Back from Argentina edition – Part 2

In my last post, I mentioned our vacation to Argentina has quickly come and gone, but not without many memories and experiences.

Our vacation started in Buenos Aires and we stayed in “BA” for 5 full days. It was an amazing city and as my last post mentioned, full of culture. Beyond visiting and enjoying numerous cafes and restaurants, we also visited the city’s fine arts museum, their beautiful parks, watched some tango in rustic San Telmo neighbourhood, visited the botanical gardens in the heart of the city, the city zoo and also the Recoleta cemetery – these latter three attractions certainly left an impression on us. The botanical gardens are filled with stoned paths that wind their way through spacious grounds, most of it filled with flora from around the world with over 8,000 plant species represented. Next door, the city zoo featured a diverse composition of indigenous birds and monkeys, giant turtles, llamas, elephants and bears. The Recoleta cemetery pays tribute to some of Argentina’s most notable and important historical people. Created in the early 1800’s, it is the city’s oldest operating grave site – and was really more of a necropolis.  The cemetery covers numerous city blocks and you can literally spend hours touring the tombs. Like most tourists, we visited the tomb of Eva “Evita” Peron, who was largely responsible for women receiving the right to vote in Argentina and used her political power to build hospitals, schools and playgrounds for lower-class Argentine citizens. Overall, an amazing experience – this cemetery is a must-visit in Buenos Aires.

Other Buenos Aires highlights worth mentioning:

-Our Bus Tourista tour, it gave us a great overview of the city.
-Tartas at Nina’s (near Juncal and Bustamante) in the Barrio Norte neighbourhood, for $18 pesos ($4.50 CDN) we got one of the best lunches (and deals) in Argentina. (Tartas are best described as a small, baked pies filled with various meats and veggies. When done right, these things are amazing…)
-Shopping in Palermo, my wife got some amazing deals, I like deals!
-Beautiful plazas and districts, including Plaza de Mayo (the political heart of the city), Puerto Madero (the port, waterfront district) and Plaza San Martin (in the nucleus of the city amid flowering and towering jacaranda trees).

After our stay in Buenos Aires, our LAN flight took us northeast for 3 full days to Puerto Iguazu, a small city near Paraguay and Brazilian borders. As my last post mentioned, we went here to visit the spectacular canyon of waterfalls that were shaped some 120 million years ago from geological upheaval. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in our opinion, another must see if you go to Argentina. Although the national park in Iguazu can be seen in one very full day, we took our time and made two days of it. Our first day was quite adventurous. Not only can you hike and walk various circuits to get some up-close, breathtaking views of over 250 falls, you can also pay 100 pesos (about $25 CDN) per person and take a high-powered motor boat right into the falls! We did this and it was thrilling. We just hope our waterproof camera pictures turn out! The second day we explored the park’s tropical jungle on a 10 kilometer trek that took us through huge cupay trees (South American hardwoods) with our hike ending at a small waterfall and pond. We both took some time here to have a small picnic and a swim – simply time to soak in our surroundings. We had some other neat experiences in Iguzau, such as a visiting a lookout point where you can see both Paraguay and Brazil (separated by only a river) but the national park in Iguazu was the reason for our visit and rightly so!

After a few days in the park, including an afternoon of sun helped by some very big beers at our resort-like bed and breakfast (B&B) we boarded another LAN flight to take us from Iguazu to Mendoza, via Buenos Aires (there are no direct flights, BA is the hub).

Our travel day behind us, we spent 4 full days in Mendoza. Like Buenos Aires, Mendoza has many things to do – for one, visit wineries, LOTS of them. Within a radius of a couple hundred miles, there are well over 1,200 wineries (bodegas) – from very big enterprises who produce tens of millions of bottles per year to small, boutique, family-owned wineries that produce a few thousand. We had the luxury of visiting (and tasting) a bit of everything on our private wine tour, bodegas big and small; Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot just to name a few. Another highlight for us in Mendoza was Parque San Martin. Under the direction of French architect Carlos Thays, the park was completed in the early 1900s which was adorned with many beautiful sculptures and a rose garden. Also within the parks grounds, there is a stadium, a zoo, some university buildings, a monument that commemorates the crossing of the Andes by José de San Martín and his army, and a large lake which has The Regatas Club on its shore. Simply put, it’s a great way to spend a day, and we did.

Last but certainly not least, our other major experience in Mendoza was our Alta Montana tour (high Andes mountain tour). As the name suggests, a small tour bus took us up, way up, into the Andes mountains from Mendoza and back again. The entire trip was long, about 400 kilometers in total but well-worth every climb and turn. Starting from the wine region and the foothills, our journey took us into the Andes to over 10,000 feet, right to the Chilean border. On our way up, we visited the Aconcagua park entrance, where skilled mountain climbers (not us) begin their 15 kilometer journey to climb the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. At almost 23,000 feet, it is a very big mountain indeed, the biggest we’ve ever seen and one of the Seven Summits.

Other Mendoza highlights worth mentioning:

-The five plazas in Mendoza’s city center, great to stroll through, people-watch and simply relax and enjoy amongst the water fountains.
-Dinner at Azafran – amazing food and you can bring your own wine. You can have a five-star four course meal for $80 CDN per couple!

I could go on, but that’s probably more than enough. Besides, this is a personal finance and investing blog, not a travel blog 🙂 We have tons of stories about the people we met and our B&B owners in particular – all great people whom we owe a huge thanks for making each night in each city, comfortable and safe. Thanks to Tesorito, Los Troncos and Plaza Italia B&Bs!!!

Like I mentioned in my last post, while it’s great to travel it’s also great to be home. In a future post, I’ll discuss what we learned or re-learned about travelling; when you’re over 6,000 miles from home, every day is literally an adventure and sometimes you can’t be careful enough. There are always things you can do to protect yourself and beyond that, make your trip most enjoyable. Stay tuned for those tips and learnings, hopefully they can help you in your next adventure.

Anyone have a trip they were especially fond of?
Anyone have a trip planned?

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