Argentina – Buenos Aires & Tango, Peninsula Valdes Wildlife, Patagonia Mountains & Glaciers, Mendoza Wine, Salta Desert Landscapes.
Argentina can be included with Brazil in your trip to South America, and with other neighbouring countries too, especially Peru, Bolivia and Chile, although with so many highlights, it is certainly worth a few weeks on its own.
Argentina is perhaps the easiest country to combine with Brazil, with Iguazu Falls straddling the border between the two countries being the most popular place to cross, and Buenos Aires also being very convenient especially with trips to Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis and Sao Paulo in the southern part of Brazil. These two places are included in various of our South America Tours, so perhaps a few pointers as to the other places we recommend visiting in Argentina will help you decide if you want to include them in your South America itinerary. All of these can be combined with Buenos Aires, which is the usual arrival point in Argentina of course.
If entering Argentina at Iguazu Falls overland, the journey down to Buenos Aires can include the Jesuit Missions at Posadas, with their tragic story of the attempts by the religious order to save the lives of indigenous communities from the worst excesses of colonialism. The Ibera Wetlands are the second largest in the world (after The Pantanal in Brazil), and similarly excellent for bird-watching with over 300 species. The biodiversity also extends to caiman, capybara, giant otter, deer and maned wolf. Salta possibly makes the easiest addition to Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires tours, with direct flights to each city. The north-west corner of Argentina is a dry area with a definite Andean character around Jujuy in towns such as Purmamarca, and a completely different feel to the rest of the country. The desert landscapes are colourful and spectacular, including the Mountain of Seven Colours in Humahuaca, salt flats and also Cafayate. The Train to the Clouds provides a slow ascent amongst Andean scenery, including some of Argentina’s highest mountains. Cumbre del Libertador General San Martin (the name!) is 6,380m with other peaks of over 5,000m too. The Abra de Acay Mountain Pass is one of the highest in the world at 4,895m, with other dizzying passes heading right through The Andes into Chile or up towards the Bolivian border. This is genuinely wild country! There are still a few hamlets surviving in the harsh lands though.
Mendoza can also be included in a nice circuit of Northern Argentina. The city is one of the most relaxed and elegant in Argentina. There are two main reasons to visit the area and they are reason enough! Mendoza is the Wine Capital of Argentina, and the vineyards that provide such delectable wines as the local malbec can be toured and tasted, or you can even stay at some of them. With Mendoza being a city of low rainfall, the irrigation for these vineyards comes ingeniously from the High Andes overlooking the city. The snowmelt is channelled down to Mendoza. The mountains, with all their beautiful scenery, fantastic hiking and trekking, and adventurous activities are the second reason to visit Mendoza. Mount Aconcagua attracts many of them on its own, being the highest mountain in The Americas at 6,962m. The peak can be conquered with more of an extreme hike than a climb, but only with serious levels of experience, fitness and willpower. This is the highest peak in the world outside of The Himalayas after all. Skiing in the southern winter is at Penitentes, Vallecitos and Las Lenas, while white-water rafting and horse-riding around Mendoza and San Rafael are best in summer.
If spending a few ranch days at an Argentinean estancia appeals, then the rolling hills of Cordoba perhaps offer a more rural option than San Antonio de Areco outside of Buenos Aires. Patagonia is basically the southern tip of South America across Argentina and Chile, a land of endless skies and towering mountains with glacial valleys leading to beautiful lakeland scenery. Patagonia is an ecotourism and adventure paradise, which varies from the wildlife haven of Peninsula Valdes to the Alpine beauty of Bariloche, El Bolson and San Martin de Los Andes further north. Peninsula Valdes and Puerto Madryn form a huge natural marine park of staggering creature content and variety, with Southern Right Whales galore frolicking in the waters at touching distance, orcas hunting seals on the beach, and sea-lions, seals and penguins on the shorelines in huge colonies. Porpoise and dolphins stay a little further out to sea. Armadillo, deer, fox and guanaco live amongst the scrub, while 180 species of bird including the rhea and seabirds galore visit the peninsula at some point in the year. World-class wildlife watching. Bariloche is the largest city in the Patagonian Mountains, with alpine activities in summer and winter. The setting of the city is absolutely stunning, on the Nahuel Huapi Lake, with Andean peaks towering around, and inlets taking you between them. Llao-Llao can claim to be one of the most picturesque spots in South America, although it is not the only one in this area of The Andes. This is a fantastic area to hire a car and explore for a few days amongst the lakes and beautiful mountain towns.
Further south still finds the trekking mecca of Cerro Fitzroy and El Chalten (and Torres del Paine nearby in Chile) in the Argentinean Lake District. El Calafate is the base for trips to the most spectacular glaciers in South America, with Perito Moreno and Upsala forming just two small, beautiful tongues of the Patagonian Ice Field, the largest one outside of Antarctica. You can even hike on the glaciers, as well as watch as they carve into the lakes with a huge explosion of noise, before leaving huge icebergs that appear tiny floating below the glacier wall. Ecotourism at its very best. The end of Patagonia is the End of the World. Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world, right at the tip of the continent in Tierra del Fuego. The land of fire is a wild, scenic landscape with chilly mountain peaks, forests and the waters of the southern ocean. Hiking and kayaking are popular here too. Ushuaia is of course the most logical embarking point for Antarctic Cruises, which run from October to March.
Argentina has so many highlights, natural, cultural and viticultural, that the country can easily fill a month of travelling on its own, visiting varied destinations around this huge country. Distances are large, which makes flights necessary unless of course you want to take one very long and very spectacular Argentinean Road Trip!
Argentina has so many natural wonders that it is worth a trip on its own to visit as many of them as possible!
Suitable Destination For: There really is something for everyone in Argentina, from tango and nightlife in Buenos Aires, to wine, to Alpine and desert scenery and wildlife galore.
Best Time to Visit: From October to March is usually the best time to visit any place in Argentina. The far south in Patagonia basically closes down in the southern winter from April to September. The ski seasons in Bariloche and Mendoza are a great reason to visit from June to August. The Pensinsula Valdes whale-watching season is usually June to November.
Essential Sights & Activities: Buenos Aires & Tango; Iguazu Falls; Salta & High Desert Scenery; Mendoza, Wine & Mountains; Pensinula Valdes & Wildlife; Bariloche & Alpine Scenery; El Chalten & Cerro Fitzroy for Hiking; El Calafate & Glaciers; Ushuaia for Antarctic Cruises and The End of The World.