It's been almost a year since our trip to Argentina and is one of my best travel memories. Think about what is associated with the word Argentina and you'll understand why this has always been a fabulous destination. From the tango to football, pampas and gauchos, the Andes and Patagonia, it would be enough classics to have an irresistible mix.
It was a journey that lasted nearly a month and was a DIY trip to Argentina, completely organized by us, from the purchase of the flight tickets to the itinerary design, created after hours of reading guides and travel blogs. The great thing, though, is the continuing discoveries in the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires or along roads that meander between the Andes, not to mention the majestic, wild and unusual settings for many travelers of Tierra del Fuego, where you will have more of a reason to redefine your concept of wonder. Not to mention that each month of the year is perfect for great experiences with outdoor activities, nature and urban life.
Yes, I had seen a few pictures of the Perito Moreno, and heard of the Iguacu Falls, and I was attracted to the point that when deciding the travel I really insisted with my mates. I can only say that I was right to insist! Every time I go to Argentina and yes, a trip is not enough I remain amazed by its haunting beauty. I remain captivated by its atmosphere, the positive feelings and every time, I fall in love with its people.
Argentina is a very large country. I wanted to visit as many places as possible. I must also admit that Argentina was more expensive than what I expected, but with a few tips you can still limit expenses. I think that the minimum time for a trip to Argentina should be three weeks.
The first leg of a trip to Argentina is usually the beautiful capital city of Buenos Aires, where the international flights land. Also called the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is a city with all the charm of the most beautiful European capitals, but with a passionate heart, thanks to the porteños, her inhabitants.
In Buenos Aires there are interesting museums, restaurants of all types and for all budgets with a lively nightlife along with shopping and flea markets. After we had been several times, I concluded that the best area to stay for those visiting Buenos Aires is San Telmo, the young heart of the city, or the sophisticated Belgrano and Palermo. These are the areas of some of the best clubs and restaurants.
Put together a metropolis with a gourmet kitchen, fantastic shopping opportunities, a vibrant nightlife and you will get to Buenos Aires. The city is a successful alchemy between Parisian architecture, Roman traffic and nightlife of Madrid, with a touch of Latin flavor. Cosmopolitan, seductive, intriguing, sometimes frustrating and very sure of herself, she is unmatched and who defines the Paris of the South, that captures only one aspect of its appearance.
It not only seek out the true classics in the European style coffee and colonial architecture, but also do contaminate with its multi-ethnic identity. Discover the personalities who rest in the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta, eat your fill with a succulent steak, tango in sensual ballads and witness to an exciting game of fútbol. At that point you will be face to face with the soul of Buenos Aires.
Not to be missed is a day trip up to the Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, a colonial gem where time seems to have stopped 150 years ago.
Patagonia is almost synonymous with Argentina. But Argentina is not only Patagonia, Argentina is much more. Patagonia is really very extensive and need more stages to visit its most popular spots. The first for me was Puerto Madryn, in Chubut, not far from where they land in Trelew direct flights from Buenos Aires. In Puerto Madryn the wind blows strong. It is quite a popular seaside destination, and winter is a great vantage point for the southern right whales. From here there are several daily tours to admire the local wildlife. In Peninsula Valdes, there are killer whales, lions and elephant seals, guanacos and rheas. Puerto Piramides is the best spot for whale-watching. And at Punta Tombo lives a huge colony of Magellanic penguins.
The small but cute El Calafate is the main tourist center, which offers excursions to visit the beautiful Lake Argentino and admire the glaciers in the area, the most famous of which is the impressive Perito Moreno, to be able to see, but also to listen to the sound of ice ridges that break off and fall into the icy waters of the lake that is unforgettable. I have not had the courage to do so as it was really too cold for my taste, although it was high summer, but here you can also do trekking on glaciers.
For the entire day we hike the Perito Moreno glacier, a wonderful mass of ice above the lago Argentino. In front of the Magellan Peninsula, the wall of the glacier advances until it cuts in half the lake Argentino. This dazzling river of ice, one of the few in the world that still shows a certain growth is the most important point of the park and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981.
So, we advance along the southern part of the lake and navigate between the large icebergs floating on the blue waters of the lake. We also visit the part of the Brazo Norte (North Arm) of Lago Argentino and particularly impressive Upsala Glacier and Onelli Lake formed by the erosion of an arm of the lake by the iceberg that continually break off from glaciers.
A few hours by bus from El Calafate is the small village of El Chalten, the Argentine capital of trekking, with endless paths on Fitz Roy.
In the southernmost region of South America, nature has a wild beauty and bare and spaces are endless as the silences that fill them. Patagonia allows to have an extraordinary experience. Although the Ruta Nacional 40 (RN 40) is no longer the dirt of the past, it remains a remote road that has fascinated people of all kinds, from Butch Cassidy and Bruce Chatwin.
Along the east coast, the RN 3 towards the south connect the settlements of the oil boom with the remains of ancient petrified forests, settlements of Welsh settlers and the spectacular Peninsula Valdes. And then there is the other Patagonia, the hotspot where the number of sweatshirts with fake fur cap exceeds that of guanacos. Do not miss the views of El Calafate and El Chalten, but keep in mind that they are a world apart from the solitude of the wilderness.
From June to mid-December, the southern right whales migrate to the Peninsula Valdes. From mid-September to early March you can admire the coastal wildlife, including penguins and sea lions.
Tierra del Fuego
Away from it all, Tierra del Fuego is difficult to go. But it is impossible to resist the charms as you can feel being at the end of the world. Ushuaia is the best starting point for a cruise to Antarctica and to venture into the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. The park covers an area of sixty-three thousand kilometers with unclimbed peaks, gigantic bogs, waterfalls, lakes, river, islands and bays and an amazing vegetation. We visit the Beagle Channel and the various islands and the Museum of The End of the World, which illustrates the ancient cultures of the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego.
Extreme southern spur of the Americas, this archipelago arouses intense emotions for its beauty, its history and its uniqueness. The tourists who come for the first time in these lands "At World's End" can be found in the presence of an unforgettable show. The intriguing past is marked by shipwrecks, religious missions and native peoples abandoned, but to become the main protagonist is the nature, the barren northern plains to the bogs, forests of lenga or Tierra del Fuego cherry mossy the snow-covered mountain ranges of the Beagle Channel.
Isolated and difficult to reach, this area is not cut off from the motherland. The ports and refineries work at full capacity as crowds of travelers are attracted by fly fishing, excursions and cruises to Antarctica. Administratively divided between Argentina and Chile, it is made up of a main island, Isla Grande, Isla Navarino (Chile) and smaller uninhabited islands.
November to March is ideal for hiking, birdwatching and visits to estancias. From mid-November to mid-April is the season of fly fishing, while the July-September period is great for skiing, snowboarding and dog sledding.
The vineyards of Mendoza
This long, narrow desert region boasts two of the most famous attractions of Argentina, the Andes and the wine. I do not remember who, but someone before I left in Argentina told me that it was not worth visiting Mendoza. I do not know what he had in mind because I found it an interesting and pleasant city, with wide tree-lined streets, beautiful squares and many cafes, and a relaxed atmosphere that won me over. Mendoza is the main place of access the impressive Cerro Aconcagua, also called the roof of the Americas, on which the hiking paths are varied. But the Mendoza region is famous for its vineyards. The best way to tour the vineyards is to do a food and wine tour by bicycle. Needless to say, at the end of the day we were all quite happy and it was worth it.
On the outskirts of the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Mendoza, hundreds of companies offer guided tours, an educational and exhilarating way to spend an afternoon or even more. In addition to wine, the region has much more to offer. From the neighboring Andean peaks stands the Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, which attracts mountain climbers from around the world.
The ski resorts in the area have an extraordinarily powdery snow. The outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in an incredible variety of sports such as rafting, mountain biking and paragliding, organized by different operators of Mendoza. Many visitors overlook the province of San Juan to the north, which, however, is worth visiting for its selection, limited but important, of wineries and the impressive desert landscape of the Parque Provincial Ischigualasto.
Bariloche and the Lake District
The Lake District boasts spectacular scenery and each year is visited by thousands of tourists, attracted by the opportunity to ski, fishing, mountain climbing, hiking and, in general, to enjoy the cool weather and beautiful scenery of vast forests and lakes glacial. During your trip worthwhile to visit the wineries and paleontological sites, just outside the city of Neuquén.
Bariloche is located far to the south, with a picture-postcard setting on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Away from the crowds is simple. The lakeside villages of Villa Traful and San Martín de los Andes are crowded for a short period in summer and quiet in the rest of the year. To the north, Chos Malal is a great base for exploring volcanoes, lagoons and hot springs in the area.
Salta and Northwest Andean Quebradas
Salta is an excellent starting point for visiting the Quebradas and admire the breathtaking beauty of the most indigenous region of Argentina, between the peaks of the Andes. The city is very beautiful and full of life, and also very characteristic. I have a kind of obsession with the Inca civilization, and here I found a fantastic museum. The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a true color palette, craft wedge typically Andean. Here are communities who speak Quechua and who chew coca leaves to combat fatigue due to the altitude. From Salta also depart fantastic adventure expeditions on the Rio Juramento. For those who love extreme sports like me, it's great to live a day of rafting and canopy.
North-west Argentina is a great area, arid and harsh at the foot of the Andes. The entire region has a mountain atmosphere, with its traditional craftsmanship, the Quechua-speaking community, the cultivation of coca, llamas, native traditions, the Incan ruins and the high and arid Puna (the Andean plateau) which it extends west to Chile and north to Bolivia. The cities, the first colonial settlement in Argentina, have a special charm.
The Northwest offers several itineraries. From Salta, the chosen destination of many travelers, passing to the Parque Nacional Los Cardones to Cachi and from there, through the villages of Valles Calchaquíes, you can reach Cafayate, a famous wine center. Also from Salta, another salt route to the Puna and the mining village of San Antonio de los Cobres, continues north to the plains of the Salinas Grandes and down to the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
The Cataratas del Iguazú and the Northeast
Mighty rivers flow between flat pastures, showering them regularly, while a delicate marshes system accommodates myriad birds, caimans and capybaras. Welcome to the North-east of Argentina, the area of waterways par excellence. The peaceful Río Iguazú winds in the tropical forest on the border with Brazil and is transformed into pure energy giving life to one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
Along the shores of the Parana there are some of the most interesting cities like the elegant Corrientes, the colonial Santa Fe and prosperous Rosario, birthplace of the Argentine flag and Che Guevara, as well as Posadas, gateway to the ruins of the Jesuit missions. The region is dotted with excellent nature reserves and parks, representative of rich biodiversity. The shallow freshwater lakes of the Iberá Esteros are home to a rich fauna, easily observable between aquatic plants.
In February, very hot and wild Carnival celebrations are held in Gualeguaychú, Corrientes and Posadas. August is usually cool and dry and is the best month to observe the animals at the parched pools of Esteros del Iberá.
The final stage of the very beautiful trip to Argentina must necessarily be Iguazú. A wonder of nature, the Cataratas de Iguazú remained imprinted in my memory. The roar of water, the tiny droplets that wash our face, their grandeur and how not to be fascinated! I've also got the opportunity to take a ride in an inflatable boat under the falls and a bathing suit was necessary because, needless to say, we were completely wet!
We have full day excursion to the falls on the Brazilian and Argentine side. Formed by the Iguaçu River that marks, in the final stretch of its course, the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, the 275 waterfalls, declared World Heritage Site, lie in a semicircle on a front of about 3 km.
The visit of the impressive show, in the intact forest frame is one of the most emotionally evocative experiences that develop with routes of paths and walkways to grasp the uniqueness of the flora and fauna and to admire the falls from unusual vantage points.
Pampas and the Atlantic coast
The fertile and endless grasslands that make up the pampas have funded, over a century ago, the boom of the Argentine economy and today represent the economic and political hub of the country. This fact is not only the region from which is the famous beef in the world, but also one often overlooked by tourists, and the humble pampas possess their hidden jewels.
A visit to the pretty town of San Antonio de Areco offers a taste of history and Gaucho traditions, while the suggestive hills around Tandil and Sierra de la Ventana are rich opportunities for hiking. In addition, the lively Atlantic beaches are a pleasant way to escape the sultry summer in Buenos Aires. Spend a few days in one of the many estancias history of the region. It will be a way to appreciate an open sky and the elegance of a bit of dried Belle Epoque.
Cordoba and Central Sierras
The second Argentine city is an explosion of life. Home to not one but seven major universities, Córdoba has a young population which ensures an excellent nightlife and a vibrant cultural scene. Fascinating historical legacy, has a rich architectural and cultural heritage, thanks to the Jesuits who settled there when they landed in Argentina.
The sweet surrounding countryside is dotted with attractions that might catch your attention for a day like for a month. Among these five Jesuit missions visited with a comfortable day trip from the capital. The hills are also perfect for those who love adventure, offering opportunities for paragliding and in a couple of national parks you can make beautiful excursions. To the south-west, the Valley de Conlara and Sierras Puntanas are ideal to get away from the crowds and into the heart of the campaign. Cool off near the rivers of the Sierras between November and February and in the evening go around the Córdoba bars.
Where to stay in Argentina
In Argentina there are options for all budgets. The estancias or farms are a fantastic rural experience. There are beautiful boutique hotels. And it is full of 5 star hostels, where even a dorm bed becomes a real cuddle. Many hostels are located in beautiful buildings with the latest facilities, comfortable beds and every comfort and also rooms with private bathroom.
What to eat in Argentina
Argentina is famous for its meat. The famous parrillas, BBQ style restaurants prepare fantastic steaks. Hostels usually arrange asado or barbeque evenings and you can eat in abundance. That said, there are restaurants for all tastes, including many continental restaurants just to get back to basics! And there is a wide choice for vegetarians too.
Virtually all of the Argentines drink mate, infused with a strong flavor, made with yerba. Argentines always carry a thermos of hot water, a porongo, a kind of cup, usually made from the shell of a gourd and a bombilla, a metal straw which, inserted in infusion, allows them to drink it. Everywhere in the metro stations, petrol pumps, hotels, supermarkets, there are stations for the mate, where you can refill the thermos of boiling water and wash the porongo. We often happen to see small groups that spin the mate like a bit as in a ritual.
When to go to Argentina
The best season to visit Argentina is between November, corresponding to the end of spring and the end of March, which is late summer. January and February are the peak of the Argentine summer and are the months in which even the Argentines travel more, and hotels are often full. The country is so vast that the weather is very variable. It goes from the sultry heat of Buenos Aires to the cold of Ushuaia, to the dry heat of the Quebradas during the day accompanied by cool nights.
The spring is from October to December that brings warm days to drink outside and admire the blossoming jacaranda. The high winter season is from August that offers tango festivals in its museums, art galleries and cultural centers. Autumn is also perfect, with independent film festival in April.
Argentina with Children
A DIY trip to Argentina is absolutely doable with children. Argentines love children and in restaurants, in bars, and hotels we always find people ready to play with them.
Argentina Travel Tips
Air travel to Argentina is long, so we made a stop in Madrid for a few hours and we traveled during the day so we can get at night in Buenos Aires and go to bed due to fatigue accumulated during traveling.
The credit cards are commonly accepted, but cash payments are always cheaper.
Argentina is a huge country and so the best way to get around is by plane. Companies offer air pass, the ticket packages that bought in bulk, make it possible to significantly save on the total cost of tickets. A very important thing to keep in mind for those who are about to organize a trip to Argentina is that domestic flights have two different prices, one for Argentine residents and one for foreigners. Needless to say, the second price is much higher. When you book a flight pay close attention. We were left fooled by the super beneficial price only to discover later that it was the price for Argentine citizens.
That said, the bus network is extensive and long-distance buses are comfortable, with almost completely reclining seats, meals, personal screen and also the wifi on board. It should be noted, however, that the price difference between a flight and a bus ticket is almost irrelevant.
Renting a car in Argentina is expensive and the drop off is even more. The advice we can give is not to book the car in the internet from home, but to do it on the spot examining the different proposals of the different agencies.
The roads in Argentina are in good condition even if in the province of Salta, the legendary Route 40 in some places is not paved.
The unforgettable places encountered on the road were Estancia Santa Catalina, baths of Cacheuta, Puente del Inca, Ischigualasto - Valley of the moon, Parque de Talampaya, Quebrada de las Flechas, Humahuaca, Purmamarca and Tilcara and Salinas Grandes.
It seems like yesterday but instead has already been a year. It's true that a trip to Argentina is a memory that never fades.