Immerse yourself in Argentina's sights, tastes, and rhythms on this 10-day adventure. Begin by exploring the culture of Buenos Aires with a guided tour and tango lesson. Next, venture to high-altitude Mendoza and take part in several wine tastings (especially Malbec). Finish in the colonial city of Salta—your jumping off point for rugged gorges, giant salt flats, and painted deserts in the country's far north.

Highlights

  • Learn to dine and dance like a local in the vibrant capital
  • Join educational tastings in Argentina's best wine region
  • Ride Salta's scenic gondola and explore the exquisite colonial architecture
  • Drive along a UNESCO-listed route once used by hunter-gatherers
  • Photograph the third largest salt flat in the world

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires Walking Tour - Tango Lesson Buenos Aires
Day 3 Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 4 Mendoza Vineyard Tour & Tasting Mendoza
Day 5 Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour Mendoza
Day 6 Fly from Mendoza to Salta Salta
Day 7 Explore the Salt Flats & Quebrada de Humahuaca Purmamarca
Day 8 Winery Tour - Return to Salta Salta
Day 9 Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires - Departure  

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 Walking Tour - Tango Lesson

Don't miss San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires
Don't miss San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires

The absolute best way to experience the heart and soul of Buenos Aires is on foot. After a fortifying breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a fun 4-hour walking tour throughout this European-inspired metropolis with the aid of an English-speaking guide. 

A few highlights 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, Buenos Aires' main square and home to the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace. 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. 

  • 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. 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. It's home to colorful Caminito Street, a pedestrian zone teeming with old restaurants and tanguerías.

In the evening you'll experience an unforgettable night of dinner and tango performances in one of the best tanguerias of Buenos Aires. It's venues such as these that preserve the musical heritage of the city. You'll feel it in the ambiance, you'll hear it in the melancholy rhythms of the guitar and bandoneon, and you'll see it in the dances of fish-netted and besuited bailanderos. It's a dance that tells the story of loss and heartbreak, passion and love.  

If that's not enough, you'll have the opportunity to get up on the dance floor and partake in a tango class.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza

Plaza Independencia, Mendoza
Plaza Independencia, Mendoza

After breakfast, a driver will meet you and you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Mendoza. It's another world here when compared to Buenos Aires. This western region of the nation is a wild expanse of fertile land that's ground zero for the country's booming viticulture industry. A seemingly limitless number of vineyards abound here, with many producing Argentina's flagship wine grape: Malbec. Originally a French import, the Argentines took a largely ignored European berry and ran with it. The result is one of the most robust wines anywhere in the world.

Mendoza also features some breathtaking scenery and outdoor opportunities. With the Andes looming high above the area's vineyards, there is a wide range of opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.

Upon arrival in the city, you'll have the rest of the day to relax and explore at your leisure. The city center features expansive plazas and wide boulevards shaded by canopies of bushy green sycamore leaves. In stark contrast to Buenos Aires, people in Mendoza move at a relaxed pace, making this the perfect city to enjoy a tranquil stroll.

Suggested activities around town: 

  • Stroll Mendoza's famous parks. One of the most popular meeting spots for locals is Plaza Independencia with impressive fountains and elegant acacia trees. There's also Parque General San Martín for well-manicured grounds dotted with palm trees. 
  • Visit a museum. There are a few in Mendoza. One recommended option is the Museo del Pasado Cuyano, which features many exhibits on local history as well as collections of weapons from the independence era.
  • Enjoy some local cuisine. Mendoza sits in the middle of the rugged countryside at the foot of the Andes and fare here tends to be rustic. That said, you'll find a wide variety of eateries and many high-end options, too. There's none more famous and revered than 1884, the flagship restaurant of legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallman, who perfected the technique of cooking over an open flame. The food here is heavy on grilled meat and can best be described as "haute country." This is one of the most popular restaurants in Argentina, so be prepared to splurge. 

Day 4: Mendoza Vineyard Tour & Tasting

Malbec grapes in Mendoza
Malbec grapes in Mendoza

Today you will embark on a guided tour of two distinct wine-producing areas around Mendoza: the Maipú Valley and the town of Lujan de Cuyo. Maipú is located a mere 12 miles (20 km) away, while Lujan de Cuyo is located directly adjacent to Mendoza in the south.

The first winery tour includes a presentation on the viniculture process with a subsequent tasting. The second tour includes another tasting as well as more education about wine development. Lunch will be served in the winery's warehouse, where you will enjoy a gourmet menu paired with some of the best wines from the cellar.

Afterward, it's time to visit two more wineries before ending the day's excursion. With a full stomach and a head swirling with all the delicious varietals of Mendoza, you can spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening relaxing while enjoying your hotel's amenities.

Day 5: Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour

Drive high into the Andes
Drive high 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 6: 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 7: Explore the Salt Flats & Quebrada de Humahuaca

Spend time exploring this natural phenomenon
Spend time exploring this natural phenomenon

Today you will leave Salta and tour the natural highlights of the region on a full-day excursion (10 hours). This is an overnight trip in a private vehicle that travels mostly around Jujuy Province, just north of the city. Since you'll be returning to Salta the next day, it's best to leave your main luggage at the hotel in favor of daypacks.  

Your excursion begins early in the morning. Initially, you'll travel along the same route as the famous Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds), a tourist train that connects the Argentine northwest to southern Chile via the Andes Mountains. This route zigzags between lonely mountain roads and the seemingly endless expanses of high desert plains, with nothing around you except the great blue sky. Sporadically breaking up the vast emptiness will be the sight of the occasional humble home or tiny mountain village. Along the way, you'll even have the opportunity to stop and visit pre-hispanic ruins!

Your first stop will be the small town of Campo Quijano and later the impressive Quebrada del Toro, a gorge through which the Tren a las Nubes also passes. Here you'll stop for a coffee break as well as to enjoy some stunning viewpoints. Then you'll visit Santa Rosa de Tastil, a pre-Incan settlement dating back to the XIII century. After a visit to one of the smallest villages in the region, San Antonio de los Cobres, you'll arrive at the Salinas Grandes Salt Flats. The natural light conditions here are so optimal that you're guaranteed to take amazing photos even if it's your first time picking up a camera. 

Finally, later in the afternoon, you'll arrive at your comfortable hotel in Purmamarca. This popular village, filled with adobe houses and craft markets, is located at the base of Jujuy's iconic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colors) in the historic valley of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. 

Day 8: Winery Tour - Return to Salta

Take a drive through the Quebrada de las Cochas
Take a drive through the Quebrada de las Cochas

After breakfast at your hotel, you will begin the return trip to Salta. But first, you will first stop at another winery. Even in the desert north of Argentina, you'll find bodegas producing delicious Malbec and Syrah varietals, so enjoy a tour and tasting along the way.  

Continue your trip to Salta by driving along the bright red mountains of Quebrada de las Conchas. In this gorge, wind and rain erosion of the topography has resulted in some fascinating natural rock formations. Many of these protrusions are so wildly shaped that they've earned colorful nicknames, like Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). There's also a natural amphitheater here which has excellent acoustics.

When you arrive in Salta, enjoy the rest of the evening exploring at your own pace.

Day 9: Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Salta!
Goodbye, Salta!

After breakfast, say goodbye to the city of Salta and transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international terminal for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Classic Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, & Salta - 9 Days
Map of Classic Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, & Salta - 9 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Aug 6, 2019