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Extreme Pre-Planning for 10-14 Days in Argentina

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Sep 4th, 2018, 07:01 AM
  #1
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Extreme Pre-Planning for 10-14 Days in Argentina

The one country my husband has always wanted to go to and has not is Argentina, so Iíd like to surprise him with a trip there for his 40th birthday in November 2020 (yes, a long ways off still, but itís such a big country I donít even know where to start so I want to start whittling down regions of interest now). The trip will be with our 2 kids (they will be 7 and 5) and my parents.

Weíll be looking at going for 10-14 days that will encompass Thanksgiving break here in the US (end of November). The date range is TBD because I havenít decided how much time to take the kids out of school for yet.

We are very outdoorsy people. My kids are very busy and active so we arenít really into museums or art galleries unless they are the hands-on variety. After one hospital experience while traveling internationally we like to be close to developed areas, but really donít like crowds. On this trip weíll have to avoid any hiking that is too strenuous or dangerous between the ages of my kids and my parentsí ages (plus my mother has had two knee replacements). My husband and I are both avid cyclists and try to rent bikes and a kids trailer wherever we go (the kids will probably be old enough to ride their own bikes for this trip if the distances are short and not too hilly). An ideal weekend day for us is riding our bikes to a winery or park, setting up shop, and letting the kids dig and play for hours.

Mendoza seems like a no-brainer. Patagonia too, but Iím not sure if that might be something that the kids would be better suited for when they get older? On the other hand, we donít generally do repeat visits to places so Iím not sure weíll ever end up venturing back down there. The Lake District looks equally amazing. The Salta region reminds me so much of the Four Corners area of where I grew up that it is intriguing. We definitely canít do it all in 10-14 days!

Iguazu Falls seems to be on every ďmust seeĒ list for Argentina, but I canít really get into the idea of having to take a plane ride just to see a waterfall. They certainly look amazing, but we live in Central NY which is kind of like waterfall alley of the US. Between the secluded beauty of the waterfalls throughout the Finger Lakes and massiveness of Niagara Falls it seems like itíd be more of the same to a certain extent (even the descriptions on what sides to visit for views vs. adventure activities almost reads like a guide for Niagara Falls). But if there is anyone out there that has done both places and feels that Iguazu Falls is something beyond magical Iíd be willing to reconsider.

To me it makes sense to possibly fly into/out of Buenos Aires and Santiago. We could do other cities in Argentina as well to get back to the US, but both of those cities offer us one-stop rides home, whereas it would take 2 stops to get back from the smaller cities. But Iím not sure if the logistics of getting from, say, Mendoza to Santiago would be worth the effort to save on flight time back to the US. We usually like to rent a van when we go on vacation to smaller cities/towns, but I am also not sure how well that would work out depending on how much we will end up moving around.

Please help me narrow some choices down!
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Sep 4th, 2018, 03:40 PM
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It's great that you are planning this far ahead, as you will have plenty of time to do your research and narrow down your options. What a surprise it will be! With your interests and the time of year, Patagonia seems to make a lot of sense.

On the Argentina side of the equation, look at the Lake District as well as El Calafate / El Chalten. If you have your minds set on a two-country trip, then you could spend a few days based in or around Bariloche and / or San Martin de los Andes. There are plenty of hiking and biking opportunities from easy to hard to keep you occupied for a few days. After you are satisfied there, you could cross the Andes via a combination of buses and ferries that will take you to Puerto Varas, Chile, from where you could enjoy a few days. I would fly from Buenos Aires to Bariloche and from Puerto Montt to Santiago to minimize travel times.

If you are interested in more snow and ice, as well as plenty of green, then perhaps you could fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. From there, you could spend a day visiting Perito Moreno Glacier and then spend a few days in and around El Chalten for hiking and biking. From El Calafate, you can cross over to Chile and spend time in Torres del Paine NP. There are flights from both Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas to Santiago to make travel easier. If you make it to Punta Arenas, you and the young ones may enjoy a visit to a nearby penguin colony.

As for Iguazu, having had the fortune of visiting it as well as Niagara, Iguazu wins hands down. The size and scope of the falls don't compare. You could easily spend a couple of days and see it all, although an additional half day may be worthwhile if you want to go over to the Brazilian side. The bird park on the Brazilian side is worth a visit, and may be engaging for the younger ones.

If you're not into cities, then I would say a day or two in Buenos Aires is enough. Similarly, you may want to base yourself in Cajon del Maipo outside of Santiago, or even in wine country, if you have enough of cities.

I've written reports of my travels to several of these places if you are interested in reading about my time. Just click on my user name to access the reports.
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Sep 4th, 2018, 07:16 PM
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I would agree that you can limit your time in Buenos Aires, especially if you decide against Iguassu. What is it about Argentina that appealed to your husband?

I'm sure crellston will be along with links to his blog, if you haven't already seen it.

There should be a number of trip reports focussing on Argentina here.

Not my favorite country in South America, by a long shot. But then I don't eat much steak or go out to bars and night clubs at night.

If judging by your username, you are into bikes, at least Buenos Aires is flat! There is a restored wetland called Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur which is near Puerto Madero district, where we saw a lot of cyclists. There may be other similar wetland reserves a bit farther from the city as well, such as along the Tigre Delta.

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 4th, 2018 at 07:20 PM.
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Sep 5th, 2018, 06:13 AM
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tripplanner001 - thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely check out your trip reports. And to be clear, I realize that Niagara Falls doesn't compare to Iguazu in size at all, but I'm having a hard time convincing myself that yet another waterfall is worth a side trip. But it sounds like there might be enough other things to do to that it is at least something I'll look into further. I am not set on a 2 country trip at all. I was just thinking with Santiago being so much closer than Buenos Aires to some of the things that I was interested in that it might make more sense to fly in or out of that city. And we are not looking for snow and ice at all! Being from NY we have more than enough of that to tide us over.

mlgb - what is your favorite country in South America? We like our steaks and I make a mean chimichurri, but interesting you mention clubs and nightlife because I've barely seen that mentioned in all my reading about Argentina. Considering most of the country is wilderness I'm surprised that is something that stuck out to you. Judging by my username and the fact that I specifically mentioned cycling in my post ;-) you are correct, we are very into cycling. The wetland sounds interesting, but we also like climbing mountains quite a lot. No ride is complete without a little suffering. The outdoor opportunities and the European influence are the things that most interest him about Argentina I'd say.
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Sep 5th, 2018, 06:26 AM
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Well, since you asked...Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia all beat Argentina. I even prefer Montevideo to BA. Better steak in Uruguay, too. (Much of the traditional Argentina pampas cattle raising culture has converted to feedlot beef to keep prices low and the landowners now plant soy and corn instead).

I think Argentina gets more attention because it is more "European" and people have heard Buenos Aires is the "Paris of South America", not because it is "wilderness." I didn't find Buenos Aires especially attractive (especially outside of Recoleta) and it isn't especially inexpensive anymore. It has all of the typical disadvantages of big cities, traffic, homeless, and high prices. Kind of weak in the food and museums. People who like going out to bars and windowshopping, etc like the Palermos. Some people want to watch tango shows, too.

I assume you are talking about the Patagonia landscape when you mention wilderness and mountains, however a friend who grew up in Buenos Aires goes to Chile for scenery and fly fishing, not to Argentina. If you want Patagonia, you can also find it on Chilean side (Torres del Paine). Santiago is easier for those of us on the west coast vs Buenos Aires, and for the most part the Chilean airline service(and service in general to be frank) is better in Chile than that in Argentina. The Andes aren't limited to Argentina..they run from Colombia to the tip of South America so you can see volcanos (weather dependent) and find climbing opportunities all the way down the west spine of the continent. In fact they'd be more accessible in most other SA countries, due to shorter distances from the main hubs.

Getting around to the 'wilderness' parts of Argentina is going to require some flying, not always a reliable pasttime in South America, even on the better airlines. Chile has Sky now for domestic flights. Argentina unfortunately offers Aerolineas Argentina in addition to LATAM. For Patagonia, be aware that it can be very crowded during the season, because it is so short..so while the scenery is great, you won't be alone! You'll lose the better part of a day flying anywhere, between traffic, lines at the airport, and delays and cancellations. Especially if you need to backtrack to Buenos Aires for a connection! So I'd want to limit the number of destinations and flights, especially with that many people.

If you want culture, archaeology, and food, try Peru. Lima is one of my favorite cities anywhere. I know everyone has heard of Machu Picchu, but there is far, far more to Peru.

Bolivia has some amazing mountains, deserts and lakes, and La Paz is another fascinating city. And it is one of the least expensive countries in SA, as is Colombia. Indigenous Aymara culture and attire evident in even the big cities with the "Cholita" attire, as well as in some of the outlying areas such as Tarabuco.

Colombia has wonderful small towns, friendly people and graffitit art in Bogota and Medellin. It is one of the hotspots for birdwatching now due to their megadiversity (three mountain ranges, two coastlines, and the jungle ). Some great lodging at affordable rates in the rural areas, such as Termales del Ruiz or around MInca. Inexpensive and frequent domestic flights.

Ecuador is also megadiverse. They have some expensive Amazon jungle resorts (as well as volcanoes, and the Galapagos). Also some interesting indigenous cultures (more interesting to me than being "European").

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 5th, 2018 at 07:24 AM.
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Sep 5th, 2018, 07:16 AM
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Big cities in general don't have a lot of appeal to us so a lot of time in Buenos Aires or Santiago aren't at the top of the list. I might even shave off Buenos Aires completely if I don't think the east side of the country has enough to interest us. Definitely not referring to just Patagonia when I think of wilderness. Salt plains, mountains, jungle, desert, etc. My husband is a bit of a history buff and Argentina has always interested him for many reasons, so regardless on how the trip shakes out for where we land and what we see that is the country that will encompass the majority of the trip. Thanks for your thoughts on the differences between the airlines within the two countries. As a classic type A'er I'm sure I'll be irritated and stressed at any delays or cancellations.

Colombia is a cool country. We have family in Bogota. Everything you've mentioned is on the travel to-do list at one point or another, but you only turn 40 once (at least officially ).
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Sep 5th, 2018, 07:46 AM
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By the way, I do like parts of Patagonia, whichever side you decide. It's important to research the timing as well as the locations. For example, December, although their summer, can have a lot of wind and still some crunchy white stuff. I liked Ushuaia in the spring (their Austral Autumn) because we got lucky with calm weather and fall colors. We also stopped in Madryn and visited the Punta Tombo penguin colony. Penguins are another thing where timing is critical (October or November to March or April). The gateway city there is Puerto Madryn or Trelew in AR. Also nearby is the Valdes Peninsula (May to December for whales).
I visited Ushuaia and Pto Madryn as stops from a Cape Horn cruise. At the end of the cruise we spent time (too much) in Buenos Aires.

I had previously spent 2 weeks in Chile by land, flying into Punta Arenas from Santiago and walking parts of the W including up to the Towers. Most recently I spend a few days pre-cruise in Valparaiso, which I really liked. Great street art, oceanfront, and seafood. The colorful metal houses all over the hillsides and the cable cars are fun. Enjoyed the Neruda houses.
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Sep 5th, 2018, 08:09 AM
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Chances are you will be transiting through Buenos Aires so can work in a few days at the start or end, or between flights.

Hopefully you have seen the links to crellston's blog? And althom1122's great Patagonia report with photos?

Last edited by mlgb; Sep 5th, 2018 at 08:39 AM.
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Sep 6th, 2018, 06:45 PM
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ďThe date range is TBD because I havenít decided how much time to take the kids out of school for yet.Ē

Side comment - travel is a real gift to kids, even at that age. And the place it helps them the most (IMO) is at school. Our kids missed a lot of school to travel and now we wish they had missed more. I hope you go with the 14 days.
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Sep 7th, 2018, 12:20 AM
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As mlgb has commented, hugely important factor in travelling around a massive country like Argentina are the transport issues. A couple of years ago I booked direct flights from Salta to Iguazu. Those flights were changed by AA six times before they eventually got us there with and indirect flight via BA, adding hours to our journey. Flying out of EZE there were massive queues because of a strike. Disruption to air travel is not uncommon in Argentina and could be set to increase given the economic problems facing the country which have accelerated dramatically in recent days.

Bus travel by contrast is a viable and comfortable option. First class buses are akin to business class on a good airline and, the longer journeys are schedule overnight saving actual sightseeing time. We travelled all over te country on our first trip years ago exclusively using buses. But that was a 3 month trip, perhaps more difficult over 2weeks and with six of you.

Patagonia and the south of the country has been covered already here, I would just add that we traveled from Santiago to Pucon in Chile (excellent bike trips around Villarica volcano!) from there we crossed by bus to San Martin de Los Andes and drove south through the Seven Lakes area to Bariloche and on to Peninsula Valdez. Then up through Mendoza to Salta to Iguazu.

Salta is possible my favourite region of Argentina and lends itself perfectly to a road trip of anywhere between 3-10 days. It could also be combined with Iguazu or, a bus to San Pedro de Atacama and then back to Santiago via Iquique and Valparaiso (a fascinating place) .

One possible transport issue I see with Salta is obtaining a rental vehicle to transport all of you in reasonable comfort. I would check out Hertz or similar to see whether they have people carriers to rent.


As alluded to by mlgb, there is some info and photos of our time in the country. On our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com - just click on the destination tab for the relevant country. There is only a limited amount on Argentina and Chile as I have had a few problems transferring stuff fro our old travelpod blog.

Hope some of this helps. I have a few other thoughts by need to dash!
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Sep 16th, 2018, 10:53 AM
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Bike riding in Southern Patagonia can be brutal with excessive winds. You speak of not wanting remoteness as far as medical facilities go, El Chalten is a four drive to the closest medical facilities in El Calafate and I wouldn't vouch for the ones there. El Chalten (one of our all time favorite places) is gorgeous if you can see the mountains but if you won't be doing much hiking, I would not take the time to go there.
I agree re BsAs-not our favorite. I much prefer Cusco!

xcountry-couldn't agree with you more. We took our daughter every opportunity we could in elementary school and used all absences the school would allow in jr high and high school. We are homeschooling this year (her junior year) and are looking forward to taking trips that we would otherwise not be allowed to do. The world can be an amazing classroom!
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