Experience the best of Argentina's culture, wine, cuisine, and Andean scenery on this 12-day tour. Begin by exploring the vibrant city of Buenos Aires and then fly to high-altitude Mendoza for Malbec tastings. Next, head to the colonial city of Salta—your jumping off point for rugged gorges, giant salt flats, and more vineyards in the country's far north before returning to the capital for horseback riding with gauchos.

Highlights

  • Visit Buenos Aires' top sites and neighborhoods with a local guide
  • Join educational tastings in two distinct Argentine wine regions
  • Ride Salta's scenic gondola and explore the exquisite colonial architecture
  • Drive along a UNESCO-listed route once used by hunter-gatherers
  • Join a hands-on dinner party and learn about local cuisine from an expert

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Fly to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 3 Mendoza Wine Tour Mendoza
Day 4 Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour Mendoza
Day 5 Fly from Mendoza to Salta Salta
Day 6 Cafayate Tour & Wine Tasting Salta
Day 7 Jujuy Province & Great Salt Flats Excursion Salta
Day 8 Quebrada de Humahuaca Excursion Salta
Day 9 Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 10 The Argentine Culinary Experience Buenos Aires
Day 11 Gaucho Experience at Estancia Santa Susana Buenos Aires
Day 12 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 walks 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: Buenos Aires City Tour - Fly to Mendoza

Tango dancers at a flea market in San Telmo
Tango dancers at a flea market in San Telmo

This morning, you'll have more time to explore the capital before heading to Mendoza in the afternoon. In fact, you'll visit several areas of Buenos Aires on a classic 3-hour sightseeing tour, with stops for photos opportunities. The itinerary includes the Recoleta Cemetary, Palermo Woods, the Obelisk, Colon Theatre, Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo, La Boca, Puerto Madero, and other notable neighborhoods. 

After the tour, you'll have time to pack your luggage in preparation for your transfer to the airport where you'll catch a flight to Mendoza

Upon arrival in Mendoza, you'll have free time to explore. This relatively sleepy city of about a million people is more than the sum of its parts, as it sits in the heart of Argentina's world-famous wine region. This is ground zero for viticulture in the nation, and it's home to Argentina's flagship wine: Malbec. There's also impressive landscapes and interesting sights all around the city, from the high peak of Aconcagua to the Mendoza River to the little villages that dot the countryside, like Uspallata, which date back to pre-hispanic times.

You'll have free time to explore the city as you see fit. Or maybe, you'd just like to lounge by the swimming pool and make reservations for dinner at one of Mendoza's best restaurants. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your day in Argentina's wine capital.

Day 3: Mendoza Wine Tour

Sample some Malbec varietals
Sample some Malbec varietals

It's time to get out and explore beyond the city while discovering the region's wine culture. On this circuit, you'll visit the most famous wine destinations around Mendoza, from the area around the town of Luján de Cuyo to the fertile soil of the Maipú Valley. It's a fun-filled excursion that mixes equal parts wine history with wine tasting.

First the history. Over the course of the tour, you will glean insight into how Mendoza rose over the centuries to become Argentina's premier wine-making region. It began with Jesuit priests and European immigrants who settled here and combined their wine-making knowledge with the irrigation techniques (canals and ditches) handed down from the Huarpe indigenous people. It was through these methods that the Huarpes transformed a vast desert into a productive oasis. The end result is that this region is now home to renowned wineries producing high-quality varietals that are deservedly famous on the global viniculture stage.

You'll visit two wineries that still rely on traditional irrigation methods as well as others that use the latest technology in the winemaking process. On tours of the bodegas' facilities, you'll learn about vinification methods, processing, bottling, and even the labeling of wines. Of course, this is all accompanied by a tasting of the different varietals these bodegas offer. You'll also get to sample locally grown olives, artisanal cheeses, and eat Malbec grapes right off the vine!

Day 4: Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour

Drive into the Andes
Drive into the Andes

Today you'll explore the untamed landscapes and historic sites found just outside the city of Mendoza. The tour starts early, as there's a lot of ground to cover. After a pickup outside your hotel, you'll drive along the Mendoza River and enjoy views of the Cordón del Plata mountain range, a subset of the Andes that is a popular trekking destination. You'll also pass by the Potrerillos Dam, which is notable for distributing all the water for the vineyards of the region. It's also home to hydroelectric power plants that produce 20% of the energy Mendoza consumes.

Continue to Uspallata, a pre-Hispanic indigenous settlement, which at one point was the southernmost territory of the Inca Empire. There are archeological remains here, including the Bóvedas de Uspallata, a series of conical-shaped smelting furnaces built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. Then you'll head to the villages of Picheuta, Polvaredas, Punta de Vacas, and the Los Penitentes ski resort, where you can hop on a chairlift up to a summit featuring panoramic views of the area.

Later, drive to the Puente del Inca, a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Las Cuevas River. You'll now be on the ascent as you climb 9,022 feet (2,750 m) above sea level to a viewpoint at Cerro Aconcagua. At 22,841 feet (6,962 m), this is the highest mountain in the Americas. Other highlights include a visit to the glacial lake of Laguna Horcones.

Your final destination on the day's adventure is the European-style village of Las Cuevas, located just before the Chilean border at 10,498 feet (3,200 m) above sea level. Between Las Cuevas and the international tunnel to Chile, there is a path that leads to Christ the Redeemer of the Andes. This monument sits at 12,572 feet (3,832 m) above sea level and symbolizes the union between Argentina and Chile.

Day 5: Fly from Mendoza to Salta

A charming corner in Salta
A charming corner in Salta

This morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport. You'll then hop a flight bound for Salta. This well-preserved colonial city has been a traveler's favorite for years and has recently come into its own as a popular tourist destination. It's easy to see why—Salta offers fascinating museums, great nightlife, and an expansive plaza lined with patio cafes that make great people-watching spots. 

Upon arrival, a shared car service will transfer you to your hotel, whereupon you'll have the rest of the afternoon to explore the town. Some recommended activities include:

  • Stroll the city center. Salta was founded in the year 1582 and its downtown area is impressively well preserved. You'll see this in the colonial mansions and 18th-century buildings around the city center. On the central Plaza 9 de Julio, you'll find the rose-hued Salta Cathedral, which was completed in 1882. 

  • Visit a museum. And there are many fine ones in this city. Salta has a rich indigenous history that informs much of its culture even today. You can glean a history of this culture in the Museo Historico del Norte, located on the south side of the plaza. For more indigenous history (particularly of the Incan variety), visit the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña, which is also located on the plaza. 

  • Take a cable car up to Cerro San Bernardo. The most famous lookout point in the area is located on the outskirts of the city. Once at the top you'll find waterfalls, lookout points featuring panoramic views of the city, and a cafe serving delicious snacks. You can also hike up the hill if you're game for a bit of exercise.

  • Sample the local cuisine. Salteño cuisine differs greatly from that found in the capital of Buenos Aires. Here there's a heavy indigenous influence and ingredients like maize are prominent, and you'll find them in the humitas and tamales notable in this region. Argentina is famous for its empanadas, and the best come from Salta—best paired with a dash of hot sauce.  

  • Enjoy a night out at Calle Balcarce. From Thursday through Saturday this area, located about 10 blocks north of Plaza 9 de Julio, is ground zero for nightlife in Salta. Come and enjoy the discos and peñas (local bars that feature live folk music and traditional food). This area is also the site of an outdoor artisan market on Sundays.  

Day 6: Cafayate Tour & Wine Tasting

Enjoy some wine tasting in Cafayate
Enjoy some wine tasting in Cafayate

Today you'll be visiting the village of Cafayate, located in the middle of the Calchaquí Valley. The optimum growing conditions here rival Mendoza so you're in for some scenic vistas with mountain landscapes and impressive rock formations. Upon arrival you will visit one of the area's famed wineries and, of course, indulge in a tasting. 

The excursion begins with a pickup at your hotel, at which point you'll drive through the Lerma Valley, passing alongside tobacco fields and colonial villages featuring German-style architecture. You'll then enter the Quebrada del Río de las Conchas, where you'll see curious rock formations (the result of erosion caused over time by wind and water). There are many noteworthy sights here, with names as unique as the formations: the dunes, the toad, the bishop, the devil's throat, castles, amphitheater, among others.

Then, continue along the National Route 68, arriving in the village of Cafayate, which is internationally recognized for its wine production. The most popular varietal grown here is Torrontés, which you'll get a chance to taste when you visit a regional winery. At the end of the day you'll return to Salta by the same route which you arrived; however, with the sun lower in the sky, the high-altitude landscapes will be all the more evocative.

Day 7: Jujuy Province & Great Salt Flats Excursion

The salt flats in northwest Argentina
The salt flats in northwest Argentina

Today, it's time for another tour in the Salta area. Like yesterday, you'll be picked up from your Salta hotel in the early morning to start this full-day tour.

First, you will travel to the ruins of Tastil to arrive at San Antonio de Los Cobres. There, have a lunch break. Afterward, we drive by National Route No. 40 until reaching Salinas Grandes or the Great Salt Flats, right on the border between Salta and Jujuy. There, we will have free time to take pictures and enjoy this unique natural environment, where the large extension of white salt contrasts with the blue of the sky.

Then, we start the descent down Cuesta de Lipán where we usually see condors. After that, we will visit the typical Purmamarca village and its Cerro de los Siete Colores.

In the evening, you'll return to Salta with free time to enjoy the city at your own pace.

Day 8: Quebrada de Humahuaca Excursion

The Quebrada de Humahuaca
The Quebrada de Humahuaca

There are few more mystic, historic, and evocative areas in Argentina than the Quebrada de Humahuaca. This arid desert valley gets its start in the high altitude Andean plateaus before running down into Jujuy Province and meeting the Río Grande, at which point it forms a 96-mile (155-km) corridor.   

Believe it or not, this valley gorge, which runs from north to south, has been populated and used by humans for over 10,000 years, starting with the earliest hunter-gatherers. It then became an important Incan trading route in the 15th and 16th century, and later became a link between the Viceroyalty of the Río de La Plata, in Buenos Aires, and the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was even an important battleground in the War of Independence. You can see remnants of pre-hispanic towns here, and small white churches still dot the stratified rocks that make up the landscapes.

Your tour of the area begins with an early morning pickup at your hotel in Salta. The first place you'll visit is the village of Purmamarca, where you'll find the famous Cerro de Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colors), which is notable for its strata, which is seemingly "painted" various shades of red. Other notable sites in the village include the whitewashed Iglesia de Santa Rosa, and the artisanal craft market.

Then head a few miles north to the town of Tilcara and Pucará de Tilcara, the hilltop remains of a pre-historic fortress where you'll visit a fascinating archeological museum. Next is Huacalera, located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn (a giant sundial marks the exact location). From here you'll visit the tiny village of Uquía, which boasts one of the most impressive whitewashed churches in the region, the Iglesia San Francisco de Paula, which was built in 1691. Inside you'll find a number of paintings done in the Cuzco style and featuring angels in 17th-century battle dress. Before lunch, you'll arrive at the town of Humahuaca, which is denoted by its labyrinthine narrow streets, adobe houses, and its monument to independence, El Indio, done by sculptor Soto Avendaño.

After lunch, your tour will continue to the town of Maimará, notable for its haunting hillside cemetery and the brightly colored mountains that surround it. These are known as La Paleta del Pintor (The Painter's Palette). If time allows, we will return to Salta via the Abra de Santa Laura (a mountain path lined with subtropical vegetation), which is surrounded by stunning scenery, including Las Maderas Dam, and Campo Alegre reservoir.

The tour ends with a return to your hotel in the mid-evening, with enough time to sample more of the local dining scene.

Day 9: Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires

Take one more stroll around Salta before departure
Take one more stroll around Salta before departure

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to the city of Salta and transfer to the airport for your domestic flight to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to your hotel. Once settled, enjoy free time to relax and explore at your own pace, perhaps taking advantage of any sites, parks, or neighborhoods that you may have missed earlier in your trip.

Day 10: The Argentine Culinary Experience

Tuck into some succulent Argentine beef
Tuck into some succulent Argentine beef

To truly get to the heart of Argentine culture, you must do so one bite (and sip) at a time. While the nation's cuisine may be defined by its beef, a closer inspection reveals a more eclectic array of dishes. And being the hotbed of activity that it is, the capital of Buenos Aires is the perfect place to learn about this culinary heritage in a fun and entertaining way. This is where the Argentine Experience comes in. It's 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/preparing 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, and learn how to make alfajores (delicious Argentine cookies). You'll also learn how to prepare your own maté, an herbal tea that is the lifeblood of the country.

The evening begins by preparing three different kinds of wine cocktails as well as some delicious tapas to pair with them. As you progress through the night, you'll also try different boutique wines from the house cellar. By the time the experience ends, you will have enough first-hand knowledge of the traditional food and drink of this country to practically be considered an honorary Argentine!

Day 11: Gaucho Experience at Estancia Santa Susana

Argentinian gauchos in colorful garb
Argentinian gauchos in colorful garb

Just as North Americans have their cowboys, Argentines have their gauchos. This frontier culture is strongest in the pampas (prairies) immediately surrounding the capital since this is where the country was first settled. Gauchos are national symbols in Argentina, whether it's the real-life horsemen who still exist today, or the folk heroes of epic Argentine poems, like Martín Fierro, whose stories are passed down over generations.

Today you'll get a real gaucho experience. You'll be picked up in the morning and whisked off to a Santa Susana, a working Argentine estancia (ranch). Here you'll enjoy a welcome reception that includes wine, soft drinks, and empanadas. After a guided tour of the property, you'll do some horseback riding (or perhaps a carriage ride) before settling in for a traditional folkloric music performance—and everyone's invited to get up and dance.

Lunch will be an Argentine asado (mixed grill) paired with even more of the country's fantastic wine. Real gauchos will then showcase their prowess with the bolas—traditional throwing weapons comprised of round weights connected by cords. Their displays will demonstrate how these deceptively simple weapons, when used in the right hands, can be effective at bringing down horses, cows, and even people. 

After lunch, you'll be treated to more entertainment. The gauchos will continue to showcase their abilities, this time as they perform a series of feats known as carreras de sortijas (ring races). These are typical in gaucho equine competition and showcase the cowboys' great skills on horseback. You will end the day at the estancia with a late-afternoon serving of mate, the popular tea-like infusion that is an indispensable part of Argentine culture. 

By the time you transfer back to your hotel in the evening, you can be happy in the knowledge that you've enjoyed a traditional Argentine frontier experience.

Day 12: 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: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, & Salta - 12 Days
Map of Classic Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, & Salta - 12 Days