Argentina is suited to the adventure traveler, the nature lover, the culturist, the wildlife fanatic, those who fantasize about the tango, and anyone who has ever said they will one day journey to the edge of the world! Therefore, by my reasoning, Argentina is suited to everyone!
As one of the biggest countries in the world, Argentina’s geography is more diverse than you could possibly imagine, offering travelers the choice between spectacular waterfalls, vast regions of desert, striking mountain ranges (The Andes) and ‘desolate glacial lakes’ as found in Patagonia. Travelers from around the world are beginning to flock to Argentina, and it has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, not only for it’s variety of stunning landscapes, but also due to it’s rare marine wildlife, elegant colonial architecture, and of course – the tango! Additionally, Argentina (Ushuaia) is one of the only countries where tours leave for Antarctica.
Taller than Niagra, and twice as wide, Igazu Falls can be found in Argentina’s northeast corner, bordering both Argentina and Brazil. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Igazu Falls combines 275 waterfalls which cascade off cliff faces running 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) along the Iguazu River. The falls are located in the Iguazú National Park which is open between 8am and 6pm.
Think the falls are amazing? Equally as impressive are the Andes Mountain chain, which runs the length of the country’s western border from north to south. This is the perfect location for mountain climbers and hikers seeking challenging peaks, however there are also relatively easy treks in the northern parts of the Andes in the Altiplano for those seeking less physically challenging sightseeing! Head here (west of Cordoba) for spectacular salt flats, volcanoes, multicolored cliffs, old Indian Villages, and lakes which teem with flamingos!
Towns in the northwest which should not be missed include the small town of Purmamarca, which is home to the phenomenol Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors), and Los Cardones National Park which is located in the Calchaquíes Valleys and acts as a preserve for the giant cactus (el cardon). The northwest is where you will find your great desert expanses with vast canyons and prehistoric fossils. Ischigualasto National Park, also known as Valley of the Moon, is well known for it’s strange geological formations, and canyons which hold dinosaur fossils and tracks.
One of those “challenging peaks” I mentioned above would be Aconcagua. The highest mountain in the Andes, despite the fact that winds are ridiculously strong and the light is almost blinding, it is a favorite among mountain climbers! Close-by you have the Puente del Inca which is a unique natural bridge crossing the Vacas River, and if exploring the region over a few days, San Carlos de Bariloche is a great area in the mountains to use as your base.
Heading south you’ll start to encounter more tourists – but for good reason! Patagonia is located in the far southwest; an area which attracts tourists regardless of the cold, wind and rain due to it’s breathtaking geography and natural wildlife. Here you will have access to Glaciers National Park, which is very close to Mount Fitz Roy which lies on the border of Chile and is one of the most technical mountain climbs in the world.
Continuing south, there’s not much further to travel until you hit Ushuaia – the southern most city in the world. This area is home to the lakes of the National Park of Tierra Del Fuego, an area famous for great hiking and scenery, scenery which includes waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, forests and lakes. If you’ve never seen a fox, beaver or guanacos (family of the llama), this is the place to go! You can get to the park from Ushuaia by taking the Train at the end of the world! Other day trips which are popular are boat excursions out to the Beagle Channel to spot aquatic birds, seals and sealions. Sometimes travelers will get lucky and also spot penguins and orca’s.
Monuments and Cities
Cities such as Humahuaca, San Salvador de Jujuy and Salta are reminders of the Colonial period. With elaborate colonial architecture, these cities are very distinct and make for a unique tourist destination. Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires is home to a number of museums, churches and cathedrals, the Pink government house referred to as Casa Rodasa, and Recoleta cemetery where Evita Peron’s grave-site is located.
Argentina’s tourist seasons are the opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere. The summer months of January and February are both high tourist seasons, with prices generally increasing during these times.
If you are heading to Northwest Argentina and Buenos Aires, the best months to go are May, June and July, as well as October and November. Not only will you be avoiding mass tourism, but also taking advantage of the warm climate during these months.
The best time to visit Tierrs Del Fuego is during January, February and March.
The best times of the year to view Igazu Falls are during February, March, April and May, as well as September and October.
Festivals: The International Folklore Festival is held in January in Cosquin. Come August the snow festival is held in San Carlos de Bariloche.
Cities and towns throughout Argentina which are relevant to travelers include:
- Bariloche – located in the Andes, great location for outdoor activities including skiing in winter and hiking in summer;
- Buenos Aires – Argentina’s Capital, Buenos Aires is home of the tango (although unless you are a dance prodigy don’t expect to master the tango during your short visit!);
- Córdoba – elaborate colonial architecture and a great cafe culture;
- El Calafate – gateway to the Moreno Glacier;
- La Plata – capital of the Buenos Aires province, just an hour from the capital;
- Mar del Plata – beachside city;
- Mendoza – great wines and views of the Andes;
- Puerto Iguazu – near the famous Iguacu Falls;
- Rosario – northwest of Buenos Aires;
- Tucuman – in the northwest of the country;
- Salta – in the northwest;
- Ushuaia – the world’s southernmost city. Tours to Antarctica leave from here.
- Puerto Pirámides – a unique place for rare wildlife: whales, sea lions, orcas, dusky dolphins, penguins and many more.
Argentina is incredibly safe despite a lingering reputation to the contrary. The poor and touristy quarters such as La Boca in Buenos Aires do require you to be aware of your surroundings, however there are generally very few problems around the rest of Argentina. Driving in Argentina is quite reckless compared to the rest of the Western World, so traffic accidents will most likely be your main concern – be aware when using the roads as either a pedestrian or driver.
While not a huge problem, crime does happen, however it is generally non-violent, largely pick-pocketing. General advice applies here – don’t leave bags or purses unattended, don’t carry your wallet in your back pocket, don’t wear expensive looking items which might attract the attention of a thief.
A Tourist Police Unit operates throughout the country and can be contacted on a toll-free number: 0800-999-5000.
Pros: Argentina is home to some of the worlds most natural wonders, and boasts an incredible cultural heritage.
Cons: Reversed seasons to the Northern Hemisphere (winter is in July and August).
Travel Documents: All travelers to Argentina require a Passport to enter the country, however requirements for a tourist visa have been continually changing over the last few years. At present, citizens of the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand do not require visas to enter, however you can check visa requirements by country by visiting the Argentinian Department of Immigration Website.
Health Issues: Vaccinations aren’t necessary when traveling to Argentina, however it is recommended to take anti mosquito precautions and malaria preventatives when traveling in areas near the borders of Bolivia and Paraguay. Argentina has a phenomenal public health system which provides free services for emergencies and non-emergencies, regardless of your nationality or immigration status.
Language and Currency: The official language spoken is Spanish, which is called Castellano by Argentines. Guarani and various Indian dialects are also common. The Argentine Peso is traded as currency. As of July 2013 $1 US buys 5.46 Argentine Pesos.
Population: 40,303,000. Around 86% have European ancestry, mainly Spanish and Italian. The capital city of Buenos Aires has a population of 12 million. 90% of Argentinians are Catholics.
Great resources I used for information on Argentina included Travellers Point and Rudy Maxa’s ‘100 countries, 5000 ideas“.
Have you been to Argentina? Do you have anything to add?