Nishi Kothari and Ravi Amin's Argentina Itinerary
Nishi Kothari and Ravi Amin's trip to Argentina is featured in our February 2024 Travel Buzz column, Argentina: Adventure at the Bottom of the World by Tracy L. Barnett. Here, Nishi and Ravi share their itinerary and more details.
Day 1-Day 2: Travel Days
Depart Houston at the 8 p.m. direct flight to Buenos Aires, which landed the next day at 8 a.m. It's a direct flight from IAH and we highly recommend it. Originally, our plan was to stay in Buenos Aires, but because the Presidential Election was happening that weekend, we were advised by friends to get out of Buenos Aires and instead go somewhere else, so we took a connecting local flight to Iguazú Falls. Otherwise, we would recommend starting your trip in Buenos Aires, so you don’t waste time with connecting flights.
Day 3-4: Iguazú Falls
Iguazú Falls is a magical place and it's amazing how few people know about it. It is famously said that when Eleanor Roosevelt first saw Iguazu Falls, she lamented, “my poor Niagara." And rightly so. Iguazú is wider and taller than Niagara Falls and there really is nothing else like it. We did both sides — the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side. The Argentinian side has more to do and you definitely need a full day to explore it properly. There is a company that runs a boat tour that takes you up close and personal to the falls and you will get soaked! Be prepared with a bathing suit.
The biggest pro tip we can give anyone is to go early and get there as soon as the park opens. It's sort of like Disney rules. You want to be there early to avoid crowds. The Argentinian side gives you an up-close view of the falls, but you cannot appreciate the vastness of the falls from that. The Brazilian side gives you a grand experience indeed and gives you the full overview of the falls. The best pictures of the falls come from this side. But you will absolutely get drenched walking around on the Brazilian side and getting up close to the Devil's Throat.
As of October 2023, when we went, there was no need to get a visa for U.S. citizens to visit the Brazilian side. That will change in April 2024, according to the U.S. State Department website, although according to some sources, like the Wandering Trader blog, it’s already being required.
We stayed in the Loi Suites on the Argentinian side. I highly recommend it. You sort of feel like you're sleeping in the jungle, and it has multiple pools, including one that is an infinity pool overlooking the river that cuts through Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The town of Iguazú Falls in general is a quaint little town. It doesn't have much to do, but does have some nice restaurants. Some include Aqva and Punta AR. The main way to get around is taxis and your hotel should be able to arrange that for you.
Days 5-6: Buenos Aires
We made it back to Buenos Aires and immediately took to exploring the town. Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South America and for good reason. It has a wide variety of cafes, shops, restaurants, bars, and cultural items all over the city. It's an incredibly walkable city. In fact, we spent the majority of our time not using taxis or other items and rather just walking the city to get to know it.
As of February 2023, Uber is now legal in Buenos Aires, and as such, if you do need to use a cab, that's probably the easiest option. We stayed at the Mio Hotel in Recoleta. Recoleta is a beautiful neighborhood, in the heart of the city, and right by all the main tourist attractions. For example, Recoleta Cemetery, the most famous cemetery, where Eva Perón is buried, was right across the street from where we stayed. From there, you can stroll down the Avenida Libertador, which is a beautiful tree-lined avenue that takes you to the heart of the museum district. One thing we would say as a tip is that most of the big tourist attractions have English-only tours, but on a very limited basis. We recommend making reservations ahead of time. Definitely make reservations ahead of time with the turismo board or other private guides. This includes for Teatro Colón (and getting a tour of that), Casa Rosada (with the famous Eva Peron balcony), and even the cemetery.
We would highly recommend getting an English guide for the cemetery as without one, you might be lost in the massive cemetery of where to go and what to see. And while there is a map that the cemetery gives you, it's very hard to understand. Casa Rosada (Argentina’s version of the U.S.’s White House, only it’s pink, or rosada) is only open on weekends to the public as it is an active government site. Teatro Colón has English tours three times a day, but they get booked very fast.
The main thing to do in Buenos Aires is to eat and drink. The wine is superb and the food is phenomenal. Now, I must admit, I'm a vegetarian. And you probably are wondering, what can she recommend in BA, the capital of steak? Let me tell you, one of the best meals of my life I have had was in Buenos Aires, at a restaurant called Marti, which is run by Chef German Martitegui, who ran one of the most successful fine dining restaurants in Buenos Aires, and now runs a full vegetarian restaurant in Marti, in one of the most beautiful gardens that the restaurant is fully based in. It's absolutely incredible what they have prepared.
We also had the good fortune of booking a walking food tour of one of Buenos Aires' most iconic neighborhoods, Palermo, through a company called Sherpa Food Tours. You get endless amounts of food and wine and we tried four or five different places. One of the most memorable was El Preferido, which is owned by the same chef that runs Don Julio, one of the most famous steakhouses in Buenos Aires. Our meal at El Preferido was incredible. We got to dine on their patio and every single part of the meal, even something as simple as olive oil, was delicious.
Next, I would highly recommend catching the sunset and a cocktail at Alvear Palace. This ornate palace is one of the most luxurious and opulence drips down every part of it. The rooftop offers a great view of downtown Buenos Aires and at sunset the light hits just magically over the city. You definitely need reservations for the same.
You also cannot do Buenos Aires without doing a tango show. We booked ours at El Viejo Almacén and we are so glad we did. This intimate theater was perfect to get a good appreciation for the art of tango, and is steeped in history. We even got a treat at the end to a performance by the maestro himself, Hugo Marcel.
Day 7-9: El Calafate and El Chalten - Patagonia
We love to hike and explore the scenery of a place. And there is nowhere quite in the world like Patagonia. We had the good fortune of spending some time here, albeit not enough.
El Calafate is a sweet little mountain town that seems to be on the cusp of being famous. The main geological feature is Lago Argentina, which is a big lake in the center of the town. While we did not rent a car and opted for a driver instead, the roads are quite easy to drive and to get around, should you decide to rent a car. There is one main street that contains downtown El Calafate. And while there are a number of restaurants to choose from, we kept going back every night to Pura Vida. It is honestly amazing. And the food is exceptional and warming after intense hikes or cold weather.
The highlight of our trip was the Perito Moreno Glacier and the fact that we were able to trek up this glacier. We did Perito Moreno as a day trip from El Calafate. It definitely takes a full day with the drive there and back and the excursion as well. There are two parts of the glacier. The first are called balconies and are very easy to get around, no matter your stamina. They give you a great view of the glacier and if you're lucky, you can even see parts of the glacier moving/breaking off while you're there. However, the full experience includes either a mini trek or full trek on the glacier. If you're up for it, we would 100 percent recommend it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience that cannot be missed. Moreover, you get to drink not only pure glacier water, but also a drink at the end (whiskey on glacier ice).
We also decided to do a day trip to El Chalten. Hindsight being 20/20, we would have preferred to have a couple days in El Chalten, instead of just one. This is the true area of what is known as Patagonia for Argentina. There are several different hikes that you can do here, ranging in difficulty and length. Do note that weather is highly unpredictable. You will never know what kind of weather you can get. It is famously said you can experience all four seasons at once in Patagonia and that was so true for us. It went from hot, to windy, to snowy, to pleasant all in half a day for us. It is only in El Chalten that you will get a good view of Mount Fitz Roy, the iconic Patagonia mountain.
Day 9-10: Bariloche
Outside of the Perito Moreno glacier and Patagonia in general, there is another city that cannot be missed, and that would be Bariloche. Bariloche is in my view just as good as the Swiss Alps. Its beauty cannot be overstated, and just like the Swiss, it is known for its decadent chocolate as well.
You must stay on the lake if you go. We stayed at the Casco Art Hotel, which is fantastic, but the true gem in this city is Llao Llao Hotel. While downtown is where most of the restaurants and chocolate shops are, we would not recommend staying in downtown Bariloche, but rather somewhere on the lake. The view of the lake from Casco Art Hotel is amazing. We felt like we could just sit there and look at it all day long. There are some great restaurants here too, including El Mallín, and a fun brewery, called Patagonia Brewing Company. Additionally, there are some great drives that will show you amazing scenes, including the drive from Bariloche to Seven Lakes. This would require you to stay overnight probably in San Martin de los Andes, which is a quaint and charming town in its own right. Additionally, there are some local drives in Bariloche itself, such as Circuito Chico and Circuito Grande, that you can easily do in a day. What you'll find is your mouth gaping open time and time again. It's truly breathtaking.
Day 11: Mendoza
We unfortunately only had one day in Mendoza but were amazed at the wine culture in this great country in and of itself. We did two or three vineyards here, all were great. But the true highlight is being able to do a lunch and wine tasting. We got to do that at Bodega La Azul, which is a spectacular place. Lunch is on their outdoor patio and is all-you-can-drink (vino libre!) and they give you so much food that they almost had to roll us out of there. It is very common in Argentina to have an asado, a multi-hour cookout with friends and family members. The lunch at Bodega Azul feels just like a traditional asado, on their outdoor dining patio. Right next to it is a firepit where people tend to gather with a glass of wine in their hand. They also let you explore the vineyard nearby and wander even during your meal if you need a break. It truly is a special place, and one we could sit outside and enjoy for hours!
On our flight back, there is actually a lesser-known flight from Mendoza that stops in Panama City, and then comes back to Houston. It's not direct, and the layover does tend to be annoying, but at the same time, it's cheaper and less crowded than the Buenos Aires flight, which is always full. It is also an overnight flight (you leave Mendoza around 2 a.m. local time) and will arrive back in Houston about noon.
Argentina is an incredible country and one not to be missed. Please put it on your next travel list and we hope you enjoy this incredible country and all that it has to offer!
Editor's note: For more, read Argentina: Adventure at the Bottom of the World by Tracy L. Barnett.
Want more buzz like this? Sign up for our Morning Buzz emails.
To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, or Twitter. Or you may post as a guest.