Argentina Tours and Travel Guide
Argentina Attractions & Landmarks Guide
Argentina shares southernmost South America -- and the remote region of Patagonia, a favorite of adventurous travelers -- with neighboring Chile. The remote Tierra del Fuego city of Ushuaia -- one of the world’s southernmost communities -- is a frequent embarkation point for ships to Antarctica and to local penguin colonies.
But Argentina is probably best known for its vibrant, European-like capital, Buenos Aires, in the northern part of the country. An irresistible combination of urban sophistication, rugged nature, scenic beauty, and engrossing history and culture makes Argentina a don’t-miss South American destination.
Conjuring up images of tango, steak, and good red wine, the beauty of Argentina is almost indescribable. All throughout the country you find elements of European influence, particularly in the Italian complexion of the majority of population. The architecture is reminiscent of continental Europe with flashes of Spanish, Italian and French influence and the history, while simultaneously beautiful and brutal, allows a glimpse into the heart of the country.
Why Visit Argentina on a Guided Tour?
Argentina is one of the final stretches on the Pan-American Highway, with its “city at the edge of the world,” Ushuaia, being the end. Traveling without a guide is possible, however going with a guide is an enriching experience - helping travelers to fully understand the cultural significance of Argentina's landmarks and dive deeper into its stunning landscapes.
Since your guides will often be an Argentinian local, they have not only an intimate understanding of the local languages but also their customs. This allows for smooth transitions between lodging accommodations in urban and rural settings. It also gives travelers a way to find the popular, less well-known with travelers locations for nightlife or other activities, as the guides have experience with what is available and when.
While on the tour, guides are able to answer questions about the historical significance of various sites, providing a unqiue local perspective. Since Argentina is such a large country, having a guide that knows how to manage transportation in invaluable, as this minimizes travel times through the use of the most efficient or picturesque routes.
A guided tour also serves to provide travelers with interactions with other international guests in their group. This allows for cultural exchanges and the ability to make friends for other fun travel activites in Argentina. You may find that you meet a hiking companion for the more remote parts of Argentina, such as the self-guided hiking trails near El Chalten.
In this way, travelers are able to maximize their cultural interactions while also remaining informed and organized throughout their exploration of Argentina within a guided tour group.
Top Cities in Argentina
1. Buenos Aires
Perched on the Pacific coastline, Buenos Aires lives up to its reputation as one of the most relaxed capitals in the Americas. Whether travelers to the city wish to explore the president of Argentina’s office building, “La Casa Rosada,” or take tango lessons, Buenos Aires caters to travelers of all ages.
As a major city, it has bus routes which travelers can utilize to access different sections of it, but it is also very bike-friendly. Since it is very flat, travelers who tour the city by bike may find it easier to navigate through traffic congestion, which is highly prevalent at rush-hour times.
Similarly, Buenos Aires is well-known for its lively hostels that are matched by homestay options or major hotel chains. Both the Hilton and Four Seasons have locations in the heart of the capital, along with other comparably luxurious Argentinian hotel chains.
Buenos Aires’ economy utilizes the Argentinian peso and is often considered to be just as expensive as London or other major Western cities. So visiting Argentina on a guided tour is a great way to save - as meals are often included within the trip package, and venture beyond the tourist strips.
From an entertainment perspective, Buenos Aires offers travelers the opportunity to see futból matches at La Bombonera stadium, art in museums and cemeteries, as well as a 67-meter high obelisk (El Obelisco). Travelers are encouraged to spend multiple days in Buenos Aires to fully experience all of the various cultural and historical aspects that make the city one of the most popular to visit in South America.
Travelers do not have to be wine connoisseurs to enjoy the product that makes Mendoza, Argentina, such a unique city. Situated in the Cuyo region, Mendoza, it is known internationally as the birthplace of Malbec wines. This particular type of red wine, along with others, are made possible by the specific altitude and desert climate that the grapes in the city are grown in.
Guided tours of the wineries (known locally as “bodegas”) are numerous. Since there is no public transportation in the city, many wineries also provide lodging or transportation, depending on the tour package. The Vendimia Festival, celebrating the harvest of the grapes in late February or early March is the most popular time to visit Mendoza, making it crucial to plan your Argentina tour in advance.
For those wishing to relax further than traversing the beautiful city vineyards, Mendoza is also known for its restaurants and spas, both of which may be included with tours or include discounts from hotels. The city itself is centered around the Plaza Independencia, which is worth taking a walking tour of to understand its historical significance.
To deepen your knowledge of one of Argentina’s most popular cities and its inhabitants, travelers can tour the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno. While the art is primarily that of South American artists, it is still interesting to visit given its subterranean location. The perfect merging of nature with the urban architecture of the city will make leaving difficult, especially without a bottle of Malbec or a massage.
Famously known as the “End of the World,” Ushuaia is the largest city in the Tierra del Fuego region of Argentina. It is also the last stop on the Pan-American Highway and the gateway to tours of Antarctica from Argentina. It is situated between the Andes Mountains, specifically the Martial Mountains, and the Beagle Strait, which separates South America from Antarctica.
For those looking to traverse the city by train, the Southern Fuegian Railroad provides a great overview of it along with the surrounding natural features that may be hiked to. Dogsledding is another method of travel for those who arrive in the winter, as the nearby ski locations are considered to be some of the best in the world.
North from the city, just a short train or drive away, is the famous Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is home to many lakes and mountains that stretch between Chile and Argentina. For those looking to see the elusive guanaco, Andean condor, or flora of all kinds, a day trip to the park from Ushuaia is a great option, and commonly included as an excursion on Argentina tours.
These adventure tours in Argentina provide not just transportation, but also knowledge on where to see the widest variety of biodiversity that comes from experience in the park. Travelers should be aware that while the city is inexpensive to stay in, it is cold year-round. This requires layers of clothing to be packed, along with dry-bags, to alleviate the need to miss tour activities on account of a lack of protection or sickness.
Getting to Patagonia from Argentina
The amount of time that a traveler has in Argentina is the most significant factor when it comes to deciding the method of transportation that will lead to Patagonia. While Argentina and Chile have their respectively popular travel destinations in this shared region, it is no simple matter to get from one to the other.
Travelers must cross both sides of Patagonia if they wish to see all that it has to offer. That being said, most guided tours of Patagonia from Argentina begin in the capital of Buenos Aires. International travelers can decide to board a cruise ship, fly, drive, or take busses.
The fastest method of travel is flying, a largely inexpensive option that has its first legs in either Santiago, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, depending on which end of Patagonia travelers wish to begin with.
From there, travelers can fly to Punta Arenas, further north to Puerto Natales, and finally reach the famous Torres del Paine National Park. This is one of the most famous sites in the Chilean part of Patagonia and is conveniently located just a drive or bus ride away from Argentina’s El Calafate.
This small town is closed during the winter season but is the only gateway to Lago Argentino, El Chalten Glacier, and Mount Fitz Roy. Further north from these landmark sites is Los Glaciares National Park and the unmistakable Perito Moreno Glacier, all of which are accessible by car or bus.
For those feeling exceptionally adventurous, the Pan-American Highway spans the distance from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina. This option, while time-consuming, still allows travelers to arrange guided tours of both Argentina and Chile’s sides of Patagonia.
The Natural Wonders of Argentine Patagonia
Many travelers who make their way to Argentina are on their way to Patagonia - where stunning natural landscapes, wildlife, and challenging hikes beckon true outdoors enthusiasts. Patagonia is a region covering parts of both Chile and Argentina, however the Argentina side is quite a bit larger and easier to visit.
It is possible of course to visit Patagonia without camping or taking strenuous hikes, so don’t despair if this isn’t your cup of tea. Many Argentina tours will feature a visit to some of Patagonia’s more accessible sights on the itinerary.
Some of the top Patagonia sights you’ll see in Argentina include:
1. El Calafate - This unique setting is a top Patagonia attraction, primarily as the jumping off point to visit Los Glaciares National Park. If Patagonia has been on your bucket list, you’ve undoubtedly seen images of Perito Moreno Glacier, with its bright blue icey walls against a rugged and rocky backdrop. This is a top site to visit in Argentina!
2. Valdés Peninsula - An UNESCO World Heritage sight and home to a wildlife preserve that helps protect enormous colonies of Magellanic penguins, whales, elephant seals, and many other species, the Valdes Peninsula is an essential stop in Argentina for wildlife lovers.
3. Puerto San Julian - History lovers will delight in this excursion, the site of Ferdinand Magellan’s landing, the explorer to whom credit for naming Patagonia goes. There’s not much else in the area other than historical themed boat rides and a museum, so this really is one for the history buffs.
4. The Dinosaur Route - If you love paleontology or are traveling with young kids who are fascinated by dinosaurs, the Dinosaur Route is a definite must when visiting Patagonia in Argentina. Several important fossils have been discovered in the area (there is even a species that’s been named Argentinosaurus). The Dinosaur route is a great way to get up close to these discovery areas and learn about ongoing digs in the region.
See all Argentina tours that include Patagonia »
Food in Argentina
When you’re traveling in Argentina, expect a unique cuisine, with many flavor influences from around the world. Argentina cuisine is fairly meat heavy, so vegetarians may have a bit of trouble in restaurants and homestays. Meals are also fairly large and hearty - if you don’t usually eat a lot, definitely try convincing someone to split with you!
Wine is also big in Argentina, and several Argentina tours are now featuring winery visits and tastings on their itineraries. Some of the best varietals to try in Argentina are Malbec and Cabernet Franc.
Some of the top foods to try in Argentina include:
1. Asados (barbeque) - Barbeque is a cooking process utilized all around the world, each country with it’s only unique style, flavors, and sides. In Argentina, barbeque is a full event enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Common meats you’ll find at an Argentina barbeque include Chorizo, ribeye, and sirloin.
2. Empanadas - Another popular food item that has its unique flair depending on the country, Empanadas are the perfect finger food for tourists on the go, or locals doing their market shopping. Traditional ingredients include potato, boiled eggs, scallions, and of course, meat - wrapped in a delicious dough.
3. Alfajores - If you have a sweet-tooth, you will love some of the desert items found in Argentina, especially Alfajores. The flavor of “dulce-de-leche” is everywhere in South America, and these treats are also common in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. They are a small sweet cookie, with dulce de leche filling and sometimes dipped in chocolate and / or shaved coconut.
4. Milanesa - Fans of traditional European “Milanese” or “Schnitzel” will recognize immediate similarities in this popular Argentine lunch or dinner item. Meat (chicken or veal typically) is pounded thin and served with a tomato based sauce.
Wine-tasting in Argentina
Argentina is home to some of the world’s more unique grape varietals, which have captured the attention of wine lovers everywhere. These include Torrontes and Malbec, which thrive in Argentina's extremely particular grape-growing conditions.
While Malbec wines have also been produced in some parts of Chile and the United States, Torrontés wines are limited to Argentina wineries. This makes securing a wine tour in Argentina's wine country, around Salta very difficult if it is not done ahead of time with a guided tour.
Since Salta rises from 5,000 feet above sea level to 9,000 feet in a desert climate, replicating these conditions elsewhere to create Torrontés wines is nearly impossible. Fortunately, there are around 4,500 acres of vineyards along the famous Ruta de Vino (Wine Route) for travelers in Argentina to explore.
Many of the bodegas (wineries) that Argentina tours stop at not only offer tours of the property, but also cooking classes that prepare meals to pair with the rare wines that are sampled. For those looking to remain closer to Buenos Aires, Mendoza is a city that is similarly famous for its surrounding wineries that have historically specialized in the crafting of Malbec wine.
While this type of wine is still a staple for the region, the biodynamic wineries that continue to expand in the region are exploring various other red-wine blends. Therefore, travelers to wineries in Argentina are afforded the unique experience of being at the frontier of the wine industry, all from the comfort of a spa or a gorgeous view of the mountainous arid landscape.
Wine specialists are also available on guided tours of wineries in Mendoza to facilitate the sampling process and share the rich evolution of the Malbec wine into its various other forms which continue to appeal to international travelers.
Adventure Travel in Argentina
Given how Argentina’s landscape ranges from lowlands to Andean mountain peaks and back down to deserts and glaciers, adventure travel can take on many forms. The most popular adventure travel in Argentina tends to take place inside its many national parks.
Mount Fitz Roy (El Chaltén)
Part of Los Glaciares National Park, Mount Fitz Roy (locally called El Chaltén) is 3,405 meters high, with around 4,000 meters of vertical elevation. It is a veritable climbers paradise, one that requires both the proper gear, physical preparation, and guided tour to follow. The best time to visit is during the months of October to March.
It is recommended that adventurous travelers who wish to hike Mount Fitz Roy plan their trip at least six months in advance. Guided tours to Mount Fitz Roy book flights in advance, alleviating the need for travelers to concern themselves with transportation matters.
Travelers must begin their journey in El Calafate, a small town that only has 20 permanent residents and stands as the gateway to the mountain. Since traveling on a guided tour is the most popular option when climbing the mountain, campsites are established along the way, including at the famous Lago de Los Tres. Travelers can expect to be on the trail for at least 2 days, depending on how quickly their group moves and where they stop.
Perito Moreno Glacier
While the Perito Moreno Glacier is also in Argentina’s Patagonia, it is a much less strenuous site to reach than Mount Fitz Roy. It is peculiar for being one of the only glaciers worldwide to still be advancing. However, this does not mean that travelers will see it standing still, as it is typical for the glacier to “calve.” This process leads to the collapse of entire ice-bridges, shedding building-sized debris into the surrounding water of Argentino Lake.
For travelers in guided boat tours by boat, this makes for an exhilarating experience that not only can be heard but also seen and felt. As the glacier shifts, the immense amounts of ice that fall into the water below may shake or even spray those travelers who are in nearby boats.
There are also catwalks and hiking trails that ring the land around the lake that provides for stunning views of the bright-blue glacier against the water. Words are not sufficient for describing its beauty.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
On the other end of the spectrum is Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow swatch of color through the desert of Jujuy. The arid landscape provides the perfect setting for crisp photos of the “Seven-color Gradient” that the 96-mile valley is most known for. By securing guided tours on horseback or by foot, travelers can access Quechuan villages that still adhere to centuries-old traditions and ways of farming.
At an average height of 11,500 feet above sea-level, those who are unprepared for or have not adjusted to the altitude will have a difficult time. The best time to travel to Quebrada de Humahuaca is December through February, during the summer. Even though this time is usually the most popular, with so much room to explore, it will be difficult for travelers to not feel like the adventure they have is unlike anyone else’s.
Cultural Attractions in Argentina
As a mecca for many of the world’s creatively inclined people, Argentina has endured or been at the forefront of various artistic movements throughout history. The famous contributions which artists have made are commemorated across the country in different cultural attractions in Argentina.
The art museums, cemeteries, and government buildings which represent Argentina’s culture are constantly updated and require the respect of international travelers who visit. In the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, travelers can find guided tours that provide insight into Latina American art made during the 20th century and onward.
The cultural center within the MALBA hosts films and art exhibits, all of which are available for visitors to interact with. The theatre is only open on Wednesdays and the entire museum is closed on Tuesdays, both of which are important to consider when planning a visit. For those with disabilities and children under 5, admission is free. All other patrons must pay $200 dollars for entrance, with the exception of $100 tickets being available to students, teachers, and seniors.
In comparison, the Museo de Alta Arqueologia de Alta Montaña in Salta focuses primarily on the Incan culture. This museum studies a relatively new field of archeology, yet is still a part of many guided tours in Salta. Not only is this because of the many Incan artifacts and art that have been preserved in MAAM, but also for the “Children of Llullaillaco” that are on exhibit.
These three famous mummies are some of the best-preserved ones that have been discovered to date and are a breath-taking glimpse into Argentina’s far distant past. Admission is 30 pesos, per person and the MAAM is not open on Mondays. Travelers who have extra time to explore cultural attractions will likely find themselves at Parque 3 de Febrero.
Also known as “Los bosques de Palermo,” guided tours of the park will take travelers on boat rides in the lake or through its famous rose garden. The garden is home to 8,000 roses of 93 different species, all of which travelers can view every day of the week except for Monday.
Learning Tango in Argentina
As the international hub of tango, Buenos Aires comes alive during the night with the colorful dancers and lively music that the genre of art is so popular for. Unfortunately, travelers in Argentina are unlikely to find tango elsewhere in the country, as it is centered within the capital city.
Therefore, it is imperative to visit what is known locally as “milongas,” while in Buenos Aires, as these tango dance-halls are prolific in the city and frequented by both Argentinians and international travelers. Most milongas offer different classes for different experience levels that dancers may have, including those who are brand new to tango.
This means that travelers should not be afraid to try learning it, as many of the classes are free before a certain time of night or during the day. Tour guides or locals can be consulted on which locations are the most lively, as tango is a fun experience that is much more formal than other night-life entertainment in Buenos Aires.
It is safe to assume that on any given day, tango will be occurring somewhere in the city if travelers are looking for it. Similarly, given the highly theatrical nature of tango, there are many venues that offer dinner accompanied by a tango dance show. These are commonly included on Argentina tour itineraries and make for an unforgettable night in Buenos Aires.
Finding quality, authentic souvenirs to commemorate a trip or share the host country’s culture with others are not always easy to find. In Argentina, there are a few specific items that international travelers can count on not only for their cultural relevance, but also their utility when they return home.
Since Argentina’s name comes from the Latin word for silver, it is no surprise that silver jewelry and decorations found here are some of the most refined in the world. They are highly popular with travelers looking to find a valuable piece of art that will not only showcase their experiences in Argentina but also bring that same joy to others who receive it.
As the birthplace of the music genre and dance form of tango, Buenos Aires is set apart from the rest of the country. Therefore, when exploring the urban capital, travelers may consider buying tango CD’s or instructional DVDs that allows them to share the art with those back home.
Argentina’s status as one of the world’s largest meat producers also leads to its being one of the largest producers of leather. This material is crafted into coats, purses, wallets, and other durable accessories that are both comfortable and long-lasting. Travelers are encouraged to be mindful of the fact that many false-leather products are around in Argentina, making verification of the products through close examination of their details very important.
Another one of Argentina’s specialized (and leading) world exports is Malbec wine, distinct for thriving in Argentina's altitude and climate. Sophisticated and delicious, travelers may not wish to give this souvenir away!
Another classic Argentina souvenir includes a "mate y bombilla” gourd. Ornately carved from gourds, travelers will likely have sipped mate at least once or twice during their visit, and it doesn’t hurt to take it home when finished.
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