Argentina Travel Guide

The llama steak capital of the world, complete with tonnes of culture, beautiful architecture, and some really friendly locals.

There are literally countless reasons to visit the South American country of Argentina; from the amazing natural wonders – like the Iguazu Falls – and the thriving and bustling cities, there is literally something for everyone.

Right at the southernmost tip of the continent, Argentina’s proximity to Antarctica means its’ full of a number of diverse landscapes and terrains. There are the wetlands of the Litoral, and the bone-dry desert of the Andean plateaux, and everything in between.

In Argentina, you never quite know what you’re going to get – and that’s what makes it so much fun. Plus, we have all the tips and insider knowledge to make your trip great.

Where to Go

In such a diverse country, it’s no wonder there are a number of different places to go. Whether you want to see historical sites, or natural wonder, there is the place for you in Argentina.

However, with so much choice, this can seem daunting on a backpacker’s itinerary. So, to make it easy, we’ve hunted down the best places to visit if you want to see all that Argentina has to offer.

Buenos Aires

The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is one of the hot new destinations to visit. 2019 will see the Youth Olympics storm the city in October, bringing with it an international crowd, and all over the city there is an excited buzz in the air. Not only this, but it’s one of the best places to get a really good, proper meal that will make you go home and rave about Argentinian food to all your mates.

Puerto Iguaza

The Iguazu Falls is one of the most visited sites in all of Argentina, but while you’re there it makes sense to stop off in its home town of Puerto Iguazu. The town is in the middle of the national park, and it’s the best place to stay to explore the collection of over 250 waterfalls in the area.

El Bolson

A hippy little village nestled at the top of the Patagonian mountains, El Bolson is the ultimate rural retreat, especially during February when the weather is just perfect. Explore the numerous rivers, lakes and hiking trails around the mountain, and experience the ultimate digital detox.

Mar del Plata

One of the most famous towns in Argentina thanks to its incredible beaches and some of the country’s best surfing spots, Mar del Plata even has its own International film festival every year. Not only this, but Trimarchi, a design festival that’s only getting bigger and bigger every year, is also held here.

San Antonio de Areco

The home of the Argentinian cowboy, San Antonio de Areco is the place to visit to live out your Wild West dreams. A sleepy town full of saloons and 1800s vibes, this is the site of the Festival de Tradicion in November, which sees gauchos from all over Argentina come to show off their horse skills and get drunk in the sun.

What to Do

There are some incredible sites across the Argentinian landscape, whether that be historical, cultural, or natural wonders. Whether you want to hike to the one of the only growing glaciers in the world, or witness the astounding Iguazu Falls, there’s something for everyone.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Found in Los Glacieares National Park, the Periot Moreno Glacier is just outside the town of El Calafate in the southwest of Argentina. The glacier is not only aesthetically beautiful, but it’s one of the only glaciers in the world that is growing every year rather than shrinking. Plus, it’s the third-largest reserve of fresh water anywhere on the globe.

Iguazu Falls

The Falls are one of the second natural wonders of the world, and once you get there it’s not hard to see why. Nestled amongst the northern landscape, the Iguazu Falls are part of the rainforest band that links the country with Brazil. Exquisitely beautiful, it’s one of those sights that leaves you absolutely breathless.

Quebrada de Humahuaca

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is essentially a collection of colossal rock formations found in a gigantic gorge – sort of Argentina’s very own Grand Canyon. Here, travellers can find a number of indigenous Quechuan villages, and learn the history of the Camino Incan trade route that once passed through this area some 10,000 years ago.

The Lighthouse at the End of the World

It sounds like the title of a novel, but no, this is a real place. Tucked away on the very southernmost tip of Argentina, the lighthouse is locally known as at the edge of the world because it, quite literally, feels like it’s on the edge of the world. Officially is known as Les Eclaireurs, which means “The Scouts” in French, and it’s only accessible via a boat tour from Ushuaia.

Valle de la Luna

Otherwise known as the Moon Valley, Valle de la Luna is a giant protected area where there are a number of rock formations and dinosaur remains. In fact, there are so many dinosaur remains that this arid valley in the north-western province of San Juan supposedly holds the most complete know continental fossil record from the Triassic Period.

Read More About Argentina

Best Time to Visit Argentina

Argentina is one of the few countries in South America that has four seasons, although the timings for these can vary depending on which area of the country you’re visiting. Typically, spring is between September and November and it’s the best time to visit for weather as it’s not too hot, and not too cold. Although bear in mind that it can still be very chilly in Patagonia.

If you’re looking to visit the Andean mountains, then it’s best to travel between December and February. This is also a great time to go to Tierra del Fuego because there will likely still be snow on the ground and across the peaks of the mountains.

The San Juan and Mendoza regions are expreriencing their wine harvests between March and April, so if you fancy a relaxing countryside break, this is the time.

In terms of festivals and events, the Tango Buenos Aires Festival takes place in August, as Argentina’s capital city host the largest Tango festival on earth. There’s also the Carnival in Gualeguaychu during February, as well as the Oktober Festival of Beer in October.

How Much Does it Cost

One of those countries that’s great for all different types of travellers, the best thing about Argentina is that it can be done on an incredible small budget while also having a number of different luxury options for those with a bit more cash in their pockets.

Having said that, it is good to be aware of the fact that costs in Argentina tend to fluctuate a lot – especially at the moment. That’s because the country is struggling with inflation, so at certain points it can seem more expensive than it was before.

Also, the price tends to go up the further south you travel, so bear that in mind when planning out your route.

A typical budget would be between $40-60 a day, if you’re staying in hostel dorm rooms, eating at the street food vendors, and getting by with cheap public transport.

Typical costs while backpacking across Argentina:

Hostel

$5-10

Day tour

$150-500

Budget hotel

$15

Pint of beer

$2.35

Street food

$1

Attraction entry

$1-22

Public transport

$0.25

Restaurant meal

$12

Budget Tips

With cheap food but very expensive activities, it can be difficult to see where you can save money when backpacking through Argentina. Don’t stress and cancel your flights just yet though, as there are some ways you can stick to a budget.

The biggest money saving hack is travelling off-season, when you’ll get cheaper flights and accommodation and activity costs will be a lot lower than during peak times. Argentina’s low season is between March and June, and September through to November, so you can still get some good weather while also saving the pennies.

Another good trick is to make the most of the cheap spots to eat. Think empanada stands, burgers from literal holes in the wall – it sounds shady, but these are some of the best eats you’ll find in the country.

You can also save a lot of money by simply exploring the fantastic landscape of Argentina. Hiking is completely free, so as long as you’re not joining a very expensive tour, you can walk around and witness all the incredible sights without having to spend any money. Win win really.

What to Pack

For such a large country like Argentina, it can be difficult to know what to pack – especially for a backpacker’s trip, where you’re likely to travel all over the country, and the climate can vary a lot depending on where you are.

A mix of incredible cities, diverse landscapes, mountains, waterfalls, natural parks and more, it’s best to pack for all inevitabilities -as much as possible. That means legging, stretch pants, shorts, dressed, t-shirts, and jumpers – you never know when the weather might change, and hiking up mountains can get cold.

For the evenings, especially in the cities, bring at least one nicer outfits as Argentinians can be quite fashion-conscious. You’ll also want sunglasses, a South American adapter for plugs, a dictionary / phrase book, and general toiletries. Guaranteed hostels won’t have soap, shampoo, towels, or anything like that.

Backpacker Accommodation

There are a number of different accommodation types across Honduras that are just perfect for backpackers. Sure, you could stay in the typical hotel or bed and breakfast, but these are often unnecessarily pricey – and when you’re travelling, you want to keep costs as low as possible.

Instead, why not stay in a typical backpacker hostel; a very popular option, they’re typically more basic than the average hotel, with simple bunks in dormitories – or private rooms for a slightly higher price.

In some of the more popular tourist spots such as the Bay Islands or Copan, the hostels have better facilities and are often just a bit nicer than in the more rural areas.

Honduras is also fantastic for activity hostel and eco-lodges if you’re looking for something a bit extra from your stay. For anyone looking to scuba dive, snorkel, or enjoy their time in the water a bit more, many of the scuba diving centres in Utila and Roatan are also hostels themselves.

Plus, given that the country is full of lush forests and jungles, there are a number of high-quality eco-lodges for the environmentally-conscious travellers. Head to any of the national parks – like the Pico Bonito National Park just outside of La Ceiba – to make the most of these.

Food and Drink

You’re going to want to completely forget about your diet while you’re in Argentina, because the food is amazing – and very rich. One dish sure to expand your waistline is Milanesa, first brought over by immigrants during the Italian diaspora, the dish is made from beef or chicken which has been rubbed in breadcrumbs, then baked or fried, and topped with a fried egg, cheese, or tomato sauce.

A very traditional Argentinian dish involves llama steak – which also happens to be incredibly healthy. The fat content of a llama steak is lower than that of a traditional steak, and it’s typically served in empanadas, or as a dish in its own right.

If you’re in Argentina on the 25th May, make sure you try the Locro. A national dish served to celebrate Argentina’s May Revolution, it’s a stew made from corn, tripe, red chorizo and then either beef or pork.

In terms of drink, sampling the local red wine is a must, with many restaurants often serving their house red wine in ceramic carafes in the shape of a penguin on the table. There’s also something called a fernet, which is mixed with Coke and has a bitter, liquorice-esque taste to it.

Cultural Tips

Luckily, Argentina has maintained a lot of its European roots – including very late dinner hours, which can be jarring for some travellers. This means that, generally, it’s fairly easy to fit in and avoid offending anyone.

However, just to be on the safe side, here are a few things to bear in mind while backpacking through Argentina:

  • Sharing really is caring: it’s common that you’ll find groups of friends ordering a Yerba Mate, which comes in a small cup with a straw shared by everyone.
  • Don’t eat on the street or while on public transport
  • Argentines often use nicknames based on physical appearance – don’t be insulted if you start being referred to by the colour of your hair, eyes, or size
  • Tip 10% at restaurants, but there’s no need to tip taxi drivers
  • Arriving at a party or gathering 20-40 minutes late is the norm
  • Expect to be kissed on the cheek and hugged when greeting people

Handy Phrases

Technically, the language of Argentina is Spanish. However, it’s not the same Spanish that’s spoken in Spain, or even the variation you find a lot of throughout South America.

Instead, Argentines speak a very distinctive version of Spanish known as Castellano Rioplatense.

  • Phrase
  • Holá
  • Gracias/De Nada
  • Dónde está… ?
  • Como te llamas
  • Buenas dia/buenas tardes/buenas noches
  • Che
  • Mira vos
  • Cómo andás
  • Qué copado!
  • Dale!
  • Buenos ondas
  • Sin bolsa de plastic
  • Oye boludo/che
  • Translation
  • Hello
  • Thanks/You’re Welcome
  • Where is… ?
  • What’s your name?
  • Good morning/Good afternoon/Good night
  • Hey/Man (start of sentence)
  • Look at you
  • How’s it going?
  • Cool!
  • Let’s go!
  • Good stuff
  • No plastic bag
  • Hey big balls (familiar, friendly greeting towards friends)/crazy

Getting Around

Unless you’re in Buenos Aires, don’t rely on any form of subway because the cities just don’t have them. Instead, public buses are the cheapest and easiest way to get around, and a single ride can cost as little as 25 cents.

The long distance bus serviced in Argentina is also pretty decent; it’s common to have food onboard as well as Wi-Fi, and the buses travel between a number of different cities and towns. It can be a little pricey, but by far cheaper than flying with tickets starting from $38.

Visa Requirements

South American citizens are lucky enough to be able to visit Argentina without a visa at all, but otherwise it’s necessary to get one ahead of arrive, and they typically last between 30 and 90 days.

Most western nations are able to get a free visa, but otherwise countries will need apply for one ahead of their trip – including China, India, all countries in Africa except South Africa.

Is It Safe?

For the most part, Argentina is safe to travel around, although like many countries there are still some areas to be cautious of, and things to watch out for.

The large urbanised areas, such as those found in Buenos Aires, typically receive a lot of crime compared to the more rural locations, so make sure you keep an eye on any valuables and belongings.

Ultimately, just make sure you trust your gut instinct, and if you wouldn’t do it at home then don’t do it in Argentina.

A Brief History

Before the 16th century, Argentina did not exist as a country as we know it today – although there is evidence of human habitation on the land that dates back to at least 7000 B.C.

It was during the early 1500s that the Spanish discovered the New World and began travelling to the country in search of silver, and other treasures – hence the name Argentina, which loosely translates to mean “silver”.

The first official navigator to arrive from Spain was Juan Díaz de Solís in 1516, although he died shortly after his arrival following a fight with natives. Then, in 1520, Fernando de Magallanes arrived, but he again died during his stay here.

Spanish navigators who travelled over to discovered treasures never actually found any, although they still claimed the country in the name of the King of Spain. For over 300 years, Argentina was a Spanish territory, and thousands of Spanish settlers arrived to make the country their home, building houses, forts, mines, and ports.

In 1806, British forces tried to usurp the Spanish rulers, but they failed. Instead, they ignited a local revolution against the Spanish, prompting a war for independence that results in Buenos Aires being formally declared independent on July 9th 1816.

Interesting Facts

  • The name Argentina comes from the Latin word “argentum”, meaning “silver”
  • Buenos Aires is the most visited city in South America
  • During 2001, Argentina managed to have 5 presidents over the course of just 10 days
  • The world’s earliest plants called “Liverworts” were first found in Argentina, and they’re distinctive because they have no roots or stems
  • It was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in South America, passing the law in 2010
  • Argentina was the first country to use fingerprinting as a method of identification in 1892
  • Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires, and worked as a bouncer before he became the pope

Extra Resources

If you really want to make the most of your time in Argentina, then check out these useful resources. When you’re backpacking, it’s always better to be safe and prepared than winging it.

  • Links incoming

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