Argentina is the eighth biggest country in the world, and in terms of landscapes, it is one of the most diverse places imaginable, offering vibrant jungle, wild-life packed wetlands, dramatic glaciers, mammoth mountains, sprawling pampas, dune-dotted beaches and shockingly turquoise lakes. Here, we've chosen the most inspiring destinations across Argentina, including the Vineyards in Mendoza, the towering waterfalls of Iguazú and the awe inspiring glaciers around El Calafate, and singled out the most appealing hotels and restaurants in each.
A European-style metropolis where anything goes
Where else can you get your tango fix at practically any hour? (Dance it, or watch it – take your pick.) Here, there’s enough beef to make the most ardent carnivore reach for a salad. Cups overflow with wine that’s as piquant and full-bodied as it is inexpensive. And Boca Juniors and River Plate matches satisfy the football-obsessed. But even for teetotalling vegetarians with two left feet and no interest in spectator sports, the Argentinian capital is brimming with potential.
While BA may lack the iconic landmarks of Paris, London or Rome, its visual delights are numerous. Being in the city is like visiting the world’s largest film set, filled with intriguing details (both period and contemporary), unforgettable scenery and a fascinating cast.
The Cocker Set in a grand and beautiful old house, Cocker been blazing a trail as one of the most original and finest boutique establishments in San Temlo since it opened in 2006. The restored interior comes complete with a grand piano and a series of leafy roof gardens and terraces. The name, in case you were wondering, was inspired by the former owners’ cocker spaniel.
San Telmo Avenida Juan de Garay 458, between Defensa & Bolívar (011 4362 8451, www.thecocker.com). ££.
Las Cabras This insanely popular parrilla has proven to be a great success on the overcrowded Palermo eating scene. The secret recipe? It’s simple: cheap, good-quality food. Reservations are not permitted, so get there early or very late, or expect to join the throngs queuing on the pavement.
Palermo Viejo Fitz Roy 1795, at El Salvador (011 5197 5301). ££.
All international flights arrive at and depart from Ezeiza (Aeropuerto Ministro Pistarini, 011 5480 6111, www.aa2000.com.ar), which is approximately 45 minutes by taxi from the city centre. Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newberry (011 5480 3000, www.aa2000.com.ar) is Buenos Aires’ downtown airport, serving domestic destinations and Uruguay.
When to go
Spring and autumn – October to December and April to June, respectively – are ideal times to visit Buenos Aires. However, at any time of year, be prepared for rain; heavy storms or a day or so of solid downpour.
An up-and-coming city on the banks of the Río Paraná
To define Rosario as a mini Buenos Aires is to overlook its biggest asset. Unlike the capital, which shuns its waterways and faces squarely inland, Rosario embraces its riverside location. Alongside the tea-coloured Río Paraná, you’ll find riverfront bars and boardwalks, residents lining up their kayaks and boats, and restaurants in which fish are a menu centrepiece, not just a hasty afterthought once all parts of a cow have been exhausted.
Rosario's much-lauded claims to fame include the city being the birthplace of both Che Guevara and the nation’s flag. The city also prides itself on having a thriving arts scene, a lively nightlife and, allegedly, the country’s most beautiful women.
Lungomare Trieste Run by the eager-to-help Oliver, with his mother Monica and sister Alejandra, this cheerful townhouse is Rosario’s best home-from-home experience. Lungomare Trieste was the name of the street where Monica’s mother lived in southern Italy, and the European heritage doesn’t stop there: the house itself is Catalan in style, with original tiles to prove it. The five bedrooms are painted in vibrant colours and come with private bathrooms. Upstairs is a small roof terrace with a pileta (plunge pool).
La Estancia Rosario’s most famous parrilla has been turning over steaks on Avenida Pellegrini for more than 25 years. Some Rosarinos will tell you this is more the real deal than its touristy porteño counterparts, even if does attract the occasional celebrity, such as locally born football hero Lionel Messi. The huge, pack-’em-in dining room is a great place to sit among crowds of locals to share in the reverence for all things carne.
The airport, which is served by Aerolíneas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar), is 13 kilometres from the centre.
When to go
Rosario is generally hot between November and March, and cold between June and August. Be sure to visit at the weekend if you want to party, and in low season if you want some space on Florida beach.
Pinamar, Cariló & Mar de las Pampas
Upmarket beach towns, set amid a pine forest
A four-hour hop from the capital, the towns of Pinamar and Cariló, with Valeria del Mar sandwiched between them, and Mar de las Pampas 25 kilometres south, are a summertime playground of the smart set, including Argentinian A-listers and former presidents. Cranking up in December, the area awakens from its winter slumbers and the dunes and forest spring back to life. Unlike the crowded resort of Mar del Plata, where you’ll fight for a patch of sand at the height of summer, the Costa Verde (or Green Coast, as the area is sometimes known) is a much classier affair, with beaches extending to 300 metres wide in places, providing ample space to stretch out.
But deciding to visit the Costa Verde isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. One enduring conundrum remains: should you take advantage of 15 hours of daily summer sun from January to March, or enjoy blustery winter walks on deserted beaches followed by tea next to a roaring log fire? That choice is yours.
Terrazas al Mar Terrazas al Mar has the coast on its doorstep, indoor and outdoor pools, and is situated just a few metres away from buzzing Avenida Bunge. It also has an excellent modern European restaurant and countless spa and beauty treatments. Many rooms have scene-stealing sea views; suites hot tubs too. Pinamar Avenida del Mar & De las Gaviotas (02254 480900, www.terrazasalmar.com). £££.
El Dorado A five-star beach club with a fine sea view, El Dorado is known for its attention to detail and extremely high level of service, with career waiters attending to your every whim. Sample home-made pasta, fresh seafood, fish and red meats in its elegant, modern interior. A comprehensive wine list, headed by El Esteco bodega, rounds off an excellent gastronomic experience.
Coach companies El Rápido (011 4314 8799), Plaza (011 4312 9328) and Plusmar (011 4315 3424) run several daily services from Retiro bus station to Pinamar, which take around four hours 30 minutes. For Mar de las Pampas, it’s a five-hour trip by coach to Villa Gesell and a taxi ride from there. You can also fly: Aeródromo Villa Gesell (02255 457301, 02255 454657) is around 14 kilometres from Pinamar. Flights from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery in Buenos Aires are more frequent during the summer.
When to go
Temperatures reach 30°C during the summer months of January and February, when water-sport activities, fishing trips and fashion shows are at their height. By March, activities start to taper off, and in April you can claim the beach as your own. Winter (July to September) is all about bracing, blustery beach walks.
Salta & Jujuy
Spectacular valleys, colonial towns and Andean culture
Salta and Jujuy blow every pampas/glass-lake stereotype of Argentina right out of the water. Here, the familiar tapestry of the country’s European heritage begins to unravel as the land rises up towards the Andes. Through llama herds and polychromatic ponchos, the ancient cultures of the Andean peoples reach down from Peru and Bolivia, while some of the nation’s oldest remnants of the conquering Spanish can be found in heart-rending folklore ballads and time-warped adobe and wood churches.
The city of Salta, with its slow pace of life and colonial architecture, is brimming with boutique hotels and restaurants. It’s surrounded by places offering every imaginable adventure sport, from paragliding to bungee jumping.
El Bordo de Las Lanzas An appealing blend of history and untainted beauty, this 400-year-old estancia belongs to the Arias family, descendants of Salta’s patriot, Martín Miguel de Güemes. Built in adobe and oak, the beautiful house has eight en-suite rooms decorated with 17th- and 18th-century paintings and furniture. Take it easy by the pool or go gaucho and visit the local colony of yacaras (alligators) on horseback. El Bordo’s location and facilities make it an ideal base from which to explore the whole region, and with all meals and activities included, it’s excellent value.
El Nuevo Progreso Offering a perfect blend of local atmosphere and fantastic food, this place is hidden away from the tourist hordes on the corner of Tilcara’s second plaza. The rustic wooden floor and whitewashed walls don’t prepare you for the gourmet delights created by the imaginative chef. Local ingredients such as llama, alfalfa, tomatoes and quinoa are used to create delicious traditional dishes. On many evenings, while locals prop up the bar, a duo of folk musicians arrives to strum and hum you into an Andean nirvana.
There are numerous daily flights from Salta’s Martín Miguel de Güemes airport (RN 51, km 5, 0387 424 3115) to Buenos Aires. Aerolineas Argentinas (0810 222 86527, www.aerolineas.com.ar) flies to Salta. For details of connections to Córdoba and Iguazú from Salta, contact Andes Líneas Aéreas (0810 777 26337, www.andesonline.com).
When to go
Salta and Jujuy have sunshine and relatively warm temperatures almost all year round. Rain in the areas around Salta city can be persistent in summer (January to March); May and June are the coldest months. Spring and early summer (September to December) are best for warm weather and greener landscapes.
Jaw-dropping glaciers amid the Patagonian wilderness
El Calafate, a small, remote town in the province of Santa Cruz, is the base for visitors to Patagonia’s most famous glacier, Glaciar Perito Moreno, one of the most wildly impressive landscapes in Argentina. Seen from afar, it is breathtaking – but it’s the chance to observe its spectacular, translucent bulk at close range, gazing up at its frozen walls from a boat, from the nearby walkway, or even standing on it, that makes a visit unforgettable.
From a base in El Calafate, you can also visit other lesser-known glaciers, such as the Upsala and the Spegazzini, or head off on horseback or in a 4x4 into the deserted mountains. You can fish for giant trout and visit traditional Patagonian estancias, which seem lost in the immensity of the steppe. Yet the main attraction for most visitors here remains the celestial radiance of the glaciers – a thrilling universe unto themselves.
Casa Los Sauces Laid out in the style of a Patagonian ranch, this member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group features a decor of exposed stone walls and striking paintings and sculptures. An observatory, a feng-shui spa, a gourmet restaurant and splendid, large-windowed suites are key features. Its location, handily close to the centre of town, is also a bonus. However, the most interesting twist is that the hotel is owned by Argentina’s power couple, Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, the former and current president, respectively.
La Tablita This is the best known and also the oldest of the town’s parrillas, dating from 1968. Flavoursome Patagonian lamb is served, as well as incredibly tender meat of both the red and white variety, and trout and salmon dishes, all complemented by a very good wine list. For dessert, the home-made Calafate berry ice-cream is highly recommended.
Coronel Rosales 28, opposite El Calafate bridge (02902 491065). £££.
El Calafate has a modern airport, and most visitors arrive by air, sometimes by way of Bariloche or Tierra del Fuego. A smaller number arrives by car along RN 40, from the north of Santa Cruz province. There are comfortable buses, too, but distances are enormous.
When to go
You can visit all year round, but in June-September the temperature drops considerably and the walkways alongside the glacier are sometimes covered in snow. High season starts in November and lasts through to April. It's always advisable to bring warm clothing.
Roaring waterfalls and colourful wildlife
When it comes to destinations to see before you die, the Cataratas del Iguazú should rank near the top of the list. There’s nothing quite like this towering mass of spray and sound, which can be found straddling two countries amid 2,250 square kilometres of parkland. Some 275 waterfalls punctuate this stretch of river. At its largest and most dramatic conjunction, the water is churned into thick creamy clouds that tumble through rainbows of light. The resulting spray rises for so many metres that, from a distance, the falls can almost seem to be travelling in two directions.
‘Iguazú’ refers to the attraction in its entirety, but it is usually divided into four distinct areas, with a small town and national park on each side of the falls. On the Argentinian side, Puerto Iguazú offers a surprisingly tasteful answer to a typical tourist town, while a few kilometres east, Parque Nacional Iguazú surrounds Argentina’s share of the legendary falls. This is not to be confused with Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, which is the Brazilian slice of the waterworks.
Loi Suites Iguazú Hidden in the Iryapú jungle and connected to Parque Nacional Iguazú, Loi Suites Iguazú’s five buildings are interconnected by suspended bridges, elevated walkways and dirt paths. The wildlife, even seen from inside, seems so close it might just take over the hotel. There are 154 elegantly-styled rooms with jungle views, and eight beautiful villas with outdoor jacuzzi tubs and views of the Río Iguazú.
La Rueda Consistently winning rave reviews, this is the restaurant that locals are most likely to recommend. While the menu offers the standard Argentinian meats and asado selection, it’s the excellent river fish, plucked fresh from nearby tropical waters, that is the main draw.
Three flights a day to Puerto Iguazú are offered by both Aerolíneas (www.aerolineas.com) and LAN (www.lan.com); the latter tends to be cheaper. Buses leave regularly from Buenos Aires to make the 18-hour trip to Puerto Iguazú. From Posadas, a bus trip takes five to six hours. American and Australian visitors should note that they will need a visa to enter Brazil.
When to go
A visit to Iguazú is likely to be rewarding at any time of year. In the milder months of October to December and April to June, you’ll enjoy a far more pleasant stroll through the trails and falls. But during the rainy season of November to March, you’ll see Iguazú at its torrential best. Summer (January to March) is hot and humid, but there is plenty of wildlife.
Welcome to the jungle
In the extreme north-east of Argentina, Misiones' dense forests fan out in all directions, a monotony of lush green. Its sub-tropical topography is unique in Argentina and its culture, in which indigenous and immigrant influences have collided and combined, is as rich as its soil. There are rustic lodges in which to unwind, Jesuit ruins to explore, remote waterfalls to discover and yerba mate plantations to stroll through. Above all, there is the forest, ancient yet fragile, whose dark interior exerts an irresistible magnetism.
Yacutinga Lodge As much a labour of love as a lodging, Yacutinga is set in a huge private reserve of Atlantic rainforest that juts out into the Río Iguazú. A range of all-action programmes are offered, the most popular of which is a two-nighter that includes several guided walks and – the highlight – a kayaking expedition on the broad, empty river, where kingfishers skim across the glittering waters. But what really lifts Yacutinga on to the top shelf of South American eco-lodges is the zeal and expertise of its staff.
60km E of Puerto Iguazú near Colonia Andresito (03757 15 544493 mobile, www.yacutinga.com). ££££.
La Querencia Famous restaurants are usually a let-down, so by the time you’ve heard the tenth person tell you that no one who’s anyone passes through Misiones without eating at La Querencia, you’ll be girding yourself for disappointment. No chance. This Posadas institution is a terrific parrilla that specialises in bringing patrons more grilled protein than they could feasibly consume. Try the chicken galeto – stuffed thigh and breast with parma ham, roast pepper and chimichurri that comes sizzling on a huge spit.
Posadas Bolívar 322 (03752 434955). ££.
Most travellers arrive by plane. Misiones has two international airports – Aeropuerto Internacional Puerto Iguazú (03757 421996), near Puerto Iguazú, and General José de San Martín (03752 457413), near Posadas. Flights operate daily from both Buenos Aires (Aerolíneas Argentinas and LAN) and Salta (Andes Líneas Aéreas). Those wishing to arrive by bus can choose from a number of reliable operators. We recommend Flechabus (011 4000 5200, www.flechabus.com.ar), Vía Bariloche (0800 333 7575, www.viabariloche.com.ar) and Crucero del Norte (011 5258 5000, www.crucerodelnorte.com.ar). It takes around 14 hours to get from BA to Posadas, and around 18 hours to reach Puerto Iguazú.
When to go
Misiones is a year-round destination, with tourism peaking in spring (October to December) and autumn (April to June). It has a subtropical climate, which means that there is no dry season. Expect humidity and dampness, but not necessarily heat: owing to its altitude and proximity to the Atlantic, Misiones can be bitterly cold in winter (July to September) with night-time temperatures often dropping below zero.
Parque Sierra de las Quijadas
Dramatic red canyons and dinosaur footprints
Parque Nacional Sierra de las Quijadas makes an ideal one- or two-night stopover on the way to Mendoza, but its stunning landscapes, friendly city and year-round sunny climate will leave you feeling it’s a lot more than just a detour.
A barely noticeable jagged ridge on the horizon suggests little of the majesty awaiting visitors. Million-year-old tectonic activity thrust this mass of rock above the ground, allowing water and wind to shape it into a network of burnt-red canyons and valleys. In the park’s centre, the rising land suddenly collapses into the Potrero de la Aguada, a basin criss-crossed by dry river beds and surrounded by cliff walls and temple-like rock formations.
Nearby San Luis is a lively provincial capital that acts as the gateway to the park.
Campo la Sierra With its pleasant grounds and jovial German owner Bernardo, this ranch is a great place to experience life in the green sierras just outside San Luis. The six comfortable, well-maintained cottages scattered throughout the wooded property sleep between two and eight people. Bernardo is an excellent cook, producing wholesome German dishes such as goulash or pork with sauerkraut, which he serves in his home in the evenings. Depending on the season, you may get the chance to savour local jabalí (wild boar), possibly skewered by your host using one of his impressive collection of hunting bows.
Los Robles Los Robles is a bastion of excellence in San Luis; every local will point you in its direction if you ask for a recommendation. There is a faultless parrilla, as well as a selection of dishes that are hard to find in these parts, such as a fantastic seafood casserole and scallops. The temperature-controlled wine cellar has the best selection in San Luis, with some excellent vintages.
San Luis Colón 684 (02652 436767). £££.
A number of bus companies run daily services between Buenos Aires and the San Luis bus station (Avenida España 990, 02652 424021), and other destinations. Try CATA (02615 241699, www.catainternacional.com) or Auto Transporte San Juan (02652 424998, www.atsj.com.ar). San Luis is about eight hours 30 minutes from Buenos Aires by bus, and three hours from Mendoza. There is one flight per day from Buenos Aires to San Luis’s airport (Avenida Fuerza Aérea 3095, 02652 422427) with Aerolíneas Argentinas (0810 2228 6527, www.aerolineas.com.ar).
When to go
San Luis has a dry continental climate, with year-round sunshine. The best times to visit are October to December and April to June. From January to March, occasional temperatures of up to 42°C and heavy rain can cause the park to close.
Mountains and lakes
Bariloche, El Bolsón & Villa La Angostura
Patagonia’s stunning lake district
The massive national parkland surrounding the towns of San Carlos de Bariloche, Villa La Angostura and El Bolsón display natural Andean drama in its rawest form. Standing thousands of metres over the plains, rock faces obscure even the higher summits of ice-capped volcanoes; turbid rivers carry glacial spring water to vast turquoise lakes in the valleys below; shores are stitched with forests that shelter some of the rarest trees on the planet, the arrayanes.
Each town in this region offers a different kind of experience. Bariloche is not only the gateway to Argentina’s first national park, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, and the world-famous serpentine Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes route), but it is also one of Argentina’s top tourist centres, with an advanced infrastructure that supports year-round activities. Villa La Angostura is a smaller version of Bariloche, with equally high levels of dining and accommodation. El Bolsón is the laid-back member of this mountainous triumvirate, and still reflects the influence of the hippie squatters who first dreamed of creating an ecological haven here in the 1970s.
La Confluencia Lodge Nestled among forests, rivers and mountains, this small, intimate wooden eco-lodge is the perfect place to connect with the natural world. The rooms are small and basic, but the emphasis is more on the communal areas, such as the large lounge with fireplace, the reading spaces and the outdoor deck overlooking the Río Azul. The lodge also has a spa, log-fired saunas and outdoor hot tubs, overlooked by the snow-covered mountains.
Tinto Bistro Tinto Bistro is famed locally for being the restaurant owned by Princess Máxima of the Netherlands’ younger brother, Martín Zorreguieta. Co-owner and chef Leanardo Andres prepares eclectic dishes with Asian and Mediterranean influences, as well as dressed-up regional fare. The restaurant offers the best gourmet experience in town, and there is also an ample wine selection to accompany the fusion dishes.
Villa La Angostura Nahuel Huapi 34 (02944 494924). £££.
Both Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN offer flights throughout the year to Aeropuerto Internacional Bariloche (02944 426162). Buses run regularly from Buenos Aires, but it is a 22-hour trip.
When to go
July and August are perfect for winter sports, and the summer months, December and January, are great for hiking in the national parks.
A land of mountains and wine
Wine is big business both here and in the valleys all around. The province ranks, alongside San Juan, as the country’s primary wine-producing region.
But this attractive town and its surrounding region aren’t just for wine-lovers. The mountains and valleys are awash with opportunities for nature- and adventure-lovers to enjoy their ultimate holiday pursuit, whether it be climbing to the top of Cerro Aconcagua, the continent’s highest peak; ambling on horseback through the peaceful valleys; or rafting in the rushing waters of the Río Mendoza.
Cavas Wine Lodge A 20-minute drive from central Mendoza brings you to this serene country house, with a spectacular view of the Andes. Cecilia Díaz Chuit, Cavas’s owner, worked for high-end international hotel chains before launching her own elegant enterprise. Her husband, Martín Rigal, is the wine expert. There are 14 hectares of bonarda vines to set you dreaming, and an underground cava (cellar) stacked with dozens of notable Argentinian labels to top you up. If you can’t get enough of the grape, try a vino-therapy bath or grape-seed exfoliation in the spa. (Guests receive a complimentary massage.) The private cabañas each have their own roof deck, private plunge pool and alfresco shower.
1884 Celebrity chef Francis Mallman’s restaurant is located inside the atmospheric, Romanesque Bodega Escorihuela. Mallman put Argentinian haute cuisine on the map with dishes such as kid or salted chicken baked in mud ovens, and there’s an impressive 36-page wine list. The whole place has an upbeat, energetic atmosphere; come to savour the flavours, or combine your meal with a tour of the bodega and art gallery.
Mendoza’s airport, El Plumerillo, has regular connections to Buenos Aires. Aerolíneas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar) and LAN (www.lan.com) offer daily flights. There are daily buses from Mendoza’s bus station, Terminal del Sol (Avenida de Acceso Este and Costanera, Guaymallén), to major destinations, including Buenos Aires, Bariloche and Santiago de Chile.
When to go
Mendoza has dry summers with wetter winters. Average temperatures for January (summer) are 35°C during the day, and 23°C at night. Temperatures for July (winter) are 12°C by day, and 3°C at night.
Rivers and wetlands
Esteros del Iberá
A watery wonderland brimming with biodiversity
You’ll find peace in Esteros del Iberá, but not quiet. The air is filled with a rich and raucous polyphony of squawks, burps, splashes, howls and bizarre whirring noises, the concerted effort of more than 350 types of bird, plus dozens of rare and exotic species of mammal, reptile and amphibian.
The pit in which this natural orchestra plays is the second-largest wetland in the world, after Brazil’s Pantanal, and covers 14 per cent of Corrientes province. Once part of the main stream of the Río Paraná, Esteros del Iberá is now a subtly shifting – and steam-iron flat – terrain of lakes, marshes, savannah and floating islands. The reserve lacks asphalt roads, chain hotels, fast-food restaurants, cable television access and reliable mobile-phone coverage. And those are just five of its virtues.
Posada de la Laguna The pick of the accommodation in Carlos Pellegrini, Posada de la Laguna is exactly what it says it is – a country lodge next to the lake. Set in a spacious private park, the property consists of two elegant, vine-covered buildings – one housing a comfortable living room and dining area, the other offering six airy guest rooms giving out on to a colonnaded veranda. Between motor launch and kayak excursions on the lake, guests can take a dip in the pool or bird-watch from a hammock on the veranda as woodpeckers, yellow flycatchers, southern screamer vultures and many other species flit and strut around the park.
Rincón del Socorro (03782 497172) is an estancia whose kitchen turns out minor masterpieces of rustic cuisine. Most of what ends up on the plate comes from their organic garden.
Flechabus operates several daily bus services to Mercedes from BA’s Retiro station (011 4000 5200, www.flechabus.com.ar). Alternatively, take the 90-minute flight from the capital to Posadas and then to proceed to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini by taxi or, for those with experience driving on dirt roads, by hire car.
Getting from Mercedes to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini presents the biggest challenge. A taxi ride along the 110 kilometres of RP 40 will take approximately two hours and set you back around AR$400. El Rayo (office at the Mercedes bus station, 03773 420184) and Itatí II (03773 421342) both run bus services from Mercedes to Carlos Pellegrini, leaving at around 12.30pm. The journey takes at least three hours 30 minutes and often longer, as the buses are poorly maintained and prone to breaking down. In theory, there is a return service from Carlos Pellegrini to Mercedes twice daily; in practice, you should always have a back-up option.
When to go
Esteros del Iberá is a year-round destination with a subtropical climate, which means heavy rains and high temperatures are possible at any time, even though you should pack a fleece for cold nighttimes. January and February can be particularly torrid with temperatures often climbing above 40°C.
Charming Victorian town at the mouth of an idyllic river delta
Most visitors to Tigre come directly from Buenos Aires, and at less than an hour north of the capital by train, the trip leaves little time for the mental transition from city chaos to hushed tranquillity. Tigre is a small, charming town with leafy Victorian neighbourhoods, a whistle-stop on the way into the magnificent Delta del Paraná. On its doorstep lies a sweeping, exotic labyrinth of verdant isles, narrow estuaries and secluded homes and lodgings.
Hotel Villa Victoria The latest project from Argentinian/Swedish owners Alicia and Bjorn, this charming, petite hotel is a recent arrival in Tigre. Each of the five suites in this immaculately restored estate opens out on to a scenic pool-view patio and features eclectic art and tasteful furnishings. Ask for the Victoria Suite, whose atmospheric fireplace and massive bathroom raise it a notch above the other rooms.
Il Novo María del Luján Situated along the Río Luján, opposite a crumbling Victorian mansion, this is the most noteworthy eaterie in town. Formerly a grand family estate, the luxurious riverside restaurant has an atmospheric interior, although the spacious patio is what draws the crowds. The upscale but inexpensive cuisine includes good-quality seafood and traditional Argentinian fare. The wine list is excellent.
Take city bus number 60 from Plaza Constitución in Buenos Aires for a 90-minute ride through the city to downtown Tigre. Another option is to take the Mitre line train from Retiro; trains leave every 15 minutes from 5am to midnight Monday to Saturday, and from 6am to 11.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays. A more scenic rail option is the Tren de la Costa, a coastal light railway that picks up passengers in the town of Olivos and travels through the upscale riverside suburbs north of Buenos Aires, terminating in Tigre.
When to go
March and November are the months with the most pleasant temperatures. Tigre is in full bloom (and more than a little overcrowded) in Argentina’s sticky late-spring and summer months of December to February, when porteños head for the cool waterways. June to August can get downright cold.
Las Sierras de Córdoba
Hills made for relaxation and adventure
They may not compare to the Andean cordillera in strict terms of height, but ask a porteño what he thinks about the sierras of Córdoba, and you’ll find they loom large in the Argentinian imagination. Conveniently close to the province’s capital city of Córdoba, these hills and valleys have called out to urban dwellers for generations.
Visitors come here to have asados at the cabañas that dot the roadsides in the Valle de Punilla, or to ride horses through tall tufts of pampa grass in the Sierra Chica. The more adventurous might climb Cerro Champaquí, the province’s tallest peak, while those looking to relax simply marvel at the majestic Sierra Grande from the Valle de Traslasierra below. Meanwhile, hidden throughout the hills, behind nondescript fences and at the ends of nameless rock-strewn roads, wonderful Cordobés hospitality and delicious food await in estancias, in as relaxing an environment as you’ll find anywhere.
Estancia la Paz Once the rural retreat of Argentinian president Julio Argentino Roca, Estancia la Paz is now an opulent 20-room hotel. The history of its former owner lends an irony to the name: la Paz means ‘the peace’, but Roca led the massacre of innumerable indigenous Patagonians during his 1879 ‘Campaign of the Desert’. Still, the grounds are indeed peaceful, particularly when strolling around the 70-hectare park. Estancia La Paz has all the usual luxuries – spa, tennis court, swimming pool – as well as two polo fields and a few horses.
El Faro The reputation of this parrilla, widely agreed to be the best in the province of Córdoba, is fully deserved. Many residents of the provincial capital drive the 60km north to eat the beef here – despite the fact that the nephew of El Faro’s owner has since opened up a branch with an identical menu in Córdoba city.
Jesús María Juan Bautista Alberdi 245 (03525 466258). ££.
Frequent daily flights from Buenos Aires to Córdoba’s international airport are offered by Aerolíneas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar) and LAN (www.lan.com). Córdoba’s Terminal de Omnibus (Boulevard Juan D Perón 380, 0351 428 4141) is well served by national intercity buses. The bus journey from Buenos Aires to Córdoba city takes ten hours.
When to go
High season is from December to March, when popular parts of the sierra fill up. There are hot days in summer (January to March) and cold ones in winter (July to September), but, overall, the weather in the sierras is temperate year-round. Rain in the summer months is typically minimal.
Time Out guidebooks
Argentina & Uruguay: perfect places to stay, eat & explore
Time Out Argentina & Uruguay selects 30 standout destinations in these dramatically varied countries and takes you straight to the lovliest hotels, best restaurants and most compelling landscapes in each. The book includes an extensive insiders' guide to Buenos Aires, as well as our selection of idyllic beaches, traditional gaucho towns and highlights of the Patagonian wilderness. Providing both information and inspiration, Time Out Argentina & Uruguay is the perfect accompaniment to your South American adventure, whether you're a first time or a fanatic.