Argentina for first-timers: A short travel guide
If you’re planning your first trip to South America, Argentina is the perfect place to start. A melting pot of cultures and experiences, you can do everything from learning tango in Buenos Aires to marvelling at the Southern Lights in Ushuaia.
Throw in world-class cuisine, fabulous wine, and some extraordinary scenery, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a dream holiday.
To help you make the most of your time here, we’ve put together this short travel guide to Argentina, highlighting the must-sees, as well as some alternative experiences.
Experience big city life in Buenos Aires
If you’re a fan of tango, steak, football and all-night partying, you’ll be bowled over by Buenos Aires. Be sure to:
Explore colourful La Boca
The buzzing La Boca neighbourhood is home to El Caminito (the little walkway). Famed for its brightly-coloured buildings, craft fairs, and tango dancers that dance their way along the cobbled streets, it’s a great place to while away a morning.
If you love the beautiful game, be sure to stop by La Bombonera stadium, where the world-famous Boca Juniors play.
Eat steak at a parrilla
One for the first-timer’s Buenos Aires bucket list is to munch on some prime steak. Luckily, there’s no shortage of parrillas (steakhouses) in the city.
For melt-in-your-mouth bifes de lomo (tenderloin steak), book a table at trendy El Trapiche in the Las Cañitas neighbourhood.
Watch some tango
Buenos Aires is the tango capital of the world. For a free taster, head to Plaza Dorrego. Every Sunday evening, professional dancers congregate for an informal milonga. Accompanied by live music as the sun sets over the neighbourhood, it’s an engrossing sight.
If the mood takes you, give it a whirl!
Dance until the break of dawn
If you’re a night owl, Palermo is the place to go after dark. We recommend you start with some Malbec-tasting at Vico Wine Bar. Then, move onto the highly-acclaimed 878 Bar for a cocktail or two.
And for the after party, head to the popular Niceto Club, where you can dance well into the next day.
Escape to Tigre
If you’re a first-timer in Argentina who’s lucky enough to have some extra days in its capital, then use one of them to escape the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires and head to Tigre.
A watery world of islands and rivers, it’s perfect for exploring by boat. Or, if you’d rather stay on terra firma, tick some souvenir shopping off your list in the town’s busy craft market, Puerto de Frutos.
There’s loads to do in the Argentine capital. Here are 9 must-dos for your Buenos Aires bucket list.
If you’re pressed for time, why not explore the sights on a hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus with audio guide?
Get back to nature in Patagonia’s Lake District
Patagonia is stunningly beautiful, but one of the most spectacular areas to visit is the Lake District. With its snow-capped mountains, beautiful blue lakes, and windswept plains, it’s prime fishing and hiking territory in the summer and a magnet for skiers in the winter (the resort to head to is Cerro Catedral).
The perfect base for your Lakes adventure, especially when visiting Argentina for the first time, is San Carlos de Bariloche. From there you can take the Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Grand Circuit). One of the most scenic drives in Argentina, the winding road connects San Carlos de Bariloche with San Martín de los Andes.
Take a selfie at the ‘end of the world’
The planet’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, is known as the ‘end of the world’. But despite its morbid nickname, it’s enchanting and full of cool stuff to do.
For a unique experience, take a cruise through the Beagle Channel. You’ll stop at various islands to see birds, sea lions, and adorable gentoo penguins. Cruise on further and you’ll reach Antarctica.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights in Ushuaia. Head to the coast to maximise your chances of seeing them during the Argentinian winter months, from June to August.
Take a shower under Iguazú Falls
No first trip to Argentina is complete without a visit to the spectacular UNESCO-listed Iguazú Falls.
Tip: Don’t miss the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). At 80m high, it’s the tallest and most powerful section of the Falls.
Go wine tasting in Mendoza
Mendoza is the heart of Argentina’s wine country, and hopping between its many vineyards and wineries is one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy Argentinian culture.
In Uco Valley, Bodega Salentein is well worth a visit. As well as a cellar packed with 5,000 barrels of wine, it houses a gallery with exclusive pieces of Argentinian art.
However, Mendoza is not all about wine. Popular activities for first-timers include hiking up to the base of Aconcagua (the highest peak in South America) and taking part in all sorts of other outdoor activities, from horse riding to rafting. In the winter, Las Leñas ski station is a fabulous spot to hit the slopes.
Grab some Andean culture in Salta & Jujuy
Salta has a different feel to most cities in Argentina. With its unique blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures, it’s more traditional and conservative than the rest of the country.
Whilst there, be sure to:
Spend an evening at a peña
Head to Balcarce after dark and join a peña (folk music party) where you can watch performances of traditional folk music and dancing. Expect Spanish guitars, sheepskin drums, violins, and gauchos (Argentine cowboys) in full attire.
Peñas involve food, and lots of it. Delicacies include empanadas (fried or baked pastries filled with meat or ham and cheese), locro (hearty vegetable stew), and humita (steamed corn cakes). Order some of each. You won’t be disappointed – or hungry – afterwards.
For a memorable night, check out the peña at La Vieja Estación.
Shop till you drop
One must-do in Salta is the Feria Artesanal Balcarce. This street fair is the place to buy traditional Argentinian souvenirs, from locally-made clothes and jewellery to jams and honey.
Marvel at Quebrada de Cafayate
With its red sandstone and amazing rock formations, Quebrada de Cafayate is a stunning sight. Head there in the late afternoon for fabulous views as the sun sets.
Try Torrontés in Cafayate
What Mendoza is to red wine, Cafayate is to white. If you’re a fan, try some Torrontés. Sip a glass or three at the idyllic Bodega Piattelli winery. You can thank us later.
With its temperate climate, friendly bars and pretty churches, Jujuy isn’t a bad place to spend a few nights.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
From Jujuy, take a scenic road trip and explore the dramatic mountains and multi-coloured rocks of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNESCO World Heritage site that lies along ancient Inca roads.
Stop off at the traditional Andean village of Purmamarca, to admire the striking Hill of Seven Colours. And check out the central square, where local artisans sell ceramics and colourful textiles.
From Purmamarca, drive on to Salinas Grandes, the location of picture-postcard salt flats. Just remember to bring sunglasses, the contrast between the blue sky and bright white salt desert is blinding!