Tango to Tierra del Fuego: An Epic One-month Argentina Itinerary
What do beef, wine and tango have in common?
If you said they’re all quintessentially Argentine, you’d be spot on the money.
But there’s even more to experience in this South American country.
From the glaciers of Patagonia to the landscapes of the high altitude north, Argentina’s unbridled natureleza (nature) is a vastly underappreciated quality.
Then there are the people, whose eclectic mix of European roots and Latin American influences has resulted in an endearing array of unique cultural norms.
To help our readers obtain the best of both worlds, we’ve put together an epic one-month Argentine itinerary which encapsulates the above. Keep in mind, you don’t need a full month to take advantage of this itinerary! Pick and choose the destinations that excite you the most if you’re in a time crunch.
As long as you make time for that beef, wine and tango.
What to Know Before You Visit Argentina
- Argentina is large and sparse, about the same size as India with a billion fewer inhabitants. Expect to spend an ungodly amount of time on buses. Some bus trips are calculated in days rather than hours.
- Thankfully, Argentina’s buses are better than most countries’. If possible, opt for a bus cama (lie-flat seat) to wake up feeling rested and ready to roll. Semi-cama (reclining seats) provide adequate comfort for budget travelers, while bus normal (standard) is hell on extended trips. Book online at Plataforma 10 to save time.
- Note that you could opt for domestic flights instead of bus rides. This way, you won’t spend a large chunk of your month on buses. Especially if you’re spending fewer than four weeks here! Alternatively, this itinerary could be stretched into six weeks or more.
- Check out Aerolineas or LATAM to book domestic flights. Ticket prices are comparable to buying a bus ticket.
- Backpackers undertaking a longer South American trip could border hop from Brazil (Puerto Iguazu), Bolivia (Salta) or Chile (Bariloche or El Chalten). There’s also a ferry connection between Buenos Aires and Uruguay.
- Argentina is expensive, especially down south. To save those precious pesos, try to cook for yourself in hostel kitchens, sight-see solo rather than on a tour and travel overnight to skimp on accommodation.
- Younger and better-educated Argentines may speak some English, but they’re few and far between.
Glaciers, Wine, Salsa: The One-month Argentina Itinerary
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Week One in Argentina
Buenos Aires: The “Paris of the South” (4 nights)
No trip to Argentina would be complete without a stop in Buenos Aires, and this thriving capital never fails to win over travelers.
To many, its most striking aspect is the incredible colonial architecture, a monumental assemblage which led to the nickname the “Paris of the South.” Indeed, some European travelers are left wondering if they’ve left their home continent at all.
Others are enchanted by the city’s cosmopolitan vibe. Whether you’re dining in an upmarket steakhouse or sipping cerveza (beer) at a trendy outdoor cafe, you’ll be captivated by the city’s urban sophistication.
As for neighborhoods, plan to meander around colorful La Boca, hang with hipsters in San Telmo and party with socialites in Palermo. Don’t forget to take in a tango show somewhere along the way.
Amidst all the mingling, be sure to check out the Obelisco de Buenos Aires (Obelisk of Buenos Aires) and its outrageous 14-lane thoroughfare. You should try to make time to see the historic heart of the city around Casa Rosada (Pink House), the grandiose Teatro Colón (Colón Theater) and the somber La Recoleta Cemetery.
If time permits, Buenos Aires is a popular spot to study Spanish.
Puerto Madryn: Marine life (2 nights)
Few places offer such a magnitude of marine life as Península Valdés (Valdes Peninsula), a spectacular sea reserve just outside of the central Atlantic town of Puerto Madryn.
Come between June and December to watch southern right whales glide through the waves.
In August and September, lucky travelers might even spot an orca as it slides up the beach to snatch an unsuspecting seal.
October to March are the best time to wander among a massive colony of penguins, while elephant seals, dolphins and sea lions tend to hang around all year long.
Week Two in Argentina
Ushuaia: The end of the line (3 nights)
Also known as el fin del mundo (the end of the world), the world’s southernmost major settlement of Ushuaia truly is the end of the line. Geographical extremities aside, it’s an outstanding destination to experience the natural splendor of southern Patagonia.
The best hikes are within the stunning Tierra del Fuego National Park, a pristine forested expanse famous for its glaciers and rivers. Other worthwhile attractions include the ski fields of Cerro Castor and the penguins at Yécapasela Reserve.
Travelers with a week and a small fortune to spare could hop on a last minute cruise ship to explore the great white continent of Antarctica.
El Calafate: An amazing glacier (1 night)
People visit El Calafate for one reason only: To marvel at the unrivaled beauty of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
From the town center, jump on a public bus toward the series of adjacent raised platforms that provide uninterrupted views of the most spectacular glacier on Earth. Stick around long enough and you’re bound to see a big chunk of ice calve into the frigid water below.
Feeling adventurous? A half-day hike across its upper layer is the ultimate glacial experience.
El Chalten: A Patagonian wonderland (4 nights)
Nothing beats the raw beauty of Patagonia, an expansive section of southern Argentina and Chile known for its unrivaled natural splendor. And few destinations showcase this wild treasure better than the tiny town of El Chalten.
Put simply, El Chalton’s beauty can be attributed to Mount Fitzroy. This snow-capped peak perched above a stunning turquoise lagoon is only a short hike away.
For a true Patagonian experience, camp among the region’s forests and while away the days hiking.
Week Three in Argentina
Bariloche: The Lake District (4 nights)
Chocolate lovers should make a drive along Ruta 40 (Route 40) to Bariloche. This charming alpine-style town has more chocolate shops than one traveler can handle.
Yet the real beauty lies in the densely forested hiking trails and crystal clear waters of the encompassing Argentine Lake District. There are enough paths to keep hikers happy for months. But you can also take the easily cyclable Circuito Chico (Small Circuit) for a shorter trip and rewarding view.
If time and budget permit, rent a car and drive up the Camino de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Road), stopping to enjoy the scenery along the way. If you have time, spend a night in the quaint towns of San Martín de los Andes or Villa La Angostura.
Mendoza: Fine Argentine wine (3 nights)
Oenophiles would be crazy to miss Mendoza, a happening mid-sized city at the heart of the country’s enormous wine industry. Whitewater rapids and mountain-clad national parks tempt the outdoorsy types, although it’s the vino (wine) that reels in the masses.
The best way to visit the picturesque outlying vineyards is by bike, stopping off at each winery for a cheeky free tasting session.
Week Four in Argentina
Salta and beyond: Gauchos and high-altitude deserts (5 nights)
For a taste of Argentina’s intriguing gaucho (cowboy) culture, the northern city of Salta is a must.
Explore its neo-colonial architecture by day and listen to some lively folkloric music at a local peña (music hall) by night. Be sure to sample some mouthwatering empanadas along the way.
Pleasant as Salta may be, it’s the high-altitude northern deserts that keep us coming back to this area. Either form a posse to rent a car or jump on the public bus to the quaint cactus-lined towns of Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca.
An overnight stay in each town isn’t necessary, but be sure to take the time to hike their sun-kissed landscapes, particularly the postcard-perfect Colina de Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors).
Travelers who yearn for more vino should take a side trip to Cafayate, which is famous for its endless valleys of the white Torrontés grape as well as a series of seriously psychedelic rock formations.
Puerto Iguazú: The gateway to the falls (2 nights)
What better way to end your epic Argentine adventure than a visit to the world famous Iguazú Falls? Scientists suspect large quantities of flowing water make us happy, and after visiting this fantastic site for ourselves, we’re inclined to agree.
Allow at least one full day to explore the area. Plan for two days if you want to hop over to the Brazilian side of the park.
Don’t skip the speedboat ride, an adrenaline pumping experience that whisks screaming passengers right into the waterfall’s spray.
There you have it, the ultimate one-month Argentina itinerary.
And guess what? This is just the beginning.
So if you have more time to spend in Argentina, we can’t recommend it enough.
Harry Stewart is a South America-based freelance writer who covers travel, arts and culture, among many other things.
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