Given what we know about Argentina, you’d be excused to say it’s for everyone. It isn’t. At least, not all of it. Some parts are wild, some freezing cold, some flatter than jokes on an open mic evening. But don’t fret, precious! In this game of discovery, daring and discomfort, there are plenty of classes to choose from!
Chances are you’re neither a cartographer nor a millionaire on a vision quest, so you’ll have to choose what to see and how much to spend. Time is limited, spaces are vast and options are numerous. The solution – to start with personal preferences. What’s ideal vacation feel like? Is it coming back home physically tired from the kilometers hiked? A tan to make the Orange Man jealous? Trying every food from a must-try listicle?
Below you’ll find ideas to help you construct the perfect itinerary in Argentina.
It takes more than an organic apple to interest the Connoisseur. She takes pleasure in finer things (as far as the pocket allows). That means having an exquisite meal, visiting a place of high value, enjoying a unique experience that’s hardly available back home. If a trip is to have meaning, it’s in the delicious steak, appetizing wine, breathtaking concert, or some other doubtlessly disgusting pleasure.
The most likely starting point for a Connoisseur is Buenos Aires. Because whatever the vice, Buenos Aires has it. Tsantsa auctions, competitive tickling, Michelin-rated prostitutes, honey dwarf wrestling and things even your grandma’d blush at. Buenos Aires is a microcosm of the entire country. Argentina, being a country of old money (think royal families and the largest landowners), has a plethora of pleasures available to the 1%ers. There you have restaurants for all pockets, tango shows, art galleries, Opera House that’s a real eye candy, bars, bar districts, tango lessons (also free), ballet shows, wine tours and so on.
Another region to consider is Mendoza/San Juan. Famous for their wine, hot temperatures and mountains. Remembering that Argentina brags about its steaks and beef, there are also pampas – supposed to have the best parrillas and meat, available in many estancias. If that’s your jam, put a pin on the town of San Antonio de Areco.
To the Adventurer, the only point of breathing is to have that breath taken away. Argentina is a playground waiting to be explored, lined with opportunities from the stub of the tail to the tip of the head. There are areas of differing levels of civilization, from sprawling urban centre of Buenos Aires, to lands literally untouched by mankind down in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
To the Adventurer it’s an opportunity like few others. Andes are famous among the rock climbers and hikers, offering stunning views and opportunities for actually dangerous adventures. Obviously Patagonia is on the list. With towns like El Calafate, El Chalten, San Carlos de Bariloche, Villa La Angostura or El Bolson, Patagonia alone is enough for an entire trip. But pretty much anything along the mountains is adventure-worthy. It makes sense to search for rafting, mountain biking, camping trails, even in Mendoza. Fishing being on a different level along the Atlantic ocean, of course.
And then, there’s the remote Tierra del Fuego and the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. From there you can book a tour to Antarctica and see the ice melt before your eyes.
Can’t omit the spectacular Iguazú Falls by the Paraguay-Brasil triborder and Iberá Wetlands nearby – they say second best to the Brasilian Pantanal.
These are just some examples off the top of my head. Patagonia is probably the most stunning place to visit, although it’s so large and diverse I can hardly cover even bits. Most likely place to start is either Buenos Aires (because of connection and relatively cheap flights). Other starting points are in Jujuy in the north (entering from Chile or Bolivia) or Puerto Natales (which is in Chile) in the south.
The older the stuff, the more impressed the Archeologist. Knowledge and artifacts from places where history happened are her jam. And with Argentina’s well-established history of genocide and racism, she’ll have to look a bit harder to find some REALLY old sites.
But they’re there. Just gotta know where to look. Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz province is one of the oldest known sites of human activity in Argentina. Indigenous presence has been largely destroyed or forgotten, but some nations remain numerous and creative. Look for Guaraní (near Brasil), Mapuche (Around the middle by the mountains), Qom (north near Bolivia).
Or look for things that aren’t that old. The entire history of European colonialism is fascinating in its own right and Argentina definitely plays a bigger role in the theater of world powers. (Read more in my article about their history.) It’s not just Buenos Aires, with plazas, palaces and monasteries – cities like Córdoba, Rosario or Bariloche don’t lack interesting places, people and events.
Aforementioned pampas with San Antonio de Areco would let you see the gaucho lifestyle for yourself. It would be like touching the foundation myth by the chest, especially during one of the local cowb… ekhm, gaucho festivals.
Sure, adventures and dinners are nice, but sometimes there’s nothing better than to chill. Being free of worries about access, accommodation or attractions. Above all, the Casual values convenience and lowest effort for the maximum comfort. Which means traveling where it’s easy, resting often and having places of interest within reach.
By definition that means cities and civilized places. Argentina is explorable by plane – from Ushuaia in the south to Salta in the north, especially if you book your tickets in advance. Many iconic places (Iguazú Falls, Perito Moreno glacier, Andes mountains) are easy to reach. Buses are an option too. Bear in mind they take a loooooong time (did I mention how stupendously large is Argentina?), but surprisingly… it’s not that bad. If you approach a 27-hour bus ride with the right mindset, it can be an unforgettable moment with vistas straight from a movie. Provided you’ve enough playlists downloaded.
And I’m not joking, they really take 20+ hours.
Lastly, a couple of pointers
South America is notorious for its crime rate, political instability and diseases to inspire George R.R. Martin and Steven King. Understandably, there may be doubts when visiting Argentina. So many things could go wrong!
In truth, it’s a safe, tidy country and you should be worried more about nature.
|Depends on your standards, of course. To some Argentina may look like an unfinished hellhole, but if you plan on judging how people live and do things in their own country, best if you go and be shitty somewhere else.|
Whichever part of Argentina you’re visiting, these are the threats to consider:
- The sun – at the risk of sounding like my grandmother, I gotta say– BRING A HAT! The sun is unforgiving, whether you’re in Patagonia or in Jujuy. The sun rays at a 90⁰ angle in a shadeless desert pound you in the head like a hammer.
Another item is sunscreen. Whereas in the north it’s obvious, keep it in mind in the south as well. A combination of wind, dry skin, cloudy (!) weather and uninformed decisions resulted in one of the worst sunburns of my life. And that was in Patagonia.
- Temperatures – in general Argentina is warmer than the equivalent northern latitudes. But keep in mind it can be very humid, meaning colder colds and hotter heats. Expect Patagonia to be windy and cold, whatever the time, and mind the thermal shock. 10℃ could be warm if coming from -2℃, but damn cold if it’s 25℃ in your port of origin.
- Altitude sickness – this can be especially problematic when going to/from Chile. By some miracle the buses manage to climb the roads and their drivers manage to not pass out, but most people will experience headaches, dizziness, insomnia or breathing problems. How to solve the problem? Firstly, acclimatize and go slow (no more than 300 m (1000ft) elevation gain a day), drink lots of water and/or chew coca leaves. I recommend reading in-depth about altitude sickness to have proper expectations. Altitude is extremely important when going to Bolivia, Chile and Perú, and it’s the major limiting factor to all the hikers.
- This cannot be overstated. DRINK LOTS OF WATER! It really helps!! But go slow on tap water, not all stomachs are equal.
- Earthquakes – by far the least likely, but (potentially) the most devastating threat. These are prevalent in Mendoza and the Northwest. I suppose there isn’t much to help against earthquakes. No matter the iPhones we’ve invented, mankind is still puny and weak.
- Fauna and flora – normally plants and animals in Argentina aren’t dangerous. Llamas, vicuñas and condors are more likely to run away than chase you, yellow fever hasn’t been a problem decades and it would take much effort to find poisonous plants.
However, it’s normal to experience digestive issues with sudden and radical change of diet. In other words, everyone needs time to introduce new gut bacteria.
- Police – locals would advise you to stay away from police and avoid coming to contact. However, like many other places, Argentina has Tourist Police, to deal specifically with issues from tourists (petty theft, scams etc.).
I hope the text made it easier to choose the right places. Chances are, there’s still some preparation ahead of you, but now you can target your places strategically.Or not. There’s always that tiny chance that you really ARE a millionaire.