If you’re a sucker for breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture and a taste of adventure, there’s nothing quite like Argentina and Chile! There are so many highlights to discover, so if you’re looking for some inspiration for your Argentina and Chile holiday, here are my top 10 experiences that mustn’t be missed…
1. Trek Torres del Paine
Trekking in Torres del Paine is number one on my list and one of my favourite places we visited on our Chile trip. We did it the budget way and hired a car and slept in that because the park is so remote that even the hostel beds are very expensive; we put the back seat down and snuggled up there. It was sooo cold I ended up getting sick, though of course that didn’t stop me from hiking up to see the famous towers (torres) as part of the well-known W trek: an absolutely breath-taking site to reward a stiff steep ascent on loose rocks.
During our 6-day Torres del Paine trip, you‘ll travel by hire car from Puerto Natales to the granite ‘towers’ after which the park was named. You can follow the trail from your guesthouse up to a spectacular viewpoint!
2. Feel the spray at Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls from the Argentine side is a sight to behold with never-ending cascades of white foam powering into the depths below. We walked through the rainforest seeing coatis and tropical birds along the way, and got completely soaked through as the walkways allow you to get up really close to the thundering spray. The highlight was a speedboat ride to see the falls in all their glory from below and appreciate their sheer height, size and power.
Our 4-day trip to Iguazu will take you into a world of frothy waterfalls criss-crossed by rainbows in Argentina’s rainforest. It’s somewhere marked with a touch of magic. You’ll visit both the Argentinean and Brazilian side of the Falls and get a close up encounter with the local coatis.
3. Try Tango in Buenos Aires!
Watching live tango by professionals on the street in the bohemian San Telmo district of Buenos Aires was very moving indeed and a definite highlight of my time in Argentina. We needed a typical all-you-can-eat red meat feast to help us recover with Chilean wine to wash it down.
Our 3-day trip to Buenos Aires will take you on an eye-opening tour with a local Porteño (resident of the city) for glimpse into behind-the-scenes life where you can soak up the totally seductive atmosphere.
4. Cruise the Chilean fjords
Cruising down the Chilean fjords on a 3 night Navimag cruise provided many spectacular sun sets and sunrises against the back drop of the fjords to photograph, even when the weather wasn’t perfect. The chance to travel through such a remote region and pass tiny fishing settlements and glaciers was unforgettable. We were on board for the fun Halloween party where we dressed up as Navimag pumpkins in the workers’ bright orange overalls.
5. Spot penguins!
I confess I’m a bit of a penguin fanatic and have travelled to witness their waddles in various parts of the world. In Punta Tumbo I was lucky enough to see thousands of them on the beach, oblivious to the humans around them as they trundled off to their nests. It was an important time of year as the eggs were hatching all over the place and I saw the eggs, guarded between the feet of the protective parent, first crack then break open to reveal tiny fluffy heads. I felt so privileged to watch them emerge and take their first glimpse of the world around them.
Love penguins too? Our 3-day Punta Arenas trip will take you to the southernmost tip of Chile. Here you can take a boat trip to Magdalena Island where you’ll be greeted by a huge colony of Magellanic penguins- flippin‘ fantastic!
6. Go Welsh in Gaiman
Being a Welsh girl from the valleys I had to make the pilgrimage to Gaiman, one of a few surviving Welsh colonies along the Chubut River. In the 1850s a boat of about 150 Welsh people escaped English control to begin a new life, as the Argentine government had granted them free land because they wanted the vast Patagonian plains to be inhabited. It was fascinating to visit the museums and see Welsh dressers the same as my Nanna’s. I felt embarrassed that I could only hold a conversation in Welsh for 5 minutes but at least I was able to discover more about their heritage using Spanish. The tea houses serving traditional Welsh teas and cakes were a delicious treat home from home.
7. See the edge of the world in Ushuaia
My time in Ushuaia was a definite experience though not sure one I think other people would ever want to experience on their Argentina holiday. The most southern city in the world at the tip of Argentina is where I ended up in hospital for a week, the furthest point away on my trip that I could possibly be from home. Too much red meat and red wine caused some intestinal upset which was really nasty and meant I spent two whole weeks at the “End of the World.” Nevertheless, the stark beauty of Tierra del Fuego National Park is definitely worth a visit!
8. Feel the power of Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is awesome. You can walk really close along the walkways and its bright whiteness is blinding. You can even walk on some of the hard drier ice and when you go on the boat ride you can get up so close to the glacier and actually hear it cracking. As it melts bits of ice fall off and crash down into the lake below creating a very deep, thunderous and eerie echoing sound which is unforgettable but has to be heard first hand to be understood, so make sure you take time in Argentina to visit Patagonia and experience the wonder firsthand.
On our 3-day trip to Perito Moreno, you’ll spend your time hiking across icebergs, sailing among giant glaciers and witnessing huge hunks of ice break off into freezing water. There’s nowhere like it!
9. Explore the streets of Valparaiso
A vigorous workout can be had in Valparaiso charging up and down by the numerous funiculars that dot the steep hill sides. It’s an extremely picturesque higgledy piggledy mix mash of different coloured houses with the ancient mechanical lifts heaving up between them at many different levels like a labyrinth. Also got to visit Pablo Neruda’s house and could certainly see where he got his inspiration.
On our 3-day trip in Valparaiso, we’ll arrange an English-speaking guide to take you around the city by foot and public transport. Spend your time climbing the steep hillsides and soaking in the awesome vistas- you’ll soon see why the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
10. Go Gaucho in Salta
A typical Latin colonial city with its plazas and cathedrals, Salta is a bit off the beaten track as it is quite far north close to Bolivia and is very hot and dry. Horse riding here was the best I have ever experienced, perfect if you are looking for a bit of adventure on your Argentina trip. We visited the Canoa de Quebrada nearby with its unusual rock formations dotting the barren moon-like landscape. We also tasted red wine ice cream at Cafayate a dusty desert settlement.
During our 3-day Salta experience, you can ‘go Gaucho’ as you spend a day on a working ranch, and go riding horseback through valleys and tobacco plantations. When you’re not being John Wayne, you can explore shady plazas, get a taste for steaming empanadas and enjoy a classic Argentine barbecue. Yee-haw!
Want to combine Argentina and Chile?
What better way to really get under the skin of Chile and Argentina than by spending a month there? With our flexible 26-day itinerary, you’ll immerse yourself in vibrant Buenos Aires, spot wildlife near Trelew and journey to Punta Arenas in search of penguins. Sail among mighty glaciers, trek through epic mountain landscapes and sip wine amongst the vineyards. Further north you’ll watch the sun set over the lunar landscape of the Atacama Desert and feel the spray of the Iguazu falls against your cheeks.
Bonus: The long bus journeys within Argentina are an additional highlight in themselves, and a great choice of travel in Argentina. We were served a 3-course hot meal far superior to any I have had on a plane and we had champagne and whisky before lights off. Everyone on board played a serious game of bingo hosted by the conductor! The late movie “Insomnia” possibly wasn’t the best choice, but we did in fact sleep amazingly well under the provided tartan blankets in the wide reclining seats with leg rests.