Experience Argentina's top highlights during this all-encompassing 16-day itinerary. Begin your adventure in the capital city of Buenos Aires, then head south to the untamed wilds of Patagonia. At the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, you will visit remote ranches and walk on glaciers. On wildlife excursions, you'll spot southern right whales, orcas, and Magellanic penguins while traveling the same waterways as Charles Darwin. Then it's off to the largest waterfall system in the world—Iguazú Falls—before returning to Buenos Aires and ending your journey with an epic tango show.

Highlights

  • Strap on the crampons and hike over the Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Spot an abundance of marine mammals and seabirds in Puerto Madryn
  • Sail the Beagle Channel, just like Charles Darwin
  • Spend a day exploring Iguazú Falls - the largest waterfall system in the world
  • Enjoy a three-course dinner and a passionate tango show in Buenos Aires

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Full-Day Buenos Aires Walking Tour Buenos Aires
Day 3 Gastronomic Tour in Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 4 Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 5 Perito Moreno Glacier Hike El Calafate
Day 6 Lago Argentino, Glaciers, and Estancia Cristina El Calafate
Day 7 El Calafate to Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 8 Península Valdés and Whale Watching Puerto Madryn
Day 9 Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 10 Penguin Colony Half-Day Excursion Ushuaia
Day 11 Tierra del Fuego National Park - Trekking and Canoeing Ushuaia
Day 12 Ushuaia to Iguazú Iguazu Falls
Day 13 Iguazú Falls - Argentine Side Iguazu Falls
Day 14 Iguazú Falls - Brazilian Side Iguazu Falls
Day 15 Iguazú to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 16 Goodbye Buenos Aires!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires

Welcome to Argentina! Renowned as the "Paris of South America," and the "Queen of El Plata," the capital city of Buenos Aires is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), which is far and away the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will be waiting to take you in a private car to your hotel where you can relax after a long flight. But make no mistake: the city will beckon you. So after a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The best starting point would be the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous icon of the city. This obelisk (which even Argentines admit is a little too reminiscent of the Washington Monument) is worth a visit for its location alone. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, which boasts a whopping 16 lanes, making it the widest city street in the world.

  • Stop by the Teatro Colon, one of South America's premier opera houses. The horseshoe-shaped gallery features 2,487 seats and incredible acoustics. Even if you plan on taking a tour or catching a show here on another day, it's always breathtaking to pass by its exterior. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.

  • Stroll Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Puerto Madero may be the "new money" finance center of Buenos Aires, but it's also one of the most pleasant walking areas in a city famous for its walking areas. A romantic stroll involves walking over the canal on the Puente de Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 

  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse or parilla. When night falls and dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with the nation's famous chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce). Know that Buenos Aires is a culture that thrives after dark, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends. 

Day 2: Full-Day Buenos Aires Walking Tour

The Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace
The Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace

To properly experience Buenos Aires, you must do so on foot. So after a fortifying breakfast prepare yourself for a day of walking and sightseeing throughout this European-inspired metropolis. You'll hit all the main points of interest, aided every step of the way by an English-speaking guide. 

Some highlights of the walking tour include: 

  • Plaza San Martín, located at the end of downtown's commercial pedestrian thruway, Florida Street. This leafy plaza, anchored by a majestic ombú tree, is named after one of the heroes of Argentina's independence movement, General José de San Martín. 

  • The Obelisco, an icon that sits at the nexus of the city where the 16 lanes of Ave. 9 de Julio cross bustling Corrientes Ave. Here you'll find Buenos Aires' theater and music district. It's a hub of activity any day of the week but it's particularly alive on weekend evenings. 

  • Colón Theatre, a nearly 2,500-seat teatro that is perpetually vying with Rio de Janeiro's Theatro Municipal for the title of the most opulent opera house in South America. The building's elegant neoclassical exterior and pitch-perfect interior acoustics make this building a must-visit.  

  • Plaza de Mayo, which is Buenos Aires' main square and home to the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace. The plaza is the site of some famous events, including the May Revolution of 1810 that kicked off this former Spanish colony's quest for independence. The famous "pink house" (as the presidential palace is colloquially known), is also rife with history. It's on the front balcony that dictator Juan Perón made some of his most famous speeches with his glamorous wife, Evita, at his side. Ultimately it was she who won the hearts and minds of the  Argentine people.

  • Metropolitan Cathedral, is the principal Catholic church in the city and another historic building that also faces the Plaza de Mayo. It was consecrated in 1791 but its earliest origins date back to the late 16th century when a humble chapel first sat on the current site.

  • Puerto Madero, whose shimmering office towers and central canal make this one of the most elegant neighborhoods in the city. Some upscale restaurants can be found here, as can Puente de la Mujer, a bridge whose sleek and sensual lines define its title of "Woman's Bridge."

  • Barrio San Telmo, which is BA’s oldest neighborhood and boasts a vibrant tango and arts scene. Its antique markets, cobbled streets dotted with faroles (French streetlamps), and old brick buildings with wooden balconies all add to the uniquely bohemian atmosphere. Sundays are especially buzz with activity as the main street market comes alive around Plaza Dorrego.

  • Barrio La Boca is a well-preserved historic neighborhood that's nearly as old as San Telmo. The area is known for La Bombonera the stadium of one of two principal soccer teams in the city: Boca Juniors. It's also home to colorful Caminito Street, a pedestrian zone teeming with old restaurants and tanguerías

  • Cementerio de Recoleta, this sprawling cemetery is located in the "old money" enclave of Barrio Recoleta. It's filled with the ornate mausoleums of famous, notable, and wealthy Argentines from throughout history. It also happens to be where Evita Perón is interned. 

Day 3: Gastronomic Tour in Buenos Aires

Sample some great Argentine wines
Sample some great Argentine wines

To truly get to the heart of Argentine culture, you must do so one bite at a time and one sip at a time. Because while Argentine cuisine may be defined by its beef, a closer inspection of the foods of this nation reveals a more eclectic array of dishes. And Buenos Aires, hotbed of activity that it is, is the perfect place to learn about this culinary heritage in a fun and entertaining way. Enter The Argentine Experience, a convivial gastronomic odyssey that celebrates great Argentine food and wine.

Hosted in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo, guests at this unique "dinner party" share a table while enjoying gourmet food and the country's famous wine (such as the Malbec varietal). Professional hosts guide you through the evening and explain the uniqueness of Argentine culture and how it reveals itself in the nation's food. You'll learn how to seal empanada dough using the traditional repulgue folding technique, how to order a steak like a local (in Spanish), and how to make alfajores (delicious Argentine cookies). You'll also learn how to prepare your own mate, an herbal tea that is the lifeblood of the country.

Day 4: Buenos Aires to El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

After breakfast, a driver will transfer you to the local airport where you'll catch a flight to El Calafate, in Argentine Patagonia. This town sits on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is home to Los Glaciers National Park. The most famous landmark in this protected area is Perito Moreno, a 250 square-kilometer ice formation that is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world. 

Upon your arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. You can also prime yourself with information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium. This multi-media center has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. For fun, it even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 5: Perito Moreno Glacier Hike

Trekking Perito Moreno
Trekking Perito Moreno

After breakfast, transfer to Los Glaciers National Park. As you enter the park you'll catch your first glimpse of the majestic Perito Moreno. This expansive ice mass flows down from the Andes out over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino, ending abruptly in a great wall that curves around the lake. Wait a bit and you'll witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and crashing into the tranquil waters below. Every time ice hits the water a thundering crash reverberates in the ears. 

Believe it or not, you will be trekking on top of this glacier. It's a full-day excursion (age-range 10-65) that involves walking over the ice while fully equipped with crampons and an ice ax. And while traversing Perito Moreno is certainly an active adventure, it is perfectly safe as you'll be accompanied by certified bilingual guides. So enjoy crossing deep blue ice crevices and hiking over meltwater streams as you experience Perito Moreno up close and personal. 

During the day you'll also have ample time to witness the glacier from one of the many viewing platforms in the park. These platforms are accessible via a network of walkways that run along the shores of the lake. They offer the best vantage points and sweeping views of the glacier, making for great photo opportunities.

Day 6: Lago Argentino, Glaciers, and Estancia Cristina

The views around Estancia Cristina
The views around Estancia Cristina

There's more activity in store for you today. Starting at 7 am a driver will pick you and other passengers up from your respective hotels and transfer you 45 km to the port at Punta Bandera, on Lago Argentino. The drive along this route is scenic and pleasant, affording sweeping views of the Patagonian countryside and the charming wooden houses that intermittently dot the landscape. 

Having reached the port, you'll board a modern ferry at approximately 8:15 am. You'll then embark on a journey on the Upsala Channel, passing towering icebergs along the way. As you reach the northern section you'll see the western front of the Spegazzini Glacier. At over 10 miles long and a mile wide, the length, breadth, and towering ice walls that define this ancient mass of ice are awe-inspiring. 

After taking the time to admire Spegazzini, you will continue sailing north and into the Cristina Channel. At the far end of this channel is the disembarking point for Estancia Cristina. Expect to arrive around 11:30 am. 

Estancia Cristina is one of the most impressive ranch-style lodges in the region. It was founded in 1914 by pioneers and built on a valley once covered by the Upsala Glacier. A visit to the Folkloric Museum here (located in an old sheep-shearing shed), offers insight into the history of the estancia. The surrounding scenery is nothing to scoff at either—all around are impressive panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. 

All told you will stay here about six hours. After the museum, you'll embark on a 9.5 km journey by 4x4 over an unpaved road that ascends into the mountains. After reaching the Continental Ice Field Refuge, you will exit the vehicle and begin a 20-minute walk featuring views of glacial landscapes and Andes mountains until you reach the Upsala viewpoint. Here you will have an unobstructed view of the eastern face of the Upsala Glacier as well as Lake Guillermo and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. 

Around 5:30 pm you will board the boat again and begin the return to Punta Bandera. After landing at approximately 7 pm, you will transfer back to your hotel.

Day 7: El Calafate to Puerto Madryn

Southern right whale breaching the surface
Southern right whale breaching the surface

Now that you've experienced the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, it's time to venture east and enjoy the wonders of northern Patagonia's Atlantic shore, namely the city of Puerto Madryn. Sitting on the Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf), the waters immediately offshore are home to an abundance of marine mammals, including the southern right whale, which breeds in the area from May to December. 

The city is most famous as being the gateway to nearby Península Valdés, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best place to view a variety of animals in their natural habitat, including sea lions, penguins, guanacos, whales, and orcas. Also near to Puerto Madryn is Gaiman, a small historic town founded by Welsh settlers in 1875. Gaiman has preserved many of its Welsh traditions, which is evident in the tea shops, chapels, and gardens found throughout town.

Upon arrival at Puerto Madryn, a driver will meet you and you'll transfer to the hotel.  If you have the energy after your flight, feel free to stretch your legs with a stroll around this tranquil waterfront city. It's a safe, walkable community and there is a charming waterfront promenade here lined with cafes and restaurants with patio seating and ocean views. You can also make the short trip to Gaiman and enjoy a spot of afternoon tea.

Day 8: Península Valdés and Whale Watching

Baby seal at Península Valdés
Baby seal at Península Valdés

Today a driver will pick you up at your hotel for your journey to Península Valdés. The first stop will be at the Istmo Ameghino Interpretation Center, which will act as a useful primer for your foray into this unique eco-system. Through various educational exhibits, you'll gain insight into the different types of fauna that call the peninsula home. There's even a lookout tower here featuring stunning views of the Golfo Nuevo and the Golfo San José.

After visiting the interpretation center you'll continue to Puerto Pirámides. This is the embarking point for today's oceanic wildlife-watching excursion. After boarding the ship, it will sail along the coast and offer many opportunities for wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and (if you're lucky) right whales and killer whales. You'll even pass a local lighthouse that epitomizes all the seafaring splendor and rugged coastal beauty for which Patagonia is deservedly famous.

Even after the boat ride, your day isn't over yet. On the way back to Puerto Madryn you'll pass some salt flats as well as Isla de Pájaros (Bird Island), an island abounding with different avian species like cormorants, egrets, rheas, and flamingos. Then, around 6 pm, the tour ends and you will return to the hotel.

Day 9: Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia

Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world
Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world

After enjoying all the marine life and glaciers, it's now time to venture down to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. A driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. You can spend the remainder of the day enjoying the city as you see fit. Try to get out for a walk, as this rugged Patagonian town is best explored on foot.

Located on a bay in the Patagonian region of Tierra del Fuego, the city sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel. Yes, this is the same waterway where Charles Darwin found himself when he was riding the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Getting out and walking along the waterfront allows you a glimpse of these majestic mountains and the impressive channel.

Some recommended activities in and around town include: 

  • Stroll the streets of downtown. Walking around the colorful shops and buildings, you see an endearing jumble of architectural styles—everything from mock chalets to tumbledown wooden cottages is represented here.
  • Stop in at the Prison Museum. The building that houses Ushuaia's Maritime Museum was actually once an old prison. Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, some 600 convicts occupied 380 cells until the prison's closing in 1947. The history harkens back to a time when the worst of Buenos Aires' populace were banished to the perceived "end of the world." Even today much of the prison looks unchanged since it closed its doors.
  • Visit the Museo del Fin del Mundo, the End of the World Museum. Located on Ave. Maipu, on the waterfront, this small museum features fascinating exhibits on the region's natural and indigenous history. There are also extensive bird and sailing exhibits. 
  • Head to Laguna Esmeralda, located just a few kilometers outside of Ushuaia. The quick journey from town makes it an easy afternoon hike for beginners. Also, the shores of this glassy turquoise lake are a great spot to stop, take photos, and enjoy the surrounding nature. 
  • Sample the local cuisine when dinnertime comes around. The region is famous for its seafood, particularly centolla (king crab). Try it au gratin—it's sure to be the most decadent meal of your trip.

Day 10: Penguin Colony Half-Day Excursion

Time to visit some penguins
Time to visit some penguins

Today you'll embark by boat from the tourist port of Ushuaia out into the Beagle Channel. As you venture out towards the center of the channel you'll be treated to panoramic views of the coast and the skyline of the city, all of which sits under the watchful gaze of Mount Olivia and the Cinco Hermanos Mountains

You'll sail southwest and pass the Isla de los Lobos, which is little more than a rock but happens to be the permanent habitat of a large group of sea lions. You'll have ample opportunity to view these creatures and take plenty of photos. Then, it's off to Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island). This is a natural habitat of various species of seabirds including Magellanic cormorants and imperial shags. It's a birder's dream, so keep your binoculars and macro camera lens close.

The furthest you'll venture today is Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, located on the northernmost of a chain of islands of the same name. Here it is possible to see part of the Monte Cervantes, an ocean liner that sank in 1930. Your guide will also point out many sites both onshore and across the channel, such as Estancia Remolino (a remote ranch), Gable Island, and the naval base at Puerto Williams (located on Navarino Island, Chile). 

Eventually, you will reach Martillo Island, where the boat will stop and you can observe the sizeable colonies of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins that call the island home. From here we return to the local port and you can spend the remainder of the day enjoying your hotel's amenities and exploring the town.

Day 11: Tierra del Fuego National Park - Trekking and Canoeing

Great views in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Great views in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego National Park is one of the most frequently visited places around Ushuaia. It's close to the city, it's easily accessible, and it isn't expensive to enter. That means it's wide open for locals and visitors alike. There are many wonders within its 155,000 acres, so you'll want an experienced guide to show you the best hikes, the best lakes, and the best lookout points. 

On this day trip, you'll have just such a specialized guide to help you discover the true natural beauty within Tierra del Fuego National Park. You'll get to know the ins and outs of this protected paradise, from the seaside mountains to the freshwater rivers to the subantarctic forests and the tranquil bays.

You'll depart from your hotel by minibus for the short ride to the entrance of Ushuaia National Park. Then it's a seven km hike on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel. You'll have prime views of the channel along the way, but you'll also get to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the area. You'll also pass by traces of ancient settlements once occupied by the Yámana indigenous people.

After a brisk three-hour trek, you'll reach Lago Roca where you can relax and enjoy a hot lunch. Then it's time to start the canoe ride down the Lapataia River. This waterway leads to your ultimate destination, Lapataia Bay. Located in the Beagle Channel, it sits where both the Pan American Highway and Nacional Route No. 3 culminate.

Day 12: Ushuaia to Iguazú

Iguazú is the largest waterfall system in the world
Iguazú is the largest waterfall system in the world

This morning a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport. You've got a lengthy journey ahead of you. A flight will take you from the rugged forests and icy peaks of southern Patagonia to the mango trees and rainforest jungles of northern Argentina's Misiones Province. Here you'll find the jewel in the crown: Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world.

Upon arrival to the city of Puerto Iguazú, you'll check into your hotel and then have the option for a half-day tour of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls (as opposed to the Argentine side) beginning in the afternoon. This is a good introduction to the falls, as the Brazilian side offers what amounts to a couple of easily accessible viewpoints. So you'll be able to enjoy the majesty of this natural wonder without the extensive walking that accompanies a visit to the Argentine side (don't worry, because you'll experience that tomorrow). 

So enjoy the falls as you acclimate to the warmer weather (temps here can top 90°F in the summer months). Also, be on the lookout for exotic animals that call the area home, such as monkeys and coatis. 

Note: special visas are required for certain countries. Please ask the specialist if it is necessary for your itinerary.

Day 13: Iguazú Falls - Argentine Side

Touring Iguazú from the Argentine side
Touring Iguazú from the Argentine side

After breakfast, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the entrance of Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure. It's a full-day excursion that involves traversing three circuit routes around the falls, each offering exceptional vantage points from which to view this magnificent natural wonder. 

Circuit routes include:

The upper circuit, which features 800 meters (2,624 feet) of catwalks. These wooden walkways are elevated from the jungle surface so as not to disrupt the natural pathways used by the indigenous fauna. This circuit affords views of the upper portion of Iguazú. That means you'll be treated to no shortage of panoramic vistas of the surrounding falls.

The lower circuit, which consists of 1,600 meters (5,250 feet). These are also elevated and offer views from directly below and around Iguazú falls. This circuit takes you near the base of falls and provides a unique experience where you'll be up close with the natural surroundings, feeling the magnitude of the falls from up close. 

Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Gorge) enjoys an intimidating reputation that will precede your arrival to the park. This is the star of the show and the biggest of the some 275 falls that makeup Iguazú. A small tourist train leaves from within the park at the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the wooden pathway to the falls. Then a walk of about 1200 meters (3,937 feet) will take you over the river, culminating at a viewpoint. Just hearing the plunging falls reverberating in your ears is a one-of-a-kind experience. Actually peering 82 meters (269 feet) down into the cavernous abyss as the highest of Iguazu's falls thunders all around you is downright unforgettable. 

At the end of the tour, the driver will pick you up and transfer you back to the hotel. 

Upper circuit duration: One hour
Lower circuit duration: Two hours
Devil's Gorge duration: Two hours

Day 14: Iguazú Falls - Brazilian Side

Iguazú Falls
Iguazú Falls

The Brazilian side of Iguazú may lack the number of hiking routes found on the Argentine side, but it makes up for it with a wealth of amenities in the form of a visitors center and restaurants complete with terraces overlooking the falls. Upon arrival at the Visitors Center, you'll board a double-decker bus that embarks on a tour of the park. It will eventually stop at the entrance to a path leading to the falls.

The first stop after you disembark the bus is a balcony that offers panoramic views of the Argentinean side of the falls (be sure to keep your camera at the ready). You'll then hike 950 meters (3,116 feet) along the Iguazú River until you reach the falls on the Brazilian side. The walkway passes over the river and next to the Salto Floriano (Floriano Falls). This magnificent wall of plunging water makes quite an impression, as do the vistas of the lower Iguazú River and the Devil’s Throat Canyon

Day 15: Iguazú to Buenos Aires

Enjoy the romance and passion of a tango show
Enjoy the romance and passion of a tango show

At midday, you'll take a flight from Iguazú to Aeroparque, the central airport in Buenos Aires. Unlike the lengthy drive from Ezeiza International into the city, this drive (in a private car) will be short and sweet. Spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and conserving energy because you've got a big night ahead of you. 

In the evening, it's time for "dinner and a show" of the highest order. You'll savor the hallmark dishes of Argentina while enjoying the most spectacular tango show in Buenos Aires. As the deft performers move to the music of love, sorrow, and passion, you'll dine on flaky empanadas, succulent steak, and decadent dulce de leche (vegetarian options available).

But the night doesn't end with the meal. After dinner, more professional dancers will take part in a show-stopping performance of traditional Argentine folkloric music.

Day 16: Goodbye Buenos Aires!

Goodbye Buenos Aires
Goodbye Buenos Aires

Enjoy your last hours in the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires. At the scheduled time, your driver will pick you up and transfer you by private car to Ezeiza International Airport, where you'll catch your return flight home.

Map

Map of Classic Argentina: Patagonia & Iguazú Falls - 16 Days
Map of Classic Argentina: Patagonia & Iguazú Falls - 16 Days