Experience the best of Argentina's north and south over two action-packed weeks. The first half takes place in Patagonia, where you'll marvel at the expansive glaciers around El Calafate and visit the azure lakes of Bariloche. The latter half takes you north to Spanish-colonial Salta, your base for a self-guided road trip through rugged gorges, vast salt flats, and painted desert mountains.


  • See the highlights of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires on a self-guided tour
  • Explore massive glaciers near El Calafate, including Perito Moreno
  • Embark on scenic mountain hikes in Argentina's famous Lake District
  • Stroll the historic streets of colonial Salta and embark on road trips
  • Drive to wineries, historic ruins, and vast salt flats in Argentina's north 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Buenos Aires, Self-Guided Tour Buenos Aires
Day 2 Fly to El Calafate, Optional Activities El Calafate
Day 3 Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour El Calafate
Day 4 Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 5 Fly to Bariloche, Optional Activities Bariloche
Day 6 Bariloche History & Nature Tour Bariloche
Day 7 Boat Tour of Tristeza Sound Bariloche
Day 8 Fly to Salta, Pick Up Rental Car Salta
Day 9 Drive to Cafayate via Quebrada de las Conchas Cafayate
Day 10 Drive to Cachi via Colonial Towns Cachi
Day 11 Drive to Salta via Lerma Valley Salta
Day 12 Drive to Purmamarca via Quebrada del Toro Purmamarca
Day 13 Drive to Salta via Tilcara Ruins Salta
Day 14 Fly to Buenos Aires, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, Self-Guided Tour

The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco monument in Buenos Aires sits in the middle of Ave 9 de Julio

Welcome to Argentina! This massive country (the second-largest in South America) boasts world-class cities and innumerable wonders. These range from southern wilderness and glaciers to northern deserts and gorges—and you'll experience all of them on this far-reaching adventure. You'll arrive in the capital of Buenos Aires, renowned as the "Paris of South America." You'll see why when, after transferring to your hotel, you can head out and immerse yourself in the city's Beaux-Arts/Art Nouveau architecture and European-style parks and plazas

For this self-guided tour, you should begin in Centro (downtown) at the famous Obelisco monument, which sits in the middle of Avenue 9 de Julio. Boasting a whopping 16 lanes, this is the world's widest city street. From there, you can walk to the Teatro Colón, one of South America's premier opera houses. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.

Continue east, and you'll arrive in Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Nearby is the pink-hued Presidential Palace known as the Casa Rosada, while farther south, you'll wind up on the cobbled streets of San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. If you like, head across town to Palermo, another historic enclave known for its expansive public parks, which are some of the most beautiful in the world. This trendy area is also a great place to dine like a local at a parilla (steakhouse), where you can tuck into a thick, juicy steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce. 

Day 2: Fly to El Calafate, Optional Activities

Lago Argentino
El Calafate sits on Lago Argentino and is the gateway to Argentina's glaciers

This morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to El Calafate. This town sits on the shores of Lago Argentino and is known as the gateway to Argentina's glaciers. If you can, get a window seat on the flight to enjoy stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as you fly over it.

Upon arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafés and shops around town. Maybe 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 3: Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour

Enjoy the views of Perito Moreno
Enjoy the views of Perito Moreno

You're in for an exciting full-day excursion. It starts with a pick-up from your hotel in El Calafate, followed by a one-hour transfer to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park, you'll catch your first glimpse of Perito Moreno. This vast ice mass flows from the Andes out over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino, ending abruptly in a great wall that curves around the lake and rises 197-230 feet (60-70 m) high at points. Wait a bit, and you'll witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and falling into the waters below with a thundering crash.

While not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is indeed the star of the show. It's also unique in that it is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, a factor that results in the calving mentioned above. Upon arrival, you can admire Perito Moreno from several vantage points via a network of wooden boardwalks strategically situated in front of the glacier. Even better, you'll get up close and personal with its massive ice wall on a boat tour. After a day spent enjoying the glacier, you'll return to El Calafate and have the evening free.

Day 4: Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour

Tour the glaciers by boat
Hop on a catamaran and visit some of the other mammoth glaciers at Lago Argentino

Aside from Perito Moreno, there are several other incredible ice masses in Los Glaciares National Park. You'll get to visit a few of these on a full-day boat excursion around Lago Argentino. In fact, you'll get so close to the glaciers' walls that you'll practically be able to reach out and touch them.

It begins in the morning with a transfer east to Punta Bandera Harbor, where you'll board a catamaran and embark on your journey. As you travel north along the frozen waters of Lago Argentino, you'll weave between icebergs on your way to the first site: Upsala Glacier. After crossing the Boca del Diablo (the narrowest part of the lake), you'll enter the Upsala Channel and shortly afterward reach the glacier.

The next stop is the towering Spegazzini Glacier. However, as you enter the Spegazzini Channel, you'll first see Seco Glacier, a wall of ice perpetually retreating from the lakeshore. Finally, you'll reach Spegazzini. With ice walls 442 feet (135 m) tall, just being near this towering behemoth is enough to make you shiver. The tour ends with the return to Punta Bandera and the ride back to your hotel.

Day 5: Fly to Bariloche, Optional Activities

Aerial view of Bariloche
Bariloche is famous for its lake views and Swiss-inspired architecture

After breakfast at the hotel, a driver will pick you up for the ride to the airport in El Calafate. There, you'll catch a two-hour flight to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main city in Argentina's Lake District. Sitting on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi near the border with Chile, Bariloche lies in the larger Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. If you detect some Indigenous influence in that name, you're correct. Meaning "jaguar island," it comes from the Mapuche native people who once inhabited the area.

Upon arrival in Bariloche, a driver will transfer you to your hotel. Then feel free to head out and explore. On a brisk walk, you can admire the charming chalet-style buildings and alpine architecture, and the city center abounds with waterfront plazas, chocolate shops, and upscale restaurants. Specifically, you'll want to take a stroll down Mitre Street, the main drag running through downtown. Passing near the waterfront, it's lined with souvenir shops, clothing stores, and confectioners.

When dinnertime comes around, sample the local cuisine. You'll find that it differs considerably from what's often found in Buenos Aires. Here, regional fare like wild boar and lake trout is popular and delicious, as is the fondue (a culinary addition introduced by the city's Swiss immigrants).

Day 6: Bariloche History & Nature Tour

Take a ride up to the top of Cerro Campanario
Take a ride up to the top of Cerro Campanario in a cable car

This morning, you'll partake in an active history lesson on a guided tour of Bariloche. Along the way, your local expert guide will explain the legacy of the city and its surrounding locales. The tour comprises a classic circuit that will take you to natural wonders and some of the best viewpoints around Bariloche.

One highlight is a cable car ride up to the summit of Cerro Campanario. The view from atop this 3,444-foot (1,050-m) high mountain is breathtaking as you're treated to panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi and the snow-covered mountains surrounding it. You'll also visit the Llao Llao Peninsula, a scenic headland overlooking the water and the site of the most impressive hotel in the country, Hotel Llao Llao.

Throughout the tour, your guide will explain how San Carlos de Bariloche evolved relatively quickly from a small mountain village into one of Argentina's most attractive and famous cities. As you experience the region's natural beauty and hike around its terrain, you'll begin to understand why Bariloche was voted Argentina's national capital of adventure tourism. You'll cap the tour with a visit to a local microbrewery for lunch and a beer tasting.

Day 7: Boat Tour of Tristeza Sound

If the skies are clear, you'll enjoy views of Tronador Mountain

Wake up early and hop in a vehicle for a transfer east along the lakeshore to the tranquil López Bay. Here, you'll board a boat for a scenic ride to a remote, lesser-visited corner of Nahuel Huapi called Tristeza Sound. Expect to see mountains and waterfalls fringing the lakeshore, and if the weather is clear, you can admire stunning views of snowcapped Cerro Tronador looming overhead. 

Eventually, the boat will arrive in a secluded part of the sound. This will be your embarking point for a nature hike through virgin forests comprised of native coihue and alerce trees. The trail climbs up to a group of waterfalls cascading down the Río Frey, making for a great photo opportunity. Later you'll return to the boat and enjoy lunch on board as you return to the port at López Bay. 

Day 8: Fly to Salta, Pick Up Rental Car

There are several colonial buildings and churches around Plaza 9 de Julio

This morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Bariloche for the 2.5-hour flight north to Salta. Officially founded in 1582, this metropolis has a well-preserved colonial center defined by landmarks like the 19th-century Salta Cathedral, which overlooks Plaza 9 de Julio, the main square. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll pick up your rental car, officially kicking off this itinerary's self-drive portion through the scenic northern Argentina deserts.

First, you can take the rest of the day to settle in and enjoy the city. Easy to explore on foot, Salta's historic downtown is lined with gorgeous neoclassical buildings, lively cafés, and bars teeming with a young crowd. You can also head to the city's eastern edge and ride the cable car eight minutes to the top of Cerro San Bernardo. The panoramic views atop this 853-foot (260 m) hill are the best in the city. In the evening, consider visiting an authentic peña. These watering holes and restaurants are places where locals come to enjoy traditional Argentine folk music. 

Day 9: Drive to Cafayate via Quebrada de las Conchas

Calchaqui Valley
The Calchaquí Valley is the premier wine-growing region in northern Argentina

Today you'll get behind the wheel and leave Salta, heading south on Route 68 for about three hours until you reach the town of Cafayate. To say this is a scenic drive would be an understatement. You'll pass some of northern Argentina's most beautiful landmarks throughout the ride.

One highlight is the Quebrada de las Conchas, a deep valley of red canyons characterized by intense colors and unique rock formations. The names of these geological wonders reflect their characteristics, like the Devil's Throat, the Amphitheater, the Frog, and the Obelisk. Because you're in the driver's seat, you can stop wherever and whenever you like to take a walk around and snap photos.

Then, continue to Cafayate. This tourist town is nestled in the Calchaquí Valley of Salta province and is renowned for its vineyards. In fact, this is the premier wine-growing region of northern Argentina, famous for producing the torrontés varietal, an aromatic white wine. Upon arrival, you'll check into your accommodation and have the rest of the day free. In the evening, perhaps enjoy the local ambience with a sundowner in the main square, or try a malbec-flavored ice cream at the nearby gelato shop.

Day 10: Drive to Cachi via Colonial Towns

Check out the church in Angastaco
Check out Spanish colonial churches in little towns like Angastaco

Leave Cafayate this morning and enjoy a leisurely drive northwest along Ruta 40. This famous route runs thousands of miles along the Andes from Patagonia in the south all the way up through northern Argentina. Along this enchanting road, you'll discover charming mountain towns dating to the colonial period, like Angastaco, Molinos, and Seclantas. In each one, you can marvel at Spanish colonial churches and shop for artisanal items like handwoven textiles, leather goods, ceramics, silverwork, and more.

After about four hours, you'll arrive at Cachi, a well-preserved historical town known for architecture combining Indigenous and Spanish influences. After checking into your hotel, you can stroll around town and admire the adobe houses and whitewashed colonial buildings, like Cachi's iconic 16th-century church. Also, visit the Museo Arqueológico de Cachi, a museum showcasing locally excavated artifacts, some dating back 10,000 years.

Day 11: Drive to Salta via Lerma Valley

Drive through the Escoipe Gorge
Drive through the Escoipe Gorge, a scenic highlight of the Lerma Valley

Get back in the car this morning and head north out of Cachi for about 15 minutes until you'll reach the town of Payogasta. You'll then turn onto Route 33 and drive along the Lerma Valley, which is filled with more mesmerizing northern scenery, especially as you enter the Laureles and Escoipe gorges.

This route also includes a section on the Cuesta del Obispo, a road that snakes up a scenic mountain slope carpeted with lush vegetation. In this area, you'll likely spot plenty of native wildlife, including vicuñas, pumas, and falcons. From there, continue driving north a couple of hours back to Salta, where you'll check into your hotel.

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Day 12: Drive to Purmamarca via Quebrada del Toro

Follow a similar route as the
Today's road trip follows a similar route as the "Train to the Clouds"

No time to rest because early in the morning, you'll leave Salta once again, this time heading north. Part of the epic drive follows the same path 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. The route zigzags between lonely mountain roads and vast expanses of high desert plains home to 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 and to enjoy the views. Then you'll visit Santa Rosa de Tastil, a pre-Incan settlement dating back to the eighth century. After visiting the village of San Antonio de los Cobres, you'll arrive at the Salinas Grandes salt flats. Be sure to take plenty of photos.

Finally, later in the afternoon, you'll arrive at your comfortable hotel in Purmamarca. This popular village in Jujuy province, which is filled with adobe houses and craft markets, sits at the base of the iconic Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of the Seven Colors) in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow mountain valley, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 13: Drive to Salta via Tilcara Ruins

Pucara de Tilcara Ruins
The pre-Inca fortification of Pucará de Tilcara dates to the 12th century

Today marks the last leg of your northern Argentina road trip. Leave Purmamarca in the morning for the three-hour drive back to Salta, which will take you through the dramatic hills and rock formations of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The drive is filled with culture and history, as along the way, you can stop at towns and landmarks like Maimará and Tilcara, the latter of which is home to the famous pre-Inca fortress Pucará de Tilcara, which dates to the 12th century. You should arrive back in Salta with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening in town.

Day 14: Fly to Buenos Aires, Depart

Sun setting over the painted hills of Purmamarca

Unfortunately, it's time to say goodbye to Argentina. In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Salta for the flight back to Buenos Aires, where you'll meet your connecting flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Epic Argentina: El Calafate, Bariloche & Salta - 14 Days
Map of Epic Argentina: El Calafate, Bariloche & Salta - 14 Days