There are very few countries like Argentina. It has everything from mountains and glaciers, to jungles and desserts, a world-class capital, and some unique Argentina landmarks. But unlike many places in South America, European influence is very strong in this Latin country, which makes for a unique and memorable experience.
Perhaps the most ideal aspect of Argentina as a destination is that it’s a modern and well-developed country, while still offering a touch of adventure. And despite tourism being a large contributor to the economy, the locals are still as welcoming and friendly as ever.
However, because Argentina is such an expansive country, it can sometimes be challenging to pick the best places to visit, especially when one is short on time. With that in mind, below are some of the highlights of this South American gem.
Visit Buenos Aires
One of the most popular Argentine cities is Buenos Aires. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is a combination of South American flair and European elegance. In fact, while walking down the streets of this city, it is easy to believe this is a European capital!
However, this city is not for the faint of heart. Life in Buenos Aires is intense—from the often overcrowded public transport system to late night tango sessions. The gusto for life here is very strong – Argentines sleep very little and live a lot.
Visitors can take advantage of diving into the local lifestyle by trying to learn a little Tango. Milongas (Tango schools) are located all over the city and are open almost every night of the week. Be prepared for a steep learning curve, because it takes more than two to tango.
Football, or soccer as Americans call it, also runs deep in Argentina. From the honoring of legends like Diego Maradona in the colorful La Boca to late night football games on the streets for fun, it might just be worth attending a game while in town, simply to get a taste of the local passion for the sport.
Speaking of which, La Boca is one of the most colorful and often photographed areas in the city and worth spending a few hours in. The brightly painted houses and detailed signs are unique to this area and bring tourists flocking.
Another highlight is the Sunday market in San Telmo, the Feria de San Telmo. It runs across multiple blocks in the neighborhood and offers a huge variety of local products to buy. There are often tango dancers there too, which adds to the Argentine flair.
Then, of course, there’s the legendary Eva Peron, whose life and memory is immortalized at the Evita Museum. The building was used by Eva’s foundation back in 1948 to house women and children in need. She was also focused on improving conditions for the poor and played a major role in politics alongside her husband who was President. Her grave can also be visited in the iconic Recoleta Cemetery where she rests near such greats as Isabel Walewski Colonna, Napoleon’s granddaughter, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, a former Argentine President instrumental in their education system, and Nobel Prize winner Luis Federico Leloir who discovered the metabolic pathways of Lactose.
Don’t miss eating Argentine steak with a glass of Malbec. Being in the capital offers far more options to finding the best this country has to offer, including restaurants such as La Cabrera, Don Julio, Cabaña Las Lilas, La Brigada and many more.
Take a trip to Iguazú Falls
A stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, the Iguazu Falls are not to be missed. These earth-shaking falls demonstrate the sheer scale and power of rushing water across a two-mile stretch that straddles both Argentina and Brazil.
The best base is Puerto Iguazú, a small town around 12 miles away from the Falls. Buses and taxis make regular trips to Parque Iguazú where tickets are readily available. There are many ways to experience the falls – by foot, by train, or by boat that slowly makes its way to the base for a dramatic reveal of the falls. It is recommended to explore as many areas of the falls as possible because each has its own unique and impressive character.
Take a wine tour at Mendoza
Mendoza produces 60% of Argentina’s wine. With an abundance of sunshine, this region is perfect for developing young fruity wines as well as wines with excellent aging potential. It is also due to the rich soil diversity which this area has been blessed with.
The Andean scenery in Mendoza is reason enough to visit this province, but the star of the show is the world-renowned Malbec wine. Malbec is the clear ruler of the province’s production, but cellars of Bordeaux reds and native grape torrontés riojano, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier fare very well here also. There are many wine-makers to visit, including Familia Zuccardi and Bodegas Lopez in Maipú, Bodega Carmelo Patti in Luján de Cuyo, and The Vines of Mendoza, Uco Valley.
Don’t miss out on the local olive oil production, something that is also very popular in sunny regions of the world; locals here have perfected as well.
Explore the Salta Region
Salta, the northwestern province in Argentina, is bordered by Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay. This geographic location offers cultural diversity and richness.
In the downtown area a variety of churches and museums that provide a fascinating insight into the development of the area. The best way to get one’s bearings in Salta is to climb up the viewing platform at Cerro San Bernardo for a panoramic view of the city, nestled at the foot of the Andes.
Another popular attraction is the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds), which climbs to 14,000 feet, passing through the clouds. The train ride offers gorgeous views of colored rocks on mountainsides, incredible valleys, and even the occasional llama sighting.
The Salinas Grandes (Salt Flats) is also a worthwhile day trip from town. This natural masterpiece is a result of a huge lake that has dried up over the years, leaving layers and piles of salt that can be blinding in the harsh light of midday.
Don’t miss the local Cafayete Wineries which grow some of the lesser-known but tasty white wines of Argentina, such as Torrontes.
Hiking through Patagonia
Patagonia has a well-established network of hiking trails, making it one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Argentina. This is the best region to experience Argentina’s natural diversity, ranging from towering mountain peaks, captivating wildlife sceneries, and landscapes that switch between lakes, grasslands, and glaciers.
One drawback to hiking through Patagonia is the cost. It can be quite expensive, especially when compared to the rest of South America. On top of that are the strong winds and unstable weather at those latitudes, so be prepared for less than ideal temperatures and possibly rain.
The warmest and most pleasant weather happens between December and February, which are also the most expensive months. Shoulder seasons between September and November and March and May can be a more budget-efficient option.
Some of the best places to hike are in the Los Glaciares National Park. The most popular is the Perito Moreno glacier, which can actually be visited without embarking on a hike. There are also hikes in the surrounding area. For most people, getting up close and personal with this massive glacier is more than enough.
The area around El Chalten is a close second. It offers an astounding mountain range with the peaks of Fitroy and Cerro Torre dominating the horizon. The spectacular scenery can be enjoyed both from a distance, including the drive in, and up close via a short day or overnight, hikes.
Although not technically in Argentina, it is also worth heading into Chile to see another highlight of the area: Torres del Paine National Park. This is a true hiker’s paradise with the most popular trails being the “W” and “O” treks. They both wind through epic landscapes of glaciers, craggy peaks, and wind-ravaged pampas. The W is the more popular, and a somewhat easier trek, which also covers all the highlights. The O trek is 10 days long and requires a lot more preparation, equipment, and fitness, but steers clear of the crowds, at least for the first half of the trek, where it then turns into the W trek.
Keep in mind that even the less hiking-inclined can visit all these areas by car, tour or just partake in short walks. The scenery is equally jaw-dropping no matter how it is taken in.
Traveling through Argentina
Argentina is a country teeming with cultural and natural diversity. While this list highlights some of the best experiences in the country, the range of things to do is wide and expansive. Ultimately, Argentina landmarks and experiences are immersive, sometimes intense, but always uniquely personal.
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Author Bio: Anna Timbrook was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on her travel blog with her husband.
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