Experience the culture and wildlife of Argentina on this 8-day adventure. Begin your adventure in the cosmopolitan capital city of Buenos Aires. Take in the city's sights and sounds on a full-day bike tour. Then, head just outside of the city to experience gaucho culture, and enjoy some traditional Argentine asado. Next, head south to Puerto Madryn, a seaside community in Patagonia famous for its diverse ecosystem featuring many unique birds and marine mammals.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a bike ride through the capital of Buenos Aires
  • Experience the gaucho lifestyle in rural Argentina
  • Get an up-close look at some of the ocean's largest mammals on a whale watching tour
  • See Magellanic penguins up-close during a visit to Punta Tombo
  • Snorkel with sea lions in Patagonia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires Full-Day Bicycle Tour Buenos Aires
Day 3 Gaucho Experience at Estancia Santa Susana Buenos Aires
Day 4 From Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 5 Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo Puerto Madryn
Day 6 Península Valdés and Whale Watching Puerto Madryn
Day 7 Snorkeling with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 8 Puerto Madryn - Buenos Aires - Home  

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: Buenos Aires Full-Day Bicycle Tour

Your mode of transport: a bamboo bicycle
Your mode of transport: a bamboo bicycle

Today you'll get to experience the city on two wheels as opposed to two feet. On this full-day bicycle tour, you'll zip along the capital and visit every major neighborhood in and around the center of Buenos Aires. Moreover, you'll be doing so on a bambucicleta, an eco-friendly bike handmade from, you guessed it, bamboo. It's the perfect way to engage in responsible tourism around the city.

In the morning you'll meet your guide at the forecourt of the Museo de Armas (weapons museum), located on the south end of Plaza San Martín (transfers not included). Make sure you arrive ready to go, but there's no need to overextend yourself. This excursion is low-to-medium difficulty and is designed more for leisure than endurance. Bikes and helmets are included, as is lunch, bottled water, and insurance.

The first neighborhood you'll hit is Puerto Madero, a mega-port that was once obsolete but has now been transformed into a modern business and finance center. Here you'll visit the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, an 865-acre protected area fronting the water, and share a round of yerba mate (a tea that is a cultural touchstone in Argentina). Afterwards, continue south to the La Boca neighborhood and La Bombonera, the home stadium of famous local fútbol (soccer) club, the Boca Juniors. You'll also visit the famous and colorful Caminito Street, which abounds with art, music, and tango dancing.

Then it's off to the oldest area of Buenos Aires, San Telmo, where you'll enjoy a traditional lunch that includes a wide range of carnivorous Argentine delights. Not to worry, though, as the menu can be adapted to accommodate vegetarians. Next, you'll visit nearby Plaza de Mayo and breathe in the rich air of Argentina history.

From the south of the city, you'll now peddle to the north, where the historic working-class barrios give way to the upper-class enclaves of the aristocracy. First it's the Retiro neighborhood, which is famous for its ornate buildings and baroque architecture. This leads to the famous Recoleta neighborhood, whose old French-inspired buildings feature arched doorways and long, yawning windows.

The destination is the Recoleta Cemetery, the oldest and most famous final resting place in the city. Here lies the remains of the most prominent historical figures and the most famous citizens of Argentina. The grand architecture of the family crypts is as impressive as anything anywhere in the world. Note that this is where Eva "Evita" Peron is interned, and you'll visit her family crypt.

Before ending the tour, you'll visit another historic and trendy neighborhood of the city: Palermo, notable for its expansive parks designed by legendary Argentine/French landscape architect Charles Thays.

Bicycle Tour Duration: Full day

Day 3: Gaucho Experience at Estancia Santa Susana

Gauchos are master horsemen
Gauchos are master horsemen

Just as North Americans has their cowboys, Argentines have their gauchos. This frontier culture is strongest in the Pampas (prairies) immediately surrounding the capital, as 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 the 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 even more entertainment. The gauchos will continue to showcase their abilities, this time as they perform a series feats known as carreras de sortijas ("ring races"). These are typical in gaucho equine competition and showcase these 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 4: From Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn

A whale breaching the surface of the ocean in Puerto Madryn
A whale breaching the surface of the ocean in Puerto Madryn

Today our private transport will pick you up from your hotel and take you to Aeroparque Airport, located near the city center, for your flight to Puerto Madryn. This is the gateway to Argentine Patagonia.  

Puerto Madryn sits on the Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf), on northern Patagonia's Atlantic shore. The waters immediately offshore of this city are home to an abundance of marine mammals, including the southern right whale, which breeds in the area from May to December. 

Puerto Madryn is most famous for 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 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 5: Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo

Magellanic penguins sharing a moment
Magellanic penguins sharing a moment

Today you will embark on a tour down the Atlantic coast that culminates in one of the most incredible destinations in Patagonia: Punta Tombo. This tiny protected area (just 0.8 square miles), is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in Latina America.

A driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to Puerto Rawson, a fishing village located about 50 km (31 miles) south of Puerto Madryn. Here you will board a ship and start the tour. As you head down the Patagonian coast, be sure to keep an eye out for black-and-white-colored Commerson dolphins, which are regarded as the smallest dolphin species in the world. 

The tour will continue down to Punta Tombo, where you'll find the aforementioned penguin colony. Exact estimates of how many Magellanic penguins live here vary, but keep this whopper of a stat in mind: at one point it was home to over a million. The population might be near that figure even today, as everywhere you look you'll find penguins, penguins, and more penguins. You'll even be able to tour the area on foot and stroll alongside these waddling critters. As you walk, you'll almost be able to reach out and literally touch them, such as the density of their population (but alas, this is not allowed ).

Afterward you'll transfer back to your hotel. 

Day 6: Península Valdés and Whale Watching

Whale breaching near Puerto Madryn
Whale breaching near Puerto Madryn

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 7: Snorkeling with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn

Snorkel with sea lions in Puerto Madryn
Snorkel with sea lions in Puerto Madryn

There are only a few places in South America where you can swim with sea lions in their natural habitat. Puerto Madryn is one such place. In the morning a guide will pick you up at your hotel and transport you to their office where you will change into your swimwear. You'll then board a boat at Puerto Pirámides, on Península Valdés, and depart for a nearby bay, which is full of sea lions. 

Upon arrival, it's time to hop in the water (wetsuits and equipment will be provided). If you're feeling apprehensive, there's no need to be. Sea lions are curious by nature and will swim up and offer a friendly hello. Also, a guide will be there every step of the way to offer specific instructions about what to do when a sea lion approaches. It's nothing short of an unforgettable experience.

Day 8: Puerto Madryn - Buenos Aires - Home

Puerto Madryn skyline at sunset.
Puerto Madryn skyline at sunset.

After enjoying all the marine life and glaciers, it's now time return home. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international terminal for your flight back home.

Map

Map of Buenos Aires & Puerto Madryn Adventure - 8 days
Map of Buenos Aires & Puerto Madryn Adventure - 8 days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019