Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Argentina
Though the Brazilians boast of their outstanding views over the falls, Argentina is blessed with about 80% of Iguazu, lovingly threaded by several kilometers of paved trails and catwalks that could keep you occupied for three days. A free "jungle train" connects several trailheads.
The Upper Circuit Trail offers outstanding views over Mbigua Falls and the undulating Iguazu River, before dropping toward misty Bernabe Mendez Falls. The Lower Circuit Trail has more views, as well as access to motorboat trips under the falls, whitewater rafting, and a free ferry to Isla San Martin, with even more to explore. Whatever you do, don't miss the vistas over Garganta del Diablo. No matter where you trek, you will get soaking wet. And that's not a bad thing on a hot summer day in Argentina. Though Puerto Iguazu, 17km (10mi) from the park, is the smallest of the three cities here at the triple border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, it has a great deal to offer tourists.
In all of Argentina—or perhaps the world—has a stretch of 114 miles ever looked so good. Patagonia is known for holding some of the world’s most breathtaking alpine landscapes, and the section known as “Road of the Seven Lakes” is the most spectacularly scenic of it all. Beginning in Villa de Angostura to the north of Bariloches, the road travels all the way to San Martin de los Andes on the shores of Lake Lacár. In between, visitors are treated to epic vistas that stretch all the way out towards Chile, and pass by shimmering cobalt lakes such as Correntos, Espejo, and Falkner. The name of the road is actually a misnomer since there are far more than seven lakes, although all combine to create pinchworthy scenery that borders on the surreal. By summer the road is clear of snow and is the most popular time to visit, although unpaved section can occasionally become muddy after exceptionally heavy rains.
Nahuel Huapi National Park, which surrounds the lake of the same name, and within which San Carlos de Bariloche is located, is an expansive park of nearly 1.8 million acres, and Argentina’s oldest national park.
The park actually contains another park, Parque nacional Los Arrayanes, which is where the much-visited Quetrihué peninsula is. This peninsula is home to a large tract of 300-650 year old red-to-light-brown-barked Arrayan trees.
The larger park covers a large range of altitude, from 700 to 3400 meters, and contains four distinct ecosystems, from high Andean peaks (above 1600 meters), including the imposing Cerro Tronador, Andean forests, Valdivian rainforests and (mostly treeless) windblown Patagonian steppe.
With four different ecosystems, there is a great variety of different types of vegetation, including several types of Patagonian beech.
It would be a shame if, while visiting Mendoza, Argentina’s most populous city in the western part of the country, you didn’t make it up to the Andes. Not only to see the border between Chile and Argentina, but most importantly, to glimpse these giants of the mountain world, including Aconcagua, which is the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere, at 6962 meters or 22,841 feet. A winding drive up from Mendoza reveals snowcapped peaks at every turn, and short turnoff brings you to a mirador, or lookout point, for Aconcagua itself.
While climbing the mountain is a serious affair, subject to permits, regulations and climbing fees, visiting the Provincial park of Aconcagua requires little more than a three-hour drive from Mendoza, and also puts you close to the Puente del Inca, a nearby natural attraction. Once at the Aconcagua Park, you have a few options for day hikes, including a one-hour loop suitable for children.
The Andes Mountains, which form Argentina’s backbone, are to the far west of the country, and separate this nation from bordering Chile. They extend most of the length of South America (some 4,300 miles), stretching down from Venezuela through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and finally, Argentina. At their widest, the Andes are about 430 miles wide and measure an average of 13,000 feet high, which means they are visible from many miles away.
Most visitors to Argentina’s closest connection with the Andes will be from near Mendoza, one of the main wine-growing regions in the country, with its popular Malbec (red) wine. Mendoza is just east of the Andes, and from here, it is possible to visit a lookout point with a good view of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain on the continent, as a day trip. The 22,841 foot mountain is a favorite among mountain climbers, but it an intensive trip that requires planning, training and high-mountain gear.
Potrerillos is an artificial lake surrounded by snow-dotted mountains and cypress forests on Mendoza’s doorstep. A dammed waterway on the Mendoza River, the lake measures 12 km long, 3 km wide (7.5 miles long, 2 miles wide). Popular as a day-trip and weekend destination from Mendoza, it’s the outdoor venue for rafting, paragliding and lakeside hiking.
The region has developed into a popular resort area, and a cluster of hotels, resort villas, clubs and sports facilities have sprung up to cater to day-trippers and visitors looking for outdoor activities. Choose from kayaking, guided treks, horseback riding, mountain biking and fly-fishing for trout.
Porteños often boast about Avenida 9 De Julio as the world’s widest boulevard, and with a width of 460 feet (140 meters) with 12 lanes of traffic, they might just be right. Construction on the avenue began in 1937, modeled after the Champs Elysees but twice as wide, and built to commemorate Argentina’s Independence Day, July 9, 1816. It wasn’t fully completed until 1980.
Neo-classical and Beaux Arts buildings line the monumental street, but it’s most recognizable feature is the iconic Obelisco that towers over a small park at the intersection of Avenida 9 De Julio and Avenida Corrientes.
More Things to Do in Argentina
Plaza de Mayo is Buenos Aires’ political heart, first mapped out in 1580. Today, the grassy, treed plaza attracts visitors with cameras and relaxing locals, and is also the venue for rallies and gatherings.
The center of the plaza features an obelisk called the Pirámide de Mayo, erected to commemorate independence from Spain. Grand 19th century buildings line the plaza, but the colonial arches that once circled the plaza are long gone. Nearby are the city council buildings known as the Cabildo, the Casa Rosada government buildings and fine bank buildings.
With its scenic waterways, riverside funfair and lively handicrafts market, the charming provincial town of Tigre offers a welcome change of pace from nearby Buenos Aires and draws a steady stream of porteños year-round. Located on the Tigre Delta (one of the world’s largest), at the meeting point of the Paraná River and the Río de la Plata estuary, Tigre is renowned for its idyllic surroundings, as well as its colonial architecture, Parque de la Costa theme park and modern casino.
The most popular pastime for visitors is cruising around the delta, a scenic expanse of marshlands dotted with islands, traditional stilt houses and floating markets. Water sports like kayaking and wakeboarding are also possible along the river during the summer months.
If you’re visiting El Calafate, there’s no way to miss the vast Lago Argentino. The city sits on the shore of this massive lake, the largest freshwater source in Argentina. It covers 566 square miles and is a result of glacial meltwater, which causes its milky blue color. The lake is part of Argentina’s Glacier National Park and is home to one of the area’s only advancing glaciers, Perito Moreno, which calves into Lago Argentino.
But Perito Moreno is not the only thing to see at Lago Argentino, and many visitors choose a full day of sightseeing on the lake, starting from El Calafate. Visits up the north arm to Upsala usually give visitors a chance to see calving glaciers up close, and the Spegazzini Glacier is the tallest one in the area, at almost 450 feet. Most visits also include the Onelli Glacier, and visitors are sometimes allowed to disembark along the shores and hike among native beech forest and red-blooming firebush.
While it may seem odd that one of Buenos Aires’ principal tourist attractions is a cemetery, the Recoleta Cemetery is no ordinary graveyard. Encircled by a towering perimeter wall and entered via a striking columned portico, Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world’s most exquisite necropolises; a glorious ‘City of the Dead’ that houses some of the country’s most prominent political, military and artistic icons.
Over 6,400 tombs are found in the Cemetery, laid out in formal tree-lined avenues and punctuated with beautifully sculpted monuments, poignant marble statutes and grand, bronze-cast mausoleums. Notable burial plots include the vivid white stone tomb of newspaper founder José C. Paz, flanked by a pair of dazzling Rubenesque angels; the ostentatious tomb of former Argentine president Carlos Pellegrini, featuring an elaborate statue of the controversial leader atop the coffin; and the evocative statues of crying widows kneeling beside the tomb of Colonel Falcon.
Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, the northern district of Palermo encompasses a number of city hotspots, favored by the city’s most cosmopolitan and fashionable residents. The ever-trendy Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood make up the old quarter of Palermo Viejo where grand residential buildings jostle for space with quirky boutiques and some of the city’s finest bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Palermo is also renowned for its parks and there are plenty of idyllic green spaces to choose from. The tree-lined Bosques of Palermo is a hugely popular picnic spot centered around a glistening lake and the family-friendly Zoological Gardens are surrounded by the lush Botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, the Evita Museum and the Galileo Galilei planetarium. Close by, the Palermo Hippodrome is situated next door to the legendary Campo de Polo sports ground, and the iconic Floralis Genérica art installation stands proud over the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas.
Like La Boca, the central barrio of San Telmo is one of Buenos Aires’ tango haunts.
Formerly an up-market residential area, the area’s crumbling mansions and atmosphere of faded glory form the perfect backdrop for the city’s artists and musicians who now call this inner-city enclave home. Visit on Sundays to browse the enormous Plaza Dorrego antiques fair, clap along to the tango buskers and relax with a drink at one of the surrounding cafes. The streets here are picturesquely cobbled, and the fascinating little shops are well worth a browse. Visit San Telmo at night to take in a tango show in one of the area’s many clubs.
The eye-catching salmon-pink façade of Argentina’s presidential palace is one of the capital’s most iconic sights, standing proud over the city’s historic Plaza de Mayo public square. The aptly named Casa Rosada, or the ‘Pink House’, is the secondary mansion and office of the Argentine President, housing the government offices and providing the striking backdrop to Buenos Aires’ often-turbulent political history.
Erected in 1862, the Renaissance-style palace was initially to be painted white and theories abound as to hoe it got its rosy makeover, from ox blood being mixed into the paint to the then-President blending the red and white colors of opposing political rallyists. Designated a National Historic Monument of Argentina, the pink palace is perhaps most legendary for its lower balcony, from which the beloved Evita rallied the working class crowds back in 1949 – a moment that was famously recreated by Madonna in the 1996 movie Evita.
Since 1908, the Colon Theatre (or Teatro Colón) has set the benchmark for gilded magnificence and the ultimate theater experience.
One of the world’s top five opera houses, the luxurious seven-story building seats 2,500 theater-goers on plush red velvet chairs on tiers of gilded balconies rising to giddying heights.
Guided tours highlight the gilt interior, chandeliers, illuminated dome and ceremonial staircases.
See what’s coming up on the theater’s schedule of performances, from opera and ballet to classical concerts.
Lapataia Bay is where Argentina’s RN 3 road ends, a road that is a continuation of the Pan-American Highway, which stretches all the way to Alaska. Roadies are always stopping to pose next to the sign here in Lapataia Bay, and it’s worth thinking about how far they’ve come to get there! According to the sign, the distance between this spot and Alaska is a whopping 11,090 miles (17,848 kilometers).
Most visitors don’t take the land route to Lapataia Bay, however, and instead fly into Argentina. The bay is within Parque National Tierra del Fuego, a popular day trip from Ushuaia, which sits only 10 miles away. The park offers a chance to get out into nature, overlook azure lakes and bays, walk through native beech forests and in season, catch both the firebush, which blooms bright red, and the spooky-looking orange “pan de indio,” golf ball-sized mushrooms that grow on some of the trees.
The Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse marks the dangerous rocks at the entrance to Ushuaia Bay in the Beagle Channel. Locals often wrongfully call this the Lighthouse at the End of the World, which is technically incorrect because the lighthouse Jules Verne made famous in his novel lies further east, but it’s oddly accurate, too; it’s the last mainland reference most sailors see on their way to Antarctica.
Located just five miles from Ushuaia, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is a common destination for short tourist sailing trips. The waters surrounding the lighthouse are a sea-goers dream, as penguins and both South American and fur sea lions are spotted regularly. Bird life is abundant, too, with black eyebrow albatrosses, steamer ducks and upland geese often seen on the nearby islands. Many tours also include landing on Karelo Island.
The highlight of any trip to Iguazu Falls is this massive complex of cascades that form a narrow chasm some 150m (500ft) long and 80m (262ft) high. The roaring falls and veils of spray create an awesome, full-sensory experience, which can be enjoyed from any number of vantage points.
The postcard-perfect view is from the Brazilian side, at the top of a 2km (1.2mi) trail ending in an elevator trip to the top of this natural wonder. To explore the falls up close, however, you'll need to take the Devil's Throat catwalks skipping across the deceptively calm waters atop the roaring falls. From there, you can watch as millions of liters of water drain violently into the river below.
Serious fans can splash out on a helicopter ride above the falls, available next to the visitors center on the Brazilian side.
Once a lackluster cargo port, the waterfront area of Puerto Madero is now one of Buenos Aires’ most fashionable districts, teeming with upmarket restaurants and glitzy nightclubs. Marooned from the mainland by the Rio de la Plata estuary, the largely pedestrianized island is celebrated for housing some of the city’s most architecturally stunning buildings. Luxury apartments, plush hotels and high-rise office towers dominate the area, encircling a stylish waterfront plaza and backed by an expanse of naturally preserved parkland.
The barrio’s pièce de résistance is the iconic Puente de la Mujer, or the Woman’s Bridge, an artistic swing-bridge that connects Puerto Madero to the mainland hub of Plaza de Mayo. The futuristic design by Spanish sculpture Santiago Calatrava, is said to symbolize an abstract tango dance and casts a striking silhouette on the city skyline.
- Things to do in Buenos Aires
- Things to do in Mendoza
- Things to do in Salta
- Things to do in Ushuaia
- Things to do in El Calafate
- Things to do in Puerto Madryn
- Things to do in Córdoba
- Things to do in El Chaltén
- Things to do in Cachi
- Things to do in San Miguel de Tucumán
- Things to do in Chile
- Things to do in Uruguay
- Things to do in The Pampas
- Things to do in Northwest Argentina
- Things to do in Patagonia