Set in the eastern foothills of the Andes, with the tallest peak on the continent, Mount Aconcagua, looming on the horizon, the vineyards surrounding Mendoza are a spectacular sight, even for those who don’t care for wine.
The wine-growing regions around Mendoza city are clumped into three areas, the Uco Valley, the Luján region, and the Maipú region. Both the Uco and Luján areas are gorgeous and filled with wonderful vineyards, but since they are closest to the Andes and farthest away from Mendoza city, the best way to tour each of them is to hire a car service or take a bus tour.
What coffee is to the U.S. and tea is to Britain, mate is to Argentina. Throughout southern South America—but especially in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay—the bitter beverage is consumed around the clock. It’s prepared by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant in a cup, usually made from a hollowed calabash gourd. Then the strong tea-like drink is sipped through a silver straw, which in Argentina is called a bombilla. Sugar or honey is sometimes added to cut down on the bitterness.
Visitors to Argentina may notice that the country has something of a sweet tooth: Heladerías (ice cream shops) can be found on nearly every street corner in Buenos Aires, and most of the coffee for sale in supermarkets comes with sugar already added to the grounds. But no sweet treat is as popular or ubiquitous as dulce de leche, a caramelly concoction used as a spread for bread, as a filler for cookies and cakes, and as a flavor and add-on for ice cream.
Photo: Juan Luis Aizpuru
In a country famous for its steak, it’s no surprise that barbecues are a heralded event in Argentina. These “asados,” as barbecues here are called, are traditionally a family event and take place each week on Sundays. Generations gather in the afternoon and cook large amounts of different kinds of meat— everything from steaks, chicken, beef ribs, chorizo sausages, morcilla sausages, and, in Patagonia, lamb— over a large grill, which is usually set up outside, like a campfire pit or a stand-alone chimney. While the meat cooks throughout the afternoon, people nibble on charcuterie plates of cheese and sausage (in Argentina they are called “picadas”) and sip on red wine or cocktails of Coca-Cola and Fernet Branca, a bitter spirit made of herbs and spices. When the meat is ready, it’s often served with bread and simple salads; the classic Argentine salad is lettuce, tomato, and white onion, with a bit of olive oil and salt as dressing.
Photo: Jorge Gobbi
Travelers might be surprised to discover that U.S. dollars are widely accepted as payment in Argentina. In fact, many hotels and tour companies offer slight discounts—sometimes up to 15%—if payment is made in the equivalent amount of U.S. dollars. If you plan on booking tours or accommodations ahead of time, be sure to check first to see if you can get a discount by paying in U.S. dollars. It’s also worth asking at restaurants, with cabdrivers and at markets. Lesson learned: Bring a generous amount of hard cash, in the form of U.S. dollars, and you may be able to bargain for discounts. What you don’t need that day you can keep in your hotel safe.
Photo: J. Aaron Farr
For U.S. travelers planning a trip to Argentina, one topic seems to cause more confusion than any other: entry fees and visas.
There’s a lot of confusing information to be found online, so it’s best to get answers straight from the official source, the U.S. Department of State.
Photo: Beatrice Murch
Holiday season in Argentina officially begins with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception—or Inmaculada Concepción de María—a national holiday that’s celebrated each year on December 8.
Most Argentines have the day off of work and spend it with family and friends, decorating Christmas trees and adorning their homes and apartments with holiday lights and red, white, and green wreaths.
Photo: Andres Moschini
As spring transitions into summer in Buenos Aires you can still enjoy the rainbow-hued rose gardens of Parque Tres de Febrero and the purple blossoms of the jacaranda trees along Avenida Independencia.
Signs of the city’s scorching summer are starting to arrive. Last week in Buenos Aires, temperatures rocketed up to 86 F (about 30°C). That’s causing many Buenos Aires locals, or porteños (as residents of this port city are known), to start daydreaming about escaping the city heat to the beach.
Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius
Founded in 1582 by Spanish conquistadors, Salta is one of the oldest remaining settlements in all of Argentina. The city’s rich history is evident on nearly every corner, from the Pepto-Bismol pink, 19th-century Catedral Basílica de Salta in the main plaza, to the rows of colonial houses fanning out beyond.
Photo: Javier Rubilar
Looming over the picturesque vineyards of Mendoza in northwest Argentina, Cerro Aconcagua tops out at 22,841 feet. That makes it the tallest mountain in the world outside of Asia, bigger than Mount McKinley or Kilimanjaro. Only the Himalaya are higher. Best of all, Aconcagua is an easy day trip outside the wine-region hub of Mendoza.