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One of the largest countries in South America, Argentina is a nation filled with history, heritage and culture (as its locals will never tire of telling you). This is where the tango was born, where all the beef is still grass-fed, and where everyone stays up until sunrise reveling in the sheer joy of life. But it’s also the home of some of the greatest natural marvels on the planet, an up-and-coming wine region that is quickly making its mark on the viticultural world, and a prominent population of cutting-edge artists, writers, poets and musicians.
With so many ways to experience this arresting nation, everyone is sure to find something that captivates them and steals part of their heart. But for us, there are a few highlights that every traveler to Argentina simply must see:
- Lauded as the “Paris of Latin America”, Buenos Aires is Argentina’s alluring capital and one of the great cities of South America. From the stately elegance of La Recoleta and the chic culture of Palermo, to the lively cobblestone streets and brightly colored houses of La Boca, this is a metropolis unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.
- Mendoza is widely regarded as one of the great cities of winemaking, and its incredible climate and gorgeous surroundings make it one of the world’s most desirable enotourism destinations – famous for the rich black grapes that produce Argentina’s powerfully aromatic Malbec wines. Mendoza is also a great jumping-off point for a variety of energetic outdoor adventures, from mountain climbing to river rafting.
- The site of the oldest university in Argentina, Cordoba is an ancient city that has deep roots in the Spanish colonial era, as well as one of the best cultural environments in the country. Visitors will thrill to the boundless attractions and superbly preserved architecture of the Teatro del Libertador General San Martin, the Emilio Caraffa Fine Arts Museum, and La Mundial – widely acknowledged as the narrowest building in the world.
- Argentina’s stunning Lake District is a magnet for discerning outdoor enthusiasts, who flock here to hike and bike on its spectacular mountain trails, kayak in its lakes, and fish for trout and salmon in its crystal-clear rivers. Bariloche, on the serene southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, is the gateway to this stunning alpine region, offering a wide array of natural marvels – from some of the largest glaciers in the southern hemisphere to the puissant, pine-cloaked peaks of the southern Andes.
- One of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’, Iguazu Falls is a breathtaking system of more than 200 waterfalls reaching heights of 80 meters, which extend for 2.7km along the Brazilian border. Whether approached from the Brazilian side or from Argentina, these awe-inspiring falls present a picture of phenomenal power and thundering noise that you’re sure to remember for the rest of your life.
Argentina is a singularly vibrant, continuously enchanting country – bursting from border to border with a charm and charisma that is all its own. From the sensual synchronicity of street dancers in Buenos Aires to the invigorating air of the Andean foothills, these are the attractions that you won’t find anywhere else on Earth:
- Immerse yourself in the tantalizing culture of the tango, Argentina’s national dance and one of the most exotic and exhilarating dance forms on the planet. Take lessons from a local expert or one of Buenos Aires’ famous ‘tango academies’, visit a milonga for a world-class performance while enjoying a dinner that is out of this world, or simply spend the afternoon at San Telmo or La Boca watching amateur dancers perform as people have since the 19th century: on a crowded street corner, with the entire city as their audience.
- Saddle up for a tour of the vast Pampas plains and experience the life of the gauchos – Argentina’s answer to the cowboy, and one of the country’s most enduring symbols of national pride. Many traditional ranches open their gates for day-long fiesta gaucha, where visitors take part in scenic horse rides, lively folk dances, roaring barbecues, and – of course – dramatic demonstrations of the gauchos’ legendary riding skills.
- Travel through Argentina’s spectacular wine country, where the weather invariably beats Napa and France, and where the wine is always remarkable. The high, dry foothills that mark the heart of the wine-growing region are renowned for their sterling vintages of Malbecs – the spicy, full-bodied red wines that put South America on the viticultural map – as well as succulent Cabernets, buttery Chardonnays, and a broad variety of crisp and refreshing New World Whites.
- Get out in the country and explore the best of Argentina’s hinterlands, from the dramatic snow capped Andes along the western border, to the breathtaking jade and turquoise lakes in the country’s south. Mountaineers will be drawn to some of the most impressive and perilous peaks in the southern hemisphere, like Cerro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy, while more leisurely outdoor enthusiasts will bask in the alpine splendor of Nahuel Huapi National Park – 7,000km² of glacier-fed lakes, towering granite peaks, ancient rainforests, and wildflower-strewn meadows.
- Journey to the far south and marvel at the legendary end-of-the-world landscapes of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego – the ‘Land of Fire’ – where you’ll witness one of the largest ice fields in the world, precious breeding grounds of whales and sea lions on the Valdes Peninsula, and the southernmost city on the globe. Recreate the journey of Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle, set out for a whale-watching tour in the South Atlantic, or enjoy the surprising variety of Patagonian cuisine – an eclectic fusion of local ingredients and European culinary traditions.
- Sports enthusiasts are spoiled for choice in Argentina, as the country hosts some of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated events on the sporting calendar. There are dozens of world-class golf courses scattered throughout the country, the world’s largest polo event is held in the posh Buenos Aires barrio of Palermo, and the Argentine passion for soccer is unmatched: check out a Boca Juniors game at the iconic La Bombanera stadium, or try to get a ticket to see the national team, including captain Lionel Messi – the only four-time winner of the FIFA Player of the Year award.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when planning a trip to Argentina is that the seasons run opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere, with winter lasting from June to August and summer from December to March. Except for the far northern borderlands, Argentina lies entirely within the temperate zone, which means you can generally expect warm, humid weather in the middle of the country and cool, dry weather in the south. If you plan to travel throughout the country, the late summer months of March and April are probably your best bet – when you’ll avoid the heat in Buenos Aires, but benefit from longer days and warmer weather in the far reaches of Patagonia.
Argentinians generally head for the beaches and resort towns of neighboring Uruguay and Brazil at the height of summer, so a visit to Buenos Aires during December and January can be refreshingly free of the mass of humanity that throngs the city during spring and fall. Mendoza and the west are phenomenal in April and October; August is the best month to visit Iguazu Falls and the northwest of the country; and January is the best time to visit Bariloche and the other dramatic destinations of Patagonia.
The Argentine calendar is filled with celebrations and holidays, catering to a wide variety of ethnicities and cultural traditions. The national celebration of Carnaval, generally held in February, is not as ornate or opulent as that of neighboring Brazil, but it is a festive occasion where you can always count on good food and impeccable weather. October sees Villa Belgrano celebrating their Germanic heritage in true Bavarian fashion in an impressive collection of Oktoberfest activities, and the barrio of San Telmo plays host to the World Tango Festival in the early to middle parts of the month. In the late summer, head to Mendoza, where they’ll ring in another successful harvest of wine grapes at the Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival during the first weekend of March.
Accommodation in Argentina is varied and extensive, offering the thrill of an eco-lodge nestled in the heart of Iguazu National Park, the elegance of a five-star hotel in Buenos Aires, and the quaint home-from-home environs of a family-run bed and breakfast in the untamed wilds of Patagonia. There are condo-style facilities for families and large groups, intimate and romantic getaways for honeymooners, and inspiring boutique hotels that also offer authentic Argentine restaurants and spas. And for those looking for the comfort and convenience of American hotel chains, Sheraton, Hyatt, and Hilton all have incredible facilities the length of the country – offering all the modern amenities and luxuries you’re accustomed to, as well as local touches that are sure to leave you enchanted.
Visa and Passport Requirements
Even though no formal tourist visa is required to enter Argentina, a US$160 'reciprocity fee' is levied on US citizens entering the country. For travelers from the US, Canada and EU countries, you only require a passport to enter and leave Argentina, unless you plan on spending more than 90 days in the country. However, leaving the country, even if it’s only long enough to get your passport stamped, will restart the 90-day period, so many people who stay for more than three months simply hop across the border to Brazil, Chile or Uruguay when they’re nearing the end of their initial visit period. Furthermore, should you plan on spending more than 90 days in Argentina, or if you plan to find employment there, you can apply for a work or travel visa at the nearest Argentine consulate: much of the process can be completed online or over the phone, but you’ll need to attend the consulate in person at least once before your visit.
Hospitals in most major metropolitan areas of Argentina are clean, modern and well run, and there are few risks of food or water borne illnesses. Outside the major cities, however, conditions tend to be more unpredictable, so visitors would do well to drink bottled water and eat thoroughly cooked food if they venture out to the countryside.
Discretion and caution are generally advised everywhere. Some “off the beaten paths” are not recommended, but they usually lie far from the well-trodden tourist areas. Violent crime is rare throughout the country, but petty theft and confidence scams are quite common – particularly if you are obviously a tourist. If someone offers to help carry, clean or otherwise handle your bag or backpack, do not accept their help: a common scam is for one criminal to squirt hand lotion, mustard or a similar substance onto your bag, while their partner offers help to clean it before running away with your belongings. Slitting handbags in crowded spaces is also relatively common, so keep your articles close to you and leave as many valuables as you can at your hotel. Obviously, you should avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing flashy or expensive jewelry as much as possible.
Hailing taxi cabs is almost always safe – the hazards of taxis in Buenos Aires are overblown – but you would do well to try to find one away from the major tourist streets, where you are less likely to encounter a dishonest cabbie who will take circuitous routes to get you to your destination.
The other great crime of Argentina is counterfeit money, a result of the lax standards and general ineffectiveness of the country’s political and banking institutions. Always exchange money at reputable vendors, try to use as close to exact change as possible, and be on the lookout for suspicious currency, including money that seems thin or is damaged or torn. Some counterfeit money is quite convincing, so it’s worth taking some tips on how to recognize legitimate currency from the Argentine Central Bank before you go.
Travelers are encouraged to lock their entire checked luggage if possible, and to store any high-value or luxury items in their carry-on bag. As with all such issues, good vigilance and common sense are usually the best way of ensuring that you are not taken advantage of. Always travel in well-lit areas, frequent reputable or official establishments, don’t travel with any unnecessary cash or expensive items, and always be aware of your surroundings.
The best place to get Argentine pesos is from ATMs or currency exchanges – many American banks either have a presence in Argentina, or have sister institutions where you don’t have to pay a transaction fee. A dollar currently buys around 8 pesos.
Restaurants will charge a fee for “services” – essentially, for the place setting – that is often functionally equivalent to a tip, but most Argentinians will add 10% of the bill to the total as a gratuity.
The Spanish of Argentina is known as Castellano, and even for those acquainted with the language, understanding Argentinians can be quite difficult: they speak remarkably fast, with an inflection that is unique to the region. Double l’s and y’s are pronounced with a “sh” sound, and they employ a unique personal tense, the vos form, that is usually accompanied by slang verbs. Nevertheless, many Argentinians speak English very well, and they are sure to understand you if you speak non-Castellano to them. Learning useful, everyday phrases like “Hello”, “Please”, “Thank You”, and “Do you speak English?” will not only make you more understandable, but will demonstrate an appreciation for the country, its languages, and the people who call it home.
Many travelers choose between a pre-packaged group tour and self-planned independent travel; the former offers hassle-free convenience while the latter offers flexibility. Zicasso offers the best of both worlds with customized tours of Argentina.
Zicasso crafts each tour to deliver authentic experiences that are meaningful to you. You will travel independently, but your trip will be expertly put together to ensure hassle-free logistics, great lodging selections, and authentic experiences that are meaningful and designed with you in mind. For instance, culinary aficionados can have their Argentina food and wine tour tailored just for them or if you prefer to experience the authentic Argentine tango, take lessons from Buenos Aires’ famous “tango academies”.
Fill out a Trip Request to tell us about your dream vacation. We’ll then match you with 2 – 3 Argentina travel specialists who will work with you to craft the perfect Argentina tour just for you.