When you think about what to do and what to see in Argentina, you are truly spoilt for choice. The South American country is huge and offers many attractions for visitors: from the refined capital Buenos Aires to the boundless Patagonia, the Bariloche mountains, the lunar mountains of Salta, the immense vineyards of the Mendoza area, the magnificent old town of Córdoba, the spectacle of the Iguaza Falls and the equally amazing sight of whales off the Valdés peninsula.
The incredible variety of its geography and its vibrant culture, a mix of indigenous roots and European influences, give life to a country full of ideas, contrasts and great passions. Like the Tango, a fascinating expression of the Argentinian way of life. Or like football, people's favourite topic in the street and in cafes. We must not forget the food, where the best asada meat in the world reigns supreme.
Costa cruises in South America take you to explore Argentina through a series of stop-off destinations and excursions to the most beautiful places in the country, starting from Buenos Aires and as far as Patagonia. Here are the places not to miss on a trip to Argentina.
15 places to see in Argentina
- Buenos Aires
- La Plata
- La Patagonia
- Tigre and Parana Deltra
- Valdés Peninsula
- El Calafate
- El Bariloche
- El Chaltén and Fitz Roy
- Iguazù Falls
- Jujuy and Salinas Grandes
Buenos Aires, Argentina is often the first stop of a trip to Argentina, and in any case you can not come to this country without visiting its capital. There is also a Costa excursion that takes you to discover it!
It is also called "Paris of South America" for its elegance, the large tree-lined boulevards, the palaces reminiscent of those of the French capital and the big European cities. But of course there is much more to it than that: working-class or trendy neighbourhoods with their lively cultural life, the cult of fiesta, tango, and the cuisine. Buenos Aires is worth a long visit to get to know it, discover it and live it to the fullest.
It starts with the exploration of the metropolitan centre, where you can walk around the Casa Rosada (the presidential palace) and the sumptuous Opera House and take a break in the historic coffee houses , that have been (and still are) the hub of the city's culture: there are about eighty of them classified as notables, protected by a law that preserves them as historical heritage. Among the most famous, Il Tortoni, Las Violetas, Los 36 Billares, Bar Britànico and Café Margot.
Don't miss an evening of tango: in fact, the famous and sensual dance was born here. You can admire it during the shows that are often held in the street (the most popular are the ones in Plaza Dorrego) or in the dedicated halls, the milongas.
If you have to choose the most characteristic places to see on your city tour, focus on three in particular. La Boca, the port district founded by Genoese immigrants, with its brightly coloured wooden houses and popular atmosphere: pass by La Bombonera, the stadium of Boca Juniors, to understand the Argentine passion for football. San Telmo, San, a lively, genuine area that abounds with bars and small shops. Finally Palermo, the most artistic and trendy district, full of bohemian clubs and craft workshops and home to a famous market.
The provincial capital of Buenos Aires is La Plata, 60 km south of the Argentine capital. It is a truly original city, a destination for Costa excursions. The credit belongs to the city centre, which has an amazing layout. It was designed in the mid-1800s by the great urban planner Dardo Rocha in the rationalist style: looking at it from above is like seeing a perfect design, consisting of a grid of streets interspersed in an orderly fashion with squares and parks.
The urban structure consists of two perpendicular main streets, which cross each other in Plaza Moreno: it is the geometric centre of La Plata, from where the diagonal avenidas that branch throughout the city start. Each meeting point of the most important perpendicular routes consists of a garden or a small park. It's no coincidence that its nickname is "the ciudad de las diagonales". Walking and getting your bearings is also easy for those who have never been here.
You can visit the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, to which the locals are devoted: in the neo-Gothic style, it was modelled on the cathedrals of Amiens and Cologne and has stones of different colours (pink, black, grey). Near Plaza Moreno we find the Teatro Argentino (the second largest opera house in the country), a large grey building that looks like a fortress, an example of the brutalist architecture of the military regime. Stop for a visit to the Museo de La Plata, which tells the story of the city and its transformations from the prehistoric fossils found here.
A mythical land that exerts a magnetic appeal on travellers, Patagonia occupies the southern part of South America, and you can also come here on a Costa cruise. The Andes divide it into two parts, the lusher Chilean part and the drier Argentine part. Coming down from Buenos Aires, the verdant landscape of the Pampas gives way to an endless expanse of steppes and plateaus, a panorama that at the same time confuses yet excites.
Patagonia is littered with unique natural wonders in South America. The main attraction on the east coast is the Valdés Peninsula, a prime spot for whale watching.
Moving on instead to the Andes, proceeding from north to south, you will first of all encounter Bariloche, a mountain resort that looks totally like a village in the Alps, surrounded by lakes and mountains. Then you arrive in Trevelin, a town of Welsh origin, close to the two green oases of the Reserva Natural Nant & Fall and Los Alerces National Park.
Further south there are El Chaltén, a mecca for trekking lovers and the gateway for the two granite behemoths of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. El Calafate, on the shores of the Argentine Lake, is the starting point for the visit to the great glacier Perito Moreno. Lastly, past the Strait of Magellan, here is the wild Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, where you can walk through pristine forests and admire penguin colonies.
Welcome to the "end of the world". Located on the southern coast of the Great Island of the Tierra del Fuego, three thousand kilometres from Buenos Aires, Ushuaia is the southernmost city on the planet, and you can also reach it on a Costa cruise. The spectacular scenery that welcomes visitors is worthy of the name: the town is located on the Beagle Canal, closed behind by the Martial Mountains.
The first modern settlement was built in the second half of the nineteenth century by English missionaries, who settled in this area already populated for millennia by the indigenous people of Yamana. Ushuaia then became a penal colony, which was closed in 1947, and was then rebuilt by Italian immigrants who left an imprint on the local culture: at the restaurant, alongside typical specialities such as the centella (a large and tasty crab), you can also find the bagna cauda and the bonet, typical dishes from Piedmont.
The city is small and pleasant, but it attracts visitors especially for the naturalistic wonders of the area. Consider it mandatory to take a boat ride to explore the Beagle Canal, dotted with islets: you can get up close and personal with the penguin colonies, and some tours allow even you to take a walk amongst them.
The mountains behind the city offer pleasant trekking routes, especially the one that leads up to the white expanse of the Glaciar Martial. However, the most popular attraction on land is the World End Train, a steam railway that departs a few kilometres from the city and leads passengers through the wild scenery of the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The park, full of forests, lakes and waterways, is another fantastic place for hiking.
Tigre and the Parana Delta
Tigre is a small town 30km north of Buenos Aires, a perfect distance for a nature hike even if you arrived here on a Costa cruise. Already in the early 1900s, the noble portenos (the nickname of the inhabitants of the capital) came here on weekends to relax, enjoying the fresh air and the unspoilt nature of the Parana River. Today it is a year-round tourist resort, also frequented by international visitors, a city with a lively cultural life, and a production of quality craftsmanship: if you want to find the best Argentine antiques, you have to come here.
Tigre is located on the banks of one of the most important rivers of South America and is also covered by a series of other waterways that give rise to an oasis of river islets, rich in flora and fauna and amazing to visit. The city centre is divided in two by Parana: to the south is the centre, a place of social life and movida, with numerous clubs and restaurants; to the north unfolds the maze of water and islets that are part of the vast river delta.
You cannot spend a day in Tigre without a trip on the Delta, travelling to the wildest bank of the river, while sailing between the islets. If you want to explore this area better, the waters extend along a labyrinth of hundreds of kilometres of canals, where you can see even the simple lifestyle of the local people.
The Valdés Peninsula, 1400 km south of Buenos Aires, is the first taste of Argentine Patagonia. It stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean in a hammer shape through an isthmus. Most of its territory is arid, desert, lunar-like, interspersed here and there by salt lakes.
The main town in Valdés is Puerto Madryn, on the shores of the Golfo Nuevo. It was founded by English settlers in 1886 for its location, one of the most sheltered points on the coast. Here the main protagonist is the sea: in the city you can visit the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Oceanographic Museum, at the port, where you can learn about the flora and fauna of Patagonia, with marine animals such as giant squid.
The next step is to immerse yourself in nature: the Valdés Peninsula is famous for the extraordinary shows of whales who come here to mate and give birth between May and December, attracted by the calmer and warmer waters than other ocean areas. Embark on one of the many sea and cetacean tours between Golfo Nuevo Gulf and the Gulf of San José, admiring the evolution of the southern right whale that throws its tail out of the water. You can also come across sea elephants, sea lions and killer whales, and colonies of Magellano penguins. For this reason Valdés is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For anyone who ventures into Patagonia, El Calafate is a mandatory step. Not so much for the town itself, which still offers travellers all the facilities and services they may need, but because it is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, where one of the most incredible natural attractions in Argentina and the South America can be found: the Perito Moreno glacier.
It is about 80 km from El Calafate and you can easily get there by one of the many buses or by renting a car, an option that allows you to go and see it in the less crowded times of the day. Once you reach the vantage point, you won't believe your eyes: the gigantic glacier juts out into the waters of Lago Argentino with a wall that stretches for 5 km and at certain points is over 70 metres high. Perito Moreno advances every day by two metres and from time to time huge blocks of ice break off from the front and crash into the water with an impressive roar. You can spend hours and hours hypnotised by this superb spectacle.
Cruises on the lake also start from El Calafate, performing a slalom between icebergs of all shapes and sizes and allowing a close-up look at the Upsala, Spegazzini and Perito Moreno glaciers. Some agencies in the city also organise treks on the glacier surface.
San Carlos de Bariloche, known simply as Bariloche, stands on the shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi at the foot of the Andes, in northwestern Patagonia, and is the largest city in the Lake District.
Nestled amidst wonderful mountain scenery, it is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. Here you will always find something exciting to do, at any time of the year: in winter you can ski on the snow of the Cerro Catedral, while in the warmer months, trekking, fishing, rafting, canoeing, biking and horseback riding are all possible.
Bariloche has a curious history. Originally founded as a centre for the leather and cattle trade between Chile and Argentina, in the 1930s it was rebuilt inspired by Alpine architecture, with wooden and stone houses, so much so that it earned the nickname of "Switzerland in the Andes". Strolling through the centre you can admire buildings such as the Centro Cavico and the neo-Gothic cathedral of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi, and you will really feel like you are in a European village. Don't miss the quaint cafes and taste the chocolate produced here, which is the best in Argentina.
The trails that climb up the surrounding mountains offer beautiful unspoiled scenery. There are also numerous welcoming beaches for a relaxing day in the sun, such as Playa Bonita, Playa Melipal, Playa Serena and Villa Tacul on Lake Nahuel Huapi, or villa Los Cohiues and the western shore of Lake Gutiérrez. But be careful, before you go for a swim: the water is quite cold.
El Chaltén and Fitz Roy
El Chaltén is a small mountain village in the middle of nowhere at the foot of the Andes, and more than two hundred kilometres from the nearest town (El Calafate). It is a quiet place inhabited by a handful of people, with colourful houses and dirt roads. Yet it is considered the mountain capital of trekking, as a dense network of trails start here, that venture into the wonderful scenery of Los Glaciares National Park, filled with lakes and glaciers.
El Chaltén has the basic services for hikers, but you should not expect the amenities of the more developed tourist centres. On the other hand, you are here to walk, and those who go as far as El Chaltén are looking for nothing else.
Above all, the village is the starting point for reach two legendary mountains, amongst the most coveted and feared by climbers from all over the world: Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy (also known as Cerro Chaltén). They are two impressive granite pinnacles, the first 3128 metres and the second 3405 metres high, the scene of extraordinary mountaineering feats.
For normal "hikers", the ascent to the top of the two mountains is unthinkable, but it is possible to approach them while trekking one or more days to take in the breathtaking view of the peaks. One of the most popular trails is the one that leads to the Laguna de Los Tres, from where you are rewarded with a simply unforgettable view of the Fitz Roy, which alone is worth the trip to El Chaltén.
Talking of waterfalls, in the case of those of theIguazú, does not do them justic. On the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay there is an entire region where water is the absolute protagonist: an expanse of 275 waterfalls generated by the great river, made a UNESCO world heritage site. Iguaza National Park is one of the wonders of South America, frequented by tourists from all over the world, who spend a few day here taking advantage of the numerous sights in the area, and with its number of hotels and restaurants.
The Iguazu forms a curve and falls for 70 metres as if collapsing on itself, giving rise to a unique scene that will remain imprinted in your mind. Walk along the many hiking trails that allow you to reach various vantage points. The most impressive spectacle is the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), the highest and deepest waterfall and national symbol: the power and the roar of the jump convey the full force of nature.
There is also the possibility to reach the falls by jeep as part of safari-routes. Or, coming from the Argentine side, you can hop on the scenic trains that run through two circuits: one that follows the waterfalls to the water level, and another higher one that passes over suspended bridges from where you can admire the whole panorama.
The northwest of Argentina is the least explored and perhaps most interesting region for those looking for something different than the most popular attractions in the country. Salta, 1500 km from Buenos Aires, is the very centre of this area, a pleasant town that can serve as a reference point for venturing into the parks and villages in the surrounding area.
In this part of Argentina we can clearly see the presence of indigenous mountain culture, which merges with that of the gauchos from the plains and with the urban culture of the people from the big cities, thus creating an original mix. This is why in Salta, also called "La Linda" (the beautiful), you can find colonial buildings, modern palaces, boutique hotels, Indios markets, exotic plants and wide European-style boulevards.
From Salta it is a must to take a car and go north to see the harsh, unique scenery of the Quebrada de Humahuaca. Past the village of Tilcara, home to a beautiful market of Indios fabrics, and a valley populated with giant cacti, you enter an unparalleled lunar-like world: the Quebrada (which means "split") is a long canyon of 150 km with rock walls of multiple colours, from red ochre to yellow, from green to purple. You will arrive at Cerro de los Siete Colores near Purmamarca, an impressive mountain with seven colours, all on top of each other.
Jujuy and the Salinas Grandes
The landscape of Salinas Grandes (great salt marshes), in the Jujuy province near the border with Chile, is becoming one of Argentina's most iconic. We are in the Andes, at 3350 metres altitude, but the view is not of snowy peaks. Instead it is white desert. The Salinas Grandes, between the villages of Purmamarca and San Antonio de los Cobres, is an endless expanse (12 thousand hectares) of salt, an almost extraterrestrial place.
The lagoon was formed thanks to the salt-rich waters produced by the volcanic activity in the surrounding area, which on evaporating left a 30 cm thick white crust.
Getting to the Salinas Grandes is an adventure of its own. It starts from Purmamarca, a thousand metres below, and travels through several hairpin bends along the national road 52 up to the Pass of Cuesta de Lipon, at 4170 metres. On descent, the white desert opens up, sometimes covered with a layer of water in the rainy season. To make the most of the dazzling view of the salt marshes, it is best to arrive early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
The Mendoza area offers interesting attractions for nature lovers: the city is located about a thousand kilometres from Buenos Aires, at the end of the immense plain of the Argentine Pampas, where the first slopes of the Andes begin. You can't miss a visit here, especially if you are a wine lover: here you come to visit the wine cellars, from the oldest to the most modern, with vineyards as far as the eye can see, immersed in the panorama of the Andes peaks, to be explored by car or on horseback. The most famous wine produced in Mendoza is the prized Malbec, to be enjoyed together with the Argentine steaks that are some of the best and most natural in the world.
Mendoza, known as "the land of sun and wine", has a centre characterised by squares and large tree-lined boulevards where it is a pleasure to walk. While wandering around the city, don't miss the Plaza Espana, with its Andalusian-style palaces, Plaza Independencia, where some of the best restaurants are located, and the green space of the Parque General San Martin.
Mendoza is also a great starting point for walks, long treks and horseback riding. About three hours from the city is the Parque Nacional Sierra de las Quijadas, where you can go rafting and mountain biking.
700 km northwest of Buenos Aires is the city of Cordoba, the second largest in Argentina. It was one of the first cities in South America, founded by Spanish missionaries, and still bears many traces of the domination by the Iberian monarchy. It is located in the heart of the Pampas Plain, on the banks of the Primiero River and near the small mountain range of the Sierras Chicas.
This strategic location has made Cordoba the country's largest economic centre for centuries; in the second half of the twentieth century it was the centrepiece of the national aviation industry. Its wealth has translated into a beautiful city full of architectural attractions. Visit the central streets and stop at the Manzana Jesutica, the former mission built by the first religious orders of the Society of Jesus in the 1600s: it now houses a university and several schools. Stroll through Humberto Primo, Avenida Colon, General Paz, and explore the Cerro de las Rosas district with its restaurants and shops in the ancient buildings. Why not stay there in the evening for a tour of the lively nightclubs.
Trevelin is located in western central Argentina, near the border with Chile, in the remote Patagonia province of Chubut. Despite being a small town, there are several reasons to visit it. First of all its uniqueness: the city was founded in 1888 by settlers of Wales and owes its name to a curious mix between the Welsh words ‘tre’ (house, village) and ‘felin’ (mill). Even today, the Welsh culture is very much alive: Celtic is taught in in schools, there are several tea rooms, the road signs are in three languages (Spanish, Welsh and Mapudungun, the Chilean language) and there are annual celebrations connected with the town’s the origins.
Trevelin is in a strategic location for those who want to explore this part of Andean Patagonia: it stands at the end of the immense grasslands at the centre of the country, just before the mountains. On one side, the landscape is that of grazing herds, on the other, the cypress tree forests populated by wild animals begin. From here you can go hiking in the Reserva Natural Nant & Fall and in Los Alerces National Park, strolling amongst the larches along the Arrayanes River and reaching the scenic Lago Verde.
Map of Argentina
Visit Argentina with Costa Cruises
It takes more than a trip to explore Argentina: it is such a large and varied country that it is almost impossible to exhaust it at once. But with a Costa cruise you can get to know it starting with its most important places: the elegant and lively capital Buenos Aires, the end-of-the-world landscapes of Patagonia, the Parana Delta... An experience that will remain in your heart and will most likely make you want to return to Argentina to visit it more thoroughly.