While the northern hemisphere is wrapped up warm, it’s summer in the south, and therefore perfect timing to bail out of sultry Buenos Aires to the beach, the river, or a swanky country estancia.
Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is a shadow of itself in January and February, when porteños head out of town in search of the good winds the city’s allegedly named after. They have excellent reason: The weather’s muggy, and temperatures easily reach the 100ºF mark. With both coastal and rural destinations as well as neighboring Uruguay within easy reach, there are plenty of boltholes ready for escape. Here are a few of our favorites.
Paraná Delta and Tigre
A watery, subtropical wonderland that’s poles apart from busy Buenos Aires, it seems impossible the laid back Paraná Delta is a mere 19 miles from Argentina’s capital. A warren of islands, rivers, and streams make up the vast, 10,700-square-foot delta, and while Tigre, the southern delta’s central town and a working port, is accessible by car and train, further exploration is by boat only.
Treat yourself to some pampering at Delta Eco Spa, or check into all-inclusive, jungle-style lodge La Becasina and make the most of their kayaks, paddle boats, and swimming pool. If time is limited, a daytrip to Bonanza Deltaventura offers canoeing, trekking, horseback riding, or spying on kingfishers during a bird watching expedition. Why not work up an appetite on a kayaking expedition with Puro Remo before heading to Gato Blanco restaurant, a 50-minute boat ride from Tigre, and devour merluza negra (Patagonian toothfish) on the river-facing patio. Word from the wise: Mosquitoes adore the delta, so take plenty of repellant.
Pinamar and the Interbalnearia
For cool Atlantic breezes, pine forests, and miles of sandy beaches, Pinamar holds the trump cards. Four hours south by car, trendy 20-somethings head to this, the largest of four small neighboring coastal towns that include Ostende, Valeria del Mar, and Cariló, for summer’s popping nightlife. After dancing all night, they watch the sunrise, then chill out among the dunes.
Once lazing around at an Italian Riveria-style balneario (beach club) catching rays becomes passé, hire a quadbike and drive over the dunes to Pinamar Norte, a mecca for kite surfers who head to El Más Allá, a remote beach club, and beyond for the best maritime breezes and waves—and fewer sunbathers. Anglers can enjoy a spot of deep-sea fishing, as local waters offer rich pickings such as catfish, sand smelt, and sole in summer. Pinamar’s original lodging Hotel Playas, whose rooms have been revamped for 2016, is a half-block from the popular downtown beach, while La Vieja Hostería is a charming boutique property with an art déco spirit. Most balnearios offer pesca del día (catch of the day), but tucking into La Gamba’s on the outdoor deck is a surefire winner.
Lobos and Cañuelas
Argentina’s favorite president Juan Domingo Perón was born in Lobos, and definitely wouldn’t have approved of the sport of kings. But once you have a hit of polo, you’ll be addicted, and while ranches are dotted all around Buenos Aires’ pampas flatlands, some of the best are located in the southwest around 90 miles from the capital. La Martina in Cañuelas, for example, is where the ten-goal, Triple Crown champion Adolfo Cambiaso lives and works—and you, too, can train there.
For a dose of traditional Argentina with luxury trimmings, head to Anglo-Argentine-owned Puesto Viejo, also located near Cañuelas. At this estancia, you can dabble as much or as little as you want, though in summer the coolest option might be watching a match from within the swimming pool. As for the ultimate luxury break in an unexpected yet stunning rural castle, rest up at Estancia La Candelaria, near Lobos, before saddling up for a lesson and practicing chukka.
San Antonio de Areco
The pace is measured at the rhythmic clip-clop of a faithful steed in Argentina’s gaucho capital, San Antonio de Areco. While Fiesta de la Tradición, an epic cowboy fest, takes place in November, visiting this riverside town in the Pampa Húmeda, an hour’s drive from Buenos Aires, offers a genuine slice of rural life.
Vintage chic is the order of the day at Antigua Casona, a charming 19th-century bed and breakfast. Its downtown (in the loosest sense) location means you can trip along cobbled streets and drop by traditional silversmiths like Juan José Draghi to watch him hone his craft on jewelry, knives, and yerba mate gourds. You can also check out antique gaucho gear at Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes museum, located on the eponymous street. Beef is the requisite dish here, so chow down a vast, tender asado (barbecue) at La Costa.
For equestrian activities such as galloping through the pampas or watching a horse whisperer work his uncanny magic, head to El Ombú. Explore this delightful 741-acre estate on horseback and perhaps even help the gauchos herd up Aberdeen Angus cattle.
While Colonia del Sacramento, an hour’s ferry ride away from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, is an adorable and unique colonial town with UNESCO heritage status, its humidity can be equally as stifling as its larger Argentine neighbor. But a 90-minute drive north up Río de la Plata from Colonia presents riverside beaches, vineyards, and smart lodgings in Carmelo, a sleepy farming town. Adorable Narbona Wine Lodge, a converted winery dating back to 1909, overlooks Tannat vineyards and offers tastings with their own wine and cheese selection, while sunsets from the private beach at Carmelo Resort & Spa are unbeatable. A chic alternative is Posada Campotinto, an estate that also produces its own award-winning wine.
Oenophiles will love the contrast between tiny Almacén de la Capilla, a time-warp country store and wine producer a short bike ride from Campotinto, and the more commerical but equally rustic Bodega Irutia that dates back to 1913.