One of the best ways to explore Argentina is on four wheels, giving you the chance to explore the country at your own pace while soaking in the country's spectacular natural scenery. This eight-day road trip takes you from the lively city of Mendoza to the polychromatic mountains of the north.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a guided tour of a Mendoza winery
  • Gawp at the awe-inspiring cliffs of Talampaya National Park
  • Take in the other-worldly scenery of the Valley of the Moon
  • Admire the curiously shaped rock formations of Quebrada de las Conchas

Overview

On this exciting road trip, you'll drive through impressive scenery of celebrated vineyards, eerie rock formations, and towering sandstone cliffs. You’ll visit some of the country’s most spectacular sights including the dramatic ochre-colored landscape of Conchas Gorge, and the Talampaya National Park, home to the world’s most complete record of flora and fauna from the Triassic Period, an era that saw the evolution of the first dinosaurs.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires - Flight to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 3 Tour one of Mendoza’s premier wineries Mendoza
Day 4 Cruise from Mendoza to the north San Agustín de Valle Fértil
Day 5 Visit Valle de la Luna & Talampaya National Park La Rioja
Day 6 Sit back and enjoy a glass or two of white in Cafayate Cafayete
Day 7 Travel on Road 68 - Explore Salta Salta
Day 8  Salta - Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

Stroll along Puerto Madero before dinner
Stroll along Puerto Madero before dinner

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 pedestrian areas in a city famous for its paths. 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 - Flight to Mendoza 

Colorful tiles in Mendoza’s main plaza
Colorful tiles in Mendoza’s main plaza

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.

Some suggested activities around town include: 

  • Stroll 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. Mendoza sits in the middle of the rugged countryside at the foot of the Andes. So as you'd expect the 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 3: Tour one of Mendoza’s premier wineries

Snow-capped Mount Aconcagua overlooking the Mendoza vineyards
Snow-capped Mount Aconcagua overlooking the Mendoza vineyards

Today you will have the chance to enjoy a guided tour of two of the country’s most exclusive wineries. You’ll be able to choose among a selection of bodegas, including Melipal, Chandon, Achaval Ferrer and Ruca Malen.

As part of your tour, you will enjoy a wine tasting session and will have the chance to purchase some vino too.

While Mendoza’s reputation lies firmly with its wines, the area around the city offers plenty of thrilling activities for outdoor enthusiasts. Its location at the foot of the Andes means there are plenty of hiking and biking opportunities, as well as exhilarating white water rafting along the Mendoza River. In the afternoon you’ll be able to take your pick from a number of activities, namely hiking, golfing, biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.

Day 4: Cruise from Mendoza to the north

Rock formation in Ischigualasto National Park
Rock formation in Ischigualasto National Park

Today you will venture north, driving 254 miles (410 km) north to San Agustín de Valle Fértil, roughly a five-hour drive from Mendoza. The city serves as the ideal base to explore the Valley of the Moon in Ischigualasto National Park, home to otherworldly rock formations, some round and smooth as marble. The valley is famous for harboring some of the world’s oldest dinosaur remains and, along with the contiguous Talampaya Natural Park, it contains the world's most complete fossil record from the Triassic Period.

As you’ll spend a good part of the day cruising by car, you’ll explore the parks the following day.

Day 5: Visit Valle de la Luna & Talampaya National Park

The towering sandstone cliffs of Talampaya National Park
The towering sandstone cliffs of Talampaya National Park

A one-hour drive from Valle Fértil takes you to Valle de la Luna, from where it’s about an hour’s drive to Talampaya National Park. The proximity of the two parks means you can visit both in one day.

Comprising two adjoining protected areas, the parks are home to an incredibly complete record of plant and animal life from the Triassic Period, shedding light on the evolution of vertebrates and the period’s palaeoenvironments. The parks are of exceptional scientific importance, providing a key understanding of paleontology and evolutionary biology.

While Valle de La Luna is renowned for its otherworldly rock formations, Talampaya National Park features giant ochre-colored sandstone cliffs with walls up to 200 m high that are truly a sight to behold.

Instead of spending another night in Valle Fértil, you can head directly to La Rioja, which lies northeast of Talampaya, about a 2.5 hours’ drive (132 miles / 213 km).

Day 6: Sit back and enjoy a glass or two of white in Cafayate

Cafayete is renowned for its torrontés grape
Cafayete is renowned for its torrontés grape

From La Rioja, it’s a seven-hour drive (315 miles / 508 km) to Cafayate, the country’s second most important center for winemaking. The area is known for its reddish rock formations.

You’ll be able to stop off at key sights along the way. The Quilmes Ruins in the Amaicha del Valle are one of the country’s most important archeological sites, founded in the early 9th century BC. Once home to the Quilmes people, the site was a center of resistance against Inca invasions and later against Spain.

Once you arrive in Cafayate you can enjoy a stroll around town and sample traditional Argentinian cuisine in one of its many restaurants serving local dishes. You could perhaps try Argentina’s famous empanadas while savoring top local wines. The town is famous for its torrontés grape, which produces a rich and floral white wine, although it also produces fine reds from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Tannat grapes.

Day 7: Travel Road 68 along the impressive Conchas Gorge

Devil’s Throat in Quebrada de las Conchas
Devil’s Throat in Quebrada de las Conchas

You’ll travel on Road 68 along Quebrada de las Conchas or Conchas Gorge, a wild landscape peppered with rock formations that have been eroded into a variety of shapes. Its distinctly shaped features have lent them all manner of nicknames including the Windows, the Castles, the Frog and the ominous-sounding Devil’s Throat. The most impressive of all is the Amphitheater, a semi-enclosed space that often hosts orchestras thanks to its outstanding natural acoustics.

This is undoubtedly one of the country’s most scenic drives, and it’s well worth hopping out of your vehicle to explore the canyon and appreciate the incredible landscape.

You will reach Salta after a couple hours’ drive (115 miles / 186 km) and, upon arrival, must return your rental vehicle.

Home to gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture and a fun vibrant nightlife, Salta’s compact city center is easy to explore on foot. To end your trip on a high note, visit a peña (folk concert), and celebrate the city’s cultural heritage with songs, dance and traditional food.

Day 8: Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure

One last look at Buenos Aires
One last look at Buenos Aires

After breakfast, say goodbye to the city of Salta and transfer to Salta 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 Road Trip from Mendoza to Northern Argentina - 8 Days
Map of Road Trip from Mendoza to Northern Argentina - 8 Days