This two-week itinerary explores the best sites in Northern Argentina combining outdoor activities, cultural excursions, and stunning views. Starting in Buenos Aires, you'll fly to Medoza to spend time in the famous Malbec vineyards. Next is the colonial city of Salta—jumping off point for rugged gorges, giant salt flats, and colorful deserts. Finish in the far north for immense waterfalls on both sides of the Brazilian border.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a free-flowing wine and tango show in Buenos Aires
  • Take a cooking class and learn how to make traditional Argentine barbeque
  • Ride Salta's scenic gondola and get a taste of its exquisite architecture
  • Visit wineries near Cafayate and enjoy the pleasant year-round climate
  • Hike up to several waterfall cascades for incredible photos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 San Antonio de Areco Estancia Tour Buenos Aires
Day 4 Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 5 Mendoza Wine Tour Mendoza
Day 6 Barbeque Cooking Class Mendoza
Day 7 Mendoza Free Day Mendoza
Day 8 Fly from Mendoza to Salta Salta
Day 9 Cafayate Tour & Wine Tasting Salta
Day 10 Quebrada de Humahuaca Excursion Salta
Day 11 Fly from Salta to Iguazú Iguazu Falls
Day 12 Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) Iguazu Falls
Day 13 Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side) Iguazu Falls
Day 14 Fly from Iguazu Falls 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 City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show

Dorrego Square in San Telmo
Dorrego Square in San Telmo

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of Buenos Aires as well as a better understanding of Argentina’s history and culture. During this three-hour tour, you will visit Retiro as well as Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colon, 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 tango show, 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: San Antonio de Areco Estancia Tour

Church in San Antonio de Areco
Church in San Antonio de Areco

Today, you'll immerse yourself in Argentina's gaucho lifestyle while spending a full day in the Pampas at one of the nicest estancias (farmhouses) in San Antonio de Areco.

This charming town is located about an hour from downtown Buenos Aires and is notable as being ground zero for Argentine gaucho tradition. San Antonio de Areco abounds with folk history, so much so that it inspired famed Argentine author José Hernández's epic poem, Martín Fierro. The fictional narrative is told not unlike a ballad as it recounts the exploits of its eponymous hero as he endures life on the frontier. The poem is a national treasure and represents the spirit of rural Argentina, which you'll feel all around you in San Antonio.

Upon arrival, you'll take a tour to the colonial village before being welcomed at the estancia with a traditional Argentinean ‘picada’ and barbecue. After lunch, you'll have options for enjoying the grounds with walks and horseback riding (or rides on a sulky). During warmer months you'll also be able to use the swimming pool (bring a towel and swimsuit).

You'll return to Buenos Aires after the excursion in time for dinner.  

Day 4: 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 5: 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 6: Barbeque Cooking Class

A typical lamb barbeque in downtown Mendoza
Learn how to make a typical lamb barbeque

Today, you'll take part in a unique culinary experience in Mendoza. This is your chance to learn how to cook the exquisite cuisine of Mendoza from an authentic Argentine chef who will teach you how to prepare a traditional recipe that you will later enjoy during dinner.

During the activity, you'll learn how to use the most primitive method of heat—glowing red flames and smoky ambers—to cook vegetables and meat while delighting your senses with proper wine pairings of varietals that are produced in the region.

Day 7: Mendoza Free Day

Relaxation in Chacras de Coria
Relaxation in Chacras de Coria

Today is a free day to enjoy Mendoza at your leisure. Perhaps you'll want to stroll around the surrounding vineyards and enjoy the region at an easy pace, or simply relax at your hotel and enjoy the amenities.

You might also consider getting out and exploring more of Mendoza. The city features expansive plazas and wide boulevards shaded by canopies of bushy green sycamore leaves, which makes for a pleasant stroll. You'll note the difference in energy between the capital of Buenos Aires and Mendoza, as here people move at a much more relaxed pace.

Some suggested activities around town include: 

  • Stroll one of Mendoza's famous parks. One of the most popular meeting spots for locals is Plaza Independencia. It features impressive fountains and is dotted with elegant acacia and tall plane trees. Parque General San Martín is the most impressive park in the city, as its well-manicured grounds dotted with palm trees were designed by the famous Argentine landscape architect Charles Thays (who also designed the most famous parks in Buenos Aires). 

  • Visit a museum. There are a few in Mendoza. One recommended option is the Museo del Pasado Cuyano, which features many exhibits on the history of Mendoza as well as collections of weapons from the independence era.

  • Enjoy some local cuisine. As you've likely learned by now, the fare in Mendoza tends to be rustic. That said, in the city, 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 revolutionized 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 8: 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 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 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 10: 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 11: Fly from Salta to Iguazú

Iguazú Falls, the largest falls in the world
Iguazú Falls, the largest falls in the world

After breakfast, a car will pick you up and transfer you to the airport. You'll then catch a flight from northwestern Argentina to northeastern Argentina and the border with Paraguay and Brazil. It's here you'll find the greatest natural attraction in the country: Falls de Iguazú. This is the largest network of waterfalls in the entire world. 

Upon arrival to the city of Puerto Iguazú, you'll check into your hotel and then have the option for a half-day tour of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls (as opposed to the Argentine side) beginning in the afternoon. This is a good introduction to the falls, as the Brazilian side offers what amounts to a couple of easily accessible viewpoints. So you'll be able to enjoy the majesty of this natural wonder without the extensive walking that accompanies a visit to the Argentine side (don't worry, because you'll experience that tomorrow). 

Note: special visas are required for certain countries. Please ask the specialist if it is necessary for your itinerary.

Day 12: 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 transfer you to the entrance of Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure. It's a full-day excursion that involves traversing three circuit routes around the falls, each offering exceptional vantage points from which to view this magnificent natural wonder. 

The three circuit routes include:

  • The upper circuit (1 hour) features 2,624 feet (800 m) of catwalks. These walkways are elevated from the jungle surface so as not to disrupt the natural pathways used by the indigenous fauna. The circuit affords views of the upper portion of Iguazú, which means you'll be treated to countless panoramic vistas of the surrounding falls.

  • The lower circuit (2 hours) makes up 5,250 feet (1,600 m). These paths are also elevated and offer views from directly below and around Iguazú falls. This circuit takes you near the base of the falls and provides a unique experience where you'll be up close with the natural surroundings, feeling the magnitude of the falls from up close. 

  • Devil's Gorge (2 hours) is the star of the show. A small tourist train leaves from within the park at the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the wooden pathway. Then a walk of about 3,937 feet (1200 m) will take you over the river, culminating at a viewpoint. Just hearing the plunging falls reverberating in your ears is a one-of-a-kind experience. Actually peering 269 feet (82 m) down into the cavernous abyss as the highest of Iguazu's falls thunders all around you is downright unforgettable. 

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

Day 13: 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 14: Fly from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina!
Goodbye, Argentina!

This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international airport for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Classic Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta & Iguazú - 14 Days
Map of Classic Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta & Iguazú - 14 Days