From my first trip to Mendoza – the major city in western Argentina famous for wine production.
- Overnight buses in Argentina can be quite luxurious – lay-flat beds, personal entertainment stations showing US movies, hot meals, etc. If you’re on a budget the overnight bus is a no-brainer because you pay half the cost of a plane ticket as well as a night’s rate at a hotel. However quality and timing are more variable than flights…
- Mendoza is pretty quiet in the winter. The Sheraton seemed to be about 20% full – a few tourists, a few mining and oil company folks, etc. I’d recommend going sometime in spring through harvest season (Nov-Mar) if possible
- The Park Hyatt is a bargain if you have Hyatt points. The Mendoza Sheraton is not quite as nice and not nearly the bargain with points
- There are a ton of adventure tour companies, wine tours, and tourist-focused restaurants in town. If you’re really bold you can take a bus up to Aconcagua Parque and see the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The park is on the Chilean border, a few hours scenic drive outside of town following the Mendoza riverbed through the Andes
- Adventure tour companies run activities year round (zip lines, mountain biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, etc.) about an hour’s drive from town. I’m glad I did the rafting/hiking/ziplining but it would have been a lot more fun in the summer with the river running higher.
- We booked a wine tour through Trout & Wine – not cheap but very well done with an excellent guide. I think the secret to a fun wine tour is going with people with whom you can have fun drinking…and hitting vineyards with midrange wines so folks aren’t intimidated by the tastings (and probably makes it more affordable as well!).
- From Mendoza it’s a “7 hour” ride over the Andes to Santiago. I’ve really liked Santiago so far and recommend the trip…with the caveat that the pass can be closed for days at a time during winter. I booked a bus on a day following a closure and the 7 hour trip turned into 11 hours due to a 4 hour queue at border control.
Without the benefit of any actual data, I think Mendoza is the 2nd most popular destination for US tourists behind Buenos Aires and perhaps Iguazu Falls. It’s a slam dunk if you want to see Argentina wine country or climb Aconcagua. For adventure tourists in the summertime I might try Los Glaciares National Park in the south instead.
The Salentein vineyard – gorgeous buildings in the Uco valley at the edge of the Andes.
From a quick trip down to take advantage of a friend’s apartment:
- BA is no longer the land of bargain shopping that I remembered from 2006. Clothes and food are much closer to parity with US prices, although the highest quality restaurants remain a good value. I came expecting to pick up leather goods and winter clothes but came away emptyhanded.
- Perhaps it’s a function of trying different restaurants, but the cuisine we’ve had on this trip is much better rounded than 2006 – particularly a higher quantity and quality of vegetables and bread
- The favorite restaurants from this trip: Las Pizarras Bistro, Bella Italia (Excellent across the board; I’ve yet to be disappointed when ordering rabbit)
- It’s surprisingly easy to fall into the local schedule – lunch around 2pm, dinner at 10 or 11, drinks, and a club sometime after 2am
- Brazilian tourists are much more common than I remembered…of course Brazilian disposable incomes have risen quickly, or perhaps they show up year round but the american/european tourists are more present in the Argentine summer?
- Puerto Madera reminds me of the Victory Park development in Dallas – very new and flashy but without enough traffic to feel truly vibrant. Oddly enough the Dubai Marina might be the most lively of these massive mixed use /high rise condo projects. A long walk from Palermo through the center/capital and continuing to Puerto Madera is a great way to see the city
- Inflation is a hotbutton political issue (see the NYTimes take). Subjectively it appears that there’s plenty of production capacity in the system – you notice lots of idle assets and real estate in Argentina relative to the US/Europe or even Chile.
- Tyler Cowen’s take is always interesting. I particularly enjoyed the factoid that in 1910 more Argentine schoolchildren had two Italian parents than two Argentine parents – by a factor of 2x! Italian influence is everywhere – food, language, architecture, etc.
For your moment of Zen I leave you with this billboard from Palermo Soho. I thought it was a joke – such a stereotypical take on the Argentine love of all products bovine – but you can actually take home a “Limited Edition Stacker” for about 40 pesos.
If that image is crossing your eyes, it’s 5 flame broiled patties, 5 slices of delicious cheese, and a bacon kicker. No word on whether you can combine it with fries or helado for a value meal.