There are plenty of reasons to travel to Argentina. As the third most populous country in South America, and largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, Argentina offers distinct and beautiful geography, an interesting history and culture, a fascinating capital, thriving nightlife, and a unique local cuisine. It’s no surprise that Argentina attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Argentina is a vast and varied land. Tapering from the Tropic of Capricorn towards the tip of Antarctica, it encompasses a staggering diversity of terrains, from the lush wetlands of the Litoral and the bone-dry Andean plateau of the Northwest to the end-of-the-world archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Its most emblematic landscapes are the verdant flatlands of the Pampas and the dramatic steppe of Patagonia, whose very name evokes windswept plains inhabited by hardy pioneers.
A very powerful European influence is visible in this nation. Some people say that Argentina is the most American of all European countries and the most European of all American countries, but it actually has a very special character all of its own, distilled into the national ideal of Argentinidad, characterized by proud, defiant passion. While there is a lot of truth in the clichés – Argentine society really is dominated by soccer, politics and living life in the fast lane – not everyone dances the tango, or is obsessed with Evita or gallops around on a horse. Wherever you go, though, you’re bound to be wowed by Argentines’ zeal for so many aspects of their own culture and curiosity about the outside world.
One of Argentina’s top attractions is the metropolis of Buenos Aires. This fascinating city sits at the very edge of the country, gazing out across the Rio de la Plata, but it is very much Argentina’s centerpiece. Big sprawling Buenos Aires is cosmopolitan, the ‘Paris of the South’, and yet retains a neighborhood feel in the barrios (neighborhoods). Buenos Aires is the cultural capital of South America – from buzzing nightlife to a wealth of independent theater, tango shows, world-class restaurants, and a thriving music scene, there is so much to do, you can easily stay for months in this sophisticated city.
In 2018, Buenos Aires becomes a hub for art, sports, and politics: The inaugural ‘Art Basel Cities Program’, the Youth Olympic Games, and the G20 will all take place here, beginning with the multi-year Art Basel initiative. Though the Argentinean capital is already home to an eclectic collection of galleries, Art Basel Cities promises to elevate Buenos Aires’ reputation in the global art scene by offering professional support for local artists, as well as lectures and workshops throughout the year to draw art lovers to the city.
The project culminates in September with a week of public arts programming developed by Cecilia Alemani, Chief Curator of the High Line in New York. Then, in October, 4,000 teen athletes from more than 200 countries will flock to the city for the Youth Olympic Games. The southern Villa Soldati neighborhood has seen significant development in anticipation of the events, with new housing, parks, and sports venues that will breathe life into the area well after the Olympians return home.
Outside the capital, Argentina exceeds with the sheer size of the land and the diverse wildlife inhabiting it. In theory, by hopping on a plane or two you could spot howler monkeys and toucans in northern jungles in the morning, then watch the antics of penguins sliding into the icy South Atlantic in the afternoon. Argentina hosts hundreds of bird species – including the Andean condor and three varieties of flamingo – plus pumas, armadillos, llamas, foxes and tapirs roaming the country’s forests and mountainsides and the dizzying heights of the altiplano, or puna. Lush tea plantations and parched salt-flats, palm groves and icebergs, plus the world’s mightiest waterfalls, are just some of the scenes that will catch you unawares if you were expecting Argentina to be one big cattle ranch. Dozens of these bio-systems are protected by an extensive network of national and provincial parks and reserves.
For getting around and seeing these marvels, you can generally rely on a well-developed infrastructure inherited from decades of domestic tourism. Thanks in part to an increasing number of boutique hotels, the range and quality of accommodation has improved no end in the last decade. Among the best lodgings are the beautiful ranches known as estancias – or fincas in the north – that function as luxury resorts.
Argentina has many attractions that could claim the title of natural wonders of the world: the phenomenal waterfalls of Iguazú; the spectacular Glaciar Perito Moreno; unforgettable whale-watching off Península Valdés; or the beautiful lakes and mountains around Bariloche – indeed, Patagonia in general. Yet many of the country’s most rewarding destinations are also its least known, such as the Esteros del Iberá – a huge reserve of lily-carpeted lagoons offering close-up encounters with cormorants and caimans; or Antofagasta de la Sierra, a remote village set amid frozen lakes mottled pink with flamingoes; or Laguna Diamante – a high-altitude mirror of sapphire water reflecting a wondrous volcano.
Up north lies the Litoral, an expanse of subtropical watery landscapes that shares borders with Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. Here are the photogenic Iguazú waterfalls and Jesuit missions whose once-noble ruins are crumbling into the jungle – with the exception of well-groomed San Ignacio Miní. Immediately west of the Litoral extends the Chaco, one of Argentina’s most infrequently visited regions, reserved for those with an ardent interest in wildlife. A highlight in the country’s landlocked Northwest is the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a fabulous gorge lined with rainbow-hued rocks. It winds up to the oxygen-starved altiplano, where llamas and their wild relatives munch wiry grass. Nearby, in the Valles Calchaquíes, a chain of stunningly scenic valleys, high-altitude vineyards produce the delightfully flowery torrontés wine.
Sprawling across Argentina’s broad midriff to the west and immediately south of Buenos Aires are the Pampas, arguably the country’s most archetypal landscape. Formed by horizon-to-horizon plains interspersed with the odd low sierra, this subtly beautiful scenery is punctuated by small towns, the occasional ranch and countless clumps of pampas grass. Part arid, part wetland, the Pampas are grazed by millions of cattle and planted with soya and wheat fields of incomprehensible size. The Pampas are also where you’ll glimpse traditional gaucho culture, most famously in the charming pueblo of San Antonio de Areco. Here, too, are some of the classiest estancias, offering a combination of hedonistic luxury and horseback adventures. On the Atlantic Coast a string of fun beach resorts includes long-standing favorite Mar del Plata.
As you head further west, the Central Sierras loom: the mild climate, clear brooks and sylvan idylls of these ancient highlands have attracted holiday-makers since the late nineteenth century, and within reach of Córdoba, the country’s colonial-era second city, are some of the oldest resorts on the continent. Heading west, you’ll get to the Cuyo, with the highest Andean peaks as a snow-capped backdrop; here you can discover one of Argentina’s most enjoyable cities, the regional capital of Mendoza, also the country’s wine capital. From here, the scenic Alta Montaña route climbs steeply to the Chilean border, passing Cerro Aconcagua, well established as a fantasy challenge for mountain climbers worldwide.
Argentina cherishes the lion’s share of the wild, sparsely populated expanses of Patagonia (the rest belongs to Chile) and possesses by far the more worthwhile half of the remote archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. These are lands of seemingly endless arid steppe, hemmed in for the most part by the southern leg of the Andes, a row of majestic volcanoes and craggy peaks interspersed by deep glacial lakes. An almost unbroken series of national parks running along these Patagonian and Fuegan cordilleras makes for some of the best trekking anywhere on the planet. On the Atlantic side of Patagonia, Península Valdés is a must-see for its world-class marine fauna, including sea elephants and orcas.
When to Go?
Given the size of Argentina, you’re unlikely to swoop from region to region. Ideally, try and visit each area at the optimal time of year. Roughly falling from September to November, the Argentine spring is perfect just about everywhere, although in the far south icy gales may blow. Summertime (December – February) is the only time to climb the highest Andean peaks, such as Aconcagua, and also the most reliable time of year to head for Tierra del Fuego, though it can snow there any time of year. Buenos Aires is quite often very hot and humid in December and January, and it is recommended to avoid the lowland parts of the North at this time of year, as temperatures can be scorching and roads flooded by heavy storms. The fall season (March and April) is the perfect time to visit Mendoza and San Juan provinces for the wine harvests, and Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego to witness the eye-catching red and orange hues of the beech groves. The winter months of June, July and August are obviously the time to head for the Andean ski resorts, but blizzards can cut off towns in Patagonia and many places close from Easter through to October, so it’s not a good time to tour the southerly region. Temperatures in the north of the country are generally pleasant at this time of year.
AirlinePros partners Aerolineas Argentinas (AR) and Andes Lineas Aereas (OY) take you to your destination of choice in Argentina. Based in Buenos Aires, Aerolineas Argentinas is the country’s flag carrier, operating flights to over 60 destinations in 17 countries. Andes Lineas Aereas offers regional services from its hubs in Salta and Buenos Aires.