Like all of South America, Argentina is an uncommon destination for most travelers and especially for Americans. In some ways this is extremely puzzling, because it is so much like Europe, which is a number one destination for American tourist. Argentina is very easy to get to. There are lots of flights from east coast hubs, like Miami, Atlanta, and New York City. From those cities, round trips cost between $500 and $800, which is about the same as a flight to Germany.
Buenos Aries has lots of fun things to see and do: dance, shows, museums, restaurants, bars, street fairs, and parks. The rest of Argentina has some mighty fantastic natural sites, including some awfully interesting animals.
Other than low wages, I consider Argentina to be a first-world country. It has a first rate infrastructure. Transportation by air or on the road is easy and comfortable. The whole country is plugged into the internet. Cell phones are easily available and work in most of the country. The whole country is electrified. The water is clean and good to drink.
Argentineans believe that crime is rampant. The truth is that has a very low crime rate. Even in Buenos Aires the crime rate is lower than most US cities. Yes, there is occasional scam artists that will take advantage - but you got to be mighty stupid or greedy to fall for one.
Finally, I have to mention cost. Argentina is an extremely inexpensive destination. Cheap meals are available everywhere in the world, but excellent meals, gourmet meals are fantastic buys in Argentina. How much? Gourmet meals that include wind cost less than $20 per person. Good meals are half that. And cheap meals can be as little as $2. Livable hotels range from $8 to $30 per night. Gas costs about $2.40 per gallon or $0.65 per liter. A 1200-kilometer bus trip on Pullman style bus that includes meals and movies cost about $35. Car rentals are reasonable but not great. Finally, leather goods, and other art and handicraft items are a steal.
Like I said before, Buenos Aries (BA) feels like Europe. This is especially true in the older neighborhoods in the city center. The rest of the city has a European flavor, but the buildings were mostly built after 1930. The exterior details lack the flourishes of the early period. All of Argentina has a 1950s flavor also. This can be seen best in the retail environment, which tends to be a super saturation of small retail stores. It seemed to me that you could find a dozen butcher shops or hardware stores or mini-market or spice shop or repair shop or whatever. These stores tend to be highly specialized. For example, on a street by our home in BA, had dozens of auto repair shops: one for the electrical systems, one for oil changes, one for front bumpers, one for car locks and security, one for audio systems and one for tires, et cetera. This gives the country a warm, friendly feeling. Porteños, residents of BA, love to eat out; so there are thousands of restaurants from the ordinary to the sublime.
BA has a very active theater community with hundreds of theaters. Many are on the level of the finest theaters in the US and Europe. You can find plays, musical, concerts. The most popular shows are the Tango extravaganzas. They are expensive, but it is well worth the $40 or $50 to see one. Porteños also are movie buffs. So, not only are there lots of movie theaters, many show classic movies. Also there movies come from all over the world.
I love the Tango. Tango is music and dance. I love to listen to the deeply melodious tunes. I like the old ones of the 30s, and the one of the 60s - especially Pizolla, and the new ones with heavy rhythms and new instrumentation. The dance is wonderful to watch; and I am not talking about at a show. Going to a dance or social club and watching ordinary folks dance is mind blowing. Why? The dance is beautiful. You would swear that it is all choreographed, but it is not. My favorite club was La Viruta; I never failed to bring a visitor to this club - and none failed to enjoy themselves. If you want to learn the Tango, you will need to go dancing every other day for two or three weeks. There many, many place to learn the Tango.
It is easy to spend 10 to 14 days in BA. It can be less, but you will miss some of the things that everyone should see. My BLOG entries have many stories about place to visit and see in BA. The first entry on Argentina can be found here .
All of the Andes are beautiful. Patagonian mountains and volcanoes are no exception. They are no dangerous animals and they are great places to hike and camp. In the winter they are fantastic places to ski.
Baricloche sits on the southern edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi. It is a beautiful city. It has a distinctive German flavor in the ethnic background of its people, its architecture, and some of its better restaurants. The lake and its national park is very special. San Martin de los Andes is town about three hours north of Bariloche. It is wonderful place to visit. Bariloche is an entrance to southern Chile, which is just few hours away. The road south along the mountains is the beginning of a beautiful journey through Patagonia.
South and east of Bariloche along the Argentinean coast is the Peninsula Valdez. In its national park there is a fantastic ecological area. It is a wonderful place to see many of the native animals of South America: from sea lions, to wild emus and penguins and guanacos and the great Right whale. The best time to be there is in October.
The falls at Iguazú are magical. It is surrounded by an ever diminishing rain forest. Everyone that visits Argentina should spend one or two full days here.
Mendoza is the wine center of Argentina. Hundred of wineries are within an hour drive of Mendoza. So if wine is your thing, then this place is a must. We spent a week there and loved it all. It was wine, wine and more wine. The gourmet restaurants are fabulous too. We visited many wineries. Some were very welcoming, but many treat tourist as a mark, not as an opportunity to market their wine. Make sure that the winery will let you try their full range of wines at no cost. And when you find one that you like, buy a bottle or two. If it is exceptional buy a six and bring some back with you for your friends and family to try. The best variety is Malbec. And if you want a taste of Argentina without going, buy some Malbec at your local wine shop.
Buenos Aires is also the name of the province that surrounds the city. It is the largest of the provinces in size and population. The coast to the south and east of BA is beautiful in the summer. It is a place worth visiting, not just for the sun but to see how Argentineans enjoy their vacation time. Mar del Plata is the largest city along this coast and it is a vacation Mecca, at least since the devaluation. It has a casino, great shows and theater, and fun museums - like the shell museum. The coast stretches around to the south side of the province all the way to Bahia Blanca.
Most people will take a side trips to Colonia and Montevideo. There are differences. The farms are smaller. It seems slower and an easier place to live. Colonia is a good one day side trip, just 40 miles across the River Plata.
It would be easy to say go anytime that you can. But sometimes of the year are better than others. Spring and fall are the best times to be there, followed by summer and winter. You can find plenty to do most of the year round.
Argentina is a vacation wonderland. Argentina is a first-world country that is easy to get to. It has clean, safe and friendly enviornment. Currently, it is extremely inexpensive to vist. It has a wonderful cultural life and natural environment. You can enjoy visiting the country most of the year. Unless you are a skiier, I would avoid visiting between June and August. Based on my two visits and more that one year of living in Argentina, I highly recommend it as a travel destination.