December 2, 2014 | By Ali Moffitt
If you do not have Argentina on your bucket list, you may want to rethink your list. I just came back from Argentina and I could not have been more blown away by the food, wine, people, and atmosphere around me. I visited three regions, which included Buenos Aires and the Pampas, Salta to Cafayate, and then (my favorite) Mendoza, the wine region in Argentina.
Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America. The people are mainly immigrants from Spain, Italy, and Germany, and the Argentinians speak Spanish. The people of Argentina are not only good-looking but also extremely friendly. The original immigrants in Argentina brought over French architects to construct their city, therefore you see a lot of old world buildings constructed in Buenos Aires. There are many distinct barrios in Buenos Aires; each have their own flavor and history. We stayed at the Four Seasons in the Recoletta district. There was a large park a couple blocks behind us with a market on the weekends. The prices were amazing, but the street vendors do not take U.S. dollars. I do recommend changing over to some pesos for the street vendors at the airport, but not too many, as the local shops prefer the dollar. The prices are much better for shopping and the dollar stretches quite a ways. They have incredible leather goods and furs at amazing prices. The Palermo district was very high end yet still affordable. I did most of my shopping in Buenos Aires in the Palermo district.
I also stayed in the heart of Buenos Aires where the Alvear Palace and the Hyatt are located. I cannot say enough good things about this location, as well as the service at both hotels. The Alvear Palace has a strong old world feeling to it with an incredible lobby, breakfast atrium, and a large mahogany bar. The Hyatt is more in line with a corporate hotel, as the rooms have a very contemporary décor. The exterior to both are lovely and they are only about a block from each other. You can walk to shops, restaurants, and bars from both hotels.
During my time spent in Salta, I found the city to be quite charming due to its ancient architecture along with lovely outdoor cafes and bars. There seemed to be a very young presence in this town. As part of our exploring in this region, the group took a tour to Cafayete. The drive alone was beautiful with the rock formations along the way. The Calchaquies Valley is a region that was carved by the wind and sun. There were spectacular geological formations and the one in particular the “quebrada del als Conchos” is a deep valley of red canyons with intense color ablaze. There were several places to pull over in order to get a great snapshot.
At the end of the red canyons there were white sands which began our entrance into Cafayete which is a lovely little town. There is a wine-making presence here, especially the Torrontes grape. We visited the winery of Piattelli and experienced a wine tasting and a fabulous lunch to follow. I would suggest at least one night in Cafayete as the drive to and from Salta together is 8 hours in a bus or car. The property we stayed at in Salta was the House of Jasmines, which used to be Robert Duvall’s property. It was a fabulous treat with a family-like feel to it. The walls were all white with dark wooden beams on the ceiling. The setting itself was gorgeous. We rode horses one morning and the surrounding land is simply beautiful. There are rolling hills surrounding the property as well as wild horses around the farm. You could relax there for around three to four nights.
Mendoza was the highlight of my trip. Never in my life had I seen such beautiful scenery! The snowcapped mountains are the backdrop to the meticulous rows of vines which create the fabulous Malbec wine. Mendoza is located in the western central part of the country in the Cuyo region. It is separated by Chile from the Andes mountain range. There are 1,500 wineries which make up more than 80% of all of the wine production in Argentina. I stayed at the Park Hyatt in downtown Mendoza and it was nice, however I would recommend staying in the countryside with the vineyards for much longer. The scenery is just gorgeous. A visit to the Salentein winery as well as their Killka art collection is a must do. One can stay at the Casa de Uco or The Vines in the countryside of Mendoza. The food is simply amazing and the empanadas are to die for! A perfect day would include lunch at Casa De Uco and dinner at the Vines at Francis Mallmann’s restaurant, the 7 Fuegos. When you are in Argentina you must taste their fabulous asada! It is the most amazing beef I have ever tasted.
Overall, I highly recommend Argentina and I cannot wait to go back!