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Argentina

Argentina Tours

An Argentina adventure tour will help you discover the second largest country in South America. There is massive variety on offer and nature lovers can witness the power of Iguazú Falls, one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls, as well as discover the wildlife of the vast Ibera wetlands on an Argentina adventure tour or visit the Valdés Peninsula. Those wanting to witness the vibrant culture of the Argentine people will be spoilt with everything from immaculately-dressed tango dancers popping up in city plazas to weather-hardened traditional 'gauchos' that work the mighty pampas.

Why not take in the glorious windswept steppe of Patagonia, watch ice calving off the azure Perito Moreno Glacier, hike in stunning national parks and cruise the beautiful Beagle Channel of Tierra del Fuego. After exploring the new-world wine scene of Mendoza and Salta, culture vultures will love the stunningly beautiful city of Buenos Aires, with its “olde worlde” European architecture, foot-stomping tango halls, award-winning restaurants, passionate crowds at fútbol (soccer/football) games, language schools, designer boutiques and lively nightlife. You will not be disappointed on an Argentina adventure tour, this amazing country never fails to satisfy the avid traveller.

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Route: Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro
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Route: Ushuaia to Ushuaia
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Route: El Calafate to Ushuaia
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Route: Santiago to Buenos Aires
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Route: Salta to Salta
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Route: Santiago to Rio de Janeiro
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Argentina Travel Articles, Inspiration & Information

Top 10 most romantic places on group tours

Buenos Aires is one of the most romantic cities in South America. Read our full list on why group tours are not just for solo travellers but are also very popular with couples. On group tours there are as many opportunities to share an intimate moment with your loved one. Here we suggest some of our most romantic destinations. Read more

An Insider’s View on Patagonia

The wild, untamed landscapes of Patagonia in the most southern tip of South America may seem like a faraway destination. The region, situated between Argentina and Chile is remote. Famous for its vast national parks and jaw-dropping natural wonders, it is a destination to be conquered and explored.  Read more

Visiting Iguassu Falls

Iguazu Falls, also known as Iguassu Falls has to be seen to be believed. Read Fabio Mora's account about experiencing the mighty falls, that can be seen from both Argentina and Brazil.  Read more

Independently Verified Travel Reviews From Past Clients

Argentina Travel Guide

Argentina Travel Guide

Considering its size it is little wonder Argentina contains such a varied array of attractions and highlights. The central jewel, of course, is the elegant, modern, vibrant city of Buenos Aires, but if this is all you see of Argentina, then you haven't seen Argentina. The north-west is characterised by mineral-painted, multi-hued hills punctuated with cacti and tradition indigenous villages. In contrast, the south has dramatic windswept steppes, jagged Andean peaks, vast glaciers and quaint European-influenced hamlets. Between the two is a range of different lands, cultures and experiences. From wine tasting to waterfalls, colonial villages to cowboys, Argentina is not only immense in size, but also in diversity, offering much to be explored.

Money

The currency of Argentina is the peso (symbol: AR$) which is made up of 100 centavos. Bank notes come in 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 peso denominations. Coins come in 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo denominations. Large bills may be difficult to change for small purchases, so be sure to carry some smaller notes when heading to markets. Counterfeiting can be a problem in Argentina which is another reason why large bills are sometimes treated with suspicion. If you receive large bills, be sure to check them closely.

ATMs are available in virtually all cities and towns and accept major international cards. Fees between ATMs may vary and there may be a local charge in addition to the charges made by your home bank. Money changing services are available in banks and bureau de change offices are the easiest money to change is US dollars, Euros, Chilean pesos and Uruguayan pesos. Other currencies may be more difficult to exchange outside of the capital city. Note that ATMs in Argentina do not give out US dollars.

Argentina suffered an economic collapse in 2001-2002 when the peso, which was previously pegged 1:1 with the US dollar, was floated. After the crash, Argentina was an inexpensive destination but owing to inflation, travel costs are rising rapidly. Saying that, it is still a reasonable priced destination on a par with Western Europe destinations in popular areas. As of 2010 a two-course meal in a restaurant cost around US$25 and a litre bottle of beer US$4.

Major Cities and Towns in Argentina

Buenos Aires is the capital city and the heart of the country. To the west of Buenos Aires heading towards the Andes are Cordoba and Mendoza, both known as charming destination cities in their own right. In the far north-west, Salta and Jujuy are two provincial capitals with an air of colonial outposts in an arid desert land. Heading to the north-east corner of the country, Corrientes is a junction city many pass through on their way to Iguazu. Although often overlooked its French and Italian influenced buildings and riverside Costanera make it a worthy stop. In the far north of the country bordering with Brazil, is Puerto Iguazu, a popular town owing to its proximity to the famed Iguazu Falls. The south of Argentina has a completely different feel, often with European-style towns and a cooler, temperate climate. Bariloche is a quaint Andean town with chocolate shops, lakes and ski slopes nearby. On the coast, Puerto Madryn is the gateway to the Peninsula Valdes where much marine life can be seen. At the very southern tip of the country, Ushuaia is known as the 'End of the World' and is the port from where cruises to Antarctica depart.

Electricity

Electricity supply in Argentina is 220 volts and the most common plug sockets are the three flat pronged plug such as is used in Australia and New Zealand and the two-pronged round plug found in Europe. If in doubt, take a universal adaptor to cover your bases.

Etiquette and Culture

Argentina is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic with 92% of the country following the faith. The remaining population are made up of Jewish, Protestant or other. Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America. The majority of Argentinians are of European descent from a mixture of Spanish, Italian, Scottish, English, German and Swiss ancestry. There are still small pockets of indigenous, pre-colonial culture, mostly in the north, north-west and the south of the country.

The national language in Argentina is Spanish, or Castellano as it is called locally. In contrast to the Spanish spoken in Spain, Castellano has a more Italian accent and unlike Spain the 's' and 'c' are pronounced as they are in English rather than European Spanish 'th'. They also use a different form of the pronoun 'you', saying 'vos' instead of 'tu' which affects the way verbs are conjugated. If you have any Spanish however, you should be able to get by. Argentinians tend to be patient with those that are learning and much of the television and music comes from Spain and other Latin American countries, ensuring they are familiar with more than just their own form of the language.

Argentinians are friendly and gregarious, valuing conversation which can go on well into the night. It is customary to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. Some regions do one kiss on the cheek, others two and some, including areas in Buenos Aires, even do three kisses. In a more formal setting a handshake may be more appropriate. It is best to follow the lead of your hosts. Argentina's population is modern and well-educated, so provided you behave with courtesy and respect you should have no issues.

Geography

Argentina has a total land area of 2.8 square kilometres, making it the eighth largest country in the world. It is made up of several geographic zones, including the flat prairies of La Pampa, the Litoral zone in the north-east, the Andean region of the north-west, the Cuyo and Patagonia. La Pampa is a temperate region, characterised by cattle ranches and far-reaching grasslands. It extends from Buenos Aires west encompassing the central part of the country and has the highest density of human habitation. The Litoral zone is the great floodplain and delta of the Rio Parana lying directly north of Buenos Aires. It has a humid climate and high rainfall. Northwestern Argentina has the highest peaks in Latin America including Aconcagua (6,962m), the highest peak in the western hemisphere. It is very dry in this area, with arid desert and high peaks. From here, the Andes continue south in what is called the Cuyo region. It is very picturesque with the Andean mountains, foothill and mountain-fed rivers irrigating the lower land. Patagonia is the name given to the lower reaches of the continent, an area shared by both Argentina and Chile. It receives strong winds and cool winters and has a very beautiful landscape of snowy mountains, granite cliffs, sprawling Patagonian steppe, immense glaciers, lakes and pine forests. It also has a jagged, rocky coastline which is relatively undeveloped.

History

Argentina's early history belongs to the various indigenous groups that inhabited the area. The Guarani in the north, the hunter-gatherer Querandi on the Pampa, the Pehuanches and Puelches around the Lake District and Patagonia and the Mapuche of the west to name but a few. Some groups in the north had contact with the Inca empire, shaping their culture as distinct from the other groups further east and south.

The Spanish arrived just over a decade after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas and the first attempt at settlement occurred in 1536 by Pedro de Mendoza on the site of modern day Buenos Aires. Within five years the settlement fell to disease and attacks by Indians. By 1580 Buenos Aires was re-established, but remained a backwater controlled by the Viceroy of Lima. All goods were transported to Lima overland and from there shipped to Spain via Panama. These harsh controls and lack of prosperity led to smuggling until the Spanish Crown was finally forced by circumstance to realise the importance of Buenos Aires as providing a direct transatlantic route and made Buenos Aires the capital of the Viceroy of the Rio de la Plata in 1776.

In the 18th century, the local people of Spanish descent grew to resent the authority of a far off monarch and two years after Napoleon invaded Spain, Buenos Aires declared independence from the Spanish Crown on May 25, 1810. Independence movements swept through the country uniting the provinces until, under General Jose de San Martin, formal independence was declared in Tucaman on July 9, 1816 as the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, the forerunner of the Argentine republic.

The power vacuum left by the departure of Spanish rule allowed for the rise in caudillos (landowners/local strong men) taking regional control. In the early 19th century, Juan Manual de Rosas, a caudillo in Buenos Aires, rose to prominence, centralising power and eventually becoming the country's first dictator. His extreme measures including a brutal police force and institutionalised torture were finally his downfall and he was ousted by previous supporter and rival caudillo, Justo Jose de Urquiza and his army. Urquiza then wrote the country's constitution which was formalised in Santa Fe on May 1, 1853.

The region was united under the Argentine Confederation and in 1862 Bartolome Mitre became the first elected president of the new Republic of Argentina. While his time as president was mostly taken up by the War of the Triple Alliance (the Paraguayan War), soon after Argentina began to experience an economic boom and its prosperity attracted an influx of European immigrants. This came to an end with the global Great Depression of the 1930s and the military took over the country and in the 1940s colonel Juan Domingo Peron emerged onto the political stage and he won the presidency in 1946 with the help of his wife Eva Duarte, who came to be affectionately known to the Argentine people as 'Evita'. Evita was known for campaigning for the poor and vulnerable, building housing, providing health services for the aged and extending woman's suffrage. She died of cancer at aged 33, at the start of her husband's second term in office and to this day attracts a near saint-like status. Juan Peron ruled with an iron fist, although during his time in power he did much for the people; he was eventually ousted by military coup in 1955.

In the 1960s and early 70s there were protests and anti-government riots against the country's military rulers. In 1976 general Jorge Rafael Videla took over by military coup and began a dark era of brutality and terror, known as the 'Dirty War' from 1976-83. In order to restore order, the government's security forces arrested, tortured and killed any they believed to have anti-government or leftist sympathies. Tens of thousands of people disappeared during this time, never to be found.

In 1982, in an attempt to restore nationalist sentiment, then president general Leopoldo Galtieri launched an invasion on the British controlled Falkland Islands seeking to reclaim them as Argentina's Islas Malvinas. The Falklands War lasted just 74 days before Argentina surrendered and the military regime collapsed.

Economic mismanagement and the pegging of the value of the peso to the US dollar led to a financial crisis in 2001-2002 during which time there were mass strikes and protests and the peso was severely devalued. Argentina ended up defaulting on $140 billion in foreign debt, the largest default in world history. Nestor Kirchner was voted in as president in April 2003 who did much to restore stability and bring back Argentina's economy. After his term ended, his wife Cristina Kirchner ran and won with an overwhelming majority, making her Argentina's first elected female president.

Top Attractions and Highlights in Argentina

1. Buenos Aires

A famous capital and enigmatic city, Buenos Aires has gained a reputation as the country's cultural heart. The possibilities here are diverse and numerous. Visit the colourful neighbourhood of La Boca, watch tango in the street, marvel at the domes and arches of colonial architecture, visit a steak house or shop your heart out in one of the trendy boutique areas.

2. Iguazu Falls

One of the natural world's crowning glories, this set of majestic waterfalls are nestled in verdant rainforest with jewel-like butterflies and skittering coati (mammals related to the racoon), tropical birds and iguanas. Explore the national park by board-walk or boat, some of which can take you right underneath the falls for a unique perspective on the falling water's power.

3. Bariloche

A charming lakeside hamlet is reminiscent of a Swiss village with beautiful surrounding scenery and a wealth of chocolate shops and gnome statues. Popular year round, the surrounding terrain offers many activities including hiking, fishing, mountain biking and skiing.

4. Quebrada de Humahuaca

The valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca in Argentina's north-west offers dramatic, desolate landscape of bare, mineral-stained earth and eroded scalloped formations. Local villages which include Humahuaca, the largest village in the valley and Purmamarca which offer local culture and fine artisan markets along their cobbled streets.

5. Mendoza

Argentina's largest wine growing region, Mendoza is a great place to sample the local produce. The city has leafy boulevards and cafe culture and outside city limits you can go mountaineering, white-water rafting or skiing.

6. Los Glaciares National Park

Home of the immense ice field Perito Moreno Glacier, and Argentina's largest body of freshwater Lago Argentina, Los Glaciares National Park is an area of intense natural beauty. There are short walks, boat trips, ice climbing and hiking available in the area.

7. Peninsula Valdes

One of the best places in the world to view marine life, wild inhabitants of the local waters include southern right whales, killer whales, Magellanic penguins, sea lions, elephants seals and bird life. You can walk along the shore, take a boat ride out, or go kayaking or diving to get really close to the action.

8. Cordoba

Famous for its night life owing to several local universities and young population, Cordoba is Argentina's second city and has a vibrant cultural scene. It also has some interesting history with Jesuit ruins and several museums.

9. Ibera Wetlands

Prime wildlife watching opportunities exist in the protected wetlands north of Buenos Aires. Travel by boat spotting alligators, bird life, monkeys, swamp deer and the world's largest rodent, the capybara.

Guide to food in Argentina

Beef

Blame the Spanish for Argentina's love affair for a good steak. They brought cattle with them from Europe and ideal conditions on the fertile grasslands of Las Pampas meant that Argentina is now a prime beef-eating nation. Parilla (grill) restaurants are the best place to sample this local meat which is famous for its tenderness, tastiness and generous portion sizes.

Also a well-known favourite is chorizo, or sausage, also cooked on the grill or in my casual settings served in a bread roll as a snack called choripan.

Italian

Immigrants had a big influence on the cuisine here and you will find plenty of pasta and pizza dishes here owing to Argentina's strong Italian heritage. They also brought with them the ever-popular gelato which can be purchased from ice cream parlours called heladarias. Pastries – called facturas - are also a popular local food eaten at breakfast or afternoon tea.

Mate

Pronounced mah-tay, it is more than just a drink and is an enduring symbol of the country and a daily ritual for many. A type of tea made from the dry leaves (yerba) of a plant related to holly, it is drunk from a cup (also called a mate) through a silver straw with a filter at the end to stop the tea leaves from being sucked up. The cup is filled with leaves and then covered in boiling water from a flask and the cup is passed around a group, refilled each time it is passed around. You will see locals drinking it on the street, in shops and in parks and it is a social tradition as much as a culinary characteristic.

Alfajores

Those with a sweet tooth will be pleased, these sweet filled biscuits are everywhere and every province has its own variations. Alfajores are a type of biscuit sandwich, often filled with dulce de leche (another local sweet speciality of milk caramel). They can range from cheap snacks in foil wrappings, to elegantly wrapped delicacies.

Empanadas

Small stuffed pastry turnovers – like miniature cornish pasties – these little dishes come with a variety of fillings, including ground beef, corn or even sweet empanadas filled with mambrilla, a quince paste.

Chipa

Mostly found in the north-east although it is possible to find it in Buenos Aires as well, these little cheese bread balls made of tapioca flour are hot, chewy and tasty.

10 Interesting Facts about Argentina

1. Punta Tombo, not far from the Peninsula Valdes, is the home of South America's largest nesting colony of Magellanic penguins with over half a million birds.

2. Tango is believed to have originated in Argentina in the 1880s, started by the immigrant populations tightly packed into the tenement buildings of Buenos Aires in the bars, bordellos and cafes that became popular. It was exported to Europe where it became a craze in Paris before returning to Argentina in its evolved, refined form.

3. Argentina has the highest point in the western hemisphere, Cerro Aconcagua at 6962 metres.

4. One of the animals that makes the Ibera wetlands in north-east Argentina its home is the capybara, the largest rodent in the world. It is semi-aquatic with webbed feet and can weight up to 75 kilograms. It is also known by the name carpincho in Spanish.

5. Argentina is a famous wine producing country, best known for its Malbecs and Pinot Noirs. The most prolific wine region is Mendoza, producing the majority of Argentina's wines. Smaller wine producing areas include the neighbouring province of San Juan, Cafayate a city in the north and the southern province of Neuquen.

6. Like Brazil, Argentina has its very own Carnaval. Although celebrations are not as big as its neighbours, northern cities such as Corrientes and Gualeguaychu are party hot spots where sequins and hip shaking dances abound. Dates fall in and around February each year.

7. Mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a daily ritual for many Argentinians and you will see it drunk out of cups, often made of hollowed out gourd and ornately decorated, through a silver straw called a bombilla everywhere you go. The mate yerba is a relative of the holly plant and its dried leaves fill the cup and hot water is poured over top. Argentina is one of the world's largest producers and consumers of mate, comsuming an estimated 5kg per person per year.

8. Despite most of the world's glaciers receding, Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park is considered stable and advances up to 2 metres per day often causing dramatic natural shows of massive icebergs calving from its face. The glacier is 5 kilometres wide and 60 metres high.

9. During the oppression, torture and disappearances of the late 1970s, a group called Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (The Mothers of May Plaza) was formed of mothers protesting the disappearances of their children. This group would become an important social movement, and marches and demands continued for many years after the brutal military rule ended in their search for information and justice.

10. Football is an important part of Argentine life and Argentina has won the Fifa World Cup twice (1978 and 1986) and Olympic gold twice (2004 and 2008).

Best time to travel in Argentina

Seasons

Argentina falls entirely in the southern hemisphere, so experiences winter from June-August and summer from December-February. Given its size it is fair to say it is a year-round destination unless you are travelling to the far southern reaches of the country in which case it is best to visit between the months of October and March. For the rest of the country, summer offers the hottest weather and accordingly, the biggest crowds. Winters are mild throughout the central and northern parts of the country and winter can be the best time to visit the far north.

When to travel

There are several events throughout the calendar which are worth considering when planning a voyage to Argentina. Mendoza's grape harvests and wine festival falls in late February to early March and features concerts, folk music and events. In Corrientes and Gualeguaychu have their very own Carnaval which, while not as big as neighbouring Brazil, offers a colourful party atmosphere. July is when schools have their vacations, so if possible it is best to travel outside this time, or book your travel well in advance. In the south, the ski season is between June to August and Argentina boasts some fine skiing opportunities including its most famous ski resort, Las Leñas.

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