The best of Argentina – Top 8 places you shouldn’t miss


28 Apr 2016

Visiting Argentina can be a tricky trip to plan. Here a 8 great  places to see ensuring you see the very best of what this varied country has to offer. 

Planning to see an entire country when you have limited holiday time can be challenging. It’s an especially big task when the country you’re seeing is Argentina, the 8th biggest country in the world. The landscape changes dramatically from the multicoloured mountains in the barren and dry north to the glaciers and big ice of Patagonia in the south. If you’ve struggled to put together an itinerary to see the best of Argentina, this list will help you make some tough decisions. 

1. Here’s where you’ll find nature imitating art
    Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy province

Argentina, Quebrada de Humahuaca

The Quebrada’s prominent features are the multicoloured rocks stretching 155km along the valley of the Rio Grande in the most northern part of Argentina. The Quebrada de Humahuaca is part of the extensive network of Inca trails dating over 10,000 years back, meaning there are hundreds of archeological and historic sites along this valley. Apart from spectacular natural sights there are also historic Quechuan villages to visit along this valley. A few towns and villages offer accommodation options. Tilcara is a great option if you prefer a smaller village. It’s rich in history and traditions and also offers an ancient pre-Incan fortress called Pucará de Tilcara, to visit just outside of town. For those looking for the convenience of a larger town with restaurants and shops, head straight to the capital of the province, San Salvador de Jujuy, 84 kms south of Tilcara.

WANT MORE? Only half an hours drive south from Tilcara lies Purmamarca. A pretty-as-a-postcard village sits beneath the backdrop of the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors). Resembling something that might appear to you after slipping down the rabbit hole, it’s become quite the tourist attraction; you won’t be alone. Daily market stalls are set up in the central plaza to help you with your souvenir shopping of local handicrafts. Purmamarca is also the starting point for several great treks in the area including one to the Salt Flats (Salinas Grandes).

STAY: At Posada de LuzAmbrosetti 661, Tilcara, Jujuy, 4624, Argentina
Beautiful and generous sized suites and cottages set in landscaped gardens with pool.

Argentina, Quebrada de Humahuaca
Argentina, Quebrada de Humahuaca
The best of Argentina, Quebrada

2. Looking for exquisite architecture?
Salta, Salta province

The best of Argentina, Salta

Salta is a charming colonial town.  Even though it has over 600,000 inhabitants, it’s managed to keep a quaint feel about it. Bright coloured churches, manicured town squares and cobbled streets make this a great city to explore by foot. Salta truly feels like a collision of worlds. It’s colonial architecture is said to resemble Andalusian villages in Spain, whilst the culture is a mix of european, indigenous and non-indigenous, making for a very unique mix. It’s this quality that differentiates Salta from the much more European influenced cities further south.

You will not go hungry in Salta and if you’ve come to Argentina in search of the best steak you’ve ever eaten, you will find it here.  Try El Viejo Jack and their Bife Chorizo (US$8) with an accompanying bottle of Malbec (US $8). You’ll spend much of the rest of your life searching for a steak as good as this one. 

WANT MORE? To get more in depth information of some of the stunning buildings throughout the city, join the Salta Free Walking Tour that starts daily at 10am. You pay what you feel it’s worth.

STAY:  El Balcon del la Plaza Salta 4400, Argentina
Charming centrally located mansion style boutique hotel. Converted by its owner into a hotel with just 10 rooms. 

The best of Argentina, Salta architecture
The best of Argentina, Salta
The best of Argentina, Steak

3. Love wine? This is your Mecca.
Mendoza, Mendoza province

The best of Argentina, Mendoza

Welcome to wine country! Mendoza is surrounded to the south and south east by 144,000 hectares of planted vineyards. Supplying almost two thirds of the entire country’s wine production, the region is also spectacularly nestled afoot the snow capped Andes towering over vineyards to the east. For those with a 5 star palate, drop into beautiful Bodega Ruca Malen winery for a 5 course lunch with paired wines and views of the Andes.

Malbec, Tempranillo, Torrontes and Chardonnay are the stars in terms of grape varieties, thriving in the higher altitudes of Mendoza’s wineries at around 2,000–3,600 feet (600-1000m)

In Mendoza an abundance of food experiences in various price ranges await your palate. Azafran offers modern Argentinian and is great for a long lunch. Cordillera vinos y fuegos is a modern steakhouse that specialises in everything to do with the cow that is prepared on an open fire grill. You’ll find hostels and hotels of all standards dotted around town, but if you want an honest Argentinian family experience with hosts that you’ll want to adopt, and a house you won’t want to leave head to Plaza Italia B&B. Son of the hosts, Javier is a wine lover & connoisseur and can organise tailored winery tours even if you are not staying there.

WANT MORE? To experience the Andes up close and personal, take a day trip to Aconcagua, the world’s tallest mountain outside of Asia. It’s a 2.5 hour drive one way and allows you to marvel at it’s glacier capped peak. If you have the stamina there are many hikes and treks you may attempt within Aconcagua Provincial Park.

STAY:  Plaza Italia B&B , Montevideo 685, Capital, Mendoza
A stunning mansion style home run by the family that also lives there. Surrounded by grand trees at in the park outside, it’s a short stroll from shops and Mendoza’s many eateries.

The best of Argentina, Mendoza, wine
The best of Argentina, Mendoza, wine barrels
The best of Argentina, Aconcagua

4. The best base to experience the big ice
El Calafate, Santa Cruz province

The best of Argentina, Perito Moreno

With access to an airport, El Calafate is an endearing town that’s quickly grown into a tourist hub. It lies on the edge of the Argentino Lake, gateway to the spectacular Los Glaciares National Park and home of it’s most famous attraction, Perito Moreno Glacier. A day trip by boat is the way to see this wonder. Tourist agencies are scattered all across town and provide more or less the same service. Tours will include a hotel pick up, a boat trip taking you past floating ice bergs and 4 majestic Glaciers before revealing the 60m high Perito Moreno. Watch large chunks of ice break off into the water below in Hollywood movie worthy fashion.

The centre of El Calafate has a ski-village feel with souvenir shops housed in wooden huts and plenty of hot coffee aromas filtering through the many café doors along the main stretch. A picturesque three hour drive can get you across the border to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, if you have time. Otherwise you have the opportunity to book a trek across a glacier which has an age limitation and requires a certain level of fitness. Eat tender open fire roasted Patagonian lamb at Don Pinchon. It’s a short walk from the centre and has a great views over the whole town. If you prefer an even more rustic Gaucho experience, there is nothing like Esquina Varela where you can try authentic Argentinian stew, Locro and lots of local favourites.

WANT MORE?  If you prefer just learning some hard and well presented glacier facts, visit the Glaciarium. Like in a science museum, you can interact with some displays, watch short documentaries and experience simulations. It’s well worth a visit.

STAY: Hosteria Hainen, Puerto Deseado, El Calafate, Santa Cruz, Argentina
A short walk up a small hill means you get sensational views over the village. Great hospitality, Cosy rooms  in a wooden chalet style building and breakfast available. A few really great restaurants nearby.

The best of Argentina, El Calafate
The best of Argentina, Los Glaciares national park.
The best of Argentina, Los Glaciares national park. Spagezzini glacier

5. The ultimate place to hike
El Chalten, Santa Cruz province

The best of Argentina, El Chalten

Just 220km (315 miles) north of El Calafate and still within the Los Glaciares National Park lies hikers paradise El Chalten. This village exists purely for serious outdoor types that come here for the warmer months (November to February) to hike and climb the surrounding Cerro El Torre and Cerro Fitzroy. As the small town exists purely for its visitors, it’s largely deserted in the southern hemisphere winter months of June to August. Many of the treks are of easy to medium difficulty, and can be completed without any professional trekking gear. Walking the path towards Cerro Fitzroy will be rewarded with spectacular views of valleys with glacial rivers in milky blue liquid, lakes reflection adjoining mountains and crystal clear streams with some of the best water you’ve ever tasted.  A decent pair of trainers or walking shoes, a fleece and a wind cheater will get you through. And for those with a more serious taste for scaling glacier clad cliffs, there are more challenging paths on offer. The centrally located tourist office has hiking maps and advises on potential dangers and path closures.

There are a limited number of guest houses (Hosteria’s) available which fill up in summer, so book ahead.

WANT MORE? El Chalten has it’s very own microbrewery, and all that hard work during the day deserves some thirst quenching. La Cerveceria serves homemade beers with a garden to watch the world go buy. They will also feed you delicious snacks, expañadas and fine version of Argentina’s stew, Locro.

STAY: Tranqueras de El Chalten, Leonel Terray, El Chalten, Santa Cruz, Argentina.
A big wooden ski lodge, these rooms are spacious, clean and breakfast is included.

The best of Argentina, El Chalten, Sendero Fitzroy
The best of Argentina, El Chalten
The best of Argentina, El Chalten, Fitzroy

6. Ever wondered what the end of the world looks like?
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

The best of Argentina, Ushuaia, Lighthouse

On the southernmost tip of Argentina lies the bleak sounding ‘Fin del Mundo’ or ‘End of the world’. But this British founded missionary village is neither bleak nor technically the end, but its the commercially accessible end of the world as we know it. Ushuaia town itself is no place to write postcards from, but It’s the jump on/off point for many an adventure cruises towards Antarctica (if you have the stomach or the dollars for it). If you prefer solid ground under your feet you can get up close and personal with Glacier Martial which is a 10 minute taxi ride from town. A steep and gravel covered trek will take you right to the ice. Ushuaia offers many a boat trip across the Beagle Channel. For wildlife lovers and those interested in marine life, hop on a day trip to Harberton Ranch. Harberton is a missionary pioneer home established in 1886 that now houses a laboratory for the study of sea mammals and birds. Near perfectly intact whale skeletons and specimens of washed up sea life are on display here, whilst Isla Martillo a short boat ride across the Beagle channel is home to a large penguin colony. Walk amongst thousands of penguins who seem largely unfazed by boats bringing invaders to their otherwise uninhabited island.

The tour vendors in Ushuaia town line the water front and offer comparable trips. Be sure to pick one that includes Isla Martillo and returns from the ranch via a cruise down the beagle channel. The stunning scenery of snow capped mountains, sea lion and sea bird inhabited rocks along the way and the serene southernmost ‘Lighthouse at the end of the world’ are a photographer’s delight. Afterwards, head to the rustic Ramos Generales bakery & café for a sweet treat, sandwich and a hot cuppa to warm you up.

WANT MORE?  Discover Ushuaia’s beginnings and historic past at the Maritime and old jail museum. Part of the museum is in an old jail, so if you’ve never had the privilege of being incarcerated this is a great opportunity that lets you leave at the end. Also a must for history buffs with lots of facts on the first settlers.

STAY: Cabañas Aves del Sur , Gobernador Valdez 323, Ushuaia 9410, Argentina.
Ignore the shocking website and enjoy this warm Argentinian family hospitality in a wonderful home.

The best of Argentina, Ushuaia
Ushuaia, Argentina
The best of Argentina, Ushuaia, Glacier Martial

7. How does it feel to look down the Devil’s throat?
Puerto Iguazú and Iguazú Falls, Misiones

The best of Argentina, Iguazu falls

Iguazú is the polar opposite to Ushuaia and feels like a world away. Lush rainforests replace snow capped mountains and cool dry air makes way for damp, heavy air of 90% humidity. Tourist descend on the little port of Iguazú to witness nature’s great forces of the Iguazú falls. There isn’t much to the town itself, but the waterfalls are deemed one of the world’s natural wonders for a reason. The acoustic impact alone can make your heart stop but standing on top of the falls looking down the “Devil’s throat” of the falls is visually and viscerally inspiring.

It’s worth making the trip across the border to Brazil to get the opposing perspective on the waterfall.

WANT MORE? Head across the border to Brazil and view the falls from a different perspective. Where in Argentina you get the up close experience of being able to walk on walkways above the falls looking down, in Brazil you get the see the falls

STAY: Secret Garden Iguazu , The Lapachos 623, Puerto Iguazú.
Ignore the terrible website – just email the owner john@secretgardeniguazu.com. This place is set I’m a lush tropical garden an is an absolute delight.

The best of Argentina, Iguazu
The best of Argentina, Iguazu falls
The best of Argentina, Iguazu falls

8. Paris, the Buenos Aires of Europe
Autonomous city of Buenos Aires

The best of Argentina, Buenos Aires, La Boca

No visit to Argentina is complete without meeting the country’s saucy mistress, Buenos Aires.

The grand boulevards in the city centre remind you of those in Europe with architecture genres incorporating everything from art nouveau to renaissance and art deco to gothic. Known as “Paris of the south”, Recoleta is the city’s most exclusive suburb, which is reflected in the size of the tombstones in this suburb’s famous cemetery. The city has many different quarters which all have their appeal and are vastly different. Once shady La Boca historically was the first point of call for all immigrants arriving at the adjoining port. Today it’s mainly a tourist attraction known for it’s famous colourful buildings, art shops, restaurants and Tango performances in the streets and cafés on the weekends. Palermo is the trendy quarter with lots of parks, cafés, restaurants bars and boutiques and the hip and trendy all mingle here in the day as they do after sunset. San Telmo is the more rustic and bohemian sister to Palermo, with antique shops and markets connected by cobbled streets. Puerto Madero has seen a drastic transformation from industrial port to warehouse conversion apartments and high end restaurants lining the waterfront.

WANT MORE?  If the buzz of the city is getting under your skin, run away to Le Tigre, just 28kms (17miles) north of Buenos Aires city, 45 minutes by train away. A weekend escape for locals and tourists, it’s situated spectacularly on an island created by running water ways and streams. Once a playground for the rich, it became abandoned before regaining popularity and underwent major renovations in 2006.    A strong victorian influence is seen in the mansion sized houses on the waterfronts, many of which house restaurants perfect for long lazy lunches. Spa resorts, artisan markets, an amusement park and a museum are other draw cards if the horse riding, kayaking, walking through forests and bird watching aren’t enough to keep you entertained.

STAY: Buenos Aires is known for it’s grand architecture. Try an Airbnb apartment to experience the luxury of a grand Porteño home, such as this Artdeco House.
If you prefer a place that will make your bed and serve you breakfast try:
Prodeo Hotel Gorriti 5374, Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. A well priced, modern hotel, located in Palermo Soho near many cafes and bars with large rooms, breakfast and even a pool.

The best of Argentina, Buenos Aires, Teatro Colon
The best of Argentina, La Boca
The best of Argentina, Buenos Aires, La Recoleta

A FEW LAST HANDY HINTS :


  • Fly the bigger distances, unless you have lots of time and the patience of a saint. Having said that, buses in Argentina are very comfortable and can be luxurious. Most also take regular stops, have bathrooms and serve food for larger distances.
  • Book your internal flights ahead of time – it’s cheaper to book them from outside of Argentina.
  • Blue market – Changing money on the street rather than at a bank doesn’t get you the exchange rates it used to but still 5-10% better than taking money out at an ATM. Weigh up your options of walking around with a wad of cash vs getting a 10% more for your money.
  • Stay in bed & breakfasts over hotels to make sure you get some real Argentinean hospitality.
  • Ask to experience a mate (tea) ritual. Everyone drinks it everywhere. All the time.
  • Eat something from the parilla. (Open fire grill). Just do it.
  • Eat something with Dulce de Leche, Argentinian caramel that comes in tubs. Or buy a tub in a supermarket and get yourself a spoon.
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