Salta, Argentina

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Dec 16, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crossing the border from Bolivia into Argentina was an amazing contrast.  The Bolivian side was endless desert and unpaved roads.  Crossing into Argentina, we had proper four lane highway with power lines!  

In Bolivia, the landscape was red dirt with only the occasional pack of llamas.  In Argentina, the land was squared cattle ranches and golden pasture with a mountain backdrop.

It felt like crossing from Mars into Montana. 

Few in Bolivia can afford their own cars, so you only see buses and taxis on the roads - you can't believe how weird it was to see a couple driving a Jetta. 

I was in civilization again! 

Salta is a beautiful city nestled at the base of the Andes with similar elevation, and climate as Albuquerque but latitude of the southern tip of Texas.  The city is surrounded by cattle ranches, vineyards, and tobacco plantations.

This is definitely beef and wine country.

Now, I grew up in Iowa and until now I thought (and have been told from an early age) that I was raised on the best beef in the world - so I think I'm a pretty good judge of fine meats.  Wow, I never knew what I was missing.  The steak in Argentina is absolutely incredible!  The average steak at an average restaurant is as flavorful as anything I've had at Ruth's Chris. 

The Argentine cattle are grass fed, free-range, and all organic.  They can do it because they have so much pasture land and so few people to feed.  The steaks are typically aged and always grilled over Charcoal.  And due to economic mis-management, they are wonderfully cheap.

Here's how it works:

You go into a nice steak restaurant and prices feel like the United States.

Sirloin Steak: $24
Fillet Mignon: $32
Rib-eye: $27
Bottle of good Cabernet: $50

However - all those prices are Argentinean Pesos... which we can buy three to the dollar.  So, the prices are really:

Sirloin Steak: $8USD
Fillet Mignon: $10.66USD
Rib-eye: $9USD
Bottle of good Cabernet: $16.66USD

And I'm talking Del Frisco quality dining - not Denny's. 

In 2000, Argentina's currency was tied to the US Dollar (1 to 1) so that $24AR steak really cost $24USD.  However, the government went through a financial crisis and devalued their currency.  Luckily for Argentineans, they are able to produce most of the goods they consume, so for the majority of everyday items, prices remained the same.  BMWs and Volvo prices did double or even triple, but things produced within Argentina (e.g. steak) did not.

The only major thing Argentinians noticed was the influx of tourists capitalizing on the fact that EVERYTHING here is 66% off!

However, these deals won't last forever.  Prices in Argentina have quickly been returning to normal - so Argentina may only be a value destination for a few more years. 

And Argentina is very European.  A large number of Italian immigrants settled here to avoid the wars in Europe and brought pastries, Wine, Espresso, and Ice Cream!  The food here is incredible.

If you want a European-like vacation at 1/6th the price, consider Argentina, but you have to act fast!
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