An Insider’s Travel Guide to Argentina

Today’s guest post is brought to you by the UK’s No.1 specialist in travel to Latin America, Journey Latin America.

Argentina is a vast country where the main attractions are on a huge scale. Beyond the infinite skies, shimmering glaciers and horizon-bending pampas, this is the cradle of the tango and a country where life is lived large, from the indulgences of succulent steak and celebrated wines to the infamous Buenos Aires nightlife. In this brief guide we’ll offer travel advice to help you discover Argentina in all its glory – where and when to go, how to get around, what to eat and how to make the most of your time there.

Photo courtesy of Journey Latin America.

Argentina All Year Round

One of the great things about planning a holiday to Argentina is that with such a huge territory and varied climate, there is no wrong time of year to visit. In the southern hemisphere, seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere, so December to March bring the warmest weather, making October through to April the traditional time to visit Patagonia. On the other hand, the dry season in the spectacular north of the country – an artist’s palette of red- and orange-hued landscapes dotted with cacti – is the other way around: April to October. September is perhaps the best month for wildlife, with exotic fauna like giant anteaters, caimans, monkeys, the overgrown guinea-pig-resembling capybara, and incredibly abundant bird life all easily spotted in the Iberá marshes, and whales visiting the shores of the Valdés peninsula.

Our advice if you plan to cover multiple regions of the country would be to aim to visit in spring or autumn for the best all-round weather conditions. If we were planning a trip ourselves, our overall favourite month to travel would be April, when fiery autumnal hues make the ends-of-the-earth Patagonian scenery even more beautiful than usual, followed by September or October.

Photo courtesy of Journey Latin America.

Practical Information

Fast facts:

  • British passport holders do not require a visa to enter Argentina (but Americans, Canadians and Australians should beware of the “reciprocity” entry fee).
  • Argentina’s currency is the Argentine peso (around 7 pesos to the British pound or 4.4 pesos to the US dollar as of April 2012).
  • The language is Spanish – spoken with a distinctive accent, a unique pronoun ‘vos’ in place of the standard Spanish ‘tú’, and a peppering of slang known as lunfardo.
  • You can get hold of most things in Argentina so packing is easy; just make sure to take plenty of layers if heading to Patagonia as they are the best insulation from the cold.

Argentina is eight times the size of Britain, so don’t underestimate the distances when planning your itinerary. There is a good network of flights connecting the major cities and tourist areas, but if you are on a budget and have the time you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the long-distance buses. Though the journeys are undoubtedly long (between 12 and 24 hours is the norm), they are extraordinarily comfortable with many ‘bus cama’ services offering fully reclining seats – the business class of the backpacking world. Note that if you’re travelling during the Argentine summer, you’ll need to book ahead to secure your seat. If you’re flying instead, be sure to book your domestic and international flights at the same time as they are almost always cheaper when purchased together.

Buenos Aires in a Weekend

Photo courtesy of Journey Latin America.

Buenos Aires has to be one of the world’s greatest cities: elegant yet frenetic; European yet at once unmistakably Latin; an indefinable metropolis that never quite leaves your system once you’ve been seduced by its 24-hour charms. We would recommend you spend at least three or four nights here, but if you only have a weekend (and make sure it is a weekend: it’s the best time to be in the capital) follow our guide to 48 Hours in Buenos Aires to make every moment count.

The Great Outdoors

No trip to Argentina would be complete without some time out in the wild landscapes so beloved by the Argentines themselves. And there’s certainly a lot of wilderness to choose from in a country whose mind-bending latitudes encompass arid canyons and deserts, thundering waterfalls, subtropical forest, alpine lakes, towering snow-capped peaks, iceberg-strewn waters and vast, splintering glaciers.

If you enjoy trekking, Patagonia is the most obvious (but by no means the only) option. Base yourself in El Chaltén, where you can walk straight out of town and be surrounded by the incredible mountain scenery of Fitz Roy in a matter of minutes. Venturing still further south, Tierra del Fuego – ‘the uttermost part of the Earth’ – makes for an otherworldly backdrop. However, if ice is not your thing, we also love the 3-day trek out of Cachi in the north. Another way to get up close and personal with Argentine nature is with some summer skiing around Bariloche, or even ice trekking on the sprawling Perito Moreno glacier.

Photo courtesy of Journey Latin America.

Then again, if your idea of working up a sweat is in a sauna, there’s no shortage of more relaxing ways to enjoy the Argentine countryside. Sophisticated, indulgent wine lodges and rustic-luxe estancias offer the chance to sit back and savour the rural life at the heart of the Argentine psyche. There are many ranches in the flat pampas surrounding Buenos Aires, with their sun-weathered gauchos, roaring log fires and delicious asados, but there are estates all over the country putting an Argentine spin on R&R. And when it comes to Iguazú Falls, stay at the Sheraton if you can – it’s the only hotel within the Argentine national park, meaning that you can have what is arguably the world’s most impressive waterfall pretty much to yourself when the park is closed to other visitors, including at sunrise and sunset.

Photo courtesy of Journey Latin America.

A Flavour of Argentina

If you live to eat, you’ll love Argentina – particularly if your tastes could be described as carnivorous. The preposterously delicious steak is of course the star attraction, with ‘bife de lomo’ and ‘bife de chorizo’ (nothing to do with the spicy sausage) being our favourite cuts and La Cabrera and Cabaña Las Lilas our favourite Buenos Aires steakhouses, but the Patagonian lamb ‘a la cruz’ (cooked on a spit) is another mouth-watering gastronomic highlight.

Lunch is the main meal of the day, often spanning hours and several courses, and dining is a late affair (don’t book your table before 10pm if you don’t want to look like a lonely tourist). Pasty-like empanadas are the perfect way to fill the gap in between. For those with a sweet tooth, absolutely anything filled with the highly addictive concoction that is dulce de leche is bound to hit the spot.

Finally, missing out on the magnificent wine would be nothing short of a travesty – but since you’re here at The Real Argentina, you must already know a thing or two about that!

For insider travel advice, top 5s, recipes, articles and more, visit Journey Latin America’s online magazine Papagaio.

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2 responses to “An Insider’s Travel Guide to Argentina

  1. Argentina would be a great choice for the nature lover. Its really a great place for getting a unique travel experience. You would also enjoy wonder naturel beauty here that you can’t find any where else..

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