Situated in the south of South America, the country features varied landscapes from thick jungle, to majestic mountains and impressive glaciers that make for a memorable visit. Your trip to Argentina is not complete without a tour of Los Glaciares National Park which is home to the breathtaking Perito Moreno glacier.
Set in a picturesque backdrop of snow-capped mountains and pristine lakes, San Carlos de Bariloche is an enchanting city with chocolate shops and splendid architecture. Bariloche serves as a gateway to even more spectacular Argentinean landscapes and outdoor adventures. Adventure travelers can go skiing in the mountains nearby.
The Argentine region of Patagonia is a must-visit for every tourist. Patagonia is home to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, which in turn is home to remote beauty and serves as a popular base for wildlife viewing and winter sports. The nearby mountains of Cerro Castor and Glacier Martial offer hiking opportunities during the summer and snow sports opportunities in the wintertime.
Situated within the largest wine-producing region in the Americas, Mendoza is popular not just for its wine, but also for its proximity to Aconcagua, the highest mountain of the Americas. Mendoza also enables access to beautiful scenery and outdoor adventures such as hiking and river rafting. Visit Independence Plaza, the main square in Mendoza, for its restaurants, museums and beautiful buildings.
The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is also one of the largest cities in Latin America. Pulsating with vitality and seductive charm from its animated neighborhoods and colorful architecture, Buenos Aires offers gourmet cuisine, great shopping and a sizzling nightlife. It’s no wonder then that the captivating dance – Tango, chose Buenos Aires as its birth place.
One of the most stunning natural wonders of the world, the Iguazu Falls is a series of magnificent waterfalls situated on the Iguazu River. While the falls make for a breathtaking spectacle in themselves, their beauty is even more enhanced by the surrounding lush forest that teems with amazing wildlife. Stroll along the walkways or take a boat ride to get as close as possible to the majestic falls.
The Beagle Channel is a strait that serves as one of the three navigable passages of South America. Visitors can take a boat ride around the Beagle Channel to take in the waterscapes and enjoy attractions such as the famous sea lion colony on Isla de los Lobos.
On the road winding through the spectacular Quebrada de Humahuaca ravine, you will encounter picture postcard towns strung like pearls. But it’s the natural wonder of “the Hill of Seven Colors” that will have your jaw-dropping to your knees. Bring your camera to capture the fabulous geological rainbow rising from this Argentine hillside.
From the exhilaration of hiking across an immense glacier, to the seduction that comes from dancing the tango, it’s no wonder that Argentina continues to draw thousands of tourists each year. There is just so much to see and do in Argentina to ensure that you, the visitor, will be well treated to a wide range of emotions.
1. Iguazu Falls
The name “Iguazu” derives from the Guarani word for “great water”. Taller than the Niagara Falls, the Iguazu Falls are among the most impressive sights to be enjoyed in South America. The sheer scale, size and beauty of these remarkable falls attract millions of visitors to Argentina each year.
The falls are set in a rather remote corner in north east Argentina, close to the border with Paraguay and Brazil. The borders of the three countries can be seen downstream from the falls where the Iguazu and Parana rivers meet. That said, the best view of the falls is to be had on the Argentine side. Puerto Iguazu is the main town on the Argentine side of the falls.
The falls feature 275 cascades that are spread out in a horseshoe formation spanning close to 2 miles of the Iguazu River. Four times as wide as the Niagara Falls, the Iguazu falls were created by a volcanic eruption that left a huge crack inside the earth. During the rainy season in November to March, the rate of water flow going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet per second.
But these details do nothing to fully capture the beauty of the waterfalls, the great amount of water thundering down 269 feet, its tropical setting or even the sheer beauty of the Iguazu Falls. You really have to see the falls with your own eyes to appreciate their grandeur and might. Oh, and watch out for the rainbow!
The waterfalls are divided into separate waterfalls by different islands. One of the most famous is Gargantua del Diablo that perpetually sprays high over the waterfalls. Gargantua Del Diablo is a spectacular spectacle of 14 falls that drop 350 feet with such force that there is always a 100 foot cloud of spray overhead. Other notable waterfalls include Bosetti, San Martin and Bernabe Mendez.
The waterfalls are part of a singular almost virgin jungle ecosystem that is protected by the Iguazu National Park, which also has bird hikes and jungle trails that you can tour. The Argentine side of the river has two thirds of the waterfalls.
The best times to see the Iguazu Falls are during the spring and fall months. Summer is a time of intense tropical heat and humidity, while winter causes considerably lower water levels. Plan to spend an entire day in the national park to fully enjoy its flora and fauna. While it is possible to see the waterfalls and the surroundings on a lightning daytrip, it would be best to plan a 2-day visit.
You can take helicopter rides over the falls or a boat ride out to the waterfalls. The best time to take photographs is as always in the early morning. For a close up view, you can take a series of walks over the water rushing into Devil’s Gorge. You will be provided with protective rain suits. In certain areas, visitors can swim in the spray of the cascades so inquire locally.
2. Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
The great glaciers of Argentina are found on both sides of the Andes, forming the Patagonian Ice Field, which is second in size only to Antarctica. There are over 300 glaciers in Argentina, with some situated inside the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares which extends 350km along the Andes.
Situated in the southwest of the province of Santa Cruz, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares features ice fields that cover approximately 40% of the park surface, 47 major glaciers and 2 lakes.
Of the glaciers, 14 reach toward the Atlantic, while several others including the famous Perito Moreno feed the lakes in the park. Among the lakes is Lago Argentina, the largest lake in the country which is over 15,000 years old. Along with Lago Viedma, Lago Argentina flows into Rio Santa Cruz, a river that runs east into the Atlantic.
Glaciar Upsala is the largest glacier in South America which measures 60km long and 10km wide. The only way to access it is by boat, while dodging the icebergs that float inside Lago Argentina.
The national park also features mountains, forests, rivers and lakes and stretches into the dry, arid steppes of Patagonia to the east. Among steep and jagged granite mountain peaks are Cerro Fitz Roy which stands at 3405m, along with Cerro Torre that rises to 3102m.
Flora and fauna found here include beech trees, mosses, shrubs, orchids, red fire bush, large Patagonian hares, red foxes, hawks, flamingos, black-necked swans, Magellan geese, woodpeckers, pumas, skunks, condors and the endangered huemel deer.
Situated within the Los Glaciares Park is the Parque Nacional Perito Moreno, an entity to itself and a must on every to-do list. Perito Moreno enjoys the distinction of being the only glacier in the world that’s still growing.
Perito Moreno is formed because the falling snow in the region accumulates faster than it melts. Over time, the snow compresses and gravity along with the buildup of ice behind the glacier force it down the mountain. The distinctive blue color of the glaciers is as a result of oxygen that gets trapped in the snow, and the mud and dirt from the ground, as well as the rocks the glacier gathers on its way down.
Perito Moreno winds 80km through the cordillera before coming to a stop at Lago Argentina in a blue ice wall that’s 3km wide and 50m high, referred to as the “snout”.
The glacier faces the Peninsula Magallanes across a narrow water channel. As it moves across this channel, it builds an ice dam whose waters build up in an inlet known as Brazo Rico until the pressure becomes too much and the wall collapses in a spectacular sight.
Other attractions and activities to be enjoyed inside Parque Nacional Los Glaciares revolve around its natural splendors.
Extreme sports enthusiasts can go ice-trekking on Lago Argentina. But you will need to be fit enough to manage the techniques of climbing and walking on ice which can sometimes be very steep. If you can handle it, you will enjoy an experience you will never forget. You may also opt for a mini-trek which is restricted to a small, safe portion of the glacier.
If you’re lucky, you might see a section of ice veer off the glacier with a big splash. Watch out for the tidal wave. Before the walkway was built, people would get very close to the shore and were caught and killed by the wave, so stay on the walkway.
Go on a horseback ride that will take you around Lago Argentina, through the deep green forests for spectacular views of the glaciers, meadows, rivers and lakes. You can also take a tour via bus, boat or 4×4. Mountain bikers will have numerous trails to choose from.
You can also visit a sheep ranch for an overnight stay. This includes a meal and the experience of being part of a working ranch.
On the northern end, take a catamaran across Lago Viedma to the Canal Upsala observation points. The boat will let you off here and you can follow a trail to Lago Onelli for a peek at the Onelli, Agassiz and Bolado glaciers. Here you will see many icebergs floating inside the lake.
The town of El Chalten is the base point for hiking, climbing or strolling the glaciers and the surroundings. Head over to Chorillo Del Salto waterfall for views of Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Poincenot which rises to 3002m.
At the Punta Walichu Caves, you can see pictures of people, animals and handprints made by ancient Indians. A mummy was found in the caves in 1877. Laguna Del Desierto makes for a nice trip north of El Chalten.
Allow at least 3-4 days to spend in the park. Weather conditions may not be optimal and you may have to wait for the right glacier viewing moment. For great shots of the glaciers, use polarizing and UV filters.
3. Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a vibrant and colorful city, with a great cultural scene and beautiful sights to explore. First on your list of things to do in Buenos Aires? Watch and learn tango, of course! Loved by locals and admired by tourists, tango was born in Argentina and continues to thrive to this day.
Visitors to Buenos Aires can choose their own level of involvement with the enchanting dance from taking lessons to dancing in a milonga to watching a full-blown tango show production.
Buenos Aires has had a tumultuous and interesting history apparent from its memorials, statues, plaques and history museums. For a good history lesson on Argentina, visit the City Museum that’s situated within a historical building in Montserrat. Then tour the Casa Rosada Museum, also known as Government House or the Presidential Palace and the Museum of the Cabildo.
Marvel at new and old architecture that makes up the Buenos Aires cityscape. What you find here is a mix of South American and European architectural influences, from the French-style houses of Recoletta and its neo-classical cemetery, to the Art Deco-style of the Kavanagh Building and the modern Women’s Bridge in Puerto Madero.
In a country famous for its rich, grass-fed beef, finding good steak in Buenos Aires will be a walk in the park. Around every corner of the city is a steak house. Your only challenge is to find the best one that will provide you with a steak dinner you will never forget.
The art museums of Buenos Aires offer hours of visual delights. The most popular museums include Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; the National Museum of Fine Arts; and the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art. There are also interesting art pieces to be enjoyed at the Fine Arts Museum at La Boca, the National Museum of Decorative Arts and the Argentine Puppet Museum.
Attend the Feria Mataderos, a well-known Gaucho Festival held in the Mataderos barrio, and which celebrates all things “gaucho” – the traditional Argentine cowboy. Over 300 stalls are set up on the festival grounds where you can shop for all sorts of gaucho paraphernalia including crafts, artisan cheese, salami, bread and hams.
Traditional food and drink are served here so be sure to sample the locro, humitas, empanadas, red wine and mate. There are many other festivals to attend in Buenos Aires all year round including festivals around tango, music, beef, books, film and the gay pride. Dance into the wee hours of the morning with Argentines and foreigners bumping to the beat.
One of the best ways of seeing Buenos Aires is on two wheels. There are bike tours that go through the famous barrios in the south of the city such as La Boca, San Telmo and the Puerto Madero ecological reserve. Others will take you to the famous spots of the north such as Recoleta, Palermo and Retiro. Others still have themes that take you into gardens and parks, museums and the nightlife.
Situated on the Beagle Channel and surrounded by mountains, water and sky, Ushuaia city is known as “the End of the World”. The closest city to Antarctica, Ushuaia is a hub for touring the Antarctica and navigating the Strait of Magellan. Popular summer activities include trekking, mountain biking and astounding tours of Cape Horn and the Argentine Antarctica. Go skiing on Mount Castor.
Wildlife lovers can visit De Los Lobos where you will see the sea lions. During summer you can see Magellanic Penguins on Martillo Island. Bird Island has numerous bird varieties. Also tour De los Pajaros Island and Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. Ushuaia makes for a good base to explore Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego which are some of the world’s most beautiful virgin areas.
Museo Maritimo is housed inside a building that was once a prison. Today, the museum displays exhibits of model ships, archaeological artifacts and old collections from Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. Tren al Fin Del Mundo is a narrow gauge train that was built to bring lumber from the forest to Ushuaia, for building and heating the colony.
Lago Escondido is a hidden lake at the foot of the Garibaldi Pass. Along with Lago Yehuin, the lake offers unparalleled views, as well as excellent hiking, trekking and camping opportunities. At Alicia Island on the Bridges Archipelago you can see a great diversity of birds that are native to the region, such as the Blue-Eyed Cormorant, the Steamer Duck and the Sooty Albatross.
5. Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego offers history, legend, emotion, adventure travel, a magnificent setting and Argentina at its very best.
Situated at the southern extreme of South America, Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago that is rich in beauty and history. Comprising of one large and several smaller and tiny islands separated by channels and inlets, Tierra del Fuego is the “Land of Fire”, which derives its name from the beach fires the aboriginal people would build for cooking and keeping warm during the 16th century.
Tierra del Fuego comprises a 28,500 square mile archipelago that is shared by Argentina and Chile. Originally inhabited by the aborigines who depended on hunting and gathering for sustenance, Tierra is a cold, windswept place – but boasts supreme scenery. Visitors will particularly be dazzled by the fjords of the Andean coastline that straddle the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel.
The archipelago is separated from the mainland of South America by the Strait of Magellan. A land of cool summers and cold winters, Tierra del Fuego is not too far from Antarctica whose cold air masses roll of its 10,000 foot ice plateau, easily crossing the sea to Tierra del Fuego.
The western and southern sides of the main island form part of the Andean Mountain System with peaks reaching more than 7,000 feet, along with mountain glaciers.
The Tierra del Fuego National Park was established in 1960 and offers ample opportunities for sports and recreation including hiking, trekking and mountain biking.
Cape Horn is one of the main highlights for visitors in this part of the world. The cape comprises a steep, rocky headland on Hornos Island, situated to the south of the Beagle Channel. Visitors can also enjoy a tour of the scenic southernmost part of Lapataia Bay.
Situated at the base of the Argentine Andes, Mendoza is the capital city of the Argentine province of the same name. A clean city that’s laid out well with tree-lined streets and parks, Mendoza is the center for tourism and commerce in the region. The city is also prime wine country and an all-seasons destination for hikers, skiers, bikers, rafters, climbers, trekker, naturalists and paragliders.
Parque San Martin is a forested park with an amphitheater that’s the venue of many of the events of Vendimia, the Mendoza wine harvest festival.
The Cerro de la Gloria monument here was established in honor of General Jose de San Martin and his army which marched over the Andes to help liberate Peru and Chile. The park also has a large lake, extensive gardens, camping spots and restaurants, all of which make for a popular spot for both locals and visitors.
Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia is the largest festival in Mendoza, which makes for a fitting celebration of the major industry in the region. The festival begins in January and February with a series of regional events that feature music, dance and parades and of course wine tasting. The main festival begins on the first Saturday of March and continues until the start of April, culminating in the crowning of the Queen of Vendimia and an award ceremony.
The historical center of Mendoza is grounded by Plaza Pedro del Castillo. This is also where Museo Fundacional sits on the site of the old cabildo. Visit Ruinas de San Francisco to see what’s left of the 17th century church and school.
Plaza Espana is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Mendoza and invites visitors for a quiet stroll or a rest on tiled benches where you can enjoy its fountains and gardens. During the weekend, you can purchase some local handicrafts at the Artisan’s Fair.
Go skiing at Los Penitentes, a site comprising 300 hectares of natural beauty. Here you can enjoy 26 runs with superb powder, and of varying drops and lengths, which are ideal both for novices and for expert, seasoned skiers. There are also plenty of entertainment options here, including bars, pubs, a disco and restaurants that offer a wide selection of international and regional cuisine.
Mendoza’s entertainment facilities are located centrally on Calle Sarmiento or Calle Aristides, as well as in Chacras de Coria, which is the best place to enjoy some dusk till dawn clubbing.
Upsallata is a beautiful valley that houses the remains of a pre-colonial mining site, as well as petroglyphs. It leads to a pass of the same name rising 3,810m high into Santiago, Chile. This pass is traversed by the Pan-American Highway and is the site from which Jose de San Martin sent part of his army in 1817 to fight the Spanish royalists in Chile.
During your tour of the wineries of Mendoza, be sure to include a visit to Enoteca Museo del Vino, the wine museum. You can also visit the cellars and vineyards of Santa Ana, Maipu, Lopez and Escorihuela.
The location of Mendoza within the Cuyo desert area at the foot of the Andes, with the very fast Rio Mendoza tumbling down from the mountains provides plenty of opportunities for kayaking and white water rafting. Visitors can hike, trek and climb Cerro Aconcagua and other foothills and peaks. You can also go paragliding from Cerro Arco at 700m or simply watch the fascinating wildlife.
One of the natural wonders of Argentina, Puente del Inca is a natural stone bridge situated over the Rio Mendoza. The coppery-gold color of its rocks derives from the minerals found in its water. For many years, the bridge was part of the route to Chile, taken on mule trip lasting a week.
Bariloche is formally known as San Carlos de Bariloche, and is an all-season destination with scenic areas, skiing, tours, sports, attractions, activities, nightlife and quiet out of the way retreats. Bariloche also ushers visitors to the Argentine Lake District.
Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi boasts great views of mountain peaks, rushing rivers, glaciers, forests, wildlife and the spectacular lake itself, as well as all-year-round recreational activities.
Cerro Catedral ski resort is situated on Mount Otto. Visitors can take the cable car up to Cerro Catedral and go into the restaurant for some lunch. Also climb Cerro Campanario for some spectacular views.
Walk, hike, trek, bike or parasail through and over the forested hills of Bariloche for its many scenic views. This is a great way to enjoy some rest and relaxation after a busy time touring Argentina. Trekking options abound at Cerro Lopez, Cerro Leones and Refugio Frey, while cyclists will enjoy Circuito Chico.
The chocolate center of Argentina, Bariloche is home to an abundance of shops that offer a sufficient variety to please any chocoholic. Whet your appetite for more at Framtom, and then savor the variety found at Mamushka.
The lakes of Bariloche offer various options for enjoying water sports. One of the popular excursions is the Cruce de Lagos, which involves a lake crossing between Argentina and Chile. Be sure to take this photographic tour in reverse to cross to Puerto Montt in Chile from Bariloche.
Cyclists can bike the beautiful half-day 60km route around the lakes on Circuito Chico. You can also simply take the bus to enjoy the views. Or better still; take the longer Circuito Grande which features more lakes, small towns and great views, as well as a deeper appreciation of the Lake District.
Situated in Centro Civico, Museo de la Patagonia has sections on anthropology, natural science and regional history, as well as an exhibition room. Other good museums include Museo Paleontologico on Costanera Avenue and Museo del Lago Gutierrez in Villa Los Coihues.
When it comes to restaurants, après ski, nightclubs and bars, Bariloche offers a wide variety of choices, as well as entertainment options for all budgets.
Situated south of Bariloche, still within the Patagonia region, El Bolson features great Andean scenery, mountains sports, relaxation and the bounty of the area, to visitors who seek a restful and peaceful vacation.
8. San Martin de los Andes
Situated in the Neuquén Province, San Martin de los Andes is the region’s most important tourism center. The city is located inside a natural basin that protects it from the wind. A location of great beauty, San Martin de los Andes is almost hidden from view by a sumptuous amphitheater within the mountains that preserves the fertility of the forest and lake environs.
A picturesque, alpine-like city with wooden buildings and wide paved streets neatly laid out, San Martin de los Andes was founded in 1898 on the shores of Lake Lacar. The city is set within a natural habitat comprising mountains blanketed with dense forests of cypress and oak, crystalline streams and great biodiversity. The impossible beauty of its scenery continues to draw tourists and locals in droves.
The jewel of Argentina’s “Seven Lakes Belt”, San Martin boasts natural beauty, great stretches of greenery and peace and calm, which make it the main attraction in the region. It is this factor that makes a visit to the city a must, with its offerings of enchanting winter snows, adventure summer tours and contact with nature.
A lake area par excellence, San Martin boasts lakes of a blue hue that makes for a striking contrast with the dark green of its forests. In fact, the main attractions of this city are defined by the beauty of its captivating landscape. Hills, rivers and lakes, as well as the unique flora and fauna found in its forest, combined with the quiet and peace of the natural environment makes San Martin a great vacation spot.
A popular jump off point for excursions throughout the area, San Martin de los Andes offers many options to its visitors, including tours of its natural wonders and entertainment options.
Foodies can treat their palates at cozy restaurants that specialize in trout, venison, fondue and international cuisine. There are also a number of Viennese pastry houses to enhance the gastronomic offerings of San Martin de los Andes.
The entire region offers attractions of great diversity. Almost every option of adventure tourism can be found here, including rafting, trekking, hang-gliding and volcano climbing. Visitors can also enjoy lake excursions for nautical sports, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and water skiing.
In summer, there are plenty of activities that allow contact with nature, within the Lanin National Park. Visitors can go rafting, trekking, mountaineering, on 4-wheel drive excursions, as well as on photo safaris. During winter, the city is covered in snow which is ideal for skiing at the Chapelco winter sports center.
9. Quebrada de Humahuaca
Situated in the northwestern province of Jujuy, Quebrada de Humahuaca is a ravine famous for its spectacular rock formations and incredible multicolored hills, which you can only see to believe. The ravine measures 150km in length and comprises an Andean valley situated more than 2,000 meters above sea level.
The one absolutely un-missable sight in the area is the Cerro de los Siete Colores or “the Hill of the Seven Colors” which offers a backdrop of amazing beauty to the little village of Purmamarca. A place of amazing beauty, the hill’s different color layers are as a result of sediments that began to form deposits in the area about 600 million years ago.
The seven colors are: light orange (composed of mud, sand and red clay); white (lime rock); violet, purple and brown (calcium and lead); red (iron and clay); green (copper oxide); brown (manganese and rock), and yellow (sulfur).
Don’t miss out on the town of Purmamarca situated at the base of Cerro de Los Siete Colores, which is the birthplace of some of Argentina’s famous musicians and artists.
The Quebrada de Humahuaca ravine is named after the Omaguacas, one of the ancient cultures that inhabited the area during pre-colonial times, as well as the Aymaras and the Quechuas. The main ethnic group found here today are the Collas.
The site of Inca influenced cultures, the Humahuaca region of Argentina features adobe houses, rugged terrain and terracotta tinted canyons, in which numerous pre-colonial customs continue to thrive. Plan your visit in July to attend the Mother Earth celebrations of the cult of Pachamama, which involve giving offerings of meals, drinks and coca leaves to the earth, just as the ancient Inca did.
The main celebration here is Inti Raymi which is held in June to worship the Sun God. This date marks the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere and celebrates the start of the new agricultural season.
While in the neighborhood, also visit San Salvador de Jujuy, a beautiful city with peculiar topography and an abundance of colonial architecture and history. Music and plays are important to the local culture which boasts some interesting instruments.
10. Beagle Channel
Peppered with picturesque bays and inlets, the Beagle Channel separates Ushuaia from Chile’s Puerto Williams. Measuring 3 miles wide and 150 miles long, the Channel boasts rare beauty.
The best way to experience the Beagle is by sailing. Sailing the Beagle Channel can be the experience of a lifetime, especially during autumn when the world’s southernmost city and its environs offer breathtaking views wrapped in forests that have not yet lost their leaves.
Take a sailboat, motorboat or catamaran for a half or full day tour. You will see the Martial Mountains that surround the channel to the west, and Cinco Hermanos to the east, both of which make for spectacular views of the sea, glaciers and sheer rock.
You can also head southwest to the center of the Beagle Channel to enjoy views of the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, from which you can observe parts of the Monte Cervantes shipwreck that sunk in 1930.
Various circuits enable tourists to watch the sea lion and bird colonies on the small islands, as well as the crab submarine world by means of an underwater camera. You can go on a tour of Los Lobos Island which is inhabited by sea lions. Here you will hear the barking calls of the sea lions and enjoy sightings of seabirds and Antarctic fur seals.
Los Pajaros is another island worth visiting, which boasts over 20 different seabird species, including cormorants and albatross. Also visit the Penguin Rookery situated on Martillo island. On your way back to Ushuaia, be sure to pass through Paso Chico which offers grand views of the Martial Mountains.