For Chris

January 2009.

City and scenery

Dear Chris,

Argentina is a country like no other, offering a breathtaking variety of experiences to any visitor, from snowy peaks to sandy beaches, cosmopolitan splendor to stunning nature. I have carefully curated an itinerary that highlights the aspects of this varied country and culture that will best fit your interests, balancing full days of adventure with flexibility and the opportunity for leisure.

Day 1: Arrival

Buenos Aires, the gateway to Argentina, is a cosmopolitan and energetic port city, stretching north to south along the River Plate. The lifestyle and architecture of Buenos Aires is distinctly European, and Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of the South.”

As you land in Buenos Aires, you and your family will be greeted by your guide, Franco. He will take you to the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau in the heart of the elegant Recoleta district, and will accompany you for the rest of your trip. The Park Hyatt is one of Buenos Aires’ most elegant hotels and an architectural jewel. Housed in a French-style mansion, characteristic of Buenos Aires’ belle epoque, it was originally the home of the Duhau family.

The afternoon will be free for you to settle in, and dinner reservations have been made this evening at Sottovoce, which offers Italian cuisine and local ambience.

Day 2: Buenos Aires

Franco will meet you at the lobby of the hotel this morning to accompany you on a full-day private tour of the city, visiting the highlights of Buenos Aires. You will discover its different neighborhoods and eclectic architecture, sweeping avenues and narrow streets, domes, ornamented facades and balconies, tree-lined boulevards, churches, parks and gardens, monuments, and statues.

You will visit the main square (Plaza de Mayo), the neo-classical cathedral, the colonial old town-hall (Cabildo), the presidential palace (Casa Rosada), and Avenida de Mayo with its Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings, cafes, congress house, and the Colon Opera House.

Then, you will continue to the San Telmo neighborhood in the old part of the city, with its bohemian atmosphere, narrow sidewalks, cobblestone streets, one-story flat-roofed colonial houses, and windows with wrought-iron railings.

Next, you will head south towards La Boca, which features picturesque multicolor tin houses where Italian immigrants settled at the turn of the century at the mouth of the Riachuelo. Visit the old harbor of Puerto Madero, which is fully renovated—note the old brick warehouses, which have been turned into gourmet restaurants on the waterfront. At 12:30PM lunch reservations await you at one such spot, Cabaña Las Lilas, where you can enjoy traditional Argentine barbecue (asado).

After lunch, you will be guided to the Recoleta quarter, Buenos Aires’ most elegant residential district, boasting elegant French architecture, turn-of-the-century-mansions, and designer shops. Perhaps most intriguigin, though, is the Recoleta Cemetery with its unique mausoleums and statuary, as well as the colonial-style Pilar Church. The last stop will be a tour around Palermo, a residential neighborhood with lyrical curving streets, leafy parks, and quiet townhouses.

Day 3: Leisure in the city

You will have today at leisure. I recommend returning to the Palermo neighborhood. Palermo Viejo is probably the best known of the trendy enclaves in Buenos Aires. Once a suburb of downtown, its rows of early 20th century houses, many with rococo facades, languished in the 1980s. Now they are being renovated, one by one, by young entrepreneurs. Boutiques that sell handmade shoes, designer home accessories or one-of-a-kind evening dresses elbow for space beside new restaurants, clubs and bars.

I suggest lunch at Cluny, a modern bistro in the heart of the popular Palermo Viejo district. It features French cuisine by Chef Matias Zuzzarino and is rated among the best in the district.

Although Palermo Viejo is in the midst of a transformation, it is still a working-class neighborhood where fruit markets, schools, and social clubs provide solid contrast to the trendiness. At the edge of Palermo Hollywood is a covered flea market (Mercado de las Pulgas), filled with the forgotten treasures of wealthier Argentine households.

Day 4: Estancia

This morning you will visit Estancia el Ombu de Areco. When visiting a traditional Argentine farm (estancia), you will experience the country’s heritage of the Pampas, the land of the picturesque cowboys (gauchos), savor a typical asado, and relax in the views of the endless plains. You will also enjoy horseback riding, promenades in horse-drawn carriages, walks, and other sports.

Day 5: Mendoza

Today you will arrive in Mendoza and visit Cavas Wine Lodge. The Mendoza province is located in the western central part of the country, in the Cuyo region, separated from Chile by the Andes Mountains.

There are 1,500 wineries in this region, Argentina’s main wine-producing region, which amounts to 146,000 hectares of vineyards. The city of Mendoza, founded in 1521, is characterized by tree-lined streets and quiet squares with landscaped gardens and the Andes Mountains as a backdrop.

Cavas Wine Lodge is the project of former high-end hotel marketer Cecilia Diaz Chuit and her husband Martin Rigal, who manage vineyards in the region. Blessed by the natural beauty of the region, this lodge features romantic atmosphere, spectacular views, and superb cuisine. Activities include picnicking in the vineyards, wine tasting, mountain bike touring and more. The afternoon will be at leisure to relax and enjoy the amenities.

Day 6: Wine tours and more

Chris, you will have three full days to enjoy the local vineyards.

First, you will visit the Alta Vista Winery, Achaval Ferrer Winery, and Carlos Pulenta Winery. The Lujan de Cuyo wine region is the home of Malbec. You will go the high quality sub-regions of Agrelo and Perdriel, the most expensive vineyard terrain in the country. The quality of the offerings of this region will perhaps be most evident at the French-owned Bodega Altavista, a winery specializing in terroir expression. Here, you will have a special tasting of their Grand reserve, arguably one of the best Malbecs to come out of Argentina.

Next, you will visit Bodega Achaval Ferrer, one of the first Argentine wineries to score highly in Wine Spectator. Here, you will enjoy a special barrel tasting of each varietal that makes up their top blend, Altamira.

To add variety to your afternoon, will have a chance to enjoy a horseback ride by the Andes and rafting on the Mendoza River.

Dinner will be at leisure and I suggest dining at 1884 – Francis Mallmann’s beautiful and sophisticated restaurant. Housed in the old Escorihuela Winery, the restaurant features Argentine fusion cuisine and was named one of the best in the world by Wine Connoisseur Magazine. Another dining option I recommend is Terruño in the Tapiz Winery, which is one of Mendoza’s best restaurants, offering local cuisine with a twist.

Day 7: Bariloche

Today you will transfer to Bariloche and stay at Llao Llao Resort & Spa, which I have selected per our conversation on your preferences.

A charming road will take you along the shores of the huge Lake Naheul Haupi across the town of Bariloche and into the National Park, passing by the foot of Mount Otto, Bonita Beach, San Pedro Peninsula, Companario Mountain, and the lovely St. Edward Chapel and Pañuelo Harbor.

One of Argentina’s most scenic regions, the Lake District occupies the north-west section of the Patagonian region. The landscape includes high, snow-packed peaks, a white volcano mirrored in a still lake, glacial streams cascading over polished granite, meadows filled with pink and purple lupine, fast-flowing rivers, and thousands of pristine lakes.

Day 8: Leisure at Llao Llao

Spend the day at leisure at Llao Llao and choose from an extensive list of outdoor and indoor activities, ranging from conservative to adventurous. The options include windsurf boards, Canadian canoes, and optimist sailboats. There are also snorkeling classes in a calm bay surrounded by native Arrayanes trees; outdoor tennis and paddleball courts with views of Mount Tronador; and mountain-biking trail. The resort offers organized walks to Mount Llao Llao, Lake Moreno Mirador, and Villa Tacul. There are also many gym classes, including step, slide, aerobics, stretching, yoga, localized gym, hydro gym, gym for adults, and physical training. Dance classes include tango, salsa, and flamenco. More activities include aero boxing, archery classes, instruction on rappel, and tournaments of truco, soccer, tennis, water volleyball, water polo, bingo, scavenger hunts, and an 18-hole golf course. There are also specific activities organized for children.

I suggest dining this evening at Cassis on the shores of Lake Gutierrez, or at El Casco, where you will experience the cuisine of young Chef Martin Erkedijan and enjoy views of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Day 9: Scenery

Today will be at your leisure. I suggest taking a half-day tour up Campanario Mountain in a chairlift to enjoy 360-degree views. Another option for getting a sense of the scope of the place is a panoramic drive, which will provide views of natural scenery of the Naheul Huapi National Park on the outskirts of Bariloche.

You can also use this time to appreciate the unique flora, including colihue canes, rare red-barked arrayán, cypress and redwood trees form unusual forests. On clear days you may spot the white-capped Mount Tronador Peak, the highest in the region.

Dinner will be at leisure, and I suggested visiting one of the hotel’s restaurants: at Los Cesares try the Patagonian lamb, or opt for a local specialty at Winter Garden, a cozy and casual spot.

Day 10: Home of the gaucho

Upon arrival in Cordoba, you will be driven to the fabulous property of Raul and Stephanie Fenestraz. Originally from Europe, they purchased two properties—House of Jasmines in Salta and Estancia el Colibri in Cordoba. Raoul is a passionate polo player and his estancia, with its two polo fields and string of polo ponies, will be a good match for your son, who I know already excels at the sport, and your daughter, who may be interested in having a daily polo clinic.

The heart of Argentina is the Gaucho cowboy and in Cordoba you will find the soul of the Gaucho. These horsemen have their own music, poetry and philosophy—they are intensely proud of their heritage, their lifestyle and their skills. Settle in to Estancia el Colibri and experience this rich culture.

Day 11: Nature

Spend your final day riding, walking, and bird watching or reading and resting by the lovely pool. You will have a picnic lunch down by the river with wine tastings and asado in the evening. This is the perfect place to end your Argentine experience.

Christopher, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for your Latin American Adventure. Please do call if I can be of any help.