Argentina Travel Guide
Introduction to Argentina
From the hot deserts of the north, to the Patagonian sub-antarctic mountains of the deep south, as well as the intense Parisian-influenced culture that Buenos Aires possesses, Argentina is one of the world’s most fascinating travel destinations.
Yet, given the economic turmoil that its citizens have suffered in this country over the past two decades, many still do not fully understand the many riches that this proud South American nation contains within its borders.
With badly needed stability introduced into financial markets in the past year by permitting the open trading of American dollars at liberalized exchange rates, tourists no longer have to deal with the headache and risk that was assumed by carrying large amounts of American dollars across borders, and then having to trade them on the black market.
As a result of this measure, you can use your ATM card at bank machines and get a rate of exchange that is fair. For those that were unwilling to use the black market before, this means that they can travel from the massive waterfalls at Iguazu to the creaking glaciers of Perito Moreno without having to break their bank account in the process.
For a country attempting to leave the troubles of the past behind, this can only be good news going forward into the future.
Currency: Argentine Pesos
What To Do in Argentina
If you are approaching Argentina from Brazil, make your first stop in the country at Iguazu Falls. While you can visit from the Brazilian side as well, Argentina is one of two other major countries that borders Iguazu Falls (Paraguay is the third), and it arguably has some of the best views of one of the world’s most impressive displays of falling water.
While the lion’s share of the Iguazu River tumbles down the part of the complex known as the Devil’s Throat, there are upwards of 150 to 300 smaller waterfalls depending on the height of the river. Access to the viewing area of this amazing natural wonder is provided by a rail system, which will increase your anticipation as you draw closer to the deafening thunder that this waterfall produces.
What’s more, you can get even closer to the action by taking a zodiac boat into the misty gorge; whether you decide to stay on the platforms, or get up right into the business end of Iguazu Falls, it will be a day that you certainly won’t forget anytime soon.
If you are entering Argentina from either Bolivia or Chile, then your first major destination will likely be Salta. Situated on the lee side of the Andes, virtually no moisture from the Pacific Ocean makes it over these steep mountains, making for some of the more dramatic desert scenery you’ll see in South America.
In town, many restaurants are reputed to make some of the best empanadas in the entire country, and in the surrounding area, there are many adventure sports such as paragliding, mountain trekking, and white water rafting available.
If high altitudes don’t give you too much trouble, do try to book a seat on the Tren a las Nubes, which is a train journey that will take you high into the Andes, ending up at an elevation of 13,800 feet above sea level.
While the views will certainly take your breath away, the altitude will do that to you as well; you are well advised to take advantage of the coca leaf tea that is sold on board by vendors.
If there is one thing that Argentines love more than any other thing (perhaps even football), wine would be it, as certain brands of this alcoholic drink compete with bottled water with regards to affordability. Mendoza is located in the heart of this nation’s prime growing country for wine grapes; indeed, vineyards will surround you everywhere you look in this part of Argentina.
On the drive in though, you might be flummoxed at how such a high-value crop could thrive in the middle of a dry desert; fortunately, the high mountains directly to the west supply all the glacier and snow melt that Mendoza needs to provide irrigation channels for its many farms.
There’s more to do here than drink vino though, as mountaineers from around the world flock to this Argentine city to climb the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas. Aconcagua towers above the landscape, providing inspiration and daydream material to adventurers hoping to conquer its 22,800 foot summit.
At some point during your Argentine travels, you will likely make your way to its capital, Buenos Aires. Whether you enter the country here by Uruguay, arrive here while in transit to other destinations further to the north or south, or make a concerted effort to come here and spend significant time in this globally famous destination, you will find yourself increasingly attracted to this place with every day that you spend here.
While you could spend weeks or even months exploring its many neighborhoods, and the restaurants, bars, night spots, and boutiques that lie within each of them, The one place you need to see if you are short on time here is unquestionably Casa Rosada.
Translating into English literally as the Pink House, this stately residence has served as the home of Argentina’s leaders since 1873, including one of the world’s most famous First Ladies, Eva Peron.
Although very popular, public tours of the Casa Rosada are available; as long as you make your reservation on the first day that you arrive in the city, you should be able to get a tour of the interior of one of the most important public buildings in Argentina.
After exploring Argentina’s north and the city of Buenos Aires, hop on a plane and make your way south, towards Argentinian Patagonia. While you can do a bus ride, we don’t recommend it, as prices on these routes are shockingly expensive for this mode of transportation, and the amount of hours you will spend on the road are nothing short of maddening.
When you compare with the slightly higher price for flight, the couple of hours at the most you will spend in the air makes flying a much better deal. Your first destination should be Bariloche, where some of this nation’s best ski resorts can be found.
When you aren’t carving up the slopes, or admiring the view along its unspeakably beautiful lakeshore, be sure to go shopping, as this town contains some of the best chocolatiers in Latin America.
Following this, make your way to El Calafate, which is the service town for those looking to head to Los Glaciares National Park. While there are many rivers of ice that are protected within the boundaries of this natural reserve, the most famous piece of ice that tourists from around the world come to see is none other than the Perito Moreno Glacier.
In this day and age of global warming, it is one of the only glaciers in the world that is actually advancing. Massive in its scale, and drawing many gasps from onlookers as medium to large chunks of ice calve off at regular intervals, one of the biggest challenges of your visit here will be keeping accurate track of time so that you won’t be making a mad dash back to the bus when the time comes to leave for the day!
Finally, end your trip to Argentina in grand fashion by landing in Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. Flanked by dramatic mountains, And located only twenty kilometers from the end of the world’s most southerly motorable road, there is much to do here in both summer and winter seasons.
Hikes up to the Martial Glacier are popular in the warmer months of the year, while those that come here during the winter often come to get their turns in on the slopes of the world’s most southern major ski resort (Cerro Castor).
Like hockey? One of the world’s most spectacular outdoor rinks can be found near the waterfront here, which serves as home ice for the local team here; so, if you enjoy a good game of puck, head down to the rink and try to join the locals in a game.
However, departing on a sea voyage to Antarctica is the primary motivation behind a visit here. As you just found out though, there is much more to this spectacular destination then what you knew before.
What To Eat in Argentina
While you may have encountered this condiment in other places throughout Latin America, you will find that Argentines swear by Dulce de Leche when faced with a choice of what to spread on their morning toast.
In addition to being a topping, it can also be found in baked goods such as medialunas, making this sweet caramel an often encountered sweet treat at breakfast time in Argentina.
Looking to have a lighter lunch after stuffing yourself silly at breakfast (Dulce de Leche tends to have that effect on people)?
Drop by a local Panaderia and order some Empanadas. Resembling a turnover, these pastry shells are filled with various fillings, with the most common in Argentina being carne, or spiced ground beef.
Other common fillings include chicken, cheese, boiled egg, potato, and even raisins; however, this is but a partial list, as there are many different types of empanadas that can be had in this glorious nation for foodies.
If you’re looking for something heavier though, you will find plenty of meat to fill your stomach by heading to a barbecue restaurant and having some Asado.
Though there are many cuts available that will satisfy the raving carnivore within you, those that are a little short on cash but long on hunger will do well by ordering some Choripan.
Composed of a spiced sausage split in half and wedged between two freshly baked buns, it is best enjoyed with a generous portion of chimichurri smeared across both the sausage and the bread underneath it.
Looking for a sweet dessert before you pass out due to the inevitable food coma following aforementioned feast? Having a few Alfajores will do the trick, as this popular Argentine cookie contains dulce de leche, hazelnuts, and almonds, which are all involved and a chocolaty coating that make for a sweet ending to an amazing meal.