South America destinations can fill the bill in new and involving experiences for adventure and culinary aficionados as well as nature-loving travelers. Consider this sampling of niche vacation choices that bring clients closer to the heart of Argentina and Uruguay.
an appetite for argentina
Food and wine are the delicious ties that bind virtually every aspect of travel, commanding special attention nowadays when farm-to-table and vine-to-glass pilgrimages are at the top of many of your clients’ wish lists.
Consider two options from Edible Destinations by Epitourean, specialists in cooking vacations and culinary getaways. The 6-night Alluring Buenos Aires—Flavors of South America program, focused on cooking and touring in Argentina’s food-obsessed capital, includes a cooking class and wine pairing in an Argentine home; preparing juicy beef and humita (corn) empanadas; a foodie tour of the San Telmo barrio; grilling and barbecue class with a meat market tour; a specialty market food tour—including a local bakery visit for a lesson in traditional pastries—and a walking tour through the Adrogue outdoor market where locals gather to talk and buy the produce each morning. Included in the $2,978 pp dbl price are accommodations at the deluxe Art Hotel in the Recoleta district in Buenos Aires and airport transfers.
Edible Destinations also offers a 7-night Mendoza: An Andes Adventure in Food and Wine vacation based at the Verde Oliva, a deluxe boutique hotel situated in Maipu that occupies a beautifully restored 19th century house. On this tour, clients will enjoy a chef’s tasting dinner with wine pairings, featuring the best of wine country cuisine; touring and tasting at the Benegas Winery; barbecue cooking in an Andean estancia, along with horseback riding and mountain trekking; winery tour and chef-led cooking class at Bodegas Salentein in the Valle de Uco; tour and gourmet lunch at the pioneer winery Bodega Catena Zapata; a Mendoza city tour; lunch and olive oil tasting at Verolio restaurant; a hands-on wine county classic cooking class; and vineyard touring and tasting at the renowned Vistalba Winery in the Lujan de Cuyo region. With airport transfers, the Mendoza program is priced at $3,998 pp dbl. Edible Destinations also offers travel consultants an agent-tailored Certified Culinary Travel Specialist Program that includes graduated commissions, agent-only promotions, co-branded packaging, and more.
Culture Xplorers—five-time winner of National Geographic Traveler’s Tours of a Lifetime—cooks up a special recipe for active, engaged and food-oriented adventures in Latin America and Europe. Owner Jim Kane has built his business around his passion, sustainable travel, and he explains to Recommend that “we craft culturally immersive journeys from the ground up to provide clients unsurpassed access into the local culture, journeys offered on escorted small-group departures and tailor-made trips [designed to] deepen understanding and foster connection between travelers and the local communities.”
Cultural Xplorers offers Signature Experiences that are guaranteed on every departure—and Argentina: True North, a 12-night, cultural and culinary expedition in Buenos Aires and Argentina’s Northwest provinces of Salta and Jujuy, is no exception.
Just a tasty sampling from the Experiences menu reveals that tour members (max: 10) will savor a seasonal tasting menu at the home of a Buenos Aires chef; roll up their sleeves during an empanadas class; and learn how and why it takes two to tango during a lesson at a milonga dance hall. While in northern Argentina, travelers visit some magical places such as colonial Salta, the canyon landscapes around Tilcara, bucolic Cachi, and the wine country of Cafayate, where some of the Signature Experiences are riding the range with a local gaucho and horse whisperer before a traditional asado barbecue; following the Camino de los Artesanos (Artisan Road) to the homes and workshops of the region’s best weaving families; and wining and dining at the home of one of Cafayate’s small family wine producers.
Boutique hotels (from historic haciendas to charming country inns), accommodations, breakfast and lunch daily plus three dinners, and the company of a seasoned bilingual trip leader are included in the $4,785 pp dbl price. Sept. 20 is the last scheduled departure for this tour.
Although it’s the smallest nation on the continent, Uruguay counts among its assets more than 200 miles of beautiful Atlantic beaches; Montevideo, its cosmopolitan capital; Punta del Este, among the chicest of international resorts; small, family-run bodegas introducing the tasting rituals of their robust red Tannat wine; and country estancias where visitors can capture the romance of a true “home on the range” experience.
Yampu Tours offers an 8-day Horseback Riding on the Coast & Traditional South American Estancias tour. According to Monica Irauzqui, company sales manager, “The traditions of the gaucho (cowboy) are celebrated throughout the country, and staying in traditional estancias is the place to learn his traditional skills. And like bicycle touring, walking and trekking, traveling the countryside on horseback puts the rider up-close and personal with Uruguay.”
Montevideo is the first stop, with time to tour the historic quarter, explore El Mercado del Puerto and visit the Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda that occupies the Palacio Herber. Day two it’s off to the Brazilian border and Chuy, spending the rest of the trip riding along the coast amidst lagoons, hills and forests, and staying at carefully selected working estancias. Overland vehicles moving guests and baggage between estancias mix it up with daily rides with gaucho escorts through the rolling hills of San Miguel, with Cimarron cattle (the first introduced from Spain in the 17th century) at pasture; beach canters along the Atlantic Ocean; a ride into Santa Teresa National Park, where an 18th century Portuguese fort inland still stands guard over a grand beach—complete with a shipwreck and dolphins feeding in the bay; and a ride to Cabo Polonio, a charming fishing village that can only be reached by horse or 4WD and the spot to see seals and sea lions and swim off the gorgeous beach.
Accommodations are in small beachside estancias and such properties as the 20-room Fortin de San Miguel Hotel, sitting hilltop and surrounded by the San Miguel Mountain Ranges; it was originally a fortress and now a colonial-style hotel.
Another example of accommodations en-route is Estancia El Sauce, a working estancia built in 1920 where guests stay in a family house as guests of the owners. In addition to cattle grasslands, this estancia has large marshlands and rice crops, both teeming with birdlife (more than 400 species including the world’s largest population of the black-necked swans). This tour is priced from $4,400 pp sharing; the cost includes Miami-Montevideo air transportation, three- and four-star accommodations, all meals except one day, and seven riding days with horses and grooms services. Departures are scheduled for Oct. 25, and Nov. 8 and 22.
Latin American Escapes offers its 8-day Uruguay—A Country of Wine and Art vacation. Says company owner, Peggy Newfield, “Our creative and unique exploration of this marvelous and undiscovered country will feature the highlights, but with a twist: visit excellent wineries, spend time with artisan cheese farmers, and get introduced to the vibrant arts scene at museums, galleries and workshops in Montevideo and Punta del Este.”
The tour starts in Colonia del Sacramento, first with lunch at the popular La Florida restaurant, followed by a walking tour along the cobbled streets of the Barrio Historico, whose origins began as an outpost of Portugal’s Brazilian Empire. Here, travelers find historical museums, galleries and workshops of the very particular and original artists and craftsmen who live in a town declared a UNESCO Patrimony of Mankind.
Appreciation, understanding and serious drinking of Uruguayan wines begins on day two in Colonia province at the Calera de las Huerfanas Jesuit ruins, where the history of Uruguayan wine begins and the Zubizarreta vineyards, where the first vines were planted; then it’s off for more tastings at Cordano Vineyard and Los Cerros de San Juan (wines pair easily here with a traditional lunch), before settling into the Finca Narbona Wine Lodge in Puerto Carmelo for a 2-night stay.
Uruguay’s vibrant arts scene is in full view during a 2-night stay in Montevideo. Travelers visit a specially selected atelier, as well as the National Museum of Visual Arts, with a collection of almost 6,000 works of Uruguayan art; the Torres Garcia Museum, honoring Uruguay’s great modernist and founder of Latin American Constructivism; and the Blanes Museum, exhibiting the noted Uruguayan painter of the Realist School.
En-route to the seaside resort of Punta del Este, guests stop for some top quality tastings in another wine region, also sampling the regional olive oil and cheeses. During a 3-night stay at Hotel Serena, art takes over the program, with visits to the Ralli Museum, with the largest collection of Latin American paintings and sculptures in the world; the sculpturally exotic Casapueblo Museum of poet and artist Carlos Paez Vilaro, perched above the sea in Punta Ballena; and the Atchugarry Foundation, a meeting point for artists of all disciplines. The tour cost pp sharing is $3,150. ●
Culture Xplorers: (215) 870-3585; culturexplorers.com
Edible Destinations by Epitourean: (800) 390-3292; epitourean.com or epitourean.com/agents/sign-up
Latin American Escapes: (800) 510-5999; latinamericanescapes.com
Yampu Tours: (888) 926-7801; yampu.com or yampu.com/en/travel-agents