It’s the perfect time to escape Buenos Aires and go mountain biking, grape picking, or catch some late summer rays at the beach.
In Argentina the Autumn season officially begins on March 21, and at the time the country’s many destinations are at their finest. Weekend getaways from capital Buenos Aires are diverse: It’s harvest time at the foot of the Andes in Mendoza wine country, and up-and-coming region Uco Valley proves its mettle with luxury lodgings and classy wine flights. The crowds have slunk away from popular at coastal city Mar del Plata, mountain bikers will appreciate cooler climes in Tandil, while neighboring Uruguay’s Colonia del Sacramento fuses colonial history with relaxing riverside retreats.
Uco Valley, Mendoza
A-buzz with vineyard activity, fall is undoubtedly the best time to head to Mendoza. The heart of Argentina’s wine country, dozens of wineries proffer tastings, smart restaurants and vineyard lodgings. A two-hour flight from Buenos Aires, hire a car and drive to Uco Valley, 75 miles south of Mendoza city, a trendy wine region nestled in the Andean foothills that’s going through a luxury revolution.
Expect a personalized experience at Casa de Uco, a family-led enterprise that includes a stunning 16-room boutique hotel and private vineyards project. The Vines Resort & Spa is another impressive offering. It’s home to 22 luxurious villas, Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos restaurant, and all manner of harvest activities. As for those all-important tastings, head to SuperUco for an innovative boutique biodynamic experience; to Salentein or O.Fournier for breathtaking architecture and excellent luncheons; to Corazón del Sol, a US-based cardiologist’s dream project; and Clos de los Siete, a grouping of five bodegas spearheaded by top French oenologist Michel Rolland.
Mar del Plata
Summer vacationers are back in Buenos Aires so it’s the perfect time to visit La Feliz, as this popular coastal resort is known, to catch some autumnal rays. Pitching up at a beach club resplendent with Italian Riviera-style tents is more economical out of season—the hippest is La Caseta in Alfar neighborhood. This could also be the time to take surfing classes and challenge some Atlantic waves at Playa Grande.
If an Atlantic storm is ready to rumble, there’s a host of indoor activities. For literary inspiration, visit Villa Victoria Ocampo, a glorious summer home turned cultural center that belonged to the legendary writer and intellectual who hosted the likes of Graham Greene and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A recent opening is Museo MAR, a contemporary art museum that includes works such as El Lobo Marino by acclaimed local artist Marta Minujín.
The hippest boutique hotel is Sainte Jeanne, found on trendy Guemes Street, though a seaview at the historical Gran Hotel Provincial gives it a run for its money. Head to the bustling port for an array of marisquerías or seafood restaurants; snap an emblematic photo of orange-hued fishing boats here. As for nightlife, the hardcore go clubbing at Sobremore and Chocolate discotecas on Avenida Constitución; for more sedate barhopping, head to Alem and Quintana cross streets.
For a getaway from the getaway, nearby Sierra de los Padres—a 15-minute drive from Mar del Plata—is a hilly haven, perfect for country walks, horseback riding, and lagoon fishing.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The cobbled streets and colonial architecture make this laidback Uruguayan town a day-trip must for visitors to Buenos Aires, given that it’s an hour away by ferry. Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, the UNESCO-protected historical center is home to Iglesia Matriz, Uruguay’s oldest church. The Portón de Campo city gate is equally impressive, and it’s worth climbing the 1857 lighthouse for a stunning view of Río de la Plata, the world’s widest river.
With the main sights ticked off, head into the heart of Uruguay’s countryside a few miles away to an ultra-relaxing retreat. Riverside lodge Río Ancho’s three luxurious suites combine chic design with zen ambience; warmed by a bonfire, cocktail hour on the beach watching the sun set is spectacular. You can also book into the delightful restaurant for a gourmet lunch. An AirBnB favorite, the treehouses at El Nido are a more economical and cozy option, and their welcome package includes home comforts such as freshly baked bread and homemade jam.
Charcuterie aficionados and mountain bikers will love this hilly town a five-hour drive southwest of Buenos Aires. Ride the Sistema de Tandilia range—or take a less-demanding chair lift up to Mount El Centinela—before pigging out on the cheese and cured meats for which the area is renowned. Epoca de Quesos is one gem on the food map, a traditional deli selling a vast array of locally produced cheese, while ham legs double up as a wallpaper at Syquet, whose picadas, a selection of cold cuts, are legendary. Chacra Bliss is a comfortable and homey stay, while Hostería Casa Grande has the added bonus of a small spa.