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Updated post 04/01/2020 | January 2020
It’s easy to understand why Argentina is one of the most popular countries in South America. From the romance of the tango cafes of Buenos Aires to the vineyards of the Mendoza Valley to the glacial majesty of Patagonia, it has culture and natural beauty in spades.
However, putting together an Argentina itinerary can be challenging.
Argentina is a BIG country, the 9th largest in the world and around twenty times the size of the UK. Added to this, the seasonal weather patterns vary depending on where in the country you are.
Therefore, unless you are able to spend months out there, you will need to accept that you will not be able to cover it all in one trip. You will need to make some tough choices.
To help you plan your perfect trip to Argentina, here are the main things that you should consider. These include are how to put together your Argentina itinerary, the best time of year to visit, where to stay, how to get around the country, safety tips and typical costs for a solo traveller on a mid-range budget.
How to get to Argentina
Most travellers arrive in Argentina by air. There are direct flights to Buenos Aires from Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa and from many South American countries.
Buenos Aires has two airports: Ezezia (EZE), serving mostly international flights, and Aeroparque (AEP), which is the domestic hub as well as handling some flights to other South American countries.
There are also overland entry points into Argentina from Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
What should you include in your Argentina itinerary?
Do you want an active holiday, hiking in Patagonia or in the Lake District perhaps? Or is wine tasting in Mendoza or learning to dance the tango in Buenos Aires more your thing?
The Argentinian landscape is extremely varied, from snow-capped Patagonian peaks to tropical jungles and waterfalls.
Start with a scoping exercise. Take a look at a few guidebooks for inspiration, surf the web for interesting blog posts. See what takes your fancy.
This will start to shape your Argentina itinerary.
When is the best time to visit Argentina?
Although Argentina is a year-round destination, weather patterns vary according to where you are in the country. Therefore, the time of year you visit Argentina will depend on where you want to go and what you would like to do.
How can you travel around Argentina?
For long-distance travel, you are looking at buses or planes. But considering the size of the country, to maximise your two weeks in Argentina, flying is going to be your best bet.
Buses in Argentina have a reputation for being good and cheap. However, because of the distances involved, it can take a very long time to get from A to B. Platform 10 is a popular resource to research routes and timetables.
When planning your flight routing, be aware that Buenos Aires is the hub for domestic flights. There are no direct connections between many major cities.
Trains are also an option. Due to lack of investment, the Argentinian rail network was in the doldrums for many years. However, it has been undergoing a recent revival.
Check here for current information on the Argentinian rail service.
A 2-week Argentina itinerary
I visited Argentina for just over two weeks in March.
This gave me enough time to marvel at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, go hiking in the Lake District, get soaked at the Iguazú Falls and absorb the culture of Buenos Aires for a decent chunk of time, with a side trip to Colonia in Uruguay.
I could have done this over a shorter time period. However, I was keen to build in some wiggle room in case of unforeseen incidents. It was also important for me to have time without a particular agenda.
Too often when travelling, I have fallen into the trap of pinging from one ‘must-see’ site to another. Whilst there will always be places to see and things to do, there’s also a lot to be said for just ‘being’.
Argentina itinerary day-by-day
|DAY 1||LONDON TO BUENOS AIRES||Arrival late am. Botanic Gardens, Japanese Gardens, Rose Gardens.|
|DAY 2||BUENOS AIRES||Historic centre – Plaza de Mayo, Cathedral, Casa Rosado. Downtown area.|
|DAY 3||BUENOS AIRES TO EL CALAFATE||Arrival mid pm. Arrange day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier.|
|DAY 4||EL CALAFATE||Day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier|
|DAY 5||EL CALAFATE TO BARILOCHE||Arrival late pm|
|DAY 6||BARILOCHE||Walk – Circuito Chico|
|DAY 7||BARILOCHE||Walk – Lago Gutierrez|
|DAY 8||BARILOCHE TO IGUAZU||Arrival late pm. Arrange transfer to Iguazu Falls.|
|DAY 9||IGUAZU||Iguazu Falls – Argentinian side|
|DAY 10||IGUAZU||Iguazu Falls – Brazilian side|
|DAY 11||IGUAZU TO BUENOS AIRES||Arrival late pm. Arrange day trip to Colonia.|
|DAY 12||BUENOS AIRES||Day trip to Colonia, Uruguay|
|DAY 13||BUENOS AIRES||Walking tour of La Boca. Ecological park at Puerto Madero.|
|DAY 14||BUENOS AIRES||San Telmo & El Zanjon|
|DAY 15||BUENOS AIRES||La Recoleta Cemetery. Palermo street art.|
Day 1 – 2: Buenos Aires
I’m going to level with you. However long you spend in Buenos Aires, it won’t be enough.
This most European of South Ameican cities will seduce you with its colonial architecture, its rich history and the romance of tango.
What to do in Buenos Aires
Most international flights land in Buenos Aires late morning or early lunchtime. Therefore, to get your bearings – and to keep jet lag at bay – why not take a stroll around the city’s Botanical, Japanese and Rose Gardens on the afternoon of your arrival?
But begin your two weeks in Argentina proper by exploring the Plaza de Mayo, the beating heart of Buenos Aires. Surrounded on three sides by iconic buildings – the Catedral Metropolitana, the Cabildo and the Casa Rosada – this is the perfect place to start to get know the city and its history.
The Casa Rosada is the star turn here. It was from the balcony of this pink government house building that Eva Perón (aka Evita) gave her final speech in 1951.
Take a stroll to Av. 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world (although Brazil contends that the record belongs to the Eixo Monumental in Brasilia). In the centre of Av. 9 de Julio is the Obelisk, rising above the oval Plaza de la República like a giant exclamation mark. This Buenos Aires icon was erected in 1936 to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first foundation of Buenos Aires.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
I recommend staying in Palermo Soho or Palermo Hollywood. These sub-barrios have more than enough bars and restaurants to satisfy your culinary and drinking needs, and felt safe to walk around at night.
READ MORE: How To Spend 4 Days in Buenos Aires
Day 3 – 4: El Calafate / Perito Moreno Glacier
Stretching back as far as the eye can see above the turquoise water of Argentinian Patagonia’s Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier is an extraordinary sight. Stretching for over 30km in length, 5km across and towering 70 meters above the surface of Lago Argentino, the glacier covers an area of 250 square kilometres.
How to visit Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate
- The small town of El Calafate is the springboard for a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier
- Reaching the glacier from El Calafate is simple. Multiple tour operators which line the town’s main street, offer day trips.
- Alternatively, you can take a taxi, rent a car or take the bus from the bus station. The drive takes about 90 minutes.
- I took a day tour with Chalten Travel. At a cost of ARS 700 (35 USD), this was only marginally more than the return bus fare, and I did not have the inconvenience of hiking to the bus station which is now on the outskirts of town. Although we had a guide on the return bus journey, who gave us a useful introduction to the park, once we were inside we were left to our own devices, which suited me just fine.
What to expect from a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier is nature’s sight and sound show.
Multiple viewing platforms, connected by colour-coded walkways, provide different vantage points, each one seemingly better than the last.
Although it is difficult to tear your eyes away from its beauty, it’s its activity that makes it so spell-binding. As the glacier advances, immense ice chunks break off, plummeting into the lake, a process called calving.
This is extraordinary to witness. First, there is a low rumble, like thunder. Visitors wait in eager anticipation, cameras at the ready. Then as the ice mass fractures and crashes into the water, there is a collective gasp of awe.
There is also a one-hour boat trip that takes you around the base. This is well worth the ticket price, stopping a mere 100 meters from the ice wall. You can almost feel the glacier’s icy breath!
This gives you yet another perspective of the glacier, its jagged peaks reaching skywards like giant icy fingers striated with irregular blue veins. Just stunning.
How much does it cost to visit Perito Moreno Glacier?
- However you get to Perito Moreno Glacier, you will need to pay the entrance ticket on arrival. This costs 30 USD (2019 price). Only local currency accepted (no credit cards).
- The boat trip cost 500 ARS. There is no need to book this in El Calafate. I recommend deciding on the day in case of inclement weather. Reportedly, the boat trip is only cancelled if the weather is really, really bad.
This was the most expensive day in Argentina. However, it is certainly a day that I will never forget.
Where to stay in El Calafate
As El Calafate is the main jumping-off point for visits to Los Glaciares National park, it is awash with accommodation choices.
Cheaper accommodation tends to be within a few blocks of the town’s main street. More luxurious options are located further out with views to match the prices.
Day 5 – 7: Bariloche
Bariloche is the gateway to northern Patagonia’s glacial lakes, pine forests and volcanic mountains. A great way to explore this area is by doing some or all of the Circuito Chico.
The Circuito Chico is a spectacular 60km road journey that includes fragrant forests, magnificent mountains and languid lakes and is a must-do if you are in Bariloche. Although having a car makes life a little easier, it is possible to tackle the Circuito Chico by bus from Bariloche.
Highlights of the Circuito Chico
The first stop on the Circuito Chico from Bariloche is the Cerro Campanario. With a cool breeze brushing your face, the chairlift will whisk you through the forest to the mountain’s summit.
- Take bus #20 from Bariloche to Cerro Camapanario, which is around 11 miles from the city centre. This journey takes 25 minutes.
- To get to Llao Llao, hop back on the #20. The journey takes 15 minutes; the bus terminates at the hotel.
- Buses accept Sube cards (no cash). For further information on these contactless payment cards, check out my post on how to spend four days in Buenos Aires.
- If you have not picked up a Sube card earlier on your trip, many hotels and hostels will lend you one.
Where to stay in Bariloche
As the gateway to the Patagonian Lake District, Bariloche does not suffer from a shortage of places to stay. However, as its accommodation options can be a considerable distance from the town centre, check the address carefully before booking.
Day 8 – 11: Iguazú Falls
Iguazú Falls was one of the most extraordinary sights that I encountered on my two-week Argentina itinerary. Straddling the border between Argentina and Brazil, these world-famous waterfalls defy superlatives.
To help you make the most of your visit, here are my top four tips for visiting the Iguazú Falls.
Tip 1: Allow enough time to visit the Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls
Your $25 admission ticket gives you access to five different trails, ranging from 600m to 7km in length. I spent around six hours inside the park but didn’t have enough time to check out every trail and take the boat ride.
This maze of walkways on the Argentinian side allows you to get close up and personal to the Iguazú Falls. For an overall panoramic view, follow the green trail from the Visitors Centre, and the take the shortest trail, the upper trail (Circuito Superior).
Then take the lower trail (Circuito Inferior), a 1.6km romp through the forest leading to some of the parks most spectacular waterfalls, including Salto Ramirez and Bossetti.
Make sure that you build in time to take the train to the Devil’s Throat (Garganta Del Diablo) station. From there, walk on wooden platforms suspended over the churning waters to reach the Devil’s Throat.
Dozens of powerful waterfalls converge in a horseshoe shape, and it is tricky to distinguish mist from water. Multicolour butterflies flutter around your face, vivid against the dazzling opacity of the falls.
Tip 2: See the bigger picture from the Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls
Go across the border for an unforgettable panoramic view. In exchange for 18 USD of your hard-earned cash, you get access to Trilha das Cataratas. This is a 1km trail with sweeping views of the falls leading you right into the Devil’s Throat. Unmissable.
For an extra cost, other activities are available (e.g. kayaking, boat ride, jeep tour through the park).
Tip 3: Don’t forget to look at the wildlife around the Iguazu Falls
I know that the main reason for visiting Iguazú Falls is to wonder at their power and beauty. But the wildlife is a bonus.
I will never forget the butterflies, dancing around my face in a riot of kaleidoscopic colours. Or the toucans soaring high above the pathway to the Devil’s Throat on the Brazilian side.
And let’s not forget those pesky coatis, racoon-like creatures that roam the park and will gladly relieve you of your lunch. The vicious little beasties bite too!
Tip 4: Try to allow at least two full days for visiting Iguazú Falls
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, ideally, you need a day for each side of Iguazú Falls. But secondly, as the weather is extremely unpredictable, I advise building in some wiggle-room.
Whilst the falls are spectacular in the sunshine, walking around them in the torrential rain would diminish the experience. Don’t put yourself into a position where you have to choose between the two sides.
How to get to the Iguazu Falls
- I used the hotel’s transfer service to get to the Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls. It cost 12 USD. Buses from Puerto Iguazu’s station also go to the falls.
- I splashed the cash and took a taxi to the Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls. This cost 37 USD for the return journey.
- With two sets of immigration to navigate there and back and a very helpful driver to guide me, this was well worth it. Again, you can get the bus from Puerto Iguazú.
Where to stay to visit the Iguazú Falls
You can base yourself in either Foz Iguazu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina to visit either side of the falls.
Compared with other tourist hubs in Argentina – take a bow, El Calafate and Bariloche – Puerto Iguazú leaves much to be desired. Therefore, do yourself a favour; splash the cash and stay in one of the resort-type hotels in the jungle on the way out to the falls.
Day 12 – Colonia, Uruguay
Day 12 of your Argentina itinerary and an opportunity to visit your third country in two weeks: Uruguay.
Colonia, or Colonia del Sacramento (to give it its full name), is a short hop across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. With its cobbled streets, colonial buildings and a smattering of vintage cars, it makes a perfect day trip from Buenos Aires.
A short history of Colonia
The architecture and urban planning in Colonia reflect the influence of its two colonial powers – Portugal and Spain – and are unique in this part of South America. This makes Colonia quite special.
The Portuguese street plan, with its irregular cobbled streets, can still be seen in its historic centre, whilst the surrounding areas have newer Spanish architecture.
In1680 the Portuguese established Nova Colonia do Santissimo Sacramento (The New Colony of Blessed Sacrament). This gave them a prime position in the Rio de la Plata, all the better to access the mines in Peru and huge swathes of agricultural land.
Having settled Colonia, the Portuguese wanted to hold onto it and they set up defences on the small island of St Gabriel, which was close to Buenos Aires.
However, the Spanish, the landlords of Buenos Aires, were having none of this. A long fight ensued, which lasted into the latter half of the 18th century. Finally, in 1777, Colonia became a Spanish city.
Peace reigned for a short time, but between 1811 and 1828 the town bore the brunt of fierce independence battles between Portugal and Brazil. Colonia came in for it yet again from 1839 to 1851 when the new nation of Uruguay was at war with Argentina.
Peace finally came to Colonia in the middle of the 19th Century.
What to see in Colonia
Colonia is an achingly picturesque and laid-back place to wander around. Having said that, there’s not too much to see and do, and I found three or four hours in the town were just about right.
Here’s my pick of the top things to do during a day trip:
1. Capture that Kodak moment in the Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs)
2. Watch life go by in the main square (Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo)
3. Climb the 118 steps to the top of the old lighthouse (Faro) for panoramic views over the town.
4. Visit the Iglesia Matriz (Church of the Most Holy Sacrament),
This is the oldest church in Uruguay, built between 1695 and 1699 .
5. Hunt for vintage cars
How to visit Colonia on a day trip from Buenos Aires
- Although a number of tour companies offer day trips to Colonia, it is very easy to get there under your own steam.
- Three ferry companies that ply the waters between Buenos Aires and Colonia. I used BuqueBus but there are two other companies – Seacat Colonia and Colonia Express.
- The crossing from Puerto Madero takes 75 minutes and the day trip costs 66 USD (2019 price), which includes a packed lunch and a short guided tour. The ferry leaves at 8.30, and returns at 4 pm, allowing ample time to explore the delights of Colonia.
- I took a taxi to Puerto Madero from my hotel in Palermo Soho which cost 9 USD. For the return journey, I took the metro. The nearest station is Alem on the B line, around 10 – 15 walk from the ferry terminal.
Day 13 – 15: Buenos Aires
Your two-week Argentina itinerary ends where it started, in Buenos Aires.
What to do in Buenos Aires
The historic barrio of La Boca is a must-see in Buenos Aires. Its star turn is El Caminito, with its brightly coloured buildings that grace many a postcard, its live tango and art galleries.
As it is easy to veer off the tourist track into some less savoury areas, I recommend exploring La Boca on a guided walking tour.
On the way back from La Boca, why not spend a few hours strolling around the Ecological Reserve, located in Puerto Madero?
Take one of its trails leading to the waterfront promenade, from where there are sweeping views over the Rio de la Plata. If bird-watching is your thing, you will be sharing the reserve with more than 300 species.
Mention Buenos Aires to many people and it is San Telmo that comes to mind. Picture cobbled streets, a lively Sunday market and tango dancers in its main square.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the underground labyrinth of El Zanjón, a 19th-century mansion, which is a time-machine into San Telmo’s past.
La Recoleta Cemetery is a must-see on any Argentina itinerary.
Home to over 6,400 statues, sarcophagi, coffins and crypts, and spread over four city blocks, La Recoleta Cemetery is an eerily beautiful place.
Although Eva Perón is La Recoleta Cemetery’s most famous resident, the list of its other occupants reads like a Who’s Who of Argentinian history. From presidents to poets, athletes to academics, exploring its mausoleums and memorials gives you a fascinating insight into the country’s past.
On your final afternoon in Argentina, walk around Palermo Soho which is the epicentre of Buenos Aires’ street art scene. Although you can easily mooch around by yourself, guided street art walking tours are also available.
How much will a two-week Argentina itinerary cost?
I’ll be honest. Argentina is not bargain-basement South America. However, neither it is ludicrously expensive.
Excluding international flights, the trip cost me $3590. This worked out to be $225 per day.
In descending order, this was made up of the following:
- Hotels $1690
- Flights $930
- Food & drink $455
- Other ground transport $245
- Entrance fees $150
- Day trips $120
As I was travelling alone, accommodation costs were accordingly high. I could have done it a lot cheaper by staying in less expensive, shared accommodation in a not so nice area. But it was important to me to have a comfortable room in a relatively safe location to retreat to at the end of the day.
I also used taxis where it was more convenient and safe to do so, instead of opting for public transport.
Money in Argentina
At the time of writing this post (November 2019), Argentina was facing another crippling economic crisis.
The economy in Argentina is complicated and its currency, the peso (ARS), fluctuates wildly, affecting prices. As the cost of goods and services can often change, this can make estimating the cost of any Argentina itinerary challenging, to say the least.
I strongly recommend bringing a decent amount of hard cash, specifically US dollars or Euros. Make sure that these notes are in good condition as you may find that some banks and currency exchanges will not accept those that have marks or creases.
Although you can withdraw pesos from ATMs, there are restrictions on the amount that you can withdraw and the transaction is likely to be subject to a hefty fee.
Although credit cards are accepted in more upscale restaurants and hotels, don’t rely on them as your sole source of payment.
For further information, check out this great article on how to change money and how to use your debit and credit card in Argentina.
What to eat in Argentina
A visit to Argentina is the perfect opportunity to tantalise your taste buds. During your visit, don’t miss these traditional favourites.
- Steak – Argentina is steak-lovers’ heaven! I guarantee that even though you will eat some of the best cuts of your life, after 2 weeks in Argentina you will not be able to look another steak in the eye for some time.
- Empanadas – hot, cheap and portable, an empanada is the go-to lunchtime snack. Half-moon shaped deep-fried pastry parcels, stuffed with a sweet or savoury filling.
- Choripán – the ultimate Argentinean street food, choripán is a grilled chorizo-style sausage served between slices of crusty bread.
- Provoleta – Argentina’s variant of provolone, discs of bubbling, almost-molten pungent cheese, topped with chilli flakes and herbs, served in a cast-iron skillet.
- Dulce de leche – condensed milk is slowly reduced to a sweet and sticky caramel sauce.
- Alfajores – think of these as biscuit (cookie) sandwiches. Alfajores are shortbread-type biscuits glued together with jams, mousses or dulce de leche.
- Asado – Argentina’s asado, also known as parrillada, is legendary. Beef, pork, ribs, sausages, or even a whole lamb or pig, are roasted over an open flame.
Is Argentina safe for solo travellers?
As a solo female traveller, I found Argentina a safe country to travel around.
Like any major city, petty theft can be an issue in Buenos Aires, but take the same precautions as you would in your home city.
Don’t make yourself a target. Walk confidently and with purpose, be careful with your belongings, especially smartphones and laptops, and leave your diamond necklace at home. Watch your bag and your belongings and be street smart.
Trust your instincts. Take a taxi when this is a safer option. Seek local knowledge on the safety of areas.
Argentina: Suggested Reading
Finally, do you want to learn a little bit more about the country? Here’s my pick of books to read either before your two weeks in Argentina or whilst you are there.
An Argentina itinerary: final thoughts
Argentina was a country that exceeded my expectations.
Wherever you end up, and however long for, I am sure that you will have a fabulous time. With its enormous diversity of landscapes, fantastic food and wine and warm & generous people it will be difficult not to.
Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below!
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