Big, brash and beautiful Buenos Aires is one of the world’s hottest destinations, in 2012 voted top South American city by Conde Nast Traveler readers. The city is heeding the call of its new popularity, catering to visitor demand with fine four- and five-star hotels as well as a bevy of new and fashionable boutique hotels, such as the elegant 30-suite Mio Buenos Aires in the posh Recoleta neighborhood or the 21-room Home and 11-room Legado Mitico in the district of Palermo Viejo, the “in” district for trendy shopping and fusion restaurant dining. Getting to the heart of Buenos Aires includes touring the Teatro Colon; taking in museums from the impressive Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA) to the Museo Evita, documenting the life of the world’s most famous Argentine; antiquing in the 19th century neighborhood, San Telmo, with its famous Sunday flea market; strolling through the open-air art fair along colorful El Caminito Street in La Boca. The tango was born in La Boca, and many a visitor nowadays takes time out to do or learn the tango. On the roster for short trips beyond B.A. is a tour of El Tigre, with a cruise along the waterway and among the islands of the Parana River delta. Other outings might include a taste of country life on an estancia, complete with gaucho rodeo and an asado beef barbecue.
Buenos Aires is, of course, the gateway to everywhere: it’s an hour by air to Iguazu Falls, higher than Niagara and wider than any in the world, whose waters thunder down cataracts spread along more than two miles of scalloped cliffs. Visitors fly southwest to the Lake District and San Carlos de Bariloche, nestled amidst craggy Andean peaks and perched along gorgeous Lake Nahuel Huapi. For wine lovers, the most special place is Mendoza, Argentina’s premier grape-growing center and famous for its award-winning Malbecs. Primetime here is fall, when the foliage is at its best during the vendimia (grape harvest festival in March). Going south from B.A., the super-star excursion is Patagonia where from gateway El Calafate, travelers journey into Los Glaciares National Park and Perito Moreno, a 100-sq.-mile glacier that spills out of the mountains onto an arm of Lake Argentino.
Best Time to Go: Ideal is fall (March-May) and spring (September-November). The most beautiful months are October and November when the jacaranda trees are ‘abloom
Fun-Fact: Mendoza province is Argentina’s most important wine region, accounting for 2/3 of the country’s entire production; 80 percent of Mendoza’s approximate total of 400,000 acres of vineyards is planted with French stock, mainly Malbec
Getting there: Delta flies from Atlanta to Buenos Aires
Entry Documents: Valid passport, valid for six months, and a tourist reciprocity visa, which now must be obtained from an Argentina consulate or online before departure. The multiple-entry visa cost is $140, valid for 10 years
Currency: Argentine peso
Must-try local food: While Argentine steaks are world-famous, a tasty rival is lamb, cooked for hours asado-style (over coals) at the estancias of Patagonia
Best Buys: Argentina makes unbeatable leather everything: bags, belts, shoes, boots, jackets, skirts, coats; leather shops abound on Calle Florida in Buenos Aires