Cosmopolitan cities, incredible landscapes, perspective-changing natural wonders and amazing wildlife. It’s possible to sip fine wine in the shadow of the Andes one day, and go whale watching off the Patagonian coast the next; or to gaze at the extraordinary colours of the Quebrada de Humahuaca in the dry air of the remote north west, before gasping for breath in the humidity of the Iguazu Falls. A visit to the continent’s most southerly city of Ushuaia can be combined with the aquamarine of the Perito Moreno glacier … and that’s before mentioning the glories of Buenos Aires.
Argentina, it seems, has it all. It’s a country that has repeatedly drawn me back after my first visit over a dozen years ago, with each return visit it only seems to become more appealing. I’ve seen a lot of the country – from the Bolivian border in the far north to Tierra del Fuego in the far south – these are my favourite places.
10. Susques and the Salinas Grandes
The route to the border town of Susques passes over the dramatic Cuesta de Lipan, a road of hairpin bends and mind-bending views reaching an altitude of 4,170m before descending to the vast white expanse of the Salinas Grandes. It’s truly magnificent. Drive further through the thin air of this remote region and you reach the village of Susques, with two beautiful adobe churches decorated with naive frescoes.
9. Whale Watching in Peninsular Valdes
There are few sights as magical as the phenomenal gathering of southern right whales in the waters off Peninsular Valdes. Taking a boat out in the morning or late afternoon brings you up close and personal with whales leaping from the water, smashing their fins into the water, and slowly raising their tails out of the water. The surrounding area and coastline is also home to a vast array of different species, all worth exploring.
8. Mendoza’s wine region
Mendoza is a vibrant town sitting in the foothills of the Andes and is worth a few days of anyone’s time, but the real draw in this region is its world-class wines. The Valle de Uco, south of Mendoza, is one of the newer wine regions and is blessed by stunning landscapes and high-end bodegas offering superb food, wine and accommodations. We could have spent weeks exploring and wine tasting.
7. At the end of the world in Ushuaia
Sitting at the top of the Beagle Channel and ringed by snowcapped mountains, Ushuaia is as dramatically located as any town in Argentina. A magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, it has plenty of hiking and climbing opportunities in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. A trip down the Beagle Channel is a more sedate activity that brings wildlife sightings and beautiful vistas.
6. The Quebrada de Cafayate at sunset
When it comes to scenic drives, Argentina has some of the most extraordinary in the world. The landscape of the Quebrada de Cafayate frequently beggars belief, best seen at sunset when the reds and oranges of the rock formations literally glow in the light. Best of all, you can end your journey with a glass of wine amongst the vineyards of Cafayate.
5. El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier
El Calafate feels like a frontier town for tourists, but it sits on the exquisite turquoise waters of Largo Argentina and is the jumping off point for one Argentina’s spectacular natural wonders: Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s hard to describe the sheer magnificence of the deep, luminescent blues of the glacier, but take it from me, it’s an unmissable sight.
4. Iguazu Falls
Seen and heard for the first time, the thunderous roar of the 270 waterfalls that make up the Iguazu Falls make for an overwhelming experience. Words cannot describe the sheer beauty of the falls, but this is also a place where the power of nature imposes itself on you. It’s another of Argentina’s unmissable sights.
3. The Argentinian Lake District
It really is hard to overstate extraordinary beauty of this region. Bariloche, the main gateway to the region, may not be very appealing, but the mountains and lakes of the region are utterly mesmerising. The Ruta de Siete Largos is one of the world’s most scenic drives, and acts as a good introduction to the region, but the Lanin National Park near San Martin de los Andes is worth travelling around the world to see.
2. Along the Ruta 40 to Cachi and Molinos
The Ruta 40 is a legendary road. Stretching nearly the full length of Argentina it is both an endurance test and a window into some of the finest landscapes in the country. In the north west the road is still largely unpaved, but the bone-jarring journey is worth it for access to tranquil adobe villages, high altitude vineyards and scenery to make you weep.
1. Buenos Aires
Argentina’s capital is a city about which people eulogise, and with good reason. This is one of the world’s great cities, grand European architecture mingles with pulsating Latin American culture that, from working class Boca to upmarket Palermo makes for a vivacious and vibrant whole. It’s easy to resort to cliche when describing Buenos Aires, but this Quixotic city on the Rio del Plata is one that everyone should experience at least once.