Of course, the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires lures travellers with milongas, restaurants, and charming architecture. But there’s also jungle and desert in the north; penguins and glaciers in the south; and tons of wineries and ranches in the centre.
Unfortunately, the modes of transportation are not as plentiful. Unlike Europe, long distance trains are scarce in Argentina. Although the overnight bus is a comfortable way to travel, it sometimes requires twelve hours (or more) between destinations. I was dying to get outside of Buenos Aires to see everything that Argentina had to offer. But how could I travel around Argentina in just eight days? And without going broke or sight-seeing bus stations?
Absolutely, and here’s how to do it.
If you’re traveling to multiple destinations in South America, a great option is the LAN Airpass – a series of one-way flights to multiple South American destinations sold at a special rate. It has huge advantages – not just with the dough saved, but for convenience as well. You can create your own itinerary and avoid panic attacks over fluctuating flight prices. The rates are fixed – regardless of season, time, and date of travel.
With my LAN tickets in hand, I embarked on a whirlwind tour of Argentina, ready to see jungle, vineyards, and glaciers – all in eight days. I knew it would be impossible to see everything. But I’d at least get a tasting menu of what this vast country has to offer.
Getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight is never fun. Luckily, LAN’s domestic flights depart from the city airport, cutting the trek time in half. After twenty minutes in a taxi, we’re standing at the LAN check-in counter.
LAN’s baggage allowance is quite generous compared to other airlines. Included in the ticket price are two pieces of checked luggage, as well as one carry-on and one personal item (e.g. purse or laptop). Golfers also get a little something extra: on flights between cities in Argentina, you can also check one golf bag with clubs and a pair of golf shoes in the plane’s hold – free of charge.
On board, I settle into my plush seat and crack open the in-flight magazine. It appears that LAN domestic flights don’t have individual television sets; but I can forgive this after I’m handed a complimentary box of Havanna dulche de leche cookies.
To see the LAN cabins, you can take a virtual tour.
Rumour has it that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw these mighty falls and exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!” Iguazú National Park straddles Argentina & Brazil and has one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls – at 80 metres high and 3km wide, I feel instantly humbled by this wonder of the world.
For its beauty and biodiversity, Iguazú – an indigenous word for “big water” – is a UNESCO Heritage site, and home to rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. There are some crazy critters in the surrounding rainforest, like the South American Tapir or the largest rodent in the world.
Our guide with Say Hueque recommends hiking to the Devil’s Throat early in the morning, before the parks opens and unleashes swaths of tourists. It’s your best chance to spot wildlife and enjoy the falls in a rare moment of solitude.
For an adrenaline rush, go on The Great Adventure – a boat ride that zooms under the waterfalls and is considered one of the most extreme tourist activities in the world. Expect to get soaked.
Before landing in Mendoza City, we’re already thirsty for wine tastings and tours. There are over 1500 wineries located in the Mendoza province, ranging from family-owned properties to large-scale productions patronized by royalty.
It’s a 90 minute drive to The Vines Resort & Spa — a luxury hotel located on a vineyard in the Uco Valley. It’s pretty easy to unwind in our two-bedroom villa with private deck, full kitchen and living room, and a butler who does everything from deliver breakfast to light the fireplace. It’s also just a short stroll down a path to explore 1,000 sprawling acres of vineyards and a micro-fermentation winery.
When we’re not lounging in the hot tub or drinking wine, we’re out and about in the countryside: learning to blend our own bottle of red, going horseback riding with gauchos (cowboys), and hiking into the Andes to get panoramic views of the valley.
From Mendoza City, it’s one morning and a short BA connection to reach San Carlos de Bariloche – a mountain town famous for its lakes, skiing, chocolate, and stunning scenery. It’s also a hub for those heading deeper into Patagonia to marvel at penguins and glaciers – and sometimes Antarctica.
For me, the big attraction is relaxing at the luxurious Llao Llao Hotel, a majestic resort situated in the shadows of Cerro Lopez and Tronador mountain peaks. With all the pine and mountain views, the lake studio feels a bit like staying in a Swiss Chalet. I sit on the balcony wrapped in a warm blanket, sipping hot tea and gazing at the reflection of the Andes on the turquoise lake. It’s a lonely wilderness, with the occasional bird hooting and wind rustling the pine trees. The next day, I take my first solo hike into the forest and conquer the Cerro Llao Llao trail.
If you’re a skier, the newly opened Arelauquen Lodge is close to the ski hills and offers modern comfort in a rustic setting. A big bonus is that the rooms have a full kitchenette.
In eight days, you’re not going to see everything that Argentina has to offer. But it’s enough time to appreciate the regional diversity of the country and soak up some rich experiences. The LAN airpass gave me the freedom to travel without busting the bank or wasting my time.
So what’s the final damage for this trip? LAN’s airpass rates depend on various factors, such as the number of legs and the distance between destinations. My route around Argentina requires four coupons (totals approximately $950 US).
There’s a catch to this deal (isn’t there always?). To be eligible for the airpass, travellers must do two things: book an international flight with LAN or an affiliate airline and buy the LAN Airpass at least 14 days before departure. There’s also minimum purchase of three passes, and a maximum of sixteen per person.
LAN’s website can be temperamental and the airpass rules are complicated. This is not a DIY situation. Play it safe and book directly through a LAN office or a travel agency. For a reputable local travel agency and tour operator, go with Say Hueque – staff are extremely knowledgeable, professional, and go above and beyond to accommodate their clients.
The writer was a guest of Destino Argentina and LAN Airlines. Neither reviewed or approved this article.