pretty mandatory as a tourist but very crowded, the area is cool nonetheless. another good place to buy gifts for people back home.
For food and bars, Palermo, and more specifically Palermo Viejo is the place to be, lots of small trendy restaurants there. There are also lots of boutiques and shops. For steak your best bets are La Cabrera (vey good, but very touristy and very long waits), Desnivel in San Telmo (had the best steak of my life there, although also had a very overdone one once) and campo bravo (my personal favorite). Other good spots to eat are Olsen (Swedish, but tasty), Jangada (for seafood) and my personal favorite in all of BA – Osaka (Japanese-Peruvian fusion, its amazing). Also be sure to check out a “Peña” serving food from the provinces while you are here. There is a good one called Colorado de Pena on Guemes and Vidt and another good one on lash eras in front of the smaller park by Bulnes. Cumana Ois a more “well developed” place with great empanadas.
If you want to go high end, Sucre is a really cool place and the food is good, Tomo 1 is amazing but expensive even by US standards and you could also check out Thymus or Gran Bar Dazon.
You can get addresses and read reviews at guiaoleo.com (its BA’s timeout).
Also, eat Choripan with Chimichurri. You can get it for 6 pesos on the street, and try Alfajores and Conitos (Havana is probably the most famous spot for either). Both are very typically argentine sweets. I mentioned empanadas before – they are very tasty. also find someone to teach you how to drink mate (mah-tay). I got pretty hooked on it and something like 92% of all households in BA drink it.
The bar scene is always a tough call, but there are good places in Palermo and San Telmo. Within those places you can either find very high end stuff or grittier bars (which I tended to prefer)… I would just recommend asking for recommendations at the hotel, but otherwise consistently good spots are Carnal and Tiki which have cool rooftop bars and Club Niceto across the street. Million is a cool, very expat-ish spot for a drink before heading out and if you want a Club Pacha is the king of that scene.
Also, if you want to do something distinctly argentine that hasn’t become obscenely touristy yet, I recommend these guys: http://www.fernandezfierro.com/home.php. They are a young tango band, the crowd is 20-something portenos, the shows are good and the wine and beer are cheap. Book ahead for a seat and the area is slightly ghetto so be careful.
A final note, make sure you catch a taxi from the stand inside the airport – there has ben an increasing number of people who get picked up from the airport and get dropped off naked and without any of their luggage somewhere outside the city.
Thanks Zach! Keep and eye out for the two additional posts on Iguaçu and Mendoza.