Rapid inflation -- at a rate of 25% in 2008 -- means that Argentina is not the insane bargain it used to be. However, prices have stabilized, and the peso has weakened, so it still remains a relatively cheap destination. Let's hope that new president Cristina Kirchner keeps a steady keel.
Expansion, higher prices, and renovations are some of the key changes in Buenos Aires since our last edition. With the Bicentennial in 2010, many of the city's streets and plazas have been repaved, such as the Plaza de Congreso and the Plaza de la Republica surrounding the Obelisco, as well as the median within Avenida Nueve de Julio. Unfortunately, one of the city's gems, Teatro Colón, remains in scaffolding, with renovations not likely to be finished for at least another year or two. While still a relative bargain compared to European and North American capitals, hotel rates have substantially increased, upwards of 30% over our prices from the last edition. Some of our favorite places to dine have moved to new locations since the last edition, such as the elegant seafood establishment Dora, as well as De Olivas i Lustres.
The Pampas & the Coast
There's more to see and do in our side-trips section. In the Tigre Delta, make sure to check out the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes, built into what had been the Tigre Casino, a gorgeous Belle Epoque structure. We have also significantly expanded our coverage of Colonia, in Uruguay. You can still do a day trip, but we list plenty of options for staying for a romantic dinner and overnighting, such as at the Four Seasons Carmelo or the Sheraton Colonia.
Iguazú Falls & the Northeast
The stunning falls continue to be the big draw, with visitor numbers shooting up year after year. The national park has added extra amenities accordingly, but the whole experience is becoming somewhat Disney-fied, with restaurants and stores amid the jungle foliage. There is an explosion of hotels in the area and Puerto Iguazú town is less the sleepy backwater it used to be, becoming interesting to stay in with new bars and restaurants. Other attractions in the region are gaining more profile, not least the fascinating wetlands of Esteros del Ibera.
Salta & the Northwest
The famous railway ride Tren a las Nubes continues its erratic existence, with frequent suspensions despite a new operator and revamped route. Thankfully, there are many other attractions in and around Salta, not least the wine town of Cafayate with its increasing numbers of excellent wineries to visit, including Colomé, El Porvenir and San Pedro de Yacochuya. The indigenous village of Tilcara, in Jujuy, is becoming increasingly popular with some excellent new lodges listed. Last, but not least, if you want some genuine estancia life for a fraction of the prices elsewhere, go to the mountain hamlet of Tafi del Valle, in Tucuman.
Córdoba & the Central Sierras
Córdoba reasserts itself as the party capital, with its prodigious population of students flocking to new bar zones, such as Casa Tomada, and ever-growing provincial festivals, such as the annual Cosquín blowout and the beer-drenched Oktoberfest in Villa Belgrano. Meanwhile, the city's more genteel side has seen a flowering of new galleries and museums, including the magnificent Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita and Paseo del Buen Pastor.
Mendoza, the Wine Country & the Central Andes
Wine tourism in Mendoza is exploding, and more and more wineries now have English-language tours. Most wineries, however, now charge for both visits and tastings. New restaurants, including Tupungato Divino, in Valle de Uco, and Divina Marga, in Lunlunta, are standouts. In downtown Mendoza, there's a new Sheraton Hotel and a handful of other new five-star hotels slated to open in late 2009.
The Argentine Lake District
The most notable new hotel in the Lake District is definitely the Loi Suites Chapelco at San Martín de los Andes, with its Jack Nicklaus-designed course. Just west is the lovely new Lahuen Co thermal spa. Other noteworthy improvements include road work on the notoriously potholed Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes) Route, a handful of new boutique hotels, and the superb new lakeside restaurant called Butterfly in Bariloche. At Villa la Angostura, the local ski hill, Cerro Bayo, has made some important infrastructure improvements and has the best slopeside bistro in South America with the Refugio 180°.
Península Valdés & Southern Patagonia
El Chaltén, the rugged village at the base of the famous Mt. FitzRoy and Cerro Torre granite spires, now offers other adventures beyond trekking, including kayaking and horseback riding. A handful of new lodges in El Chaltén are also most welcome, with two new properties by the folks behind the lovely Eolo, near El Calafate, and another by the Explora chain from Chile, both slated to open north of town in 2010. El Calafate continues to sprawl with many sub-standard hotels, but there are a few gems as well, such as the Hotel Edenia and the luxurious Casa los Sauces, owned by Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Tierra del Fuego & Antarctica
Ushuaia continues to be a hub for cruise ships, both those rounding the tip of South America en route from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile, and more expedition-style ones heading to Antarctica. There are, frankly, too many new hotels here, most of which are decidedly mediocre. However, Los Cauquenes Resort, right on the Beagle Channel, is a remarkable exception. Across the channel in Puerto Williams, Chile, a new hotel called Lakutaia has started selling multiday, multisport adventures in the hard-to-access Isla Navarino.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.