When we first arrived in Argentina, my boyfriend and I had a plan to stay for only 2 months. The initial idea was to backpack from Cordoba (center of the country) to the North, and then head South to Patagonia. But we had such an immersive experience, that those 2 months turned into 4.
As a Brazilian girl – practically a “neighbor”- I have to admit I did not know much about Argentina. I always lived with the false impression that the main touristic attractions were concentrated in Buenos Aires and Patagonia. And I’m very glad to share the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned while traveling from end to end in this surprising country. I hope my testimonial inspires you to search for enriching experiences and go beyond the traditional tourist guide.
1 – Everybody should visit the North of Argentina
Almost on the border with Bolivia, there are two Argentinian provinces that will welcome you with a great sample of the culture from the Andes: Salta and Jujuy. By visiting smal towns from these two provinces, you will get in touch with the most essential characteristics of agriculture, religion, beliefs, habits and nature from the Andes. And you’ll not be able to see this in any other part. Argentina is a huge country and northern people are absolutely particular and special. The main places I have visited in Salta, and would recommend, are Cafayate, Salta capital and Iruya. In Jujuy you can’t miss visiting Tilcara, Purmamarca and Humahuaca (three main “pueblos” from Quebrada de Humahuaca – Unesco world heritage site).
2 – Mendoza is the most important wine region in Latin America
There is no other region – not even in Chile – that represents such an important role in the wine industry in Latin America. You could spend all your time in Argentina only tasting Mendoza wines. I know. And I wish I could do that too. But since we had only one week to enjoy the city and its vineyards, we had to do it wisely – and “on a budget”. There are many ways you can enjoy the bodegas (the way locals call the cellars) and the options go from luxury to artisan winery. My suggestion is to look for authentic Argentinian brands, since most of the companies located in Mendoza are original from other countries. The ones we liked the most are Viña el Cerno (a family production), Domiciano de Barrancas and Andeluna Cellars – those two are bigger and fancy, but still very authentic.
Leaving from Mendoza city center, you can go by public transportation to cities like Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Tunuyán and Tupungato. Most of the vineyards are located in those cities, which are about one hour away from Mendoza. When you get to each of these cities, my recommendation is to rent a bike and visit the bodegas of your preference.
3 – Buenos Aires is the 2nd best place in the world to eat pizza (of course, the best is Italy)
As if it was not enough having the best medialunas and empanadas of the world, Argentinians are also enthusiasts of a good pizza. Forget about the Italian kind of preparations for pizza. Italian immigrants concentrated in Buenos Aires completely re-invented the concept and – in my opinion – made great improvements.
Imagine a very thick and soft dough, covered with an absurd amount of mozzarella cheese. The most demanded flavor in Buenos Aires is fugazzetta (only cheese and onions) and you can have your slice standing at the counter – do not mind asking for a table if you are in a hurry. That’s the poteño way of eating pizza.
The most famous pizzerias in Buenos Aires are Guerrín, Imperio de la Pizza and Las Cuartetas.
4 – There is an alternative universe of tango in Buenos Aires
The tango culture in Buenos Aires goes far beyond those tango shows on a Broadway style. I am not saying they are not interesting. But there is so much more to see regarding the universe of tango around there. Getting in touch with authentic places, like milongas and prácticas (places to learn and dance) you can understand much better the essence of tango. Our favorite places to learn tango are Cochabamba 444 and milongas like La Catedral and El Beso.
To listen tango, my favorite place is Club Atlético Fernández Fierro – where Orquestra Típica Fernández Fierro plays every month. Young talented musicians who are passionate about tango always frequent places like CAFF. There are two neighborhoods known recently for its underground tango culture: Almagro and Abasto.
5 – Patagonia on a budget. Yes, it is possible.
The summer is the most expensive time of the year to visit Patagonia. It is the high season for tourism and all the hostels, tours and restaurants are charging higher prices. Especially from December to March. However, if you book some services, like accommodation, in advance, there is a chance you will not have to pay so much more to have a place to sleep. There are also a few options of Couchsurfing in small touristic towns like El Calafate and El Chaltén.
Regarding the tours, in El Calafate there a few free options, like trekking in Cerro Cristal and Lago Roca and watch the sunset at Lago Argentino. There is no way you can escape from buying a ticket to visit Perito Moreno glacier. And it’s worth every cent. We didn’t buy a tour with a travel agency to go there. What we did was renting a car with 2 more friends and getting there on our own.
In El Chaltén, Argentinian capital of trekking, you can do everything without having to pay for a travel agency. You just have to be willing to trek around Parque Nacional los Glaciares.
In both towns, there are many options of fancy bars and restaurants. If you are traveling on a tight budget like us, you will have to ignore all of it and cook at the hostel. Due to inflation in Argentina, the prices have been increasing more and more in the last few months.
Paying attention to these details, there is a big chance your trip to Patagonia will be super cheap, and still very fun. 😉
I hope you can take the best of my lessons/tips about this amazing country. Have a great trip!