From it's subtropical north to its glacial south, Argentina is a vast wonderland. Not only does it boast the highest peaks of the Andes but it offers lush wetlands, deep blue lakes, dense forests, and desert side by side, down to the dramatic, arid steppe of Patagonia, natural diversity is in oversupply in this stunningly varied country.
Argentina is beautiful and intense. The eighth-largest country in the world and yet one of the least populated. From the vibey cafe culture of Buenos Ares to the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina will seduce you with its rich history, gaucho culture, and street-side tango. This country has a charm unlike anywhere else in the world.
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ARGENTINA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Buenos Aires
- Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS)
- Area: 2,780,400 km²
- Population: 41,660,417 (2013 estimate) Considering its vast size and with a population of under 45 million, Argentina is one of the least densely populated countries on Earth!
- Language: Spanish
- Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (European plug)
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ARGENTINA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 24 March, National Memorial Day for Truth and Justice
- 2 April, Malvinas Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 25 May, Anniversary of May Revolution
- 20 June, Anniversary of the Death of Manuel Delgrano/National Flag Day
- 9 July, Independence Day
- 3rd Monday in August, Anniversary of the Death of General José de San Martín observed
- 2nd Monday in October, Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity
- 4th Monday in November, Day of National Sovereignty
- 8 December, Immaculate Conception
Also, Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday.
FESTIVALS IN ARGENTINA
- Festival Nacional del Folklore - (January) Near the city of Córdoba, the town of Cosquín hosts Argentina’s National Festival of Folk Music during the last week of January. It’s the country’s largest and best-known folk festival.
- Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia - (March) In Argentina’s wine country, Mendoza hosts a renowned five-day harvest festival with parades, folkloric events, fireworks, the blessing of the fruit and a royal coronation – all in honor of Mendoza’s intoxicating produce.
- Tango BA Festival y Mundial - (August) World-class tango dancers perform throughout Buenos Aires during this two-week festival. Competition is fierce for the title of ‘world’s best tango dancer.’ You can also hone your own moves at classes and workshops.
- Fiesta de la Tradición - (November) San Antonio de Areco celebrates Argentina’s gaucho culture in this lively mid-November fest, with live music, crafts, regional foods and impressive displays of horsemanship.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ARGENTINA
Overall the country is mostly temperate and experiences (dry) southern summers between December and January and (wet) winters between June and July. Visit in the spring (September through November) for lots of sun and balmy temps. This season is the perfect time for hiking and whale watching, or if you prefer, exploring Argentine cities on foot without the intense humidity.
Argentina is characterised by rich pampas in most of the territory, Patagonia in the south, and rugged terrain from the Andes in the west. Climate can range from subtropical in the north to arid and cold in the south and along the Andean mountains in the west. North-eastern regions have a tropical climate with warm temperatures and abundant precipitation all year round. Precipitation decreases toward the west, producing arid and almost desert-like environments at the foot of the Andes. The central region experiences semiarid with seasonal precipitation.
- December to February - Warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours in Patagonia. Buenos Aires and the north are hot.
- March to May & September to November - Mild weather means its a great time to visit Buenos Aires, the Lake District and Mendoza.
- June to August - Peak ski season. A good time to visit the north. Beaches basically shut down over this time.
ARGENTINA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Argentina is mostly temperate and experiences (dry) southern summers between December and January and (wet) winters between June and July. Argentina is characterized by rich pampas in most of the territory, Patagonia in the south, and rugged terrain from the Andes in the west. Climate can range from subtropical in the north to arid and cold in the south and along the Andean mountains in the west. Northeastern regions have a tropical climate with warm temperatures and abundant precipitation all year round. Precipitation decreases toward the west, producing arid and almost desert-like environments at the foot of the Andes. The central region experiences semiarid with seasonal precipitation. The climate in the country is influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which increases average rainfall during El Niño years and produces drier conditions during La Niña years.
ARGENTINA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN ARGENTINA
Skiing is world-class, with major resorts at Cerro Catedral, near Bariloche; Las Leñas, near Malargüe; Los Penitentes; and Chapelco, near San Martín de los Andes. The ski season runs from about mid-June to mid-October. In summer, these mountains turn into activity centers for mountain biking.
HIKING & CYCLING IN ARGENTINA
You can enjoy outdoor activities in Argentina from November to May when the weather is more moderate. Cycling is a popular activity in Mendoza, the Andean northwest, the Lake District and Patagonia (where winds are fierce!). Mountain bikes are best for pedalling the sometimes remote and bad roads, many of which are gravel. Many tourist cities have bike rentals, though the quality is not up to Western standards.
BEACH OPTIONS IN ARGENTINA
The most popular time to enjoy the beaches of Argentina is from November to March, with the peak season between December and February.
SURFING IN ARGENTINA
Argentina has great surf throughout the year. Although Mar del Plata is the surf capital of Argentina with the best swells from April to June, these are some other great surf spots to also consider: Playa Varnesse, Waikiki, Playa Grande, Miramar, Playa Union, Peninsula Mitre, Quequen, Chapadmalal, and Necochea.
KITESURF IN ARGENTINA
The best conditions for kitesurfing in Argentina is from September to April. December and January are the busiest months for kitesurfing as the weather and water are at its warmest.
For more details on kite surfing in Argentina expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN ARGENTINA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
ARGENTINA TRAVEL COSTS
Argentina cannot really be described as a super cheap destination, and with inflation unofficially estimated at around thirty percent, it’s getting rapidly more expensive all the time. But the quality of what is on offer is mostly pretty good, and outside Buenos Aires and the main tourist destinations, you can find real bargains in shops and hotels.
There are many ways to rack up some great memories in South America without putting a big ding in the budget. Travel is cheapest in Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. Here are a few tips to find the best deals.
With its fascinating blend of old and new, Córdoba makes for some worthwhile exploring. Grand architecture, free churches and galleries, affordable lodging options and cheap market dining all add to the appeal.
ARGENTINA TRAVEL TIPS
- Slow down - stick around and enjoy a place rather than rushing off to the next destination. The further and faster you go, the more you’ll have to pay.
- Eat like a local at street stalls or markets.
- Opt for dorm rooms or share a room with a buddy.
- Stay in fan (non-air-con) rooms with shared bathroom.
- Travel overland instead of flying.
- Book flights online (and bus tickets where possible) rather than paying an agent commission.
Cycling around the country has become popular among travellers. Beautiful routes in the north include the highway from Tucumán to Tafí del Valle and the Quebrada de Cafayate. Around Mendoza, there’s touring that includes stops at wineries. The Lake District also has scenic roads, like the Siete Lagos route. Drawbacks include the wind (which can slow progress to a crawl in Patagonia) and reckless motorists. Less-travelled secondary roads with little traffic are good alternatives. Rental bikes are common in tourist areas and a great way to get around.
Renting a car in Argentina is not cheap, but it can get you away from the beaten path and start you on some adventures. The minimum driving age in Argentina is 18. To rent a car in Argentina you must be 21 years old and have a credit card and valid driver’s license from your country. An International Driving Permit is not necessary. Forget driving in Buenos Aires; traffic is unforgiving and parking is a headache, while public transport is great.
Long-distance buses are modern, fast, comfortable and usually the best budget way to get around Argentina. Even small towns have good bus systems. A few cities, including Buenos Aires, use magnetic fare cards, which can be bought at kiosks and small stores. In Buenos Aires, the Sube (subway), is quick and cheap, when there aren’t delays. In other cities, light rails or public buses will be the best option. In the countryside, self-driving or booking a remis (charter car) is the norm.
The airline situation in Argentina is in constant flux; minor airlines go in and out of business regularly. Ticket prices are unpredictable, though they are always highest during holiday times (July and late December to February). Certain flights into Patagonia are comparable to bus fares when you consider the time saved. Check for flight options here.
Ubur is available in Buenos Aires although there is much controversy over it, as there has been around the world. But, since September 2020, it was declared Legal. Also, there are other options like using the CABIFY app that works as well as Uber. It is a bit more expensive, but 100% legal. Chinese rival Didi, which has made big inroads in Latin America in recent years, has a head start in working with taxi drivers in the region.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF ARGENTINA
People come to Argentina for romance. Those in love with nature make a beeline for Patagonia to experience a unique adventure of trekking around emerald lakes, surrounded by the majesty of hanging glaciers and mountains. Other travellers, in love with the past, prefer to sit in the cafes of Borges sipping on a mate, or to dance the tango in a steamy milonga. Those who love wine can bike around the hills of Mendoza, vineyard hop, and sample ruby-red malbec along the way. You will never have enough time to see and experience all that Argentina has to offer, but we all have to start somewhere.
- Buenos Aires - Eat, shop, dance, and party all night long in Argentina’s sophisticated capital.
- Iguazú Falls - Take in the world’s most amazing waterfall, stretching almost 3km long.
- Córdoba - Explore Argentina’s second-largest city, an attractive destination with alternative culture.
- El Chaltén - Hike, camp and gaze at never-ending vistas to your heart’s content.
- Bariloche - Fish, ski, hike or white-water raft among scenic mountains and lakes.
- Mendoza - Sip world-class wines and partake in fun outdoor adventures.
- Parque Nacional Los Glaciares - Check out the amazing and constantly calving Perito Moreno glacier.
- Península Valdés - Spot whales, elephant seals and penguins at this wildlife mecca.
- Quebrada de Humahuaca - Set your sights on lovely, vivid and harsh cactus-dotted mountains capes.
Spend the first few days taking in Buenos Aires, from there head to Mendoza for wine-tasting and outdoor adventures; onwards to Bariloche for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. If you enjoy summertime hiking make the Patagonian hamlet of El Chaltén your priority; once here you can’t miss El Calafate for its amazing Perito Moreno glacier.
Seeing all of Argentina in one month will likely require a few key flights. Alternatively, depending on the season, concentrate on just the north or south. First, take a few days to explore the wonders of Buenos Aires. Spectacular Iguazú Falls is worth a couple of days any time of year. Colonial Salta is best April to November, while Córdoba, Mendoza and the Lake District can be visited year-round. Some Patagonian destinations, such as El Chaltén and Ushuaia, have limited services from June to August (except for skiing).
BUENOS AIRES & SURROUNDS
Buenos Aires is one of South America’s most electrifying cities, graced with European architecture, atmospheric neighbourhoods and bustling nightlife. Buenos Aires is much more than just its glorious past and you will find an elegant shopper’s paradise and cosmopolitan centre. Yet every great metropolis has a poorer side. Cracked sidewalks, ubiquitous graffiti and rough edges – even in the wealthiest neighbourhoods – speak volumes about this city. Poverty and beggars exist, and there’s a deep melancholy here: an acknowledgement of Argentina’s riches coupled with the despair of not realizing its full potential.
At Buenos Aires’ heart is its microcentro, which holds many of the city’s historical buildings and museums. To the north lies upper-crust Recoleta, with its famous cemetery, and park-filled Palermo, home to many great restaurants and bars. Down south is where the blue-collar class hangs: this includes the tango neighbourhood of San Telmo and colourful, roughhousing La Boca. There’s enough bustle in this city to keep you trotting around all day and all night. To see its cultural side, visit the Cathedral Metropolitana, the Teatro Colon (the world’s largest opera house), the Ambrosetti Museum, the Museum of Colonial History, the Basilica Lujan, Iglesia San Ignacio Church, and the Isaac Fernandez Blanco Museum of Spanish American Art. The old artists’ quarter of La Boca, is the original home of the tango and is located along a narrow wharf lined by meatpacking plants.
Day trips to charming, cobbled Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay are popular, and it’s also easy to reach Montevideo (Uruguay’s capital), and the beach resort of Punta del Este, only a few hours away from Buenos Aires. About an hour north of Buenos Aires you will find Tigre, a favourite porteño weekend destination where you can check out the popular riverfront, take a relaxing boat ride on the Delta del Paraná and shop at Mercado de Frutos (a daily crafts market that’s best on weekends). San Antonio de Areco ,a serene village northwest of Buenos Aires dating from the early 18th century, is the symbolic center of Argentina’s diminishing gaucho (cowboy) culture. It’s also host to the country’s biggest gaucho celebration, Fiesta de la Tradición. There’s a cute plaza surrounded by historic buildings, while local artisans are known for producing maté paraphernalia, rastras (silver-studded belts) and facones (long-bladed knives).
From the spectacular natural wilderness of Iguazú Falls in the north to the chic sophistication of Rosario in the south, the northeast is one of Argentina’s most diverse regions. Wedged between the Ríos Paraná and Uruguay (thus earning it the nickname Mesopotamia), the region relies heavily on these rivers for fun as well as its livelihood. In contrast, the neighbouring Chaco is sparsely populated, and often called Argentina’s ’empty quarter.’
Located just a few hours north of Buenos Aires, Rosario is in many ways Argentina’s second city – not in terms of population, but culturally, financially and aesthetically. Its roaring port trade and growing population even made it a candidate for national capital status for a while. If you like the idea of Buenos Aires but find its sheer size and frenzy too much, Rosario might be the place for you. It has a growing backpacker scene and along with it's huge university population of students, artists and musicians it provide for a great vibe.
Guaraní legend says that Iguazú Falls originated when a jealous forest god, enraged by a warrior escaping downriver by canoe with a young maiden, caused the riverbed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing precipitous falls over which the maiden fell and, at their base, turned into a rock. The warrior survived as a tree overlooking his fallen lover. The geological origins of the falls are more prosaic. In southern Brazil, the Río Iguazú passes over a basalt plateau that ends just above its confluence with the Paraná. Before reaching the edge, the river divides into many channels to form several distinctive cataratas (cataracts). The power, size and sheer noise of Iguazú Falls have to be experienced to be believed. If possible, try coming early, or later in the day (tour groups tend to leave by 3pm), but you’re unlikely ever to have the place to yourself. The most awesome part is the semi-circular Garganta del Diablo, a deafening and dampening part of the experience, approached by launch and via a system of pasarelas (catwalks).
More location information and points of interest are available in the above map
With a very tangible sense of history, the northwest is Argentina’s most indigenous region, and the sights and people here show much closer links with the country’s Andean neighbours than the European character of its urban centers. Unlike Buenos Aires, Cordoba has preserved much of its colonial character. Cordoba is everything it should be – vibrant, fun, manageable in size and (in places) gorgeous to look - it has music, theatre, film, dance: whatever you want, you can be pretty sure it’s going on somewhere in town. Alta Gracia, 35 km southwest of the city, is one of the best-known places dotted with colonial hermitages and churches.
ARGENTINA ATLANTIC COAST
The beaches along the Atlantic coast form Buenos Aires’ backyard, and summer sees millions of porteños pouring into towns such as Mar del Plata and Pinamar for sun and fun. The rest of the year, and in smaller towns, the pace of life rarely approaches anything resembling hectic.
Located approximately 400km from Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata is the main tourist resort on the Atlantic coast. Often referred to as 'Mardel', Mar del Plata's sandy beaches attract thousands of visitors during the December to March season. Rivalling Uruguay’s Punta del Este in the fashion stakes, Pinamar and the surrounding towns are where wealthy Argentine families come to play in summertime. Villa Gesell’s long beach and boardwalk draw swimmers, sunbathers and horse riders. Sierra de la Ventana is where porteños come to escape the summer heat, hike around a bit and cool off in swimming holes. The nearby mountain range of the same name in Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist attracts hikers and climbers to its jagged peaks, which rise over 1300m.
Containing the wine-producing centers of Mendoza, San Luis and San Juan (which themselves comprise an area known as Cuyo), there’s no doubt what Central Argentina’s main attraction is. The the annual grape harvest festival, the “Fiesta Nacional de la Venimia”, is held at the end of February and the beginning of March. The Andes mountain ranges can be seen in the distance from many parts of Mendoza, whose universities, museums, theatres, and art galleries testify to lively cultural life. No slouch on the wine-production front, San Juan’s wineries are refreshingly low-key compared to the Mendoza bustle, and the province’s other attractions are all within easy reach of this regional capital. But once you’ve polished off a few bottles, you won’t be left twiddling your thumbs – this is also Argentina’s adventure playground, and the opportunities for rafting, trekking, skiing and climbing are almost endless.
ARGENTINA LAKE DISTRICT
Extending from Neuquén down through Esquel, Argentina’s Lake District is paradise on earth – what with active volcanoes, lakes, widespread forests, and singing rivers rich in trout. These eastern Andean slopes are ideal recreation grounds with its lofty mountains, rushing rivers, clear lakes to boat or fish and beautiful national parks to explore. From big-city Bariloche to hippie El Bolsón, the Lake District’s towns and cities each have their own distinct geography, architecture and cultural offerings. There’s something fun to do every month of the year, so don’t miss visiting this multifaceted region.
Few places in the world inspire the imagination like mystical Patagonia. You can cruise bleak RN40 (South America’s Route 66), watch an active glacier calve house-size icebergs, and hike among some of the most fantastic mountain scenery in the world. There are Welsh teahouses, petrified forests, quirky outpost towns, penguin colonies, huge sheep estancias and some of the world’s largest trout. The sky is wide and the late sunsets nearly spiritual. Moreno Glacier in the Santa Cruz Province is one of the world’s few advancing glaciers and is truly an incredible sight. Nahuel Huapi National Park contains the huge Nahuel Huapi Lake that stretches over 100 km to the border with Chile. Rent a car and drive south through spectacular scenery, passing the shores of three lakes, to El Bolsón, 130km from Bariloche, known for its hops and fruit orchards. The wildlife and desert scenery of Peninsula Valdez on the Patagonian coast attracts visitors from all over the world.
TIERRA DEL FUEGO
The southernmost extreme of the Americas, this windswept archipelago is alluring as it is moody – at turns beautiful, ancient and strange. Travelers who first came for the ends-of-the-earth novelty discovered a destination that’s far more complex than just these bragging rights. Intrigue still remains in a past storied with shipwrecks, native peoples and failed missions. In Tierra del Fuego, nature is writ bold and reckless, from the scoured plains, rusted peat bogs and mossy lenga forests to the snowy ranges above the Beagle Channel. Shared with Chile, this archipelago features one large island, Isla Grande, Chile’s Isla Navarino and many smaller uninhabited ones.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ARGENTINA
In general, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes will be the most comfortable options. Bring a jacket for cool highland temperatures and over-air-conditioned buses. Pants and long-sleeve shirts are handy insect protection for jungle hikes.
- Rain gear (jacket, dry pack for electronics)
- Hat (for sun and rain)
- Good walking shoes
- Flip-flops (for beaches and dodgy showers)
- Medicine/first-aid kit
- Unlocked GSM cell phone
- Refillable water bottle & water filter
- Tissues (for public toilets)
WHAT TO EAT IN ARGENTINA
As a whole, Argentina does not have a widely varied cuisine – most folks here seem to survive on meat, pasta and pizza – but the country’s famous beef is often sublime. At a parrilla or asado you should try bife de chorizo (thick sirloin), bife de lomo (tenderloin) or a parrillada. Ask for chimichurri, a tasty sauce of garlic, parsley and olive oil. Steaks tend to come medium (a punto), so if you want it rare, say jugoso.
Confiterías usually grill sandwiches like lomito (steak), milanesa (a thin breaded steak) and hamburgers. Restaurantes have larger menus and professional waiters. Cafes usually serve alcohol and simple meals. Large supermarkets often have a counter with good, cheap takeout. Western fast-food chains exist in larger cities.
- Breakfast is usually a simple affair of coffee or tea with tostadas (toast), manteca (butter) and mermelada (jam). Medialunas (croissants) come either sweet or plain.
- Empanadas are baked or fried turnovers with vegetables, beef, cheese or other fillings.
- Sandwichitos de miga (thin, crust-free sandwiches layered with ham and cheese) are great at teatime.
- Commonly sold at kiosks, alfajores are cookie sandwiches filled with dulce de leche (a thick milky caramel sauce) or mermelada and covered in chocolate.
- Choripán is pre-requisite before any football match, a go-to among taxi drivers and a mainstay at markets and street stalls - the ultimate Argentinean street food.
- The trademark dish of provoleta is made up of pungent, sharp, sliced discs of the cheese topped with chilli flakes and herbs, like oregano - all of which is then grilled. The nearly melted cheese is served crisp and slightly caramelised on the outside, gooey and smoky on the interior.
LGBTQ IN ARGENTINA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Argentina are among the most advanced in the world. Upon legalising same-sex marriage on 15 July 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America, the second in the Americas, and the tenth in the world to do so. In 2015, the World Health Organization cited Argentina as an exemplary country for providing transgender rights.
Today same-sex relationships are predominantly well-tolerated in Argentina. The country's capital and largest city, Buenos Aires, has become an important recipient of LGBT tourism and has been described as "Latin America's gay capital" and host an annual Gay Pride Parade. Nevertheless, reports of bullying against LGBT people, especially youth, do still take place occasionally.
WHERE TO STAY IN ARGENTINA
Argentina offers plenty of places to stay ranging from five-star luxury accommodation that can be found in the larger cities like Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Santa Fe to budget hotels with basic facilities that can be found throughout the country. Accommodation in youth hostels is also available in all cities.
There’s an excellent range of affordable hostels throughout Argentina. Most hostels are friendly and offer tours and services. All include kitchen access and sheets; most have towel rental, internet access, free wi-fi, luggage storage, light breakfast and double rooms (book these ahead).
Camping can be a low-cost option if you feel adventurous. Almost all major cities and towns have green sites where you can pitch a tent for a reasonable fee. Toilets, laundry facilities, hot showers, fire-pits, and other facilities are provided. . National parks usually have organized sites, and some offer distant refugios (basic shelters for trekkers).
Peak tourist months in Buenos Aires are November to January, when accommodation prices are at their highest. Patagonia is busiest during the summer (November to February), though ski resort towns fill up fast in July and August. Northern destinations and the Atlantic beach towns attract the most travelers in December and January (the latter are practically ghost towns the rest of the year). In peak season it’s wise to make reservations ahead of time.
Buenos Aires’ microcentro is close to many sights and services, though it’s busy and noisy during the day. San Telmo is about 15 minutes’ walk south and good for those seeking a colonial atmosphere, cobbled streets, proximity to some tango venues and a blue-collar flavour around the edges. Palermo Viejo is northwest of the center and about a 10-minute taxi ride. It’s a pretty area full of wonderful old buildings and dotted with the city’s best ethnic restaurants, trendiest boutiques and liveliest bars.
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