Our Travel Guide to Argentina and Uruguay

Algodon Mansion’s Royale Suite offers separate living and dining rooms, decorative fireplaces and wine-themed wet bars.
Algodon Mansion’s Royale Suite offers separate living and dining rooms, decorative fireplaces and wine-themed wet bars.

For adventure-hungry South America-bound travelers, combining Argentina and Uruguay — with stays in Buenos Aires, Puerto Iguazú and Punta del Este — is easy and allows visitors to enjoy some of the best city, rainforest and beach experiences south of the equator. Travel Agent did just that not too long ago; here is our report.

Buenos Aires

The journey began with a comfortable flight from JFK to Buenos Aires (EZE) aboard LAN Airlines. After deplaning in Buenos Aires we were transferred to the Algodon Mansion. Tucked discreetly on Montevideo Street in the city’s low-key, leafy Recoleta neighborhood, the 1912 townhouse turned Relais & Châteux boutique hotel has just 10 suites (two per floor). All are well tailored and offer amenities like oversized marble showers, L’Occitane toiletries and even butler service, but if your clients want the best, book them into a Royale Suite. At 1,300 square feet, they offer separate living and dining rooms, decorative fireplaces and wet bars stocked with bottles of wine from Algodon’s own private collection. Hotel staff says that tennis greats Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick have each stayed in the first-floor Royale Suite.

Iguazú Grand’s Junior Suite. The resort, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, serves fine wine.
Iguazú Grand’s Junior Suite. The resort, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, serves fine wine.

We stayed just across the hall, in an Ambassadeur Suite marked Room #2. At a significantly smaller 750 square feet, the suite still felt spacious, thanks to high ceilings, a lounge area and lots of natural light. We’re told it’s the hotel’s only pet-friendly suite, and the only suite with a private terrace. Others have modest, narrow balconies.

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If your clients are traveling with a larger group, they can take over the entire property, as previous guests have done while in town for weddings, bachelor parties and other events. For all bookings, contact the hotel’s reservations department ([email protected], 011-541-135-307-777) directly, and let Team Leader Armando Dorta Pigaro ([email protected]) know of any special reservations-related needs. The hotel’s front-desk staff can also assist.

For help in finding the city’s tastiest steaks and empanadas (Algodon’s are delicious) or the best spot for a late-night glass of Malbec, reach out to the hotel’s concierge and butler staff ([email protected]), which is overseen by Camila Gobbi. They can also arrange lunch in the city, dinner at Algodon’s restaurant (go at 10 p.m.), or a private rooftop wine tasting.

In between meals and exploring, suggest a visit to Algodon’s spa, which has steam and sauna facilities and adjoins the rooftop pool deck and relaxation area. Reserve spa treatments when making room reservations to avoid missing out on treatments.

Buenos Aires is a big, sprawling city, and we recommend spending at least one day with a private guide so you don’t miss any of the essentials, such as Recoleta Cemetery, the neighborhoods of La Boca and San Telmo, or Plaza de Mayo. When you reach out to make room bookings, also ask Algodon’s staff to arrange for a guide.

Sightseeing tip: Take a taxi ride or, better yet, a stroll along Avenida 9 de Julio, especially near Teatro Colón and El Obelisco monument. It’s the widest, and arguably most beautiful avenue in the world. In December, Argentina’s springtime, the city’s parks, streets and avenues burst with the breathtaking purple blooms of Jacaranda trees.

Iguazú Falls

A two-hour LAN flight from Buenos Aires’s domestic airport to Puerto Iguazú, Iguazú National Park is a must-see. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfall systems, which straddles the Brazil-Argentina border.

Each side of the park comes with advantages and drawbacks. The Brazilian side, home to the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, offers what are said to be the best views of the falls, but from across the Iguazú River. Helicopter tours are available on the Brazil side, as well, but not in Argentina. (Note that entry into Brazil for Americans requires a separate visa. The process can take 48 to 72 hours if done on-site, so it’s best to secure one before leaving the U.S.) On the Argentina side, three lengthy trails take visitors along the top, bottom and facade of the falls, providing breathtaking views and the best way to fully appreciate their beauty and magnitude.

The Grand Hotel Punta del Este is designed to resemble an ocean liner heading out to sea. The light-filled hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool.
The Grand Hotel Punta del Este is designed to resemble an ocean liner heading out to sea. The light-filled hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool.

We stayed on the Argentina side, at the Iguazú Grand Resort Spa & Casino, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. It has 134 suites, whose categories ascend from Junior Suites to Exclusive, Garden, Paradise, Master and Presidential Suites. The fourth floor, where our Junior Suite was located, was added to the property in 2012. We found our suite plenty spacious for a single traveler or couple, but Junior Suites can also be configured to connect for even more space. Choose a more premium category if you prefer a bigger bathroom, walk-in closets, or an additional bedroom. Contact Cintia Villagra ([email protected], 011-540-375-749-8050, ext. 1441) on the reservations team for VIP bookings.

When they’re not exploring the falls, most resort guests stay on property for meals and activities. A highlight at La Terraza is the traditional asado, a selection of barbecued meats. Those heading to the casino for late-night blackjack can refuel between hands with dinner and dessert from the adjacent El Jardín restaurant’s international buffet. Both restaurants tend to get busy, so request tables by their windows for a bit more privacy, as well as pretty views.

Iguazú Grand’s Spa del Paraíso’s other facilities include wet and dry saunas, relaxation rooms, water circuits, a heated indoor pool and a Roman bath. For clients traveling with children, the resort has a kids’ club with modern gaming consoles and ball pits; a climbing wall and zip line; and a designated activities team that organizes everything from pool games to cooking classes and art workshops.

When it’s time to visit the falls, clients should request a private tour with Gisela Ramos ([email protected], 011-540-375-749-8050, ext. 5000/5001). Although Ramos is an e-concierge for the resort and handles activities and reservations from her office there, she’s also an expert on local history and wildlife and provides top-notch guide services.

Ramos escorted us on a day trip to the falls, offering up bits of history and trivia along the way. Taking her advice, we lined up at the park’s gates before it opened, which allowed us to avoid the obstructive crowds that swelled not long after we arrived. The park can and will cut off ticket sales when it reaches a certain capacity, so be sure to purchase them well in advance.

Tip: Advise clients to pack a poncho in case of rain or heavy spray from the falls, and a few resealable plastic bags for cameras and phones.

Punta del Este

For the final leg of our journey, we headed to Punta del Este, which has been called “the Hamptons of Buenos Aires” in reference to its status as a seasonal playground for droves of wealthy Porteños. There, we checked in to The Grand, which opened on Brava Beach in January 2015. Designed to resemble an ocean liner heading out to sea, the light-filled hotel has 120 suites, an Olympic-size heated outdoor pool, a 45-foot heated indoor pool, a gym, spa, salon, movie theater, kids’ club, restaurant and café.

All of The Grand’s rooms feature minimal décor in a soft, earthy palette, plus brightly lit bathrooms with rain showers and Aqua di Parma bath products. Ocean View Suites are the most popular, but for the best views of Brava Beach, ask Commercial Manager Juan Izuibejeres ([email protected], 011-59-842-491-234) for an Ocean Front Suite when you book. They’re positioned at the front of the hotel and feature semicircular panoramic windows, affording guests a total eyeful of shoreline and surf. For clients who need connecting rooms, book the ocean front Grand Suite, and for more space still, pick the Presidential Suite, the hotel’s top offering.

For any plans you want to make on property, reach out to Executive Assistant Adriana Ruiz ([email protected], 011-59-842-491-234). She can reserve a secluded table for dinner at LightHouse, the hotel’s ground-floor Mediterranean restaurant, or at a spot in town, such as Lo de Tere. You can also ask her to assist with reserving a treatment time at The Grand Spa, where we enjoyed an out-of-this-world body massage.

Casapueblo, the waterfront home and studio of the late artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, is now a museum and a sought-after spot to watch the sunset.
Casapueblo, the waterfront home and studio of the late artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, is now a museum and a sought-after spot to watch the sunset.

As one of South America’s most posh and popular resort towns — its population balloons from 20,000 to 250,000 during high season from December to March — there’s a lot to do in and around Punta del Este. Tip: The best way to take it all in is with a private guide and driver, which Ruiz can arrange. Our guide, Nicolás, from Novo Turismo ([email protected], 011-59-896-215-053), ferried us from one can’t-miss spot to another, starting with a stop at Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal’s famous “Los Dedos” sculpture on Playa Brava, just minutes from the hotel, and ending with a private afternoon wine tasting at Alto de la Ballena, a winery in the hills north of town.

Other highlights of the area include Casapueblo, the waterfront home and studio of the late artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, which is now a museum and a sought-after spot from which to watch the sunset; El Garzon, Argentine Celebrity Chef Francis Mallmann’s restaurant; Fundación Pablo Atchugarry, artist Pablo Atchugarry’s sculpture park, galleries and studio; and the celebrity-favorite coastal enclave of Jose Ignacio (it’s home to three exclusive Vik Hotels, whose laid-back but luxurious beachfront restaurant La Huella is one of the country’s — if not the continent’s — most in-demand restaurants.)

Tip: If you plan to visit Punta del Este in season, make room, meal, spa and guide reservations as far in advance as possible.

 

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