Whether it’s summer, winter, a city break, a long weekend, or a month-long trip around the country, here’s the best of city life, nature, food and drink, and top tourist sights in Argentina
Argentina is a country of big cities and untamed landscapes where centuries of tradition meet European culture and Latin hospitality. Here’s our guide to what to do, whether it’s dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, watching football in a fevered stadium atmosphere, crossing the plains like a true gaucho, eating and drinking the finest local food and wine, or seeing spectacular nature at the famous Iguazú Falls, Kiwi.com’s Things to do in Argentina brings you all this and more.
Things to do in Buenos Aires
Argentina’s capital is cultured, romantic, frenzied, crowded and many, many other excitable adjectives. A mixture of European influences coupled with a fierce pride in local culture means it’s a wild cocktail of things to get passionate about, whether it’s food, dancing, football, or simply life itself.
The locals are right to want to show off their city. Wide boulevards, grand parks and gardens, lively squares, world-class art and culture, some of the finest restaurants anywhere, the list goes on. It’s remarkable that it’s all here, however, as the city has experienced as much in 200 years as most places go through in a thousand. Rapid expansion at the turn of the 20th century, a military dictatorship from 1976 until 1982, and a 90s boom that led to a crushing recession ten years later. However, despite all of this, the city remains a confident, forward-looking place that welcomes visitors enthusiastically.
Social life in Buenos Aires: footwork and football
Head out to experience the heady rush of city life — visit a dancehall to watch a milonga, an evening of dance with all the grace, class and social etiquette that goes with something of such lasting cultural importance. Find the Plaza de Mayo and use it as a starting point for some rangy walks around the old city. Secure yourself a ticket to watch a football match (the city’s clubs include San Lorenzo, Vélez Sarsfield, Huracán, Argentinas Juniors, and the two superpowers of Boca Juniors and River Plate). Visit one of the hundreds of museums and galleries, or simply sit in a park and watch life’s tango play out in front of you.
However you choose to experience Buenos Aires, you’ll be rewarded a thousand times over. It truly is one of the finest cities on the planet.
Alternative Argentina: Córdoba, Mendoza, Salta, Rosario
It doesn’t simply begin and end with the capital, of course. There are many other interesting cities dotted across the country with good-value, regular connections between them.
In the foothills of the Sierras Chicas lies Córdoba. Immigration meant that in just over a century, the population grew from 90,000 to around 1.5 million today. It’s one of the most important financial centers in South America, as well as housing the country’s oldest museum. There’s a large number of students, giving it a fantastic nightlife scene, and there’s an entire shopping area given over to local artisans selling their wares: cheese, wine, leather goods and more besides.
Mendoza is a region known for its excellent wine (more of which later), but the city that gives the area its name is one of tree-lined streets, sunny days and a laid-back atmosphere that couldn’t be further from the passion and hustle of Buenos Aires. It’s also a great base for more adventurous types, with rafting, riding horses into the Andean foothills, fishing, mountain biking and more all big draws for the region. Too much? Then spend your days having long picnic lunches in the city parks, or joining a tour of the local vineyards.
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In the northwest corner of the country, you’ll find Salta, a slightly overlooked city with a wonderfully multicultural vibe. 20th-century immigration, particularly from Spain, Italy, Syria and Lebanon has given it a bounce and feel all of its own, and when you mix this with its colonial buildings and indigenous traditions and culture, you get a place that has a different spirit from the more European cities to the south.
And how about Rosario? 300 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires, it’s almost like a slightly smaller version of the capital. Stylish, lively and self-confident, it makes the most of its location on the vast Río Paraná with an attractive waterfront containing parks, bars, restaurants, and to the north, beaches.
Natural attractions: Iguazú Falls, Iberá Wetlands, Patagonia
Leave the cities and you’ll soon discover that Argentina is home to landscapes both beautiful and brutal: vast deserts, mountain ranges, wide plains and lush greenery.
On the border with Brazil, you’ll find something that both countries are rightly proud of, the Iguazú/Iguaçu Falls. Twice as high as Niagara Falls, water crashes and slams its way down 275 separate drops, making this the largest system of waterfalls anywhere in the world. It’s also a national park, so you can hike the trails through the forest, head out along walkways to get nearer the thunderous power of the water, or even venture across the lowest lake in an inflatable boat.
More water now, and the Iberá Wetlands, a vast area of marshes, lakes, swamps and lagoons that are an important conservation area and home to deer, wolves, parrots, capybaras, otters, and many other equally diverse creatures. Ecotourism in the area is developing all the time, and visiting the wide, flat region with the sunrise or sunset reflected in the water under the biggest sky you’ve ever seen is truly something.
You can also get up high if that’s your thing — the mountains of Patagonia are one of the most beautiful regions anywhere in the world. Walking, climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking are all popular up here, as well as visiting the massive glaciers that pushed their way through the landscape millennia ago. Hike, ski, or cross the cobalt waters of the icy lagoons by kayak, head to the Atlantic coast to look for whales, or go fossil hunting on the grassy steppe. The whole of Patagonia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Wine and food
Not a destination, but definitely a reason to visit Argentina! In wine terms, Argentina is a relative newcomer to the world market, but has come to be regarded as one of the finest producers anywhere on the planet.
Wonderful local wines
When Malbec grapes — a Bordeaux variety — were imported into Argentina from France in the mid-19th century, the story began. There are now seven wine regions across the country, namely Mendoza, Salta, La Rioja, Catamarca, Neuquén, Río Negro, and San Juan; with Mendoza being the best-known and responsible for around 80% of the nation’s wine production.
If you’d like to visit the vineyards, options range from day trips from a city to full-blown 10- or 12-day personalized tours including meals and accommodation giving glorious views over the vineyards and away to the mountains and deserts beyond.
Succulent steak and sweet, sweet treats
These meals will include all of the things Argentina does best, and that’s the other reason to visit. It’s a carnivore’s paradise, sure, with its legendary steaks and love of asado (barbecue), and no trip is complete without sitting around a grill out in the wilderness, a selection of meats slowly cooking over the fire, a glass of Malbec in your hand.
It’s also great for people with a sweet tooth, as treats like alfajores (crumbly shortbread biscuits), chocotorta (chocolate cake), pasta frola (a fruit tart) and many more, often accompanied with dulce de leche, a thick, sticky caramel.
Of course, we could never cover everything this wonderful country has to offer in such a short space, but we hope that this has given you enough of an overview that you’ll add Argentina to your travel bucket list. It’ll be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
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