When should I go to and where should go in Argentina and Chile?
May 25, 2010 8:52 PM   Subscribe

When should I go to and where should go in Argentina and Chile?

I have enough American AAdvantage miles to get a "free" flight to South America. I think going to Chile or Chile and Argentina for a week or two would be fun. The American Airlines System Map for South America denotes cities I might be able to fly into and out of for an open-jaw, but I'm only sure about Buenos Aires and Santiago. It's a bit hard to know how to get started, but if you can suggest the endpoints of my flights and dates, I think everything else will fall into place in the end.

Also useful: suggestions on which places to visit and for how long, and guidebook suggestions.

I studied Spanish all through high school, but haven't used it at all since then.
posted by grouse to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What is your goal? What sort of traveling do you like to do? What are other vacations that have been good?

Argentina is a big place. I'm basically trying to evaluate if you'd like Uruguay, because it's close, cheap to get too, and has a great soul. There's a reason I've been able to rope 3 of my friends to visit me in a place that most Americans have never heard of.
posted by wooh at 9:37 PM on May 25, 2010

Can't speak too much to the endpoints or dates, or anything like that, but I might be able to offer something.

I spent three weeks in Argentina and can't speak highly enough of the country and its people (except the lowlife who stole my camera). I unfortunately didn't get too much leeway in terms of planning my trip – it was a school-sponsored affair – but I did manage to do one thing that I've been evangelizing ever since.

Iguazu Falls is like the Niagara Falls of South America. The falls sit on the Iguazu River, which separates Brazil and Argentina. If you're an American, the visa to get to the Brazilian side is rather expensive, but you can have a lot of fun on the Argentinean side regardless. Not only are there a good amount of walking trails leading to other, smaller, falls, but you can take a boat ride into the mist (more like a shower, actually). Lodging at the hostel in town is, as all hostels down there tend to be, quite reasonable – and it's a really nice place to boot.

Getting there from Buenos Aires should be a matter of an overnight bus ride. Make sure to buy a ticket for a coche cama and you'll have a giant recliner of a seat that is truly a joy to travel in.

Of course, this is for a certain sort of traveler. I'm an outdoors lover, so this sort of thing fascinates me. If you're looking to do more of a cultural experience, I'd focus somewhere else.
posted by dondiego87 at 9:41 PM on May 25, 2010

For the size of those countries, a week isn't all that much time - so seconding wooh's questions.

Want to go skiing on your summer vacation?
Fly into Santiago and head to Portillo.

Are you into wine?
Head to Mendoza or Cafayate and see the vineyards by bike. Plenty also offer cheap tastings/tours.

Do you love spending time outdoors?
Patagonia is breathtaking ... Just don't get suckered into the typical "tour" that consists of seeing everything through a bus window.

What about archaelogy? Waterfalls? Big-City life? Culture/art/etc?

For guidebooks, the footprint ones served me quite well.
posted by Metasyntactic at 9:51 PM on May 25, 2010

Response by poster: I like museums, monuments, outdoor beauty, hiking, and food. Less interested in: fancy hotels, nightlife. Visiting Iguazu Falls sounds great!

Is there a month in the summer that is particularly good or should be avoided?
posted by grouse at 9:55 PM on May 25, 2010

If you go in the summer and like beaches, go to Uruguay. That's where all the Argentinians go.

Within Argentina, if you don't like nightlife...well, Buenos Aires has a lot of great things, but your interests really bias you more towards the amazing outdoorsy stuff. Iguazu, Patagonia, I would say these things are actually the better part of Argentina :)
posted by wooh at 9:58 PM on May 25, 2010

If you're going in your summer (july or august) I would forget Patagonia unless you intend on skiing. Iguazu is great and doesn't take much time. The whole North West of Argentina is beautiful, high desert plains, salt flats and Salta, gorgeous.

If either of your flights involve Buenos Aires then you will want to spend a few days. A lot depends on how much time you intend to spend here. I live in Buenos Aires and have been all over Argentina ( but not Chile I'm afraid), feel free to MeMail me any questions or concerns.
posted by jontyjago at 10:50 PM on May 25, 2010

If you are set on a week, definitely focus, as the above have recommended. I did a 9 day trip with my mom using Buenos Aires as a base and taking trips to Uruguay (by ferry) and Iguazu (by plane). I know I will never bother with Niagara because Iguazu is just that awesome.

Guidebooks: after poking through all the options in Borders and scrolling the reviews and read inside from Amazon, I went with Lonely Planet supplemented by AskMe.

You didn't ask but: In Montevideo we stayed in a place called the Red Hostel; it was an awesome old colonial house and we rented a room with a big bed and balcony for ourselves. Sweet! Also I know you said you're not into nice hotels but I really have to recommend the Sheraton at Iguazu: It is IN the park, with rooms and the restaurants and lobby overlooking parts of the falls.

Don't forget to pay: not only is Brazil a $100 visa, so is Chile. I had heard rumors Argentina will be also. Double check this information at the US State Department Consular Information Sheets (available online).
posted by whatzit at 3:57 AM on May 26, 2010

Argentina especially is a big country - as mentioned, you can take an overnight bus but I'd also look into domestic flights if time is an issue for you.

For specific recommendations: I went to Buenos Aires (beautiful city), took a plane to Mendoza (wine country, hiking, etc), and then a bus over the Andes to Valparaiso, Chile (highly recommended port city, especially Pablo Neruda's house). Valparaiso is right next to Santiago, so you might want to explore an itinerary which starts in BA and ends in Santiago.
posted by true at 8:42 AM on May 26, 2010

Nthing Iguazu Falls. I went to Argentina back in 2006 for 10 days and had a great time. Flying in to BA is quite central, I found, but I didn't really go to many other places. I took a bus to Mar del Plata for a conference, and I went in October, so the weather wasn't all that great. It's right on the Atlantic and it was still Spring when I went - it is a big summer getaway type of town.

When I got back to BA, I unexpectedly added a one day trip to Iguaza, flew in at 9AM (hour flight or so) walked the park for the day and flew back at 5PM. It was well worth it. If I had more time I would have bussed it. The bus system in Argentina was quite good, and it was my impression that you can get to almost anywhere else in Argentina from the bus station in BA.

I didn't speak any Spanish when I went, but still had a wicked time. It helped that I stayed in a fantastic B&B close to the San Telmo market (also a must see if you are into shopping) run by British ex-pats and they were enormously helpful in pointing me at useful destinations and places to see (and local Malbec wine to buy as gifts to take home). I also connected with the local English speaking group in BA on a Friday night for a dinner and conversation and it was lovely, especially since I was visiting by myself.
posted by Cyrie at 12:55 PM on May 26, 2010

I wanted to add that I flew into Cordoba (Argentina) via Santiago (Chile) and spent most of my time around there. It's close to the center of the country and might serve as a better base of operations than B.A. if you're thinking about hopping around the country.
posted by dondiego87 at 11:47 PM on May 26, 2010

You say "I like museums, monuments, outdoor beauty, hiking, and food"

There are plenty of museums in BA, and it's FULL of monuments to this and that. It's a huge city, geographically, and it is a long trip from there to see any outdoor beauty, except for the area of El Tigre. If you don't like steaks, the food is very limited but the wine is great.
I lived in BA for three years, now I'm out in San Martin de Los Andes. Memail me if you have any specific questions.
posted by conifer at 5:04 PM on May 27, 2010

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