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Favorite Small Towns in Argentina? And other questions...

Favorite Small Towns in Argentina? And other questions...

Old Dec 26th, 2006, 09:25 PM
  #1  
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Favorite Small Towns in Argentina? And other questions...

My boyfriend and I are in the beginning stages of planning a 3 week trip in Argentina for Oct. or Nov. of 2007. I have a couple of guide books and I have explored the posts on this forum but I still have a many questions.

First of all, we know we want to spend at least 5 days in Buenos Aires. We also really enjoy small towns. We don't plan on heading down towards Patagonia because we feel it deserves a good 2+ weeks on its own.

I would love to hear what your favorite small towns are! The more picturesque the better.

We live in a part of the country (Portland, OR) where there are many beautiful waterfalls and we have also visited many falls in other parts of the world. Would we be insane if we skipped Iguazu Falls? I know it is a magnificent site but we are tempted to spend our time and money elsewhere, off the beaten path a bit.

I love wine and exploring the wine country but my boyfriend doesn't drink wine. I think we may be better of in NW Argentina exploring some small towns unless you think the wine country has spectacular scenery.

I have read about the roads, cost of car rentals, distances between places, etc. but the idea of renting a outside of BA appeals to us both. We like the freedom of being able to stop whenever and wherever we want. I would love to hear from others who have rented a car and driven around NW Argentina. I should also mention that we have rented cars in many countries so feel perfectly comfortable doing so.

During this time of the year, will we be able to find a room in a small town if we just show up in a town or are they likely to be booked?

Any other suggestions or comments are greatly appreciated!

Cheers!


eurotraveller is offline  
Old Dec 27th, 2006, 04:09 AM
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I think you are on the right track with thoughts about visiting the NW. I don't know what your definition of "small" is - Salta probably doesn't qualify but it is a lovely place and would make a great starting point for a bit of a wander thereabouts.

I flew from BA and didn't rent a car once there. Having one has its merits and there are plenty of small places to visit roundabouts that were too time consuming to get to by public transport. At the same time, there are some areas it might be easier to visit with a tour - I'm thinking especially of the Argentinian Altoplano - do a google for tren de las Nubes. That is very expensive and runs fairly infrequently but there is an excellent company that offers day trips by road which I would recommend if I could remember the name. I could find it if you are interested.

As for not booking a place to stay in advance. I visited early Nov and had no problems just pitching up - in Salta, and elsewhere - but it might depend on the sort of accommodation you are after.

Iguazu is massive and absolutely awesome. I didn't regret the effort it took to get there (two days including an overnight bus from Salta). And I have been to Victoria Falls too, but, no, you wouldn't be mad to skip it if you have your heart set on other things.

Happy planning.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Old Dec 27th, 2006, 05:07 AM
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I have seen all the falls east of Portland many times...they are beautiful, but not at all the same experience as Iguazu....Iguazu is simply amazing and not to be missed in my opinion. This said, the idea of passing time in small towns is great....you will gain a perspective on life in Argentina that you will not gain by staying on the tourist track....
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 05:54 AM
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Dear eurotraveller: The NW is perfect and all your expectations will be satisfied. I suggest to take a private tour so you will be free to stop everywhere and be able to explore much more. To have a driver-guide has many advantages, it let you enjoy the scenery all the time ans saves time...
One or two days for the Calchaquies Valleys ( wine area -specilly torrontes wine, unique in the world) and two or three days for the Humahuaca Gorge and the SAlt Flats will be perfect. The variety of sceneries goes from gressn beautiful valleys to the desert and the beauty of colourful mountains. You will never regret choosing Salta as you destination! You can also read the review of some visitors, and get some advice.
Warm regards.
Flintstones
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 08:37 AM
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One full day and two nights in Iguazu sounds correct.
We had a late Oct. three night Luxury Link package at the Iguazu Grand Hot. and Casino which was super, but overkill.
M
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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Thanks for your replies so far!

Yes, I have been reading of Salta and definitely want to spend some time there.

I am also very interested in Quebrada de Humahuaca. This sounds right up my alley! Beautiful scenery and small towns.

Fuzzy, it is good to know we wouldn't be crazy to skip Iguazu. When we visit other countries, often a waterfall is highly recommended and raved about. The only one I have been impressed with is Niagra Falls from the Canadian side. I realize that Iguazu is larger, though. Hmmm... we won't cross it off our list quite yet.

Has anyone spent time on in the Delta Islands of the Parana river? Looks like a nice excursion from BA.

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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 11:07 AM
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If you were impressed by Niagra Falls, you will be blown away by Iguazu. It is worth the 2 nights there and I would not miss it!

We went to Jujuy/Salta last year, had a private guide for 8 days, it was fabulous. I did a trip report if you look up my name. We also like to rent cars and drive ourselves, but having a private guide in this part of the world was well worth it. The roads are not well marked and some are not in great shape and if you really want to see some of the smaller towns, a guide is the way to go.

We did meet people who rented a car in Salta and did the trip to Calafayte from there on the main roads (our guide took the more rural route), so I guess if you really wanted to do it, you could.

In regards to the Delta, it is very easy to arrange a day tour to Tigre from BA. It's an interesting day. We also enjoyed Colonia in Uruguay.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Thanks owlwoman.

Another very important question that I forgot to ask! I know beef is "what's for dinner" on most menues. I don't eat beef or pork. Will most restaurants have chicken, fish or a vegetarian option?

Thanks again!
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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I would HIGHLY recommend the Salta area with the guide Angie. Her email is [email protected]. We just returned from a fabulous trip to Argentina and used her as a guide in the NW area. She is such a unique person and will enhance your experience more so than driving on your own.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 01:13 PM
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"Beef" is the main option at parrillas (steakhouses), but virtually all of them have chicken, fish, and vegetable dishes available. At non-parrillas there are plenty of other options besides beef.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 07:23 PM
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We also had the choice of what region to visit outside of BA, and decided to skip Iguazu, so no, you are not crazy if you skip it, but we only had 8 nights total. I also recently posted a trip report on the northwest. We had five nights there, and that was the minimum to do the area justice, I think.
A guide is well worth it in that region, especially if you want to do the unpaved route to Cachi, which for us, was an absolutely incredible experience. It would be a pity to travel there and miss that route.

If you have three weeks, you could easily do the NW and Iguazu. From what I've read, it seems like you can do the Falls with just a two night stay.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 07:30 PM
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Sorry, I didn't make it clear why it would be better to drive the Cachi route with a guide. This road is two-way, but very narrow, it travels along cliffs iwth no barriers, and in one area, fog often sets in. There is no way we could have driven this ourselves. We would have pulled over and given up, I think!! (except that often there was no place to pull over...) At certain times, the road closesbecause of the rainy season, and I think if you weren't experienced, you might get lost or confused, There are long distances to travel between places to stop (timewise, at least because of the slow driving conditions).

that having been said, people do travel this on their own, so...

I think you will always be able to find a room anywhere you go. Our guide did not stay with us, and he just found places. I had booked everything out in advance, because I was very particular about where I wanted to stay.
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Old Dec 27th, 2006, 08:17 PM
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Hi eurotraveller, we don't eat red meat, only chicken or fish and we did fine!
We even got wonderful tasty pollo chorizo in Palermo..
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 02:21 PM
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Skatedancer, I am often lost and confused anyway and still have a great time!

Good to know I won't have to chew on my shoe strings from hunger while in Argentina.

Just out of curiosity because I can't seem to find the answer when doing a search on this forum, what is the cost of hiring a guide in the Salta Region and why is it better to do it this way?

I am an independent traveller so I generally don't hire a guide. For the posters here that recommend a guide, do you generally hire a guide when travelling to other countries?

Thanks!
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 05:14 PM
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BTW, Flintstone and Skatedance, I didn't mean to discount what you said about hiring a guide. I only want to hear more of why this is better done with a guide. Thanks for your insight!
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 08:41 PM
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Will join in the strong recommendation to visit Salta/JuJuy area. It is a beautiful and often overlooked part of Argentina. The markets, wine and people are great in the NW! I would agree fully that you need a guide/driver since the roads have few markings, and you need to be able to enjoy the sights instead of watching the roads which are often narrow, curving, and bumpy. We spent 5 days with great driver/guide out of Salta. He knew both the main and back roads so we saw things our Argentine friends have never seen going on their own many times to that area. The back roads had NO signs so there was no way we could have found our way around there even though we have driven in many countries including Chile. Also our guide would stop anywhere we wanted for photos, shopping, a walk or just time to take in the breathtaking views. We have never had a guided tour before since we enjoy independent travel, but our driver/guide made the trip so much more enjoyable.He left us in the late afternnon either had our hotel or in a village with a pick up time for the morning. It gave us time to explore and enjoy on our own, yet we had his cell phone number so if we wanted to go somewhere else in the evening, we could just call him. He did not stay in our hotels, but was always prompt for pick ups. We flew into Salta, went to Cafayate, Ruinas de Quilmes, Tilcara, Uquai, Purmamarca and flew back to BA from JuJuy. It was too foggy to get to Cachi since roads there are very narrow and in the mountains. Hopefully we will return for another trip to get there! We were there in early Sept. of 2006, and while we had reservations through our Salta TA, the hotels were not full.

If you go to Iguazu Falls and stay at the Sheraton in the National Park, you have access to the falls before (and after) the tourist buses come from town. The early viewing was great for birdwatching and just enjoying the trails without any crowds. Plan for one day or better a day and a half at the falls to leisurely enjoy the beauty of the area. The walking trails are much longer and more enjoyable than Niagra. The falls make Niagra Falls seem very small!

You will not go hungry in Argentina since the food (and wine) is excellent(and a bargain) with a wide choice of entries! Of course they are known for their fantastic beef, but everything is available. I tried young goat for lunch in Cafayate, but couldn't bring myself to order Lama in Purmamarca, but other visitors were eating it. There were also a lot of fresh fish options which were excellent! Your will enjoy your trip!
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 08:12 AM
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Thanks, collegemom.

Can someone please tell me the cost of a guide/driver for a day?

Cheers!
eurotraveller is offline  
Old Jan 3rd, 2007, 07:04 AM
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Hello eurotraveller:

Argentina had a large influx of Italians so you will find lots of good pasta dishes. As others have mentioned, many choices other than beef and pork. Great cooking. I thoroughly enjoyed Chicken Provincial [chicken with - lots of - garlic].

We travelled for two months from Buenos Aires to Iguazu and south to Ushuia, from Bariloche to Puerto Madrin with many stops between and it was well worth anywhere we went.

We did use guides and day tours for our sight seeing with a few free days.

My wife grew up in Buenos Aires so with the aid of Portenio Spanish we had a great advantage. I did find the people that we came across, to be very friendly and welcoming. Never felt threatened.

I would highly recommend a local travel agent who knows the country and has commercial contacts with other local agencies for the best choices according to what you want.

We used Mercedes at Argentina Escapes and were 95% satisfied. Nothing is perfect and I do not expect that. Mercedes can give you good information of guide vs self drive costs. She will also get you better rates for hotel than you could on your own. Check it out.

Our only bad experience was in Mendoza with Baco Tours. Downright dishonest and represents that other 5%.

What ever your choices, I am sure you will have a wonderful trip.

With the US $'s buying power costs will certainly be to your advantage.

Have fun.

Woodie
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Old Jan 3rd, 2007, 01:43 PM
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Hi Eurotraveller,
If you are still thinking about visiting the Argentine NorthWest, there was an article in the architecure section of today's La Nacion newspaper, about a place in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, called "Quinta La Pacena":
http://www.quintalapacena.com.ar/

Have a great trip!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Dear eurotraveller: the cost of a guide/driver, transportation including fuel, it depends on
a) if you contact a travel agency it is more expensive than an independent guide.
b) You can use a regular car or a 4x4 if you are big and do not fit in a car.
c) If you are two people or more, 4 fitting in aregular car can get a discount...
But two people can pay about U$S 120/150 per day for long driving days.
Try to make sure that your guide speaks english. Deal directly with the guide, He/She will tell you exactly how much you will pay.
Flintstones

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