I'd like to share a summary of our recent first time trip to Argentina. I spent a lot of time reading up on the tips in this forum, so feel like I need to extend a big "Thank You" to everyone that is a regular contributor. Your insight and shared knowledge made planning the trip so easy, and we had just an incredible time! I hope that maybe some of my experiences of our trip will help anyone else planning their first trip to Buenos Aires, Mendoza or Iguazu. Argentina is truly a wonderful place with wonderful people, food, wine, shopping and culture; I hope we can visit many more times!
We spent the first week in Buenos Aires at the Urban Suites Recoleta. Good hotel, nice location, would recommend it. Got a great deal online that made it very worthwhile to stay there for 1 week, found the deal through the Trip Advisor site (connecting to the various volume hotel sites). Buenos Aires is one amazing city! We met some really nice people, both Portenos/as and other tourists. We had a couple of bad experiences with taxi drivers (the driver switching the bills and saying we did not give him enough money), but we did take quite a few taxis and had some really great experiences too. In general most of the taxi drivers were really nice and even though most did not speak English, they would try and talk with us a bit with our limited Spanish vocabulary. We found the subway really easy to use (very cheap too). Next time we're in BA I think I'll find us a place in Palermo and could make more use of the subway system. Pack light, there are a ton of places to drop off your laundry. Drop it off in the morning, pick it up that evening washed, dried and folded for about $10 AR per load (I think the price varies by neighborhood). Plus you'll want some room in your luggage to bring home some things - the shopping is great in BA. Some of the things we did in BA that we really enjoyed and would recommend (not in any order of preference):
1. The free walking tours (did both the morning and afternoon tours and learned so much about Argentina and Buenos Aires on each of them - very worth it). We also met some other really fun tourists on these tours.
2. Evita Museum - afterwards had a nice lunch in their restaurant out on the patio. It was a Sunday afternoon and there seemed to be quite a few local families enjoying a long lunch there too, was a nice relaxing afternoon. Great museum and great food.
3. Tango show - we had dinner and saw the show at La Esquina de Carlos Gardel. Show was outstanding. Dinner was fine. Wine was flowing though! And it was nice that they pick up and take you back to your hotel.
4. Museo National de Bellas Artes - outstanding museum, was surprised at the extent of their collection of both international and Argentine art.
5. Closed Restaurant experience - we had dinner one night at Casa Saltshaker. I know there are others in the city that are highly recommended too, I would suggest trying one. We had so much fun meeting the other people attending dinner that night. Great food, great wine and good company!
6. Recoleta Cemetery
7. Ate, drank wine and shopped! No matter what area you stay in I think you'll experience some great places to eat and enjoy the whole Argentina dining experience. (I'm inspired now to attempt my own version of provelta and creme brulee with dulche de leche). We tried a few places in Recoleta, but found that Palermo is just packed with outstanding restaurants and shops. While I enjoyed our hotel and location, I'll be sure to stay in Palermo during any future visits.
8. San Telmo Sunday market
9. I hesitantly, only partially recommend the Hop on/Hop Off bus. I love this concept and try to do something like it anytime we are visiting a new city to get a feeling for location and understand the city layout, but the one operating in BA is not that great. I think it's fine if you hop on and do not get off until you've seen everything. The problems: all their ads and their website state that you can buy a ticket at any stop - not true at all, you can only purchase your ticket at stop #1 at Florida. Don't plan on getting off the bus and then getting back on. We tried this in La Boca and were never allowed back on the bus, we gave up after being told by 3 buses (and therefore waiting for 1 1/2 hours) that they would not let us back on they were too crowded. It never seemed that way to me since about half of each bus would be empty, but they supposedly have some insurance issue and are only allowed a certain number of people at a time, and evidently that number does not match up with the seats on the bus. I don't know if I understand it correctly since it never really made any sense to me. We heard from other people that the bus simply just doesn't come for hours at a time. The audio also doesn't really work - if you wanted to learn about the area you could listen on headphones that would work just part of the time.
10. Eat ice cream every day. Really some of the best we've ever had - didn't seem to matter much where you went, it was all good. I know many people have preferences, but we loved all that we tried!
11. For anyone that needs to eat gluten free: I found BA to be really easy to find GF foods, much easier than traveling in the USA. There were always GF alternatives on menus, and we found an amazing GF bakery in Palermo - Celigourmet on Thames 1633. I enjoyed the empanadas from here very much! They would heat them up for me and we'd take them to a park for a picnic - great, yummy, cheap lunch.
Mendoza was our favorite part of the trip. Just getting to Mendoza was fun and an experience- we opted to take an overnight bus from BA. We used Andesmar, their service was fine. It was funny though, as the bus left BA our "host" had us all play bingo. The winner got a bottle of wine. They served us dinner (not great, but what do you expect), showed us 2 movies in English, kept coming around with wine and champagne and then before you knew it you were waking up in Mendoza. Since the seats lay all they way down we actually felt quite good that morning - much better than the flight from the states! We spent 2 nights actually in Mendoza at the Villagio Hotel, then 3 nights in Chacras de Coria at Finca Adalgisa. The Villagio Hotel was not great, it smelled bad like stale smoke, but the rooms were clean and spacious. Breakfast was actually kind of gross. The benefit of staying at the Villagio was that the Mendoza city center is quite nice. Beautiful tree lined streets, nice parks (plazas), and outstanding restaurants. Be sure to have dinner or lunch at Azafran, and also Anna Bistro.
The Finca Adalgisa was an amazing place - beautiful hotel with outstanding customer service, pool that goes right up to a vineyard, bodega that serves a really nice casual dinner. We wished we had spent all 5 nights here. The town it's in is very cute too, with some shops, good restaurants, etc.
During our time in the Mendoza area we took 2 tours - 1 was an all day wine tour through Trout and Wine, and 1 was a day trip up to the Andes again with Trout and Wine. Our guides were great - very knowledgeable, funny and nice. They shared some great stories with us and made the days very fun!
Based on tips in the Argentina forum, I planned just 2 nights in Iguazu, with one full day in the park. That worked out perfectly, we did not feel like we needed any more time than that. The park was fun, you absolutely need to do the boat ride under the waterfalls, but don't feel like you need to do all the activities they offer. We opted to do them all and they were fine, but honestly if we had just done the boat ride and hiked around the rest of the park it would have been a great day too.
We ended our trip with one last night back in BA before heading home. We used our extra two days in BA to do some shopping and more exploring, and since we stayed that last night in Palermo, it gave us more time to check out that part of town. We stayed at the Miravida Hotel and Wine bar. Great wine! It was nice to start out our evening with wine at the hotel before heading out to dinner. Rooms are smaller, but very clean. Great location, and really good breakfast. Staff was very nice, would highly recommend.
What a trip! My husband and I really enjoy traveling, especially to places we've never been before with cultures that are new to us. We've been fortunate to travel internationally about every 2 years or so, but this Argentina trip was really one of the best. I think for a few reasons - the people were so nice, we love wine, I have to avoid gluten and this trip was easy to dine out for me (that's not as easy to do in other countries including the USA or Canada), and there was so many things to see/do. I now want to plan a trip to explore the Southern area of Argentina and Chile. I just knew that with our travel style we wouldn't have the time to see everything in our first trip.
Thanks again to all of you that contribute in this forum!!!