Argentina was the 2nd country in our first extended trip ever (4 months!), so we were excited to see what we would discover in this huge country. We went out with a bang in Chile hiking at the Torres Del Paine, and were looking forward to some Argentine adventures.
Argentina was a big mystery for us because we had been hearing bits and pieces about the trekking, money changing on the street, the tango, the late nights, the mouth-watering steaks, the subways, and the siestas, but weren’t sure which stories we should believe. We were so excited to get a little glimpse of the culture in Argentina. It was a perfect beginning!
Our 3 Week Argentina Itinerary:
This map shows our meandering route through Argentina, starting way down south and ending way up north. There’s so much more to see though! Considering the size of the country, we flew through it!
Don’t make the same mistake as us and think it’s quick to travel the length of Argentina. We took quite a few looong buses to hop around the country!
In the south we crossed over into Argentina from Chile at Puerto Natales. We meandered north and east to Buenos Aires, hopped over to Uruguay for a few days, and crossed back into Argentina on the other side of Uruguay. From there we visited Iguazú Falls and then headed west and north to Bolivia. In the northern border of Argentina we crossed into Bolivia at La Quiaca/Villazón.
This route would be fun in reverse too!
(You can zoom in on the map and move it around with your mouse)
El Calafate is home base for visiting many glaciers in the area, including the amazing Perito Moreno glacier. It was our first stop in Argentina after our hiking trip at Torres Del Paine in Chile. It was funny to see quite a few hikers in town we had met on the Torres del Paine trail. We were all limping around town trying to see everything while nursing our sore muscles!
It was a good place to head after the hike because it’s not too far from Puerto Natales but yet got us a good start to the north. The town was flush with plenty of tourist shops and outdoor gear stores, but still had the small-town feel and with some nice outdoor dining restaurants. Book ahead for a place to stay during peak season.
From El Calafate we took a long bus to Bariloche. Really long but really pretty! Bariloche is a super fun lake town with lots of tourists and lots to do. It’s popular all year round because it has a beautiful lake and incredible mountains in the summer and snow slopes for skiing and trekking in the winter!
Bariloche is great place for checking out the food, and surrounding lake areas. We wished we would have been able to do some trekking around this area but we were still recuperating from our 50 mile hike!
There were more chocolate shops than we could count! They all had huge chocolate fondue fountains, candy stores, and ice cream shoppes. Skip this town if you’re on a diet!
Read more about: Why Everyone Loves Bariloche
The next bus from Bariloche to San Martín de los Andes was really beautiful! It is a little gem of a town tucked away in the mountains! The road to get there winds through beautiful forests in the Andes mountains. It’s packed with camping, hiking, and fishing spots. We wished we had camping gear because the entire lake district is incredible!
We really enjoyed our time in this quaint little town, a nice break from the ones that are only interested in tourists. If you visit San Martín, be sure to check out the lake and do some boating, kayaking, geocaching, and trekking.
Read more about: Enjoying Patagonia in San Martín de Los Andes
We were on our way north to Buenos Aires with plans to stop and explore along the way, following our slow travel motto, but some of our friends were headed direct to Buenos Aires. They were headed to a wedding and offered for us to road trip with them. Of course we said yes! A 28+ hour trip filled with chit chat to practice our Spanish, Mate rounds, and ice cream – of course! I even got in a little car-mechanic practice on the side of the road too, haha.
We stopped for the night in Bahía Blanca at the home of some friends and then headed on to Buenos Aires the next morning. They tried to convince us to stay and check out the beach area around Bahía Blanca but we had a ride waiting so we figured we would just continue on with them! We made some really fun memories!
We try to spend as much time as we can with the locals because those are the memories we’ll always remember! Next time we’ll spend some more time here because we heard the Atlantic Coast offers some really beautiful beaches.
Buenos Aires & the Tigre District
We were excited as we arrived in Buenos Aires, the mecca of steak eaters and tango dancers, curious to see what a city almost the size of Los Angeles would be like in South America!
Our starting point was in the Tigre district, on the northwest edge of the city. It was an adorable little town with the Tigre Delta River going right though town!
To get to downtown Buenos Aires we opted out of a bus ride and instead took an exciting boat tour through the Tigre Delta that ended up in Puerto Madero – downtown Buenos Aires. We found a really fun hostel called Portal Del Sur nearby. They had a super nice hang out area and everyone was really chill. The included breakfast was really good, served on the top deck with nice bird’s eye views of the city!
We rented bikes for free and rode all around the parks in Palmero, close to the zoo. We also saw a tango show and found some really cool geocaches! Don’t miss out on a great steak in Buenos Aires!
From Buenos Aires, we took the ferry over to Colonia de Sacramento in Uruguay. We decided to travel around a few days in Uruguay and cross back over to Argentina on the western side of Uruguay.
Returning from our quick side-trip, we arrived by ferry from Salto, Uruguay to Concordia, Argentina. It was a pretty nondescript border crossing – the only business the border agents got was from the ferry twice a day! It was raining cats and dogs, so we didn’t get many pretty river vistas either…
It was a long way to the main bus terminal and there weren’t any taxis waiting around so we thought we were going to have to take a 3 km (2 mile) walk. That would have been no fun because it was dumping rain! Luckily, a taxi did eventually come and we were able to get a ride to the terminal. Unfortunately, once we got there we found out the next bus to get to Puerto Iguazú did not leave for another 9 hours! Drat!
We had run out of Argentine pesos in Buenos Aires, and couldn’t find any way to exchange money because the Blue Market exchange rate had shot up to $13 an all-time high and everyone was scared. So, we had to sit tight and share a hamburger for our lunch and supper. We did see a funny scene – a 10 year old driving a horse-drawn cart in city traffic!
We had a loooonnnnggg wait at the terminal and then a long bus ride on top of it, so we were pretty worn out when we got to Iguazú!
Iguazú Falls was one of the biggest inspirations for us to start thinking about this trip to South America! We were so excited to finally make it!
We were not disappointed!
We had high expectations from seeing the impressive Niagara Falls in New York, but it pales in comparison to Iguazú Falls!
Iguazú Falls is absolutely incredible!
We took the boat ride under the falls and must say it’s a once in a lifetime experience you can’t miss! We had a blast and got totally soaked! There are so many trails with so much to see, we stayed to visit the park for 2 days. The 2nd day ticket is half price, so there’s no reason to short yourself on something this amazing!
Salta was our last stop in Argentina before heading across the border at La Quiaca. It was a lot more fun than we expected because we hadn’t really heard much about it. The city is filled with nice parks, and is really green. There were actually a lot of Argentines visiting on vacation so it had a nice local-touristy feel but wasn’t overboard.
There is a mirador at the top of a hill in town with a beautiful park overlooking the countryside. We took the tram up to the top, but took the million stair descent on the way down for a little exercise!
The main town square is surrounded by buildings with beautiful architecture. There are also a lot of really good restaurants with cheap prices. We went to a great museum with Inca artifacts discovered in a nearby mountain, including perfectly-preserved bodies of 3 children! We heard the nightlife was cranking in this town, so be sure to check it out if that’s your thing!
Leaving Salta we took a bus to the northern border town, La Quiaca, and walked across to Villazón in Bolivia.
That was our Quick Itinerary to see Argentina in 3 Weeks
Argentina is an immense country with so much to see! We passed by 99% of it, so be sure to plan enough time to see everything you want!
Comparison with Chile: We thought about crossing into Argentina sooner on our way south, but we’re glad that we spent some extra time in southern Chile rather than hopping across right away. Although both countries share the Andes mountains and Patagonia in the south, Chile is much more engaging and has more of an adventurous feel to it. Southern Argentina was too packed with silver-sleeping-pad-toting 20 year olds for us. Both countries are amazing and have such a wide diversity of climates and people, we were glad to have seen a little of each.
Things We Would Have Done Differently in Argentina:
1. We didn’t bring enough US dollars into Argentina.
We had enough US money to exchange for most everything we wanted, but discovered near the end that we needed to pay the Bolivian border fee in US dollars, an extra $270 we hadn’t planned on.
Lesson learned — Keep track of your traveling budget before entering Argentina so you’ll have a good idea of how much money you’ll need. Think ahead all the way to leaving the country and any fees you’ll need to pay. Add on 10-20% to the total. Don’t fall for the “good” rate on a credit/debit card transaction! Alternatively, for longer trips, pop over to Uruguay or Chile to replenish your cash stash.
2. We didn’t have any Argentine pesos when we entered Argentina.
We had to take a few bad exchange rates when we first crossed the border since we didn’t get any Argentine pesos beforehand in Chile. We couldn’t find much current information on the Argentine peso before we arrived, so we weren’t sure what a good or bad exchange rate was. We figured we’d just get some in Argentina, but we got into town in the evening and couldn’t find pesos anywhere.
Lesson learned — Research the exchange rates online before you arrive and try to get $100 in Argentine pesos at a decent rate so you can pay for a day or two when you first arrive.
3. We didn’t plan enough time to see Argentina.
There are only so many vacation days a person has, but more time is always useful here.
Lesson learned — Check out the Mendoza area, famous for its wine country and beautiful cities.
4. We didn’t get to go camping.
We hadn’t planned on camping and didn’t have a tent or sleeping bag along, so we missed out on a lot of awesome Patagonia camping near San Martín de los Andes.
Lesson learned — Bring your camping gear!
5. Go to Ushuaia to the “End of the World” and get a stamp in our passport.
6. Eat more steak and ice cream!
We crossed the Argentina border so many times! From our passports it looks like we were there forever! I guess it helped us feel like we were getting our money’s worth since we Americans each have to pay a $160 visa fee to get into the country!
Overall, the route we took while traveling in Argentina hit all of the main attractions, from Patagonia to Buenos Aires and Iguazú Falls! We really enjoyed our time in Argentina and wished we could have stayed there longer to learn more of the culture.
We hope our itinerary for traveling through Argentina in 3 weeks is helpful in your planning. Leave a comment below to recommend another great place to visit in Argentina.