This large country stretches almost 3.500 km from Bolivia to the tip of South America. It offers a huge variety of landscapes, climate and vegetation zones. You can find Andean deserts, the southern hemisphere's highest mountain “Aconcagua”, Patagonian steppe, huge glaciers, the world's biggest waterfalls “Iguazú Falls” as well as the mighty capital Buenos Aires for shopping, cuisine, history and nightlife enthusiasts.
Tip: Getting cash out of an ATM easily turns out to be a nightmare in Argentina! Make sure to take along a Santander Credit Card (VISA) or transfer money to a Western Union account, which you pick up in Argentinian Pesos in a local Western Union office, to save a lot of fees!
• Buenos Aires:
La Boca area:
This working class area belongs to the oldest parts of the city and was built by Italian immigrants. Although touristy, the small colorful houses are quite charming. The neighborhood is also home to the Boca Juniors football team. You should definitely try to visit a home game (about every second weekend) to enjoy the great atmosphere inside their stadium “La Bombonera”.
Tip: As tickets are usually sold out, book a guide through a hostel, who provides you with a season ticket of another club member and shows you how to pass the checkpoints and enter the stadium with it.
Beautiful old buildings, grassy parks and great nightlife are good reasons to spend some time here. Make sure to join a bar crawl. More information is given at any hostel reception.
Cementerio de la Recoleta:
Yes, a cemetery can be a top sight. Wander along impressive mausoleums and statues and try to dive into the history of famous past presidents, politicians and military heroes in this amazing city of the dead.
Tip: There is a tall building (Etoile Hotel) in front of you once you step out of the big entrance gate. Ask kindly at reception if you are allowed to take the elevator up to the 14th floor for incredible views over the cemetery and the surrounding parts of the city!
• Iguazú Falls: Iguazú National Park, situated at the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, habits the biggest waterfalls on the planet! A visit is simply mindblowing and for many travelers the highlight of their entire South America trip. To experience the falls in a proper way, you should plan on spending at least two full days. Everything concerning transportation, park entrance and possible border crossings is easily arranged/organized in the nearby gateway town of Puerto Iguazú.
Tip: I recommend visiting the Brazilian side on the first day for a good overview and imagination of what to experience on the Argentinian side on day two. Do not miss the views from the upper viewing platform of the glass elevator at the end of the trail!
Tip 2: The most popular part of the Argentinian side is the viewing platform of the biggest waterfall – “Garganta del Diablo”. To avoid the masses do NOT go there in the early morning but in the afternoon around 3 pm when many tourist groups are leaving the park!
• Peninsula Valdés: This peninsula consists of large sand pampa with knee-high bushes, long sand beaches, turquoise water and a very diverse wildlife. Sea lions, elephant seals, armadillos, guanacos, greater rheas, seagulls, horses, vultures, Magellanic penguins, southern right whales, orcas and dolphins represent the native fauna. The southern right whale is frequently seen between June and December when it migrates from the Antarctic
Ocean to the peninsula to give birth and mate. At this period many kayak or boat tours offer whale watching options. Peninsula Valdés is one of the few places on the planet where orcas strand on purpose to hunt recently born seals. Although orcas are seen multiple times during the year, the biggest chance of witnessing an attack close to the beach is during the seal pup season between February and April.
• Salta and the Andean Northwest: Bounded by Bolivia to the north and Chile to the west, this part of Argentina climbs from sweaty cloud forests westward to some of the most majestic peaks of the Andes cordillera. The colonial city of Salta, which is beloved by travelers, offers great museums and works at a quite relaxed pace for its size. Use it as a gateway for trips, for example to the fantastic valleys and rock formations of Quebrada de Humahuaca.
• El Chalten and the Fitz Roy Range: If you like trekking, then this mountain paradise inside Los Glaciares National Park should definitely be on your bucket list. Numerous trails that start from the tourist town El Chalten or along the Ruta 41 lead through a breathtaking landscape that is dominated by Cerro Fitz Roy (3,405m) and Cerro Torre (3,102m). There are many campsites across the area which make multi-day hikes a great option to explore the area away from the tourist masses. Both entry to the national park and camping are free which makes it a great budget option in comparison to Torres del Paine in Chile. You can easily spend two weeks here for the ultimate trekking experience and to be more flexible concerning the weather. Believe me - it makes a huge difference if you hike in mist or under blue sky! For more detailed information about the most beautiful hikes around El Chalten, check out the boxed text below!
• El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier: The most famous attraction around El Calafate is the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier. To visit this impressive glacier, you need to get to Los Glaciares National Park, which is about 80 km away. There is good public transportation and hitchhiking is also possible. Upon arrival at the park you need to pay an entrance fee (around 15 US-Dollars) before you continue to the main parking lot. From here, a free shuttle bus takes you to the viewing platform. Many tour operators in El Calafate offer glacier-hiking packages, which you should only consider to book if there are no other Patagonian glaciers on your bucket list. Exploradores Glacier (Chile), for example, is a much cheaper option. Bird-watchers should also visit Laguna Nimes in El Calafate.
21.01.2020 - Chris
My personal top hikes around El Chalten:
• One-Day Treks:
• Laguna de Los Tres (Ill. 1 - red marked)
This amazing four-hour hike (one way, 10km) starts in El Chalten and takes you to the most popular and exceptional place at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. Start early (best before 9 am) to avoid the crowds and have the best light for photos. In good weather the views of the mountain and the two (!) lagoons are overwhelming!
• Laguna Torre & Mirador Maestri (Ill. 1 - blue marked)
Another beautiful full day option with an amazing finish is this four-hour hike (one way, 11km) also starting from El Chalten. It takes you through bushland and beautiful forests until you finally arrive at Laguna Torre with its floating ice. Continue for another hour along the moraine to the right of the lagoon to enjoy dramatic views of the Glaciar Grande before heading back to El Chalten.
• Two-Day/One-Night Trek: (Ill. 1 - yellow marked)
To enjoy the camping feeling, you can combine the two one-day options mentioned above with a night at a campground in between. For example, start in El Chalten and make your way to Poincenot Campground where you set up your tent and leave your big luggage behind. Then visit Laguna de los Tres before returning to the campsite to spend the night there. (You could also visit Laguna de los Tres for sunrise when the orange light is magic and the place all yours.) In the morning of day two head past Laguna Madre and Laguna Hija until you reach the intersection of the path leading to Laguna and Glaciar Torre. Hide your big luggage behind a tree and follow the path to the Laguna and Mirador Maestri. On the way back, collect your luggage and follow the signs to El Chalten where you will arrive in the late afternoon/evening. On the one hand, this round trip does not make you walk back long parts of the way you came from. On the other hand, your luggage will be heavier as you need to bring camping gear (can easily be rented in El Chalten) and food.
Illustration 1: One-Day, Two-Day and Three-Day Treks
• Three-Day/Two-Night Trek: (Ill. 1 – yellow and green marked)
I chose to do this option which is tough but rewards with incredible impressions of the area. The first day and stay at Poincenot Campground is the same like in my Two-Day/One-Night suggestion. In the morning of day two start early and hike past Laguna Madre and Laguna Hija. After approximately 2.5 hours of hiking, you reach a point where an unmarked path to the right leads up a mountain. It is only marked on a few hiking maps. It is quite difficult to find the entry and follow the path, but it basically goes all the way up the mountain ridge to a first viewpoint from where you have impressive views over Laguna Torre, glaciers, valleys and Lago Viedma in the distance. I went even further up to the peak of Loma de las Pizzaras. It is not always possible to walk exactly along the ridge, especially in the end you need to find your own path over the rocks and sometimes even go a bit down and up again. The views from the top are mindblowing as you face Mount Fitz Roy with its two lagoons below. This very challenging trip takes six to eight hours return and once you get back to the starting point, it takes you another hour to reach the D'Agostini Campsite. After a day of at least ten hours of hiking you will be happy to rest. Before removing your tent and heading back for El Chalten on the third day – where you will arrive in the early afternoon – take a water bottle and your camera and visit Laguna Torre and the Mirador Maestri in the morning. Keep in mind that if you decide to do this trek, you first need to register at the tourist information (for safety reasons).
• Four-Day Trek: Huemol Trek (Ill. 2 - yellow marked)
This is the only possibility to see (and feel) the mighty glacier of the Southern Ice Field (Viedma Glacier). An amazing but challenging trek including two river crossings with a zip line. Registration is obligatory!
Illustration 2: Four-Day Trek: Huemol Trek