Last updated: 10:30 PM ET, Mon March 23 2015

Tango, Wine & More!

From Buenos Aires to Mendoza and beyond

Agent@Home | Destination & Tourism | Violet Baron

Tango, Wine & More!

PHOTO: Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighborhood is a colorful attraction.

Known for its excellent beef, fine wines, rousing dance and vibrant culture, Argentina stands out among its South American neighbors. Indeed, Argentinians have a lifestyle that is as singularly unique as it is classically South American.

The style in much of the country is distinctly European, which is apparent in the grand city architecture of Buenos Aires reminiscent of Paris, the influence of Italian cuisine and the stately, poised manner with which Argentinians carry themselves. Buenos Aires itself is a cultural center that radiates out to the edges of the country.

Some things are truly native to Argentina, including asado, the artfully cooked beef with a tender pink center, and the many meticulously developed wines from Mendoza, which are by turns delicate and powerful. Likewise, the distinct trills and slides of the country’s native Spanish speakers cannot be mistaken for any other region of the world.

Visitors will still find remnants of the tumult of the previous century’s repressive leadership, but they’ll also experience the famous tango, which brings with it a certain sadness and nostalgia for what the country’s many immigrants left behind. Indeed, Argentina is alive with the fires of many cultures and it remains a vibrant destination that welcomes tourism. Here are some recommendations on what’s hot, what to see, where to stay, where to dine and how to get around.

What’s Hot: Wine, city and natural attractions abound in Argentina. For example, the Mendoza region east of the country’s center is set to see a huge amount of development in the next few years, especially in luxury and hospitality industries in San Rafael. The town’s goal is to become a center for wine lovers around the world. Indeed, many ex-pats interested in wine are building comfortable homes alongside the Algodon hotel in San Rafael.

Elsewhere, cosmopolitan Buenos Aires continues to be a top destination where visitors can see new trends in fashion, food, art and music, or simply sit at a hip café in Palermo Soho and watch the beat of the streets.

San Carlos de Bariloche, in the Andes, will always be a place for breathtaking adventure tourism, whether by boat around the Nahuel Huapi national park region or hiking through forested mountains. Something new here is the fledgling craft beer industry — last year the region, settled by German-speaking immigrants, held its first beer festival with different varieties of blond, amber and brown brews. Locals say the beer’s special lightness and near-sweet taste come from the crisp Patagonian water.

Must-See Attractions: Tango shows abound in Buenos Aires, and so the trick is to decide which is the right one for you. Two main categories exist for the sensual dance: the “show” tango, where professionals perform the dance in characteristic fishnet stockings, silky dresses and fedoras, and the “street tango,” where travelers visit one of the many milongas (tango places) to watch from the wings or join in. Beginners beware: find a spot designated for the uninitiated or risk rejection by impatient porteños (locals) who have come to dance.

Café de los Angelitos is the classic spot for an Argentinian dinner and a tango show, and guests pay for the high-end experience. You can also try Esquina Homero Manzi or Viejo Almacen for more budget-friendly but quality tango shows.

PHOTO: In Bariloche, a boat tour of the Nahuel Huapi National Park area by Victoria Island is a must.

Whatever you do in Bariloche, a boat tour of the Nahuel Huapi National Park area by Victoria Island is a must. The ride from the Llao Llao Hotel & Resort to Puerto Blest is by turns meditative and awe-inspiring. The concierge at Llao Llao can help visitors reserve tickets on public tours.

The Mendoza wine country is rich with wineries eager to display their products with visitors. The Algodon Wine Estates in San Rafael offers a tasting at the property’s restaurant, Chez Gaston, with whites, rosés and reds all available for guests.

Where to Stay: San Rafael’s Algodon Wine Estates offers accommodations in the foothills of the Sierra Pintada Mountains surrounded by brilliant green vineyards and an 18-hole golf course. Guests can tour the property by bike or on horseback at no cost, or relax on a lounge chair by the small outdoor pool. The small terraces by each of the eight guestrooms also have lounge chairs and small tables, and rooms have wood-burning stoves.

Algodon Mansion in Buenos Aires, the chic and sophisticated sister property to the San Rafael hotel, features wines from the San Rafael estate in its ground-floor bar and restaurant. The property also has palatial rooms with king-size beds, a highly attentive and helpful hotel concierge staff, personal butler service, deep curved bathtubs with light effects and whirlpool, and large showers. Guests can enjoy the top-floor spa with a well-trained masseuse and rooftop pool.

PHOTO: Bariloche’s Llao Llao Hotel & Resort has the feel of a classic ski lodge, in keeping with the region’s Swiss character.

Bariloche’s Llao Llao Hotel & Resort has the feel of a classic ski lodge, in keeping with the region’s Swiss character. The property is known for its exquisite chocolate and its fabulous lake country views. Guests come for skiing in winter or any number of adventure sports in spring and summer.

What to Do: Argentina is a destination for everyone. The brave and limber can enjoy rafting, kayaking, hiking, swimming, rappelling, climbing, zip-lining, biking, horseback riding and any number of other outdoor activities and sports.

For a high-quality historical and contemporary introduction to Buenos Aires, Signature Tours covers a great deal of history and urban geography in about three hours. It also offers individual tours on such topics as arts and museums, tango shows, Jewish interests and Argentinean writers.

PHOTO: Among the sightseeing highlights in Buenos Aires is La Recoleta Cemetery (where Evita Peron is buried).

To see the sites in Buenos Aires, you can hop on a chartered bus for such highlights as the colorful La Boca neighborhood, the magnificent La Recoleta Cemetery (where Evita Peron is buried) and the majestic colonial façades of San Telmo.

Where to Dine: Some of the best dining experiences to be had in Argentina are away from the Michelin-starred eateries in smaller pockets of tourism where one can sip mate, a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink, and taste local flavor alongside local hosts.

One tour in Bariloche from Esencia Travel features an Andes Wine tour of Nahuel Huapi’s national park and reserve, led by Essencia owner Nahuel Alonso with food beautifully prepared by his mother in a setting at the end of a mountain hiking trail.

Another intimate style of eating that is gaining ground in Buenos Aires is the closed-door restaurant. Diego Felix plays chef at Casa Felix, but guests really eat in Felix’s home, skirting his young son in a narrow hallway to join other partiers for a meal in his city apartment. These meals are novel in their small scale, but are high production and high quality cuisine. Casa Felix offers an eight-course meal with new flavors, textures and colors at every stage.

Getting Around: In Buenos Aires, the yellow cabs with serial numbers are the safest and relatively inexpensive way to travel. They also can be called ahead of time to assure pick-up. Locals use public buses, but exact change is required and passengers should be on guard for personal safety and potential theft.

Buenos Aires now has a free public bike-sharing system, with hubs to pick up and return bikes throughout the city. Tourists can use the system provided that they bring a passport and photocopy of their passport as well as the name, address and phone number of the place they are staying.

There are also a number of bike rental services for tourists, as well as highly rated bike tours of the city. Concierges at most hotels can help arrange a van for larger group pick-ups and tours, or car rentals from local companies for trips outside the city.

Getting There: LAN offers many regional flights throughout South America from its hub in Santiago. The airline is also a good option for multiregional travel in Argentina. You can fly directly from New York, Los Angeles or Miami to Santiago, Chile, and then transfer to Buenos Aires or Mendoza. The international and domestic airports in Buenos Aires are located about an hour away from each other by taxi.

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Agent@Home Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the March 2015 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.