Argentina contains some of the world’s most magical landscapes filled with sparkling blue lakes, snow-capped peaks, popsicle-blue walls of ice, and crisp mountain air. In its capital, people literally dance in the streets, and at its most southern tip, they walk with penguins.
It’s the eighth largest country in the world. Don’t expect to see all of it in seven days, but rather go to key places in the country. As most of the activities in this itinerary are outdoors, going in the fall will be ideal, particularly in March when the weather is warm and crowds scarce.
This itinerary is ambitious. Feel free to cut one destination out to have more time to experience the others. The formula though is this: Buenos Aires, Iguazu, and at least one stop in Patagonia. Bring lots of snacks, a solid raincoat, and pack as light as possible, because you’ll be moving fast. Get ready for clear skies, jaw-dropping beauty, and lots of sack lunches with a view.
Day 1: Buenos Aires
Arrive early in the morning to Ezeiza International Airport and pull some cash out at the airport’s ATMs. Hop in an Uber or a black and yellow taxi outside the arrival hall and head to your hotel.
Freshen up, then go to La Boca to walk down El Caminito, a colorful street full of tango performances. Strike a dramatic pose with the dancers and snap a pic with them. Afterwards, walk to La Bombonera (the Boca Juniors stadium) to see where Maradona played.
Walk to Parque Lezama, the beginning of the San Telmo neighborhood and where the Spanish conquistadors first set foot in Argentina. Wander San Telmo’s streets observing daily life and the beautiful architectural, until you come to San Telmo Mercado. There are plenty of places to try empanadas in the market, (we suggest El Hornero), and if you need a caffeine boost, get an espresso at one of the city's best roasters, Coffee Town. Pick up some vintage finds and the mom-and-pop stalls, then continue down Defensa Street until you reach Plaza de Mayo, a central, significant area where most of the city’s protests take place. After, grab a cab to go to the world famous, family-run ice shop, Cadore. En route, you’ll pass the Obelisco, another emblem of the city. Next, walk or take the bus to Recoleta to see one of the most elegant cemeteries in the world.
At dusk, head to Ateneo, a theater-turned-bookstore. Snap some pictures of its famous stage and ceiling, then take the subway to Palermo for a steak dinner at Don Julio’s. Order a bottle of wine from their curated list and the bife de chorizo to check off two of Argentina’s gastronomic musts. Finally, see the “hidden” bar, Floreria Atlantico. Enter through the flower shop and descend the stairs to order a perfectly mixed cocktail.
Day 2: Iguazu Falls
Catch a morning flight to Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport. Your mission today is to see Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a cab at the airport and head to your hotel in Puerto Iguazú. To optimize your time consider booking a day tour, but be aware that most don’t include the park admission fee.
At your hotel, change into light, waterproof clothing. Pack a swimsuit or extra change of clothes in your dry bag, as you will definitely get drenched. Stop at Aqva to eat at a lunch of river fish, tropical salad, or the bondiola (shredded pork), and the Yerba Mate crème brulee for dessert.
After lunch, head to Iguazú National Park. Walk the paths of the Upper Circuit to see the falls crashing from on high or traverse the Lower Circuit to experience the bottom of the falls, forests, and plenty of rainbows. Hike to the lookout to see Devil’s Throat, the tallest of Iguazú’s 275 waterfalls, crashing in a mammoth cascade into the Iguzaú River from a height of 262 feet. If you want to get even closer to the falls, book a boat tour to take you in front of the San Martín waterfall, the second largest waterfall in the park.
Finish the day by exploring more Argentine cuisine at the Argentine Experience, complete with an asado, empanada-making competition, free flow wine, and, of course, mate.
Day 3: Bariloche
It’s time for blue lakes, rock climbing, and the Argentina version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in a magical land called Bariloche. Fly there early in the morning, then get your own cab or offer to split one with people from your flight. (This is fairly normal here, as is hitchhiking.) If you prefer, rent a car instead.
Drop your bags at your hotel, then order a bus, taxi, or remis (check with your hotel for recommendations) to go to Cerro Campanario. After an easy 30-minute hike (or seven-minute chairlift ride), you’ll arrive at one of Patagonia’s most famed views and a perfect introduction to Bariloche. From the 360-degree viewing platform, you can see lots of lakes, like Nahuel Huapi and Moreno, and multiple mountains, such as Campanario and Otto. You can also spot the swanky Llao Llao Hotel and the houses of Colonia Suiza.
For lunch, head to the lakeside Patagonia Brewery for craft beer and comfort food (offering meat and vegetarian options). On your way back to town, pull off on the side of the road and hop into any lake you pass for some “wild swimming.”
Back in town, stroll through the plazas and admire the Swiss and German-style buildings, then step into the chocolate wonderland that is Rappanui’s flagship store. Buy as many chocolates as you want from the display case or scoop up a cone of their decadent dulce de leche ice cream. If you’d rather have a warm dessert, order their waffles with hot chocolate. Later, go for a skate at their in-house ice rink.
Day 4: Rock Climbing in Cerro Otto
Bariloche is as much famed for its hiking as it is for its rock climbing. Book a tour with a local AAGM certified guide to lead you on beginner routes at Cerro Otto. Take the free shuttle bus in town to the Cerro Otto Teleférico (cable car) station. Before you alight, cross the road to the cluster of restaurants to get coffee and breakfast at Café Delirante, a local specialty coffee chain serving warm paninis, baked goods, and flat whites.
Meet your guide and ride the cable car 6,890 feet up the mountain. You’ll see Leones Mountain and part of the Patagonian steppe. After a 45-minute hike, you'll come to the area’s most famous granite crags: Piedras Blancas. Your guide will then instruct you in basic rock-climbing technique before you try your first route. Once you reach the top, enjoy the unique view only climbers can get, then repel down. After a few hours climbing, hike back to the station to visit its art gallery housing replicas of three of Michelangelo’s sculptures. On your way back into town, stop for dinner at La Salamandra Pulpería for more Argentine steak, mushroom dishes, and a vintage wine selection.
Day 5: El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier
Fly to El Calafate. Make a reservation prior at the Eolo Hotel, and arrange for their complimentary airport pick up service to meet you. Check in, admire the panoramic views from your room, and eat lunch at the in-house restaurant, featuring regional flavors and a chef with past experience in Michelin-starred restaurants. Finish your meal with a glass of wine, and go to Los Glaciares National Park.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, the park’s most famous glacier, is one of the world’s few growing glaciers. View it via the boardwalk trail from the visitor center. You might even be able to see part of the glacier fall, sending an unforgettable echo through the region as it plunges into the water.
If you want to take a boat or glacial walk, book a tour in advance. The boat tour will take you to the front of the glacier, where you can float on Lake Argentino while basking in the majesty of the ice wall towering 240 feet above you. For the glacial walk, you’ll clip on crampons and explore the crevices and tunnels of the glacier, seeing otherworldly blues of ever-shifting ice. Regardless of what you choose, wear adequate cold weather clothes. Bring a hearty sack lunch, and an empty water bottle to fill with fresh, icy glacial water.
The drive back to the hotel will take nearly an hour. Eat dinner at the hotel, and then relax in the sauna before turning in early.
Day 6: Fitz Roy Trek
Arrange for breakfast and transport early in the morning. Nap during the drive to El Chalten, as the drive is two and a half hours. Once there, you’ll embark on one of the most famous hikes in all of Patagonia, Laguna de Los Tres, also known as “the Fitz Roy Trek.” The hike in total is about 8 hours and covers 16.16 miles, if you include a stop at the Piedras Blancas Glacier. A mostly moderate trail, the last hour can be difficult due to a steep incline and 400-meter (1,607-foot) gain in altitude.
However, any struggle is worth El Chalten’s scenery. You’ll see multiple lagoons and an iconic view of Mount Fitz Roy, other mountains, and more glaciers. Although it is a more challenging hike than what you did in Bariloche, a guide is not really needed. All of the trails in El Chalten are well-marked. However, if you would prefer some shorter or more moderate hikes of only a few hours, consider Los Condores, a two-hour hike, perfect for sunrise and with great views of Mount Fitz Roy, or Laguna Capri, a more challenging four-hour hike also with views of Mount Fitz Roy.
Make sure to wear a sweat-wicking layer, as it can get hot, a lightweight raincoat, and waterproof hiking books. Pack a sack lunch and plenty of nutritious snacks. Arrange with the hotel for transport back, and enjoy the deep sleep that comes after a long hike.
Drop your bags at your hotel and go to Pira Tours for a day of boating and wildlife. Book their Penguin Rookery and Beagle Channel tour prior for a full day of boating and wildlife viewing. You’ll see boisterous sea lions on Sea Lions Island as you cruise down the Beagle Channel, then your zodiac boat will land on the chilly, windy Martillo Island. Here Magellanic and gentoo penguins waddle in droves. Your bilingual guide will instruct you on how to safely walk amongst the penguins without hurting their habitat. Preservations measures strict, so only 80 people can walk with penguins each day. Be sure to book in advance.
For your last dinner in Argentina, eat the regional specialty: centolla (king crab). For a large, delicious portion, go to Kaupe Restaurant. Pair it with a glass of Torrontes wine (a particular Argentine white wine).
Retire to your hotel to prepare for travel the next day. Either fly back to Buenos Aires then homeward, or book a cruise to Antarctica for the adventure to continue.