With over 3,000 miles of coastline, Argentina is the second-largest country in South America. The capital, Buenos Aires, is fairly centrally located on the map. It's the gateway to a world of destinations: glaciers, whales, and national parks in the south, wine country to the west, and in the north, Incan settlements, Spanish colonial cities, and the largest waterfall system in the world.
From Buenos Aires, you can fly pretty much anywhere in the country — and you'll have to if you only have a limited time frame for traveling, as the country's major attractions are spread out. Domestic flights can be unreasonably expensive, so many tourists book the whole itinerary as a package. But the recent introduction of budget airlines into the system (most notably budget carrier FlyBondi) may be game-changers on the domestic travel scene, allowing visitors to plan side trips more spontaneously.
Greater Buenos Aires
Most tourists, regardless of the rest of the destinations on their itineraries, spent at least a few days in the capital city sightseeing, shopping, sitting in outdoor cafés, drinking Malbec, and catching some live tango. But Buenos Aires isn't only a city — it's also the name of the large surrounding province with several worthwhile destinations of its own.
For a glimpse of traditional gaucho culture, consider day-tripping (or spending the night) in the town of San Antonio de Areco, about a ninety-minute drive from the city. Or book a stay at an estancia (old-fashioned ranch) where you can ride horses and relax. Further afield, Tandil is known for its lovely hiking trails and traditional cheeses and salamis. Pack a few for a picnic and enjoy the fresh air.
Mendoza is a dream come true for wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Plenty of visitors are just here for the wine tasting and tours — not to mention the fine dining that comes along with it, whether at the wineries or in the city's best restaurants. But it's wise to set aside at least a day or two for hiking and horseback riding since you're in the foothills of the Andes.
Less frequented by tourists, the province of San Juan, just north of Mendoza, offers wide open spaces for exploring, not to mention its own wealth of wineries. Sparkling white wines are particularly good in the region.
It's the largest waterfall system in the world. The Cataratas de Iguazú (Iguazú Falls) straddles the border of Brazil and Argentina.
On the Argentinian side, explore the Parque Nacional Iguazú from above or below. Whether you're wandering the gravity-defying catwalks built high over the cascades or approaching the waterfalls from below on a boat tour, you're bound to feel a thrill: it's the kind of sight that can never be captured in a photo, though every visitor tries anyway.
Thanks to a mix of indigenous and Spanish colonial history — and its proximity to the border of Bolivia — Argentina's northwest has cultural character and cuisine that's distinct from other areas of the country.
Sunshine-drenched Salta is a perfect place to base yourself for a few days. Head out of town to enjoy the otherworldly landscape and taste Torrontés in the nearby Cafayate wine region during the day. Then return to the city, where Spanish churches are beautifully illuminated at night, to sample traditional dishes like locro (a corn-based stew) and salteñas (the local version of empanadas, usually baked in a clay oven).
Further afield, Jujuy (near the border of Chile and Bolivia) and Humahuaca (considered one of the most beautiful towns in the country) are well worth a visit, too.
The Lakes Region
Come for the postcard-perfect scenery, stay for the artisanal chocolates. A visit to Bariloche in northern Patagonia surrounded by sparkling blue lakes and idyllic mountain scenery is something like a visit to Switzerland. Villa La Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes are other places to enjoy a slow pace and small-town charm, and plenty of unspoiled natural landscapes in between for hiking and horseback riding.
Did we mention chocolate? Take a short stroll through the streets of Bariloche and you'll find several famous chocolatiers competing for business. Argentines always have their favorites, but you'll have to try for yourself — free samples abound! — to see which is best.
"Patagonia" is a broad term. Northern Patagonia includes the lakes region of Neuquén province (see above), but it also encompasses the rural provinces of Rio Negro and Chubut — the latter is perhaps best known for its beautiful coastline, and the whale-watching opportunities off the coast of Peninsula Valdés.
Also of interest here are Welsh settlements like Gaiman and Trelew, where old-fashioned teahouses still serve afternoon tea and traditional Welsh delicacies every afternoon. If you want to get a controversial conversation going, ask a local which one Princess Diana chose to take tea in when she visited the region years ago.
One word: glaciers. Sure, the hiking and rock-climbing opportunities around El Chaltén are boundless, and freshly caught fish on the parrilla (grill) is a fantastic treat along the coast. But you can't miss the chance to view the awe-inspiring glacier field outside El Calafate. Book a glacier-trekking tour for a unique adventure that lets you get up close with the ice, or if you'd rather stay warm and cozy, a boat tour that allows you to view the glaciers at close range.
Tierra del Fuego
It's the end of the world, literally: Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. It's a point of entry to excellent ski areas, off-the-beaten-path hiking trails in the quiet mountains, and a boat excursion that takes you to sea lion colonies and the famous lighthouse in the Strait of Magellan. With first-class seafood and interesting museums dedicated to seafaring history and the customs of the indigenous tribes that used to populate this frigid region, the city is a destination in its own right.
You won't run into too many international tourists in low-key Córdoba, home to one of the oldest universities in South America. The city is best-known for its Jesuit cloisters and its striking cathedral. It's also a great place to sit outside and have a cerveza with a lively crowd of students and young professionals who gather in the plazas every evening. Thanks to the ongoing university presence, the city has a busy cultural calendar featuring theatre and open-air food festivals throughout the year.
Outside the city, the mountains (fun fact: they were formed 400 million years before the Andes) are among the best places in the country for hiking and horseback riding. Argentines say the air is fresher here; it's a relaxed place to get away from it all and enjoy the natural landscape of rolling hills and rushing rivers.
Atlantic Coast Beaches
Atlantic coast beaches in Argentina aren't half as impressive as their counterparts in Brazil. But there's something charmingly down-to-earth about wooded seaside resorts like Cariló, about a four-hour drive from Buenos Aires, and Villa Gesell, with its forested parks, pair of old fishing piers, and an elevated wooden boardwalk that stretches a mile along the coast.
Further south, Mar del Plata is a year-round destination with a wonderful clifftop promenade and a packed cultural calendar: there's plenty to see and do outside the summer season. Drive or catch a taxi down to the old port, where rusted boats bob in the harbor and seafood shacks sell fried fish and other local delicacies.