My Argentina tan is starting to fade. One of the best things about taking a vacation in January is getting out of the cold weather and basking in sunshine. I highly recommend winter vacations to warm destinations. And if you’ve never been to Argentina or South America, the Lake District is a beautiful area to explore. We had an amazing trip exploring Argentina’s Lake District and Buenos Aires. Warning that this is a long post. If you want a very detailed account of our trip, then read on. Otherwise, just enjoy the pictures.
For me, planning this trip to South America was a lot more work than some of the other international trips I’ve taken. (Might have been easier if I spoke Spanish…..). I had a difficult time finding information online about the different areas of Argentina and Chile. We knew that we were going to spend the first part of our trip rafting the Futaleufú River in Chile. But we could not decide what to do afterwards. We considered everything from hitchhiking to backpacking to camping to buses to rental cars to planes to fishing to hiking to more rafting to lakes to oceans to wine country to cities to mountains. Needless to stay, Patagonia has countless options. Eventually, we decided to stay in the Lake District for hiking and fishing. This also meant one less flight within Argentina.
To get to the Lake District, we booked flights on Southwest from Boise to Las Vegas and then bought Delta flights from Las Vegas to Buenos Aires. Once we landed in Buenos Aires, we took an hour long Uber ride from Ezeiza International Airport to Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. And then from Jorge Newbery, we hopped aboard a two hour flight on Aerolíneas Argentinas to Esquel, Argentina. In Esquel, we grabbed a taxi for the 30 minute ride to a small town called Trevelin. We stayed in Trevelin one night and then spent the next four nights on our Futaleufú rafting trip.
After rafting, we purchased bus tickets from Esquel to El Bolsón, which was about a two and a half hour bus ride north of Esquel. Bus tickets are incredibly cheap in the Lake District. Our tickets were only about $15. In contrast, renting a car in Argentina is more like $100+ a day. A good site for bus tickets is OmniLineas. We took a two hour bus to San Carlos de Bariloche after El Bolsón and then last minute decided to rent a car from Hertz in Bariloche for the remainder of our time in the Lake District, which was spent in San Martin de los Andes.
As far a lodging goes, we used AirBnB for the whole trip. It worked great with four of us, and we were pretty happy with all our bookings. When traveling, I try to think of lodging as more of a place to sleep, not somewhere that I’m spending a lot of time. We were able to easily find AirBnB’s that suited our needs, usually within walking distance of restaurants. And there are a lot of AirBnB’s in the Lake District for all preferences. We saw a lot of hostels and campgrounds as well. And of course, there were lots of hotels.
El Bolsón is a hippe town. The city was crawling with backpackers and their famous craft market made for great people watching. We spent two days and nights exploring the town of El Bolsón. Originally we planned on doing some hiking in the mountains around town but didn’t quite get our act together to catch the bus to the trails. El Bolsón has some amazing restaurants and ice cream. In fact, some of the best ice cream (helados in Spanish) in all of Argentina. We went to Jauja every day in El Bolsón and were pretty excited when we discovered a location in Bariloche as well. We gorged ourselves on some delicious dinners at La Gorda and Patio Venzano Parrilla. This is also where we had that ridiculously good waffle!
Before I continue on with the the rest of our trip, a few things about eating in Argentina. They don’t serve dinner until 8:00pm. If you go to a restaurant at 8:00pm, you’ll likely be the only ones there as most people don’t eat dinner until closer to 10:00pm. It was not uncommon to see families with small children waiting for tables at 11:00pm. Argentina is known for it’s grilled meats. Dinners were usually some sort of fire grilled meat – beef tenderloin, steaks, lamb, pork, sausage, or trout with fries or a baked potato. And wine, lots of Malbec.
Throughout the trip, we struggled to find a restaurant that served breakfast. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that when you eat dinner at 10:00pm, you don’t go to bed until midnight, and then you’re not hungry for breakfast in the morning. There were not very many coffee shops either, or if we found a place serving coffee, it was only coffee, maybe some pastries. The one time there was a coffee shop right below our apartment in San Martin de los Andes the posted sign said it opened at 9:00am but then didn’t actually open until 10:00am and only served pastries for breakfast. I guess Argentina just doesn’t do breakfast.
So most mornings, we got up around 8:00am, made coffee at the apartment and drank it while we got ready. But even that was an endeavor as most of the apartments did not have coffee makers and we couldn’t find coffee filters at the grocery stores when we were buying the coffee. We got pretty creative with paper towels and colanders. Then around 10:00am or 11:00am, we would go get sandwiches and hopefully find a place that served coffee. A typical sandwich in Argentina is plain ham and cheese on white bread with the crust cut off, sometimes toasted. While eating sandwiches, we would finalize our daily plans, and then go get ice cream. The dulce de leche flavors were my favorite. After ice cream we would explore the area and then after exploring we would get cervezas, maybe an appetizer and relax before dinner.
My favorite place we stayed was San Carlos de Bariloche, which sits right on the Nahuel Huapi Lake, surrounded by the Andes Mountains. We stayed three nights and hiked to Cerro Catedral and Refugio Frey, which was my 40,000 step day on my FitBit. The next day we did an easy hike to Cerro Llao Llao and El Bosque de Arrayanes (forest of orange trees).
In Bariloche, we got our daily ice cream at Jauja and even found Jauja Restaurante for a dinner, where I had the delicous trout. We also had dinner at the famous El Boliche de Alberto. Our last meal in Bariloche was at Alto El Fuego and, for me, it was the best meal of the trip. I had the beef tenderloin, which was perfectly grilled and absolutely melted with every bite. We were seated toward the back of the restaurant, right by the kitchen and had the pleasure of watching them prepare and grill the meats.
After Bariloche, we drove our expensive, tiny rental car to San Martin de los Andes. It was about a three hour drive. Kris and Jeff did some fly fishing along the way and we stopped in Villa la Angostura for lunch (breakfast actually…). San Martin is a touristy little town right on the Lago Lacár. We stayed there for two nights. This region is know for its fly fishing. Kris and Jeff fished the Rio Malleo and we drove to the Volcano Lanin, which is right on the Chile Argentina border. In San Martin we ate at El Regional Resaurante, which reminded me of a German/Swiss lodge style restaurant and had pasta one night at Ulises. Our ice cream addiction was fueled at Heladería Mamusia.
Our final destination was Buenos Aires. We flew two hours from San Martin de los Andes to Buenos Aires and stayed in a small apartment in the Congreso Barrio (neighborhood). We spent two days exploring the city and either walked or took Ubers around the city. Uber rides were only about $5 across town, so that was much easier for us than taking the subway. We explored the Congreso, San Telmo, Puerto Madero barrios. We also went to the Feria Artesanal Plaza Francia, which is considered an upscale craft fair. Right next to it was Cementerio de la Recoleta, which is supposedly one of the top ten cemeteries to visit in the world.
As far as eating goes in Buenos Aires, our first dinner was at Proper, which is a hip little mechanic shop turned wood fire grill restaurant. They serve small plates to share, so we just ordered one of everything…. And I’m glad we did because it was amazing! Don’t be deceived by the lack of signs and hidden garage door entry to Proper! We did manage to find restaurants serving breakfast in Buenos Aires, so that was a plus. We had a great time exploring the city and it was hard to leave the warm weather to come back to snowy Idaho.