There’s something to be said for traveling to an exotic destination on the other side of the equator and not experiencing jet lag. Since my nonstop, comfy flight on LAN from Miami to Buenos Aires arrived the next morning just one hour later than the current time back home, I arrived feeling surprisingly refreshed and ready for a Latin American adventure. This was the first of many nice surprises I experienced during an educational trip to Argentina the first week of September. I joined a group of meeting and incentive-company execs for a busy week in Buenos Aires and Mendoza, sponsored by Euromic, Nature Style DMC, and LAN Airlines.

Above: A day in the country at the magnificent Estancia Villa Maria. Seated, front, Claudio Garau, tour guide; second row, from left: Regina Baraban, Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine; Liliana Rattigan, Nature Style DMC; Gretchen Anderson, BI; Cheryl Jett, Meridian; Salomé Peñailillo, LAN; Joe Lustenberger, Euromic; Brie Schmid, Global Tracks; back row, Anna Theriault, EIM; and Patrick Corley, Maritz

My second discovery about the cosmopolitan and charming city of Buenos Aires was the large inventory of incentive-quality hotels in upscale urban settings. Each property we visited has a singular design identity, as well as attentive service and fabulous food. We stayed at the Park Tower Buenos Aires, a Luxury Collection business hotel with ample meeting space just a short walk from the famous Florida Street shopping district. Among the other top-drawer hotels are the uber-chic Faena+Universe designed by Philippe Starck; the elegant, art-deco inspired Sofitel; and the classical Grande Dame of Buenos Aires, the Alvear Palace Hotel.

Everyone knows that Buenos Aires is the city of tango—but what brought tango to a new level for our group was taking lessons from master dancers before a performance at the storied Tango Porteno nightclub. Even those of us who thought it was hopeless learned the basic steps and became “certified” tango dancers.

The most unexpected discoveries about Argentina came from our excursions outside the city. We loved our gaucho-themed day trip to Estancia Villa Maria, an elegant countryside manor built circa 1919 on 182 acres of parkland. And a short flight on LAN took us to our second Argentina destination, Mendoza and the wine country. “Mendoza has a lot of charm and local character and I think it is a fabulous incentive destination,” says Patrick Corley, account executive, Maritz. After checking in at the delightful centrally located Park Hyatt Mendoza, we took off in vintage Citroens for the wine country, highlighted by a scrumptious outdoor barbecue and wine-blending competition at the charming Lagarde Winery. Surrounded by the Andes mountains and acres of vineyards, the Lagarde lawn could be set up with a tent for larger groups, notes Corley. “Or,” he suggests, “it would be easy to break up into smaller groups for visits to Mendoza’s many vineyards— there’s something fun going on there any time of the year.”

Above: The group enjoyed a city tour of Santiago, Chile during a layover on the way home. Seen here at Santiago’s market, from left: Brie Schmid, Global Tracks; Liliana Rattigan, Nature Style; Salomé Peñailillo, LAN; Joe Lustenberger, Euromic; Anna Theriault, EIM; and Cheryl Jett, Meridian

Excellent food and wine was another hallmark of our visit to both destinations, with typical fare such as empanada appetizers followed by an “asado” (Argentine meat and sausage barbecue), fresh greens, and delectable dulce de leche desserts—accompanied by a glass of Malbec, the country’s signature red wine. The tasty, grass-fed beef emblematic of Argentina was expected, but I was happily surprised by the delicious veggie options. An entrée of roasted vegetables and herbs at the Faena+Universe in Buenos Aires, for instance, tasted savory and robust, full of the flavor of each slightly crisp vegetable. And the salads everywhere tasted just-picked from the garden. In fact, at every meal, each item on the plate tasted full-flavored and fresh from the farm. “When the ingredients are very good, the food can be quite simple and still outstanding,” says Corley. “That’s what jumps out about Argentinean cuisine.”