Best things to do in Argentina
Find out more about those top places in Argentina
Perched at the top of a corridor of Argentinian land sandwiched between Brazil and Paraguay, Puerto Iguazú is one of Argentina’s most northerly towns. Undoubtedly the main reason to visit Puerto Iguazú is to visit the awe-inspiring Iguazú Falls, which are undoubtedly one of the natural wonders of the world. Stretching for more than three kilometers, the falls see the Rio Iguazú hurtle over 250 separate waterfalls before climaxing at the horseshoe shaped Garganta del Diablo, where thousands of cubic meters of water plunge over the precipice every second. While there are towns on the Brazilian and Paraguayan side of the waterfalls, Puerto Iguazú is the area’s most charming town with a host of clapperboard hotels and eateries catering specifically for visitors.
Argentina’s Iguazú National Park is simply breathtaking. Home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the park is undoubtedly one the best places in the world to see the raw power of nature up close. Boardwalks let you traverse the cliffs to get a close look at the waterfall itself while kilometers of jungle paths offer the chance to see capuchin monkeys.
For an unforgettable view of the Iguazú Falls take a boat tour, which lets you ride through a series of thrilling rapids before reaching the main falls, known as Salto San Martin. More often than not the boat becomes engulfed in the spray making for one of South America’s most memorable experiences.
Located on the banks of the Parana River, the ruins of the San Ignacio Mission are one of the most popular day trips from Iguazú Falls. Built during the 17th century, the mission served the Jesuits and their quest to bring Christianity to the indigenous peoples of Argentina. Today, it is one of the best-preserved early modern buildings in the country and has a dazzling array of carvings that will leave you awestruck.
The area around Iguazú Falls is unique, as the borders of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil converge on the river surrounding the waterfall. Located in Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, the Three Frontiers Landmark aims to celebrate the diversity of the region and guided tours uncover the intertwined but distinct histories of these three South American nations.
Located over the Brazilian border, the vast Itaipu Dam, which is by most measurements the largest in the world, harnesses the immense power of the region’s rivers. To see how this mammoth power plant operates guided tours will take you around its inner-workings and on an open-top bus journey to its most panoramic locations where you will be able to see into Paraguay.
While the Iguazú Falls are the region’s main draw, there are countless other waterfalls hidden in the jungle just waiting to be discovered. Many of these are perfect for cliff jumping and swimming in plunge pools with local guides able to take you to the most enchanting locations.
More so than any other South American capital, Buenos Aires combines European sophistication with Latin flair in a mesmerizing fashion. Founded in the late-16th century and declaring independence from Spain in 1810, the Argentine capital’s streets resonate with history with Gilded Italian and French-style palaces lining the boulevards around the city’s main square, Plaza de Mayo. However, Buenos Aires is also a thrillingly vibrant city with a 24/7 attitude: its famed parrillas (steakhouses) stay packed well into the night; its bars and clubs only really get going after midnight; and sensual displays of tango, the city’s world-famous dance, go on at all hours. Despite its vast size on a map, the central barrios of Buenos Aires are relatively compact allowing for on-foot exploration while the city’s public transit system lets you get a glimpse of further afield attractions, such as the breathtaking Reserva Ecológica and the phantasmagorical hidden gem of Feria de Mataderos.
Perhaps Buenos Aires’ finest attraction, the sprawling Cemeterio de la Recoleta is literally a city of the dead. Covering a vast area, the cemetery is the grandiose final resting place for many of Argentina’s great and good, including past presidents, military generals and movie stars. To better understand how this mammoth cemetery came to be, guided tours are offered throughout the day.
Named after the former Argentinian president who first proposed creating a multi-purpose cultural venue in downtown Buenos Aires, the former central post office turned arts space is one of the capital’s best attractions. Within the monumental beaux-arts building are multiple art galleries, a world-class concert hall and a variety of smaller studios, screening rooms and spaces where locals can simply hang out. Free guided tours of this remarkable space are given on weekends.
Argentina’s most famous tradition, the tango, comes to life throughout Buenos Aires’ many theaters and dance schools. A trip to the city would not be complete without attending one of these astonishing shows at the historic Galería Güemes, a fin-de-siècle theatre in the heart of downtown. For the more adventurous, tango classes can also be arranged at Le Catedral where you can learn some of the dance’s world-famous moves.
Buenos Aires’ is South America’s street art capital and there is no better place to explore this enthralling tradition than in the winding streets of the Palermo district. Specialist guided tours of the area offer insightful information on the history of street art in the city, from the political movements of the 1920s to acts of defiance against the military dictatorship during the 1970s.
One of Buenos Aires’ most unusual buildings is the Palacio Barolo, which was modeled after the structure of Dante’s iconic Divine Comedy. The grandiose building is 100 meters tall, after the 100 songs in Dante’s work, and is divided into 22 floors, which is inspired by the number of verses per song. What is more, much like the Divine Comedy, Palacio Barolo is divided into hell, purgatory and heaven making for a true architectural wonder. Guided tours of the building are available that explain its rich symbolism.
Catch the famous Boca Juniors play a game at their Bombonera Stadium, one of the world’s most iconic football grounds. The atmosphere around the stadium is electric on match days and is worth the trip alone. For those not interested in watching a full match, guided tours are available that reveal the club’s rich sporting history.
Plaza de Mayo is the heart of Buenos Aires’ and is where locals come to relax in the sweltering summer evenings over a few cool beers. To savor this enthralling atmosphere, and marvel at the rich history of the plaza, take an evening walking tour where guides will fill you in on the square’s role in Argentine history.
For a sensory overload, head to the intoxicating market of Feria de San Telmo where you can buy just about anything. It is a crowded scene so be prepared to squeeze your way past vendors selling cool beers, fresh fruit juices and vintage bric-a-brac. Make sure to allow plenty of time to watch the array of talented street artists and musicians who work in the area.
Located in the heart of the Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is almost as far south as you can get in Argentina on paved roads. Sandwiched between the rugged slopes of Cerro Martial and Monte Olivia, which are themselves the southernmost peaks of the Andes, and the thrashing waters of the famed Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is a gateway to the vast wilderness at the tip of South America. While the town itself is little more than a chaotic tumbledown of houses perched on vertiginous slopes, Ushuaia makes an ideal base for exploring the surrounding fjords, penguin colonies and ski resorts. What is more, in the summer, when temperatures become slightly less frigid, the mountains that rise sharply behind Ushuaia are home to some of the Tierra del Fuego’s most breathtaking hiking trails.
Ushuaia is the gateway to one of the most (in)famous shipping passages in the world: the Beagle Channel. Daily cruises from the town take you out onto the frigid waters to see spectacular vistas of the glacier-capped Andes, the archaeological remains of Concharo Yámanas left by the Tierra del Fuego’s indigenous population, and Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, the symbolic ‘end of the world’.
Alongside the Amazon Rainforest, the Tierra del Fuego is South America’s last remaining wilderness. To best experience this unrivaled landscape of pine forests, snow-capped peaks and penguin colonies, head to the national park of the same name just west of Ushuaia. Day tours from the town encompass the ex-convicts railway line, the pastel blue glacial Lake Roca and Cross Cormorants Island.
Until it became a booming town for adventure tourism, Ushuaia was once Argentina’s primary penal colony. To explore the town’s dark legacy, head to the Museo del Presido, which is housed in a stark former prison. Guided tours of the brooding complex let you explore the cramped cells, the appalling work conditions prisoners faced and their day-to-day lives inside its walls.
Designated a protected area, Parque Yatana is safe from the fast-paced development of Ushuaia. The lush forest is kept as a space where the region’s indigenous peoples can practice their traditional crafts, which are displayed at the art center within the park and on the various scenic trails.
The waters around the Tierra del Fuego are famed for their rich stocks of seafood and one of the area’s most thrilling experiences is to accompany the local fishermen out to sea to collect the crab traps. Once you are back on terra firma you will be able to head to a local’s home where they will prepare a traditional Patagonian meal for you.
Set sail towards the Falkland Islands to visit the rugged Isla Martillo on a penguin tour. The island is home to one of Argentina’s largest colonies where you will be able to get up close to iconic bird species and marvel at the spectacular landscapes.
With its cragged fjords, placid lakes and rocky coves, there is no better place in all of South America for canoeing than the Tierra del Fuego. Tours run from Ushuaia that take you to the breathtaking Lapataia Bay.
Mendoza is the laid back capital of Argentina’s world-famous wine region. While the city is located in what is ostensibly a desert, thousands of kilometers of irrigation canals dug well before the Columbian era have transformed the city into an oasis of tree-lined boulevards, grand fountain centered squares and shaded parks. Today, Mendoza is one of Argentina’s most cosmopolitan cities with an array of wine bars, chic cafes and upscale restaurants to choose from. What is more, the city makes the perfect base for exploring the surrounding wine country, which stretches into the foothills of the Andes, with many of the wineries offering guided tours and tastings.
The rolling landscape surrounding Mendoza is prime Argentinian wine country so there is no better place to take a vineyard tour. One of the best ways to explore the array of wineries is through the hop-on hop-off bus tours that run between the various vineyards throughout the day. Of course, most tours finish with the all-important tasting where you can sample the country’s finest wines.
Just west of Mendoza the rolling plains of central Argentina give way to the cragged rock faces of the towering Andes. Tours of this remarkable area take you to the fascinating Uspallanta Valley, which still bears traces of pre-Hispanic culture, the fabulous ski resort of Los Penitentes and the awe-inspiring peak of Aconcagua, the highest in the western hemisphere.
This 420 hectare park is Mendoza’s crown jewel. Peppered with rose gardens, thousands of mature trees and numerous historical monuments that recall the city’s illustrious history. Make sure to pay special attention to the entrance gates, which were originally forged for the Ottoman sultan Hamid II.
For anyone interested in the colonization of Argentina, a visit to the Museo Fundacional is a must. Exhibits detail the layout of the original city of Mendoza, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1861, and the arrival of European settlers to the area. Guided tours of this fascinating museum are available throughout the day.
This small museum in central Mendoza details the life of the city’s most famous son, General José de San Martín, who is rightly famed for his role in liberating Argentina and Chile from Spanish rule. If museums are not for you, his legacy can be seen throughout the city from the many streets and statues named in his honor to his palatial former family home.
The Mendoza River is one of Argentina’s most spectacular and its many white water rapids make it perfect for river rafting tours. Starting in the picturesque town of Cordillerano de Poterillos, rafting tours take you downstream to the Poterillos Dam, where you conclude the tour with refreshments.
Stretching along the shoreline of the majestic Lago Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche is the beating heart of Argentina’s Lake District. While the town has now outgrown its original Germanic-style historic center, Bariloche remains one of Argentina’s most charming towns with an assortment of chocolate box alpine architecture. However, the main draw of Bariloche is not the architecture. The surrounding glacial peaks of the Cerro Catedral massif offer some of South America’s best skiing and snowboarding while in summer the forested foothills are laced with a sophisticated network of hiking trails that make exploring the vast wilderness relatively simple.
Covering nearly 8000 square kilometers of some of Argentina’s most astonishing scenery, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi is undoubtedly Bariloche’s main draw. The park’s star attraction is the vast lake of the same name where you can take boat tours that provide spectacular vistas of the glacial peaks and start a variety of hikes, some of which are multi-day epics that take you deep into the wilderness. Beyond this, the rafting on the Río Limay is one of the park’s most thrilling activities.
Just southwest of Bariloche is Argentina’s premier snow sports resort, Cerro Catedral. Rising to nearly 2500 meters, the peak of the same name is one of the most spectacular in the area and is clad in the winter with many kilometers of perfectly groomed piste. During the summer months the resort is still worth visiting, as the Cerro Bellavista cable-car offers breathtaking views and is the starting point for Alpine hikes.
One of the most popular day tours from Bariloche is to the tranquil Victoria Island, just off the coast of the Llao Llao Peninsula. The pine and birch-clad island is simply enchanting and make sure to be on the lookout for pudu – the world’s smallest species of deer.
The southernmost reaches of Argentina were a popular destination for German immigration during the 19th and early 20th centuries and historical walking tours of Bariloche reveal this fascinating history. These tours offer insights into the town’s unique Bavarian architecture, its German cultural clubs and its dark history as a refuge for high-ranking Nazis following the Second World War.
Try the gastronomic delights of Patagonia on ever-popular regional food tours in Bariloche, which let you get a taste for empanadas, fondue, smoked meats and wheat beers. Tours are conducted at a number of local restaurants and will leave you coming back for more.
The snow-capped peak of Mount Tronador is the highest in the Bariloche region at 3500 meters and forms the breathtaking boundary between Argentina and Chile. Tours of the spectacular peak let you hike up Alpine hillsides and marvel at the ‘black glacier’, which is one of the area’s unique natural wonders.