Just returned from a wonderful 3 weeks in South America!
We started in Chile (pre-earthquake), up to Vina del Mar then we made our way to Mendoza (where were where when the earthquake struck) then on to Iguazu and finally Buenos Aires for 10 day.
Here are a few highlights:
1.) We didn't enjoy Santiago as much as we thought we would. It was fine but not someplace I would go back to (and this was my thinking before I was robbed at the bus station).
2) Be very careful at the Santiago main bus terminal (or any place where crowds gather). I have done a lot of travelling in Latin America so I am not a novice and I was robbed. Keep all your belongings attached to you. Wrap them around your leg, neck, whatever work and be very aware of the surroundings. The second time I was at the bus station (after the robbery) I was watching people watch people and there just wait for the 10 seconds your attention is diverted and your stuff is gone.
3) Take a bus ride to Mendoza from Santiago. Sure, its 7 hours but you will never see such beautiful scenery. The ride through the Andes is spectular and not to be missed.
4) Mendoza - Wonderful city with fantastic wines, restaurants, parks etc. Can't wait to go back!!! Weinert was our favorite wine tour! We also did a cooking class at a lodge up in the Andes called San Antonio - highlight of our trip!!
5) Iguazu - A must for anyone going to Argentina. Well worth the price of the flight. Originally I was hesitant, I figured if you seen one waterfall, you've seen them all but I am so thankful we went.
We only had 24 hrs so we chose to stay right in the park at the Sheraton and was very glad we did due to time constraints. First afternoon we did the jungle/boat ride (well worth the 200 pesos per person) and explored the lower falls. The second morning, because we were right in the park, we were able to get into the park well before the masses from town arrived. The ranger opened the gate from the Sheraton at 7:45 am and we were the only two people in the park. It was incredible. We saw all kinds of monkeys, limers, birds etc. that we would of missed once the park gets crowded.
6) Buenos Aires - What a fantastic city. Spent a couple of days in the microcenter at a hotel (we were with a tour) and that was ok however not much goes on at night in the microcenter and I wouldn't say I felt all that "safe" at night. Also remember, not a lot of stores (other than those on Florida st.) are open on Sunday. As a matter of fact, a lot close at 1:00 pm on Saturday.
Once the tour wrapped up we moved to our condo in Palermo. It was fantastic. We rented from apartmentsba.com (UNO21) and I couldn't of asked for a better location or better service.
Palermo is a great neighborhood and you felt very at home and safe. There are more than enough fantastic restaurants, local designers, internet cafes in the area to keep you busy. If you want to go down to the mircocenter or Recoleta, the subway was very quick and easy to use.
Another huge benefit of Palermo for us was the parks. I am a runner and they have Palermos if full of beautiful parks.
Things I would recommend to do:
Coffee and Medialunas at any good cafe. What a way to start the day!
Resturants - There are so many to choose from in all areas. A few we went to were La Cabrera (beef...went twice....a bit touristy but food is great - Palermo), Sucre (amazing pasta - palermo), El Mirasol (beef but you have to start with an empanada - Recoletta) and Spettus (brazillian steakhouse in the old port). Keep in mind people eat very late. If there is someone in the restaurant at 8:00...its a tourist. We normally went for dinner at 930/10:00!
Enjoy empanadas and icecream while you are there! We had both every day!
San Telmo on Sundays for the market - and no its not just antiques.
Plaza Francia in Recoletta on the weekends has a great fair with some really nice artisian work.
Plaza Serreno (Palermo) - Great anytime. Markets on the weekend but lots of outdoor bars, cafes etc. Its a funky place to hang!
Recoletta Cemetary - very interesting. They pay a lot to bury their dead!
Sundays in the Parks in Palermo - Tons of activities and families out enjoying the sunshine!
Museo National de Bellas Artes - One of the best I have been to in the work. They have works by Renoir, Van Gogh etc. We also went to MALBA which is the mondern arts museam but not really my style. I much prefered the historical art.
Train to Tigre - Take the train (extension of the subway) to Tigre to see the delta. Living on the river is an interesting way of life!
Our trip got off to a bit of a rough start with the robbery then the earthquake but it was all smooth sailing after that. This is our second trip to South America (first one was to Peru which was absolutely amazing) and look forward to going back. I wouldn't hesitate to rent an apartment in BA for a month and use that as a base to explore other parts of Argentina.