Spend 13 days discovering the natural wonders of northern Argentina, from mammoth Iguazú Falls to the painted mountains of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. First, though, you'll enjoy a tango show in Buenos Aires plus a day trip to a working cowboy ranch. Then you'll head north to visit the thundering falls at Iguazú, and afterward you'll tour the salt flats and gorges around the colonial city of Salta.

Highlights

  • Check out the best sights and neighborhoods in Buenos Aires
  • Explore several areas of Iguazú Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world
  • Ride Salta's scenic gondola and check out its folkloric music scene
  • Discover Salinas Grandes, the expansive salt flats north of Salta
  • Visit wineries near Cafayate and enjoy tasting tours

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Boat Excursion to Tigre Buenos Aires
Day 4 Gaucho Experience at Estancia Santa Susana Buenos Aires
Day 5 Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú Puerto Iguazu
Day 6 Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) Puerto Iguazu
Day 7 Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side) Puerto Iguazu
Day 8 Fly from Iguazú to Salta Salta
Day 9 Cafayate Tour & Wine Tasting Salta
Day 10 Jujuy Province & Salinas Grandes Excursion Salta
Day 11 Quebrada de Humahuaca Excursion Salta
Day 12 Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 13 Depart Buenos Aires  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore Buenos Aires

The Obelisco in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco 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 famous for its passion. This can be seen in Argentina's rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will take you to your hotel where you will have the chance to recharge from the journey. Once you are well-rested, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The city center is your best starting point.

Day 2: Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show

Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo
Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of the city of Buenos Aires,  Argentina’s history and culture. During this three-hour tour, you'll visit the neighborhood of Retiro and Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colón, the continent's most opulent opera house, and the iconic Obelisco monument.

You will also pass through the historic and architecturally impressive city center, home to the Congress Building, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). Then, walk along the upscale waterfront promenades of Puerto Madero before heading to the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. Afterward, you'll stop by La Boca, the city's original port.

In the evening, enjoy a scrumptious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and a tango performance, which is one of Argentina's most iconic, cultural highlights. After this memorable experience, you'll head back to your hotel to relax for the night.

Day 3: Boat Excursion to Tigre

Tigre's iconic canals
Tigre's iconic canals

Today you will travel up the Río de la Plata to the point where it converges with the Paraña River Delta, which is comprised of a series of islands about an hour north of Buenos Aires. During the boat ride, take time to enjoy views of the city skyline from the deck. You will then enter the network of freshwater canals and sail among the many islands that make up this unique region. 

The main port on these canals is in Tigre, a Venetian-style village whose relaxed nature and small-town charm stand in stark contrast to Buenos Aires' bustling energy and expansive metropolis. This is where you'll spend the better part of the day. Enjoy free time to stroll the waterfront, stop in at the cafes and bistros, visit the museums, and experience this riverside gem any way you see fit. 

After a day discovering this evocative town, hop on a train back to Buenos Aires. Your tour officially ends at the Retiro station, where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore on your own.

Day 4: 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 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 enjoy 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 5: Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú

Aerial view of Iguazú Falls
Aerial view of Iguazú Falls

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport in Buenos Aires for your flight to Puerto Iguazú. This city is home to the Argentinian side of Iguazú falls, the world's second-largest waterfall system after Victoria Falls, in Africa. Upon arrival in Puerto Iguazú, you will transfer to your hotel.

You will have the rest of the day free to relax. Should you choose, you can visit the Three Borders Landmark in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The landmark is situated at the confluence of the Iguazú and Parana rivers and there are three obelisks representing the three countries that meet here. 

Day 6: Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side)

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

After breakfast at your hotel, a driver will pick you up and drop you off at the entrance of Iguazú National Park, the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure, a full-day tour that involves walking the three circuits that weave around the falls. Each of these offers different vantage points from which to view the water. 

The three circuits include:

  • The upper circuit (1 hour) is made up of 2,624 feet (800 m) of walkways elevated above the jungle floor to avoid disrupting the natural paths of indigenous fauna. On this route, you'll see the upper portion of Iguazú, including countless panoramic vistas of the surrounding falls.
  • The lower circuit (2 hours) is 5,250 feet (1,600 m) long and is also made up of elevated walkways, which go directly below and around the falls. This circuit takes you near the base of the falls and right up to the crashing torrents of water. You'll be able to feel the magnitude of the falls from up close.
  • The Devil's Throat (2 hours) is the star of the show. A small tourist train leaves from the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the path. You'll walk 3,937 feet (1200 m) over the river until you reach the viewing platform. From there you'll be able to peer 269 feet (82 m) down into the water, as the highest of Iguazu's falls thunders all around you.

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

Day 7: Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)

Pedestrian walkways with epic views
Pedestrian walkways with epic views

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 conveniences and restaurants with terraces overlooking the falls. Upon arrival at the Visitors Center, you'll board a double-decker bus that embarks on a 30-minute ride into the park.

After you jump off the bus, your first stop is a balcony that offers panoramic views of the Argentine side of the falls (be sure to keep your camera at the ready). You'll then hike 3,116 feet (950 m) along the Iguazú River until you reach the falls on the Brazilian side. The walkway passes over the river 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.

Once you have the lay of the land, spend your day enjoying the various views and having lunch on a terrace before returning to your hotel.

Day 8: Fly from Iguazú to Salta

Salta's main square
Salta's main square

After breakfast, you'll be driven to the airport for your flight to Salta where you'll then take a private transfer to your hotel. The city is often referred to as "Salta la Linda" (meaning Salta the beautiful) due to its well-preserved colonial architecture (circa 16th century) and year-round warm climate. In the afternoon you'll take a guided city tour and visit Salta's most important buildings and cathedrals.

Afterward, you will have free time to stroll around the craft market and pick up artisanal products that range from rugs to pottery. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Argentinian dinner at a cozy local restaurant.

Day 9: Cafayate Tour & Wine Tasting

Do some wine tasting in Cafayate
Do 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 pick up at your hotel and a drive through the Lerma Valley, passing tobacco fields and colonial villages. 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, and 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 10: Jujuy Province & Salinas Grandes Excursion

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

It's time for another tour of the Salta region. Like yesterday, you'll be picked up from your hotel in the early morning for a full-day tour.

First, you'll visit the ruins of Tastil, once home to the Atacama indigenous people. Next stop is the nearby town of San Antonio de Los Cobres, where you'll stop for lunch. Afterward, it's a scenic trip along Argentina's famous Ruta 40 to Salinas Grandes, the expansive salt flats. You'll have plenty of time to snap photos of the beautiful vastness of the salinas, which are particularly evocative due to the sunlight reflecting off the ground's white surface back into the bright blue sky. 

Afterward, it will be time for the descent down Cuesta de Lipán, a section of switchback roads on a steep mountain that features amazing viewpoints—where you might get lucky and spot condors. Then you'll travel to the village of Purmamarca, located in Jujuy province. Here you'll visit its famous Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colors), a hilly landscape overlooking the town that's colored various shades of red. 

Day 11: 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.   

This valley gorge has been populated 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 centuries and later was a link between the Viceroyalty of the Río de La Plata, in Buenos Aires, and the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was also an important battleground in the War of Independence. You can see remnants of Pre-Hispanic towns here, and small white churches still dot the gorge's stratified rocks.

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. From here you'll visit Uquía, a tiny village that boasts one of the most impressive whitewashed churches in the region, the Iglesia San Francisco de Paula, which was built in 1691. Inside the church, 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.

Day 12: Fly from Salta to Buenos Aires

Take one more stroll around Salta before departing
Take one more stroll around Salta before departing

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, you'll take a private transfer to your hotel. Once settled, enjoy free time to relax and explore at your own pace, perhaps taking advantage of any sights, parks, or neighborhoods that you may have missed earlier in your trip.

Day 13: Depart Buenos Aires

Goodbye, Buenos Aires!
Goodbye, Buenos Aires!

Enjoy one last breakfast in Buenos Aires. When it's time to leave, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport for your flight home. Buen viaje! 

Map

Map of Discover Northern Argentina - 13 Days
Map of Discover Northern Argentina - 13 Days