9 great things to do in Argentina

From learning to tango and walking on glaciers, to drinking wine at the ends of the earth, Argentina offers an overwhelming choice of activities. Here are the things you must do...

7 mins

1. Learn to tango in Buenos Aires

Tango dancing at night in Argentina (Shutterstock)

Tango dancing at night in Argentina (Shutterstock)

Tango and Argentina are synonymous with each other. It’s a dance of passion and drama that locals believe reflects their soul. The capital, Buenos Aires, is the spiritual home of the dance. Here, subway stations are named after tango musicians, the streets are full of dance halls and cultural centres and attending a tango show is an essential experience for anyone visiting the city. 

For a truly immersive experience, learn to tango in one of the many dance schools in Buenos Aires. La Viruta in Palermo offers classes split into six different levels of experience. And DNI Tango in Almagro offers classes in different languages – and a free introductory lesson – making it popular with travellers.  

Or head to the bandstand at the Barrancas de Belgrano park on a Sunday night for the casual milonga (high tempo song), La Glorieta. Dancing starts around 8pm, but free tango lessons are offered earlier, giving beginners the basic skills they need to join in.

2. Feel the spray (and more) from Iguazú Falls

Iguazú Falls as seen from a helicopter (Shutterstock)

Iguazú Falls as seen from a helicopter (Shutterstock)

Forming a natural border between Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazú Falls are one of the most awe-inspiring sights on the planet.

An interlocked chain of hundreds of waterfalls, it extends for close to three kilometres. Whether you walk along the trails beside it, take a boat tour to the mouth of Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat, or get a humbling overview with a spectacular helicopter flight, you’ll be left awestruck – and very, very wet.

Most visitors come for a day, but for the those that linger, staying in one of the eco-lodges that have sprung up near the park offers the chance to explore what’s left of the great Atlantic Rainforest.

A haven for wildlife, and criss-crossed with trails, suspension bridges and natural pools for swimming, it is an incredible place to experience.

Just south of the park, the town of Wanda is home to the ruins of San Ignacio Miní, a Jesuit monastery founded in 1610, and the abandoned mines of Polish settlers.

3. Watch a glacier calve at Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno glacier in Glaciares National Park (Shutterstock)

Perito Moreno glacier in Glaciares National Park (Shutterstock)

There’s nothing quite like the crack, crash and roar of a glacier calving. It is elemental and invigorating. 

At Glaciar Perito Moreno, in the south of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, it happens almost every 20 minutes. Part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the glacier is one of the most dynamic ice fields on the planet, moving up to two metres a day and shedding office block-sized icebergs with breathtaking regularity.

The glacier is 30km long, and 60m high and is clearly visible from a multitude of vantage points on the paths and boardwalks that run through the park.

There are also regular boat tours on the lake in front of the glacier, many taking you close to the face of the glacier, as well as treks where you can don crampons and walk across the top of the glacier itself.

4. Meet marine mammals on Península Valdés

An orca hunting seals on Península Valdés (Shutterstock)

An orca hunting seals on Península Valdés (Shutterstock)

If it’s marine mammals you want to see, then the Reserva Faunística Península Valdés, on Argentina’s barren Patagonian coast, is for you.

One of the world’s most important marine mammal breeding grounds, it was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is vital to the conservation of the endangered southern right whale as well as elephant seals and sea lions

With a total area of 3600km2 and more than 400km of coastline, the reserve is huge. But the wildlife viewing is equally epic. Along the peninsula you’ll witness sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos, rheas, Magellanic penguins and numerous seabirds.

The orcas here have developed a unique hunting strategy, adapted to local coastal conditions, beach themselves on shore to capture sea lions and elephant seals. A truly unforgettable sight.

5. Soak up Argentine culture in Córdoba

Puente del Bicentenario at night (Shutterstock)

Puente del Bicentenario at night (Shutterstock)

Ever since it was awarded the title of Cultural Capital of the Americas in 2006, Córdoba has gone out of its way to continue to be the Cultural Capital of Argentina. The latest addition is the Centro Cultural Córdoba, an eye-catching, glass-and-concrete construction, but the city is already overflowing with museums, galleries, theatres and cultural offerings. 

Start in the city’s compact and well-preserved historic centre, filled with beautiful colonial-era churches, monasteries and theatres and municipal buildings.

Then check out Evita Fine Arts Museum, the Emilio Caraffa Fine Arts Museum, Kosovo urban art gallery and the Cordoba Cultural Centre.

Home to the second oldest university in South America, the city has a large student population, evident in the quirky lanes of the Guemes district and the artistic offerings of the Paseo de Los Artes.

6. Enjoy a Malbec (or two) in Mendoza

Vineyards near Mendoza (Shutterstock)

Vineyards near Mendoza (Shutterstock)

Argentine Malbec is a deeply-coloured, spicily-rich red wine with with exuberant juiciness – a little like Mendoza, where it is produced.

The city is small and compact, with wide, leafy streets lined with art deco buildings and countless bodegas (wineries) offer tastings and tours. At night, the bars and restaurants along Av Arístides overflow onto the sidewalks.

This is where Argentina’s wine industry began. Malbec Luján de Cuyo was the first Denomination of Origin (DOC) of the Americas and today the town is surrounded by vast vineyards, where braised rows of vines stretch towards the Andes.

Here you’ll find a variety of wineries, olive oil farms and other gourmet businesses tempting you with tours and samples of their produce. Hire a bike or rent an electric scooter and make a day of it. Just remember to save the proper drinking until you’re back in town for the night.

7. Ride across the Andes like an Argentinian gaucho

Gauchos in Patagonia (Shutterstock)

Gauchos in Patagonia (Shutterstock)

Argentina is a nation with a strong link with horses. Horseback riding has played an important part in the history and folklore of this country. The strong, independent gaucho is as romantic an image in Argentina as the cowboy is in America. Riding here, even for a few days, is a great way to appreciate the country, its epic landscapes and its people.

There are estancias (ranches) across the country offering riding holidays and tuition. Estancia Los Potreros lies off the beaten track in the Córdoba hills. Estancia La Rosita in Corrientes offers riding holidays as well as the chance to help round up cattle.

For something truly memorable, you could ride across the the Andes from Argentina into Chile, taking in incredible mountain vistas and experiencing life on horseback, just like the gauchos of Argentina’s past.

8. Travel to the ends of the world in Tierra del Fuego

Beagle Channel near Ushuaia, Argentina (Shutterstock)

Beagle Channel near Ushuaia, Argentina (Shutterstock)

The last stop before Antarctica, this archipelago of barren, windswept islands is a land of glaciers, lakes, mountains and rivers that seem to have jumped straight from the pages of Lord of the Rings.

Ships have floundered on its rocky shores, mystics have searched for meaning and deep sense of otherworldliness prevails. 

The landscapes are epic. The barren northern plains of Tierra del Fuego give way to peat bogs and moss-draped lenga forests that rise into ragged snowy mountains.

With very little light pollution, the nights skies are a blanket of stars, appearing close enough to touch. There’s an abundance of wildlife too, including a colony of Magellanic penguins on Martillo Island. The best time to visit them is between September and April.

9. Tuck into the world’s best steaks at a traditional parrilla

An asado at work in Mendoza (Shutterstock)

An asado at work in Mendoza (Shutterstock)

Vegans and vegetarians, turn away now. Argentina is unapologetically carnivorous, and tucking into an oversized steak is a point of national pride. Working your way through a slab of barbecued meat at a local parrilla (a restaurant selling barbecue meat) is a right of passage for visitors travelling through Argentina.

Parrillas are not hard to find. They are everywhere, if there’s not one within your eye line, just follow your nose. The beef is cooked slowly and steadily, over hot coals under a pile of burning wood rather than ready-made charcoal, under the watchful eye of the asador (grillmaster). Argentinians like their steaks well done and will assume you do to. Make sure you let the asador know if you’d like yours any different. 

You’ll also be offered an overwhelming choice of cuts. You’ll recognise favourites like bife de chorizo (sirloin), cuadril (rump)and ojo de bife (rib eye), but tira de asado (thin strips of ribs and meat sliced crosswise), and vacío (flank steak that is textured and chewy), are worth checking out, too.

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