12 Best Places to Visit in Argentina
Bright, daring and brilliant, Argentina entices with its energetic cities, passionate culture, and vast selection of natural wonders. The home of the tango, there is more to Argentina than first meets the eye. Along the paved European style streets of bustling Buenos Aires, a captivating cosmopolitan creativity oozes from the numerous cafes and street side hangouts. There’s the city of Cordoba with its selection of Spanish architecture, and Mendoza located deep in Argentina’s wine region.
On a visit to Argentina, wildlife and natural attractions are never too far away. The subtropical north of Argentina is where the impressive Iguazú Falls are located, with the surrounding area ideal for hiking. Taking a trip the Los Glaciares National Park in the Patagonia region means the chance to see penguins and graceful glaciers. Visiting the Golfo Nuevo brings the amazing opportunity to glimpse Southern Right Whales. Plan your trip to this delightfully diverse travel destination with our list of the best places to visit in Argentina.
12. Mar del Plata
Once a retreat for Argentina’s aristocracy, Mar del Plata today is the country’s top beach resort city. Located on the Atlantic Coast in the Buenos Aires Province, Mar del Plata attracts millions of tourists every year to its sandy beaches and lively culture. During the summer weekends it can get very crowded here but outside the summer months, the city takes on a much more relaxed feel.
Mar del Plata is a beautiful city of both historic and modern architecture from charming Spanish chalets and Victorian homes to high rise hotels and casinos. In addition to a wide range of restaurants, the city also offers an aquarium, zoo, five golf courses and a major sports stadium.
By far, the main attractions in Mar del Plata are its sandy beaches. The most popular beaches are the ones conveniently located near the city center such as Bristol, La Perla and Popular. Other favored choices are Playa Grande and Playa Mogotes. Although crowded during the summer months between December and March, these beaches offer restaurants, shops, bars and numerous water sports and activities. The Southern Beaches are where young people often hang out with live music and parties.
11. Quebrada de Humahuaca
Dating back thousands of years, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is an arid and underrated mountain valley in the Jujuy province of north-western Argentina. During its heyday, it was known for its convenient caravan road that was part of an important ancient trading route during the Inca Empire.
The valley is defined by cacti, lamas, rugged mountains and colorful sandstone escarpments. Authentic little towns are dotted around, such as Humahuaca (the main town the valley is named after) that’s home to just over 10,000 residents, and smaller, lesser-known mountain villages like Iruya and Purmamarca, with its lovely market.
Surrounded by the Sub-Andean hills to the east, the Altiplano to the west, and the Valles Templados in the south, the mountain scenery of the Quebrada (which means ‘broken’) is truly exceptional, particularly the Sierra de Siete Colores with its unforgettable rainbow-colored hills. For those interested in history, the Quebrada de Humahuaca valley was the site of many bloody battles during the Argentine War of Independence. The historical fortress in Tilcara is also worth a visit. This ancient Incan site has been restored to its former glory.
10. Ibera Wetlands
The Ibera Wetlands is a protected natural reserve boasting marshy swamps, moss-covered bogs, and shallow lagoons. It also happens to be one of the largest wetlands on the planet, only surpassed in size by the Pantanal in Brazil.
The wetlands are located in the northeastern province of Corrientes, roughly 400-miles from the capital city of Buenos Aires. Due to its remote location, the Ibera Wetlands have remained virtually untouched by mass tourism, giving visitors the chance to see nature at its most stunning.
The wetlands are the place to go in Argentina to see an abundance of exotic wildlife. Alligators, giant otters, capybaras, monkeys, and anacondas can be found lurking throughout the wetlands. The wetlands are also home to over 350 different species of birds: it’s common to see herons, eagles, magpies, and even the giant, ostrich-like great rheas.
At the geographical center of Argentina is Cordoba, the country’s second largest city. The city is tknown as La Docta (the Learned) because of its abundant colleges and universities.
Surrounded by three mountain ranges and set along the banks of the Primero River, Cordoba boasts a beautiful collection of old colonial architecture juxtaposed by much more modern buildings. Its 17th-century Jesuit churches are a must visit. Because Cordoba is home to more than 200,000 students, there is also a surprisingly good nightlife scene and a social calendar jam-packed with cuarteto music and rally car racing.
One of the best ways to soak up the spirit of Cordoba is by deep diving into its culture. The city is home to a collection of theaters, cultural complexes, and arte bars, so you can pick the experience that suits you.
8. Puerto Madryn
Located on the shores of Gulfo Nuevo, the city of Puerto Madryn is best known as the gateway to Peninsula Valdes. It is also a popular place to visit in summer because of its beautiful beaches although the water can be very cold. With the explosion of tourism in recent years, Madryn has undergone rapid growth, and the town’s small permanent population swells exponentially during the summer months. Whale Watching tours are also popular as the Southern Right Whale uses the waters of Gulfo Nuevo for breeding and giving birth. From July to September the whales are so close they can be viewed from the mainland.
Jutting out into the South Atlantic, the mushroom-shaped Peninsula Valdes is connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land. The peninsula is a breeding ground for a variety of fascinating marine mammals, such as seals, penguins, orcas, and sea lions. The headland is a superb spot for bird watchers as there are over 180 species of birds recorded here. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for the migratory Snowy Sheathbill, Patagonian Canastero, Rusty-backed Monjita, and much more.
The only settlements on the peninsula is the small village of Puerto Piramides and a few ranches. The village consists of two main roads, offering a market, souvenir shops and several good restaurants serving fresh seafood. There are also a few bars as well here to enjoy drinks, music and socializing.
It should be noted that Peninsula Valdes is privately owned and visitors are not allowed to explore on their own. All visits to the peninsula should be arranged with tour operators from the nearby city of Puerto Madryn. These operations include bus and boat tours.
San Carlos de Bariloche, also known simply as Bariloche, can be found nestled on the slopes of Cerro Otto in Argentina’s enchanting lake district. Overlooking the magnificent royal blue lake and avocado mountain slopes of the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, the views from Bariloche are simply sensational.
With prime real estate along the shores of the lake, the town has its own beach, but it’s small, and certainly not the major drawcard. Instead, Bariloche is one of the country’s most popular sporting destinations – tourists descend on this lakeside town to enjoy its skiing, trekking, rock climbing, and water sporting opportunities.
During the winter, the town has the feel of a Swiss ski resort, with plenty to tempt avid skiers and snowboarders. Home to Cerro Catedral ski resort, San Carlos de Bariloche is a winter wonderland, with Argentinian chocolate boutiques and breweries to lure you out of the cold.
West of Bariloche are stunning waterfalls and glaciers near Pampa Lenda while the Seven Lakes Road north of the city offers breathtaking vistas of the lakes and mountains. During the summer, the lakes are excellent for fishing, and the beaches offer swimming, sun bathers and water sports.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bariloche
See also: Top Bariloche Attractions
Serving as a popular base for Antarctica cruises, Ushuaia is the largest city in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province. Tucked within the Beagle Strait, it’s one of the most southerly-located cities in the world – something that’s earned it its nickname as the ‘End of the World’. Despite its out-of-the-way location, Ushuaia is now a popular resort town and you’d never guess the city’s once dreary history with a glance at its modern-day casinos and upmarket hotels. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll discover the city was once served as an exile prison and an Argentinian naval base.
Today, the city’s main tourist attractions are split from east to west: the End of the World Train and Tierra del Fuego National Park can be found to the west while Fagnano Lake and plenty of scenic hiking trails can be found to the east. A visit to the Beagle Channel offers views of sea lions and penguins.
There’s plenty to discover closer to the city center too. Highlights include the chance to explore the Maritime and Old Prison Museum with its eerie prison cells and a hike to the blissfully snow-capped Martial Glacier for a bird’s eye view over the city.
See also: Ushuaia Attractions
Located in Latin America’s largest wine producing region, Mendoza is a popular tourist destination not only for its wine but also for its proximity to Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas. Furthermore, Mendoza offers access to beautiful scenery and outdoor adventures such as hiking, horse riding, river rafting and more. At the heart of Mendoza is its main square, Independence Plaza, which is surrounded by restaurants, shops and beautiful buildings that are illuminated at night.
What makes Mendoza such a great spot for wine-making is unusual. Despite being a vastly arid desert region, Mendoza has an interesting irrigation system that keeps the region well-watered. You’ll find these natural waterways on either side of the road, with bridges for pedestrians and cars.
Many of the bodegas (wineries) in the Mendoza region run regular vineyard tours and wine tasting sessions. Each winery offers something a little different for visitors to enjoy, whether it’s private tastings with the estate sommelier or wine tasting by bike. Whatever time of year you visit, you can likely find some wine events on the social calendar; many offer walk-in tours, so you don’t have to book in advance. However, if you visit during March and April, the region’s harvesting season, bear in mind that the wineries are often booked up weeks in advance, so plan accordingly.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mendoza
4. El Chalten
El Chaltén is a delightful frontier town that was initially formed as an outpost in the late 70s in the Patagonian region of southern Argentina. Small it may be, but Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torres – two of Patagonia’s most extraordinary peaks – have put this scenic little village on the map for hiking, mountain biking, and trekking adventures. In the summer months, you can expect to find the town heaving with tourists.
Overlooking the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park, the village of El Chaltén is the starting point for an abundance of hiking trails. The one you choose depends on your personal preference. Popular hikes include the relatively easy trek to the isolated Lago del Desierto, the sunrise spot at Laguna Capri, and the longer, more challenging hike to Laguna de los Tres or Laguna Torre. After a day on the trails, the village’s La Cerveceria local brewery is the go-to hotspot in town for a post-hike thirst-quencher.
3. Los Glaciares
The gorgeous Los Glaciares or Glaciers National Park is Argentina’s second-largest park, and one of the largest and most easy-to-get-to ice fields on the planet. So easy, in fact, that you don’t even need a car; Amtrak offers shuttles from the park entrance along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. With its electrifying hairpin bends and magnificent glacial scenery, this is easily one of the most scenic roads to drive on Earth.
The repeated advancing and retreating cycle of the glaciers presents a never ending show of cracking ice and thunderous booms as giant blocks break away and crash into the lakes with enormous splashes. While the glaciers are located in the southern section of the park, the northern section features majestic mountains such as Mount Fitz Roy, offering hiking and mountain climbing.
Despite the captivating scenery of turquoise lakes and forest-clad slopes, Glaciers National Park is most famous for the Perito Moreno Glacier, which draws trekking and rock climbing enthusiasts from far and wide. Its continual movement causes sheets of ice to plunge dramatically into the water below, which is truly a sight to behold.
See also: Discover Los Glaciares
2. Buenos Aires
Pulsating with vitality and seductive charm from colorful European architecture to animated neighborhoods, sensational shopping and sizzling nightlife, it is no wonder that Buenos Aires gave birth to the captivating tango dance. Located off the southeastern coast of South America, Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina and one of Latin America’s largest cities.
Within the sprawling cityscape, with its French and Italian-style architecture, there is plenty to tempt tourists, from theater shows and glitzy bars to stylish art galleries and an exciting party scene. Everything happens late here – from dinner to late-night clubbing – so if you want to do it all properly, don’t expect to get a lot of sleep in Buenos Aires.
The vibrant cosmopolitan city is composed of several districts called barrios. Some of the most visited of these barrios include the Microcentro where The Obelisco is located. San Telmo is popular for its flea markets while La Boca’s multicolored architecture and tango street dancing make it a world famous district.
Overflowing in museums, art galleries and world class theaters, Buenos Aires boasts one of Latin America’s most active cultural scenes. One of the most popular things to do in the city is attending the tango dances frequently performed in various streets and venues.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Buenos Aires
See also: Top Buenos Aires Attractions
1. Iguazu Falls
The thundering Iguazu Falls (meaning ‘Big Water’) is one of the largest and most powerful waterfalls in the world. Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, these massive waterfalls are made up of hundreds of individual cascades. Interestingly, the tallest waterfall, known as Devil’s Throat, is almost double the height of Niagara Falls! The falls in and of themselves are a breathtaking spectacle, but their beauty is all the more enhanced by the surrounding lush forest teeming in exotic wildlife.
The waterfall is located within its own national park near Puerto Iguazu – Parque Nacional Iguazú – that’s filled with some fantastic flora and fauna, including some of the last surviving Atlantic rainforests on Earth. The park features many excellent walkways while boat rides are available which take people close enough to the falls to get wet from the spray.
But while Iguazu Falls are undeniably the main attraction here, a fascinating array of wildlife is another major lure to Iguazu. On a jungle safari through Iguazu National Park, you can see howler monkeys, giant anteaters, jaguars, ocelots, caymans, and over 2,000 species of plants.