Where to go in Argentina
In such a vast and diverse country, covering nearly 1.1 million square miles with everything from soaring mountains and deep blue lakes to lush jungle and beaches, how do you decide where to go? Most visitors to Argentina begin in the capital city of Buenos Aires, known for the tango dance, trendy cafes, and steakhouses. Just east of the Chilean border in the Andes foothills, Mendoza wine country is home to over 1,200 wineries that draw wine enthusiasts from across the globe for tasting and touring. In the Argentine Pampas, immerse yourself in gaucho culture with a number of original estancias that now serve as all-inclusive accommodations in San Antonio de Areco. It also hosts museums that highlight the history of the gaucho, while opportunities for activities like horseback riding and hiking abound nearby.
Bariloche & the Lake District
Located in the spectacular Lake District at the northwestern tip of Argentinian Patagonia, Bariloche lies along the shores of the vast blue Nahuel Huapi Lake. This region is filled with glacier-fed lakes, forests, and mountains as far as the eye can see, nestled between the Andes Mountains with Atlantic Patagonia to the east and Chilean Patagonia to the west. The alpine town makes an ideal base for hiking, horseback riding, wildlife watching, kayaking, and rafting. In the winter, some of the best ski resorts in the country can be enjoyed too. The city itself has a Swiss-like atmosphere and has become increasingly popular for its food scene, including chocolate. The artisanal gastronomic scene began here almost a half-century ago, thanks to the area’s access to practically an infinite range of fresh, locally grown, or caught foods. It’s a paradise for cocoa connoisseurs, with everything from your typical chocolate bar to fruit-stuffed chocolates.
The Argentine capital is a city like no other. It’s not uncommon to witness impromptu tango performances in the streets and with much of the city highly walkable, you’ll find many pedestrian areas with a host of shops, wine bars, cafes, and steakhouses. The colorful La Boca neighborhood is home to Aminito, a waterside artists’ street, and La Bombonera, the football stadium where one can watch the Superclásico, often found on lists of “100 things to see before you die.” Palermo is one of the hippest districts in the city, with many museums, art galleries, and markets to explore. It offers some of the finest boutiques, dining, and nightlife in Buenos Aires. Upscale waterfront dining can be enjoyed in Puerto Madero’s mix of intriguing historic and modern buildings. The area also has an ecological reserve with a boardwalk that winds between the Rio de la Plata and the high-rises.
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas along the Suquía River in central Argentina, Cordoba is the capital of the province with the same name, renowned for its Spanish colonial architecture. A little over a decade ago it was crowned the Cultural Capital of the Americas and it’s no less intriguing today. It’s home to the Manzana Jesuítica (Jesuit Block), a complex dating back to the 17th-century with churches, active cloisters, and the original campus of the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, one of the oldest universities in South America. Its focal point is the imposing 16th-century neo-baroque Cathedral of Cordoba which dominates the west side of Plaza San Martin. The city also boasts a number of outstanding museums focused on everything from anthropology, science, and technology to fine arts, helping to preserve both Cordoba’s and Argentina’s heritage. There’s also a weekend crafts market, alternative film scene, and hip bars where DJs spin electro-tango tunes.
Located near the edge of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field in the Santa Cruz province, El Calafate is a small town that’s popular for up-close encounters with the vast Perito Moreno Glacier and a wealth of adventures in the mountains. There are scenic trails to hike, lakes to paddle, abundant flora and fauna to discover, and icebergs where the thunderous sounds and impressive sight of calving can be witnessed. Visitors come from across the globe to marvel at the huge chunks of ice that break away and plunge into Lake Argentino from November through early March. It’s also possible to join a boat excursion or embark on a flightseeing tour to get various different perspectives of the bergs and the glacier. In the town of El Calafate itself, you’ll find artisan markets, a local brewery ideal for sipping a pint after a day of exploration, and restaurants that serve famously delicious Patagonian lamb.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, Iguazu Falls is made up of 275 falls along the Iguazu River along the border of Argentina and Brazil, making Niagara seem like the drip of a faucet. They stretch as far as the eye can see, spread over nearly 1.7 miles of rainforest-covered cliffs. Some are massive and powerful while others are small and graceful. When former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt first viewed Iguazu, she exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!” While the falls can be viewed from either country, the Argentine side is considered the best side as you can get so close it’s possible to feel the mist on your skin. There’s a boat ride that will bring you even closer, but you’ll want to be prepared for a major drenching. This is also a great area to view parrots that can often be heard chattering in the trees nearby and soaring above in the skies.
Many visitors travel to Argentina for its wines and one of the top spots for tasting and touring is Mendoza. Tucked into the foothills of the Andes just east of Chile, this is the main wine region with nearly 400,000 acres of vineyards and more than 1,200 wineries. It accounts for over 70 percent of the country’s total wine production, despite being a high desert oasis that gets less than 10 inches of rainfall on average each year. The snowmelt that flows down from the mountains provides the pure water that helps the grapes thrive along with the high-altitude sun that shines for more than 300 days annually. The cooler nights allow the fruit to rest while retaining acids vital to the high-quality wine, including its most characteristic variety, Malbec. The city itself has wide, leafy streets with art deco and modern buildings, while Plaza Independencia hosts the subterranean Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno.
The Argentine Pampas extends from the Atlantic coast near Buenos Aires to the Andean foothills in the country’s northwest corner. It covers 295,000 square miles, made up of two distinct zones, with wetlands to the east and its dry area to the west. The region is best known for its culture and history with the country’s folklore following the Spanish conquest focused around the gaucho, a South American cowboy. Gauchos still work the fertile plains, typically on private ranches, or estancias. There are attractions and activities for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, nature lovers, and more. You can relax with stunning natural backdrops or take part in activities like hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. One of the best places to get to know gaucho life is San Antonio de Areco, which hosts some original estancias that have been converted into all-inclusive accommodation. You’ll find several museums highlighting gaucho culture and history as well.
The small town of Puerto Madryn near Patagonia’s Vales Peninsula was originally settled in 1865 by Welsh immigrants and the Welsh community still thrives here today. But it’s best known as one of the world’s best places for whale watching and spotting penguins. Orcas and southern right whales are commonly seen here, sometimes coming as close as 20 feet from the shore. The best viewing time is from June through December, with southern right whales particularly abundant and large, growing 45 to 55 feet in length and weighing as much as 60 tons. Playa la Viscera, a legendary beach with violet abalone shells and polished pebbles giving way to caramel-colored sands, is where you’ll see penguins waddling around sea lions and the sun-bleached bones of elephant seals.
Salta & Jujuy
The northwestern provinces of Salta and Jujuy are bounded by Chile to the west and Bolivia to the north, climbing from cloud forests to the highlands and some of the Andes’ most dramatic peaks. An inspiring place of traditional culture and natural beauty, Salta’s colonial capital, also Salta, is often referred to as “La Linda” for its beautiful valleys. It’s the most popular base for travelers who want to explore the jagged, colorful ravines of the Quebrada de Humahuaca and Quebrada de Cafayate. It has a strong Spanish tradition combined with a gaucho culture, resulting in a unique identity while boasting magnificent colonial architecture. Visitors can also find plenty of artisanal handcrafted items and high-altitude vineyards for tasting and touring. Alongside Salta, Jujuy is one of the best places in the country to experience time-honored Andean customs. The provincial capital of San Salvador de Jujuy is home to tranquil plazas and colonial-era monuments.
Tierra Del Fuego
The Tierra del Fuego Province is the smallest, lead populous, and southernmost Argentine province. One of the world’s last true frontiers, it’s renowned for its wild landscapes and incredible wildlife. See Martillo Island’s penguin colony, raucous woodpeckers interrupting silence in the forests, and eagles soaring above the channel. You’ll find a little of everything that Patagonia offers here, which means it’s sure to thrill nature lovers and adventure seekers of all sorts. There are endless natural wonders, including pristine glaciers, lakes, and rivers, with areas that have managed to remain untouched for centuries. Everyone from Ferdinand Magellan and Charles Darwin to Francis Drake has arrived here searching for gold, discovering the great unknown, or studying anthropology here in this place that’s beyond compare. It’s even a year-round destination. While many come in the summer to hike Tierra del Fuego National Park, in the winter temperatures rarely drop below zero and it’s ideal for skiing.
The capital of Tierra del Fuego, located at the tip of South America, Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city. Known as the “End of the World,” it’s cut off from the north by the Strait of Magellan with the next stop south Antarctica. It sits on a steep hill bordered by the Andes’ rocky peaks, surrounded by glaciers, lakes, bays, and forests. Many arrive here to hop on an expedition cruise to Antarctica for an adventure of a lifetime that includes crossing the tumultuous waters of the Drake Passage, but there’s plenty to do right here, including activities like glacier treks, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and surprisingly, diving. In the winter, it draws plenty of skiers and snowboarders. Photographers enjoy it year-round for its powerful mystique, awe-inspiring scenery, and austral light. It has quite the storied if sober past, with plenty of shipwrecks and the extinction of its indigenous people.
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