One of the world’s most fascinating places, Argentina is South America’s second largest, a captivating country of fútbol (soccer), tango, beef, gauchos, Patagonian glaciers and the Andes. The country is so vast and varied that it’s impossible to see everything in 10 days. Our suggested itinerary ensures that you truly experience the rich indigenous culture and the natural wonders of this beautiful country; to see the most in the shortest time possible. Ready to go?
Things to consider before traveling to Argentina:
1. Currency exchange – When traveling to Argentina, bring cash, especially US dollars (50 and 100 dollar bills are recommended, as lower denominations often get a worse exchange rate). Argentina has two conversion rates for US dollars and you will really feel the big difference of both rates once you traveled the country.
This difference is brought by the 2011 crisis when the government attempts to reduce inflation and increase confidence in pesos. Argentine residents were almost completely barred from purchasing dollars, but because the residents rely on dollars, a black market has emerged with a separate rate called “blue dollar”.
Travel Tip: Pay at hotels and restaurants in dollars as they have more favorable rate than the official rate. Make sure to transact with trusted acquaintances, if you prefer to get the blue dollar rate.
2. Health – Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccinations before your trip. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Typhoid vaccines are the most common. Rabies vaccine is also recommended because there is a large number of stray dogs in Argentina.
3. Food – Argentina may not be the best destination for vegetarians. Like most South American countries, Argentines are also meat eaters. Beef is cheap but delicious and a traditional parilla (grill or BBQ restaurant) is the best place to do it. Having been influenced by the Europeans, you will see the resemblance of Argentine food to that of Spanish, Italian and French. Some of the Argentine food you should not miss are Asado con cuero, Locro, Carbonada, Humita, Tamal, Dulce de Leche, Yema quemada and so much more.
4. Safety – Keep your guard up at all times and avoid any streets that are not crowded. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy.
5. Transportation – Buenos Aires is the only Argentine city with a subway system and it is the most efficient way of exploring the city. Jumping on a local Argentine bus called colectivos is another option to see the cities and get around, provided you can sort out the complex bus systems. In most city buses, you pay as you board with your coins. Other cities like Mendoza and Mar del Plata have prepaid bus cards.
6. Tourist visa – All US, Canadian and Australian tourists/residents can enter Argentina without a visa. However, a Reciprocity fee prior to entering is required and must be done thru the credit card-based online system on the government’s website. Travelers from other foreign countries may visit the website as well to check if visa is required.
Flights from New York to Buenos Aires and back cost around 900 USD; about the same from London, Amsterdam or Johannesburg. From Hong Kong a round-trip is at least 1500 USD and from Sydney the price for a round-trip ticket is more than 2000 USD according to Google Flights. However, we found a round-trip ticket from Sydney for 1089 USD with the help of Tripadvisor. Check where to find the best deals on airfares and don’t be afraid to play with the dates and nearby airports.
Day by day itinerary to discover what Argentina has to offer
Day 1: Buenos Aires
The trip starts in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s expansive and vibrant capital. You will first check in at whatever hotel or hostel you prefer. Puerto Madero is home to some of the most expensive hotels in Buenos Aires. San Telmo is yet another good option on where to stay as its run-down colonial buildings makes it really charming. Palermo Viejo, on the other hand, is a great choice for the young and chic. This is where you will find the most fashionable and quirky boutique hotels in Buenos Aires.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires:
In the afternoon, explore the historical district of San Telmo, see a tango performance in La Boca and pay your respects to Eva Peron, Argentina’s most controversial First Lady, at the Recoleta Cemetery. This cemetery is where the rich and powerful are buried. And there is no better way to welcome you to the city than sampling a superior and good sized serving of steak at one of the parillas for dinner.
Day 2: Buenos Aires
Start the day with a Buenos Aires morning ritual – Café con Leche y Tres Medialunas (coffee with milk and three little glazed croissants). Then walk to Plaza de Mayo, the main square where the Argentines do their favorite past time – protesting. If you happen to visit during weekend, you can join a group tour of Casa Rosada, the government building where the President works. Next, visit the Metropolitan Cathedral which lies at the corner of Plaza de Mayo. The main interest of the cathedral is the ornate mausoleum containing the remains of General José de San Martín, the South American liberator regarded as the “Father of the Nation.”
In the evening, head to Milonga Parakultural (Av. Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, Buenos Aires, Argentina) in Palermo Soho, one of the city’s most renowned Milonga clubs, where you will see a good mix of ages and levels of dancers. People who go to Milongas are not really professional tango dancers, but people who have ‘real jobs’ and who love tango.
Day 3: Iguazu Falls
On your third day, leave the concrete jungle for the amazing Iguazu Falls, located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, out of the way of any other destination in either country. Buenos Aires is a two-hour flight but flights are very expensive and could go as high as USD 300 one way. If you book at least 30 days in advance you can expect to pay about 250 USD for a round trip ticket Buenos Aires – Iguazu, which is not bad. Aerolineas Argentinas flyes six times a day between the two airports. A cheaper alternative is taking a bus from Buenos Aires which costs around USD 100 one way but would take a full 24 hours to get to Iguazu.
Travel Tip: Buy tickets for a return flight ahead of time. This may not be the cheapest option but it will save you two entire days of your life on a not so comfortable bus ride. You may also avail an all-in package tour from a local travel agency in Buenos Aires. Also, find a hotel or hostel with good reviews and book well in advance. There are several accommodations in the heart of the protected natural preserve where you can practically see the falls from your bedroom window.
Where to stay in the Iguazu Falls area:
Day 4: Iguazu Falls
Begin early with a quick trip to the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls. You will wind your way through different stations depending on the types of activities you want to be involved in. You’ll walk along well maintained footpaths and get an up-close glimpse of the falls from a number of perfectly perched view decks. Unless you want to splash out on a helicopter ride, go back to Argentina.
Travel Tip: The National Park is huge so prioritize which side you would like to stay in longer. The Brazilian side is pretty manageable since there is only one walkway while the Argentine side is much bigger and there are maze of walkways. Seeing both sides in one day is not recommended for visitors who are not physically prepared.
Day 5: Tierra del Fuego
Get an end of the world feel by travelling to Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America and the world. Named by the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, it has attracted many travellers and was later named ‘Land of Fire’. Ushuaia is the gateway to the region and is the provincial capital of Tierra del Fuego. Even though Tierra del Fuego is in such a remote part of Argentina, there are frequent daily flights and connections from Buenos Aires and El Calafate. There were direct flights between Ushuaia and Puerto Iguazu but at this time the flights ado not operate so you have to connect through Buenos Aires. One-way ticket from Puerto Iguazu (IGR) to Ushuaia (USH) costs 330 USD and the travel time is approximately takes seven hours.
Where to stay in Province of Tierra del Fuego:
Day 6: Tierra del Fuego
After having a filling breakfast, set out this morning for the impressive Tierra del Fuego National Park. Back dropped by the zigzagging mountain peaks and fronted by the icy waters of the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego is a sprawling 155,000 acres, home to some of the most otherworldly scenery you could ever imagine. It is a hotspot for whales, sea lions, penguins and migratory birds being most active during summer months. After lunch, join a boat cruise on the Beagle Channel with a visit to the historic Estancia Harberton, the first ranch in Tierra del Fuego. On your way back to Ushuaia, you’ll make your way past colonies of Magellan Penguins and groups of sea lions.
Day 7: Lake Cami and Lake Escondido
Take this morning to visit the two hidden gems of the Andes Region, located in the heart of Tierra del Fuego. From Lake Cami, where the Andes rise from an active tectonic depression surrounding azure waters, to Lago Escondido, translated as ‘Hidden Lake’, located at the foot of Garibaldi mountain pass. A full day tour is required in order for you to explore these two great lakes. You can hire a 4×4 vehicle and have lunch or snack by the lake.
Day 8: El Calafate
There are two direct flights a day between Ushuaia and El Calafate that are operated by Aerolineas Argentinas. One-way ticket cost 100 USD and the flight takes a little less than one and a half hours.
Spend the day relaxing and getting to know El Calafate, the gateway town to Argentina’s best natural wonders – the blue Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park. Travel by air from Ushuaia to El Calafate and check in at your preferred accommodation. There are not many budget accommodations in El Calafate as it caters more to luxury vacationers. However, there are still a number of small and cozy inns around town. A few kilometers away from the village, you can also opt to stay in some of the traditional Patagonia Estancias that offer lodging services.
Where to stay in El Calafate:
From the airport, it is about a 15-20 minute ride into town. Drop off your luggage and explore some of the attractions by renting out a bicycle. Round off the day by ordering local specialties like grilled beef at one of El Calafate’s many restaurants.
Day 9: El Calafate
Today is spent learning all about Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. Take a guided walk along pathways to the glacier, for breathtaking views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. Exploring on the panoramic catwalk is safe and easy, as all trails are clearly marked and well-maintained. You will surely be astounded with how close you can get to these immense icy peaks soaring 60 meters (almost 200 feet) above you. You will hear the thunder and crash of shifting icebergs which makes it a truly out-of-this-world experience.
Day 10: El Calafate – Buenos Aires
LanArgentina and Aerolineas Argentinas operate non-stop flights from El Calafate to Buenos Aires. Travel time is a little under three hours and a one-way ticket costs 160 USD. If your international flight is in the evening or late afternoon, explore the city for attractions you might have missed or just chill for a while in one of the many parks that Buenos Aires has.
Have you been to Argentina? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Amazing landscape with Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre mountains. Los Glaciares National park., Argentina (Breev Sergey / Bigstockphoto)