Welcome to Argentina, a land of astonishing diversity and breathtaking landscapes. At Roadless Wonders, we're about to take you on a journey that'll leave you yearning for more. Picture yourself backpacking in Argentina, where majestic mountains meet roaring waterfalls, quaint towns embrace cosmopolitan cities, and every bend in the road brings you face-to-face with a new adventure.
Our guide, "11 Best Destinations for Backpacking in Argentina", is your roadmap to exploring this stunning country in all its facets. We'll introduce you to bustling Buenos Aires, with its pulsating tango rhythm and vibrant nightlife. We'll guide you through Bariloche, the outdoor haven nestled in the heart of the Andes, and lead you to the awe-inspiring vistas of Iguazu Falls and Los Glaciares National Park.
Imagine sipping world-class wines in Mendoza, feeling the thrill of Ushuaia - the world's southernmost city, and soaking in the historical grandeur of Cordoba and Salta. From the vast plains of Patagonia to the intriguing culture of Jujuy, each destination in our guide offers a unique glimpse into the incredible experiences that Argentina has in store for you.
So, strap on your backpack and join us on this adventure. By the time you reach the end of this guide, you'll be ready to tackle Argentina with confidence, armed with insider tips and the hidden secrets that only true backpacking enthusiasts know. Get ready to step off the beaten track with Roadless Wonders, your trusted companion for backpacking in Argentina. Let's hit the road, shall we?
Bariloche: A Haven for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Bariloche is a magnet for lovers of nature and the great outdoors, making it a top spot for backpacking in Argentina. Perched on the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and bordered by snow-capped mountains, this city feels more like a slice of Switzerland transported to South America.
Exploring Nahuel Huapi National Park
There's no better way to start your Bariloche adventure than by exploring Nahuel Huapi National Park. This natural wonder spans over a whopping 7,000 square kilometers and boasts a diverse landscape of dense forests, sparkling lakes, and soaring mountains. The park's wildlife is equally varied, with a chance to spot native species like the Andean condor and Huemul deer. Hiking, camping, and boat tours offer various ways to soak in the park's beauty.
Recommended Hikes for Backpackers in Bariloche
For those with a love for trekking, Bariloche does not disappoint. There are numerous trails suitable for all fitness levels. The Refugio Frey and Cerro Campanario trails offer breathtaking views and the chance to traverse varied landscapes. Or, for a more relaxed stroll, the Circuito Chico provides a 60-km trail that loops around some of Bariloche's most picturesque spots.
The Cultural Appeal of Bariloche Town
When you've had your fill of hiking, the town of Bariloche offers an appealing blend of cultural experiences. With its alpine-style architecture and delectable chocolate shops, it's a delightful place to relax and unwind. Don't miss the Centro Cívico, a charming square home to the town's museum, and a great place to delve into local history.
Buenos Aires: The Backpacker's Metropolis
From Bariloche, we head to the beating heart of Argentina, Buenos Aires. This cosmopolitan city is the country's bustling capital and a paradise for backpackers seeking an urban adventure.
Wander Through the Distinctive Neighborhoods
The city is a patchwork of distinctive neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm. Stroll through San Telmo, the city's oldest barrio, to catch a glimpse of the Buenos Aires of yesteryear, with its cobbled streets and colonial buildings. Visit La Boca, a vibrant neighborhood known for its colorful houses and lively street performances. Don't miss Palermo, the city's largest barrio, a hub of creativity brimming with quirky cafes, boutiques, and street art.
A Dive into Buenos Aires' Cultural and Historical Gems
While backpacking in Buenos Aires, take the time to explore its wealth of cultural and historical landmarks. Marvel at the grandeur of the Teatro Colón, one of the world's best opera houses, or explore the iconic Presidential Palace, the Casa Rosada. Visit the Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of many of Argentina's most important figures, including Eva Perón.
The Exuberant Buenos Aires Nightlife
As night falls, Buenos Aires comes alive with a vibrant nightlife that's hard to match. Whether you fancy watching a traditional tango show, sampling local wines in a cozy bar, or dancing until dawn in a high-energy club, there's something for every taste. And for the truly adventurous, joining a local milonga (tango dance party) is an experience you'll never forget.
Cordoba: A Blend of History and Adventure
Cordoba, Argentina's second-largest city, provides a unique blend of historic charm and modern excitement. Known for its colonial architecture and youthful energy, this city is a delightful destination for backpacking in Argentina.
Discovering Cordoba's Colonial Legacy
The city's rich colonial history is evident in its well-preserved architecture. Wander around Cordoba's center to find a myriad of monuments and buildings from the Spanish colonial period. Don't miss the iconic Cordoba Cathedral, a majestic piece of architecture dating back to the 18th century. Nearby, the Jesuit Block, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers insight into the city's Jesuit past.
Thrilling Adventure Activities in Cordoba
For adrenaline junkies, Cordoba offers a wide array of outdoor activities. The surrounding Sierras de Cordoba, a mountain range with stunning landscapes, are a haven for hikers, horseback riders, and rock climbers. And if you're into water sports, the numerous lakes and rivers around Cordoba provide perfect spots for sailing, windsurfing, or fishing.
Experiencing Cordoba's Bustling Night Markets
When the sun sets, Cordoba transforms into a lively scene with bustling night markets. The Mercado Norte is a must-visit, offering a delightful mix of artisan goods, local produce, and delectable street food. Meanwhile, Paseo de Las Artes, another popular market, is an ideal place to find unique, handcrafted souvenirs to commemorate your backpacking adventure in Argentina.
El Calafate: The Gateway to Wonders
From the city's hustle and bustle, we journey to the southern frontier to El Calafate. Known as the gateway to the incredible Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate is a vital stop on your backpacking in Argentina itinerary.
The Perito Moreno Glacier Excursion
El Calafate's star attraction is the astounding Perito Moreno Glacier. This massive, 250 km² glacier is one of the few in the world that is still growing. Embark on a guided tour to walk on the glacier, listen to the ice cracking, and witness huge chunks calving into the turquoise waters of Argentino Lake. It's a humbling experience that highlights the raw power of nature.
Wildlife Encounters in El Calafate
Aside from glaciers, El Calafate is also home to an array of wildlife. Visit the Nimez Lagoon Reserve, a sanctuary for migratory birds like flamingos, swans, and wigeons. And for a more up-close experience with local fauna, a boat trip on Argentino Lake might get you sightings of seals, eagles, and perhaps even the elusive puma.
El Calafate, The Launchpad to Patagonia
El Calafate serves as the perfect launchpad to the breathtaking wilderness of Patagonia. From here, you can easily venture further south to explore the vast landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile or travel north to the rugged peaks of Fitz Roy near the town of El Chalten. Either way, your backpacking journey in Argentina is bound to be filled with awe-inspiring moments that you'll remember for a lifetime.
Iguazu Falls: Where Nature Roars
Backpacking in Argentina would not be complete without a visit to Iguazu Falls. Nestled in the heart of the rainforest at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, these falls are one of the most magnificent natural spectacles on earth.
Majestic Views at Iguazu Falls
The sheer scale of Iguazu Falls is awe-inspiring, with 275 individual cascades thundering down from heights of up to 82 meters. The most famous of these is the Devil's Throat, a U-shaped fall that accounts for half of the river's flow. Standing at the edge and looking down into its roaring depths is an experience like no other.
Wildlife Spotting around Iguazu Falls
Surrounding the falls, the Iguazu National Park is a hotspot of biodiversity. Look out for coatis, capybaras, and howler monkeys along the park's numerous trails. And keep your eyes on the sky - you might just spot a toucan or parrot flaunting their vibrant plumage among the treetops.
Boat Excursions for an Up-Close Experience
For an unforgettable adventure, embark on a boat excursion that takes you directly into the misty spray at the base of the falls. You'll get an entirely new perspective on their scale and power - just be prepared to get wet!
Jujuy: Where Ancient Culture Meets Breathtaking Landscapes
Travel to the far north of Argentina and you'll find Jujuy, a destination that offers an intoxicating mix of indigenous culture, colonial history, and stunning natural beauty. For those backpacking in Argentina, Jujuy is a destination not to be missed.
Visiting Historical Sites in Jujuy
History buffs will be enthralled by Jujuy's numerous historical sites. The Pucará de Tilcara is an ancient fortress dating back over 900 years, offering an insight into the pre-Columbian era. The town of Humahuaca, with its well-preserved colonial architecture and the striking Monument to the Heroes of Independence, is another must-visit.
Natural Attractions of Jujuy
Jujuy's natural wonders are equally compelling. The Quebrada de Humahuaca, a dramatic valley etched into the landscape over millions of years, is awe-inspiring. Make sure to visit the Serranía de Hornocal, a range of mountains known for its multicolored peaks, providing an incredible backdrop for photos.
Local Gastronomy in Jujuy
No visit to Jujuy would be complete without sampling the local cuisine. The area is known for its Andean dishes, such as llama stews and tamales. Visit the vibrant local markets to try these and other local delicacies, providing a fitting end to your journey through Jujuy.
Los Glaciares National Park: A Frozen Wonderland
No backpacking trip in Argentina would be complete without a visit to Los Glaciares National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a paradise for nature lovers, brimming with dramatic mountain peaks, pristine lakes, and, of course, its namesake glaciers.
Hiking Adventures in Los Glaciares National Park
Lace up your boots and take to the trails in this awe-inspiring landscape. Choose from short, accessible hikes to more challenging routes that lead you past towering peaks, deep-blue lakes, and forests full of ancient trees. The Laguna Torre and Laguna de Los Tres trails, which offer breathtaking views of the famous peaks Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy, are among the most popular.
Wildlife Watching in Los Glaciares National Park
Los Glaciares is also a hotspot for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for Andean condors soaring overhead, guanacos grazing on the steppe, and elusive pumas hiding in the undergrowth. Don't forget your binoculars - this park is a birdwatcher's dream, with over 100 species calling it home.
The Iceberg Experience in Los Glaciares National Park
For the ultimate glacial experience, embark on a boat tour on Lake Argentino. You'll get to witness the sheer majesty of the park's glaciers, like Upsala and Spegazzini, from the water. And if you're lucky, you might even see a glacier calving, where massive chunks of ice crash into the lake below - an unforgettable sight.
Mendoza: The Heart of Argentina's Wine Country
Next on our backpacking in Argentina guide is Mendoza, the vibrant heart of Argentina's wine country. This region is famed for its Malbec wines, its sunny climate, and its wealth of outdoor activities.
Wine Tours in Mendoza
No visit to Mendoza would be complete without sampling its world-class wines. Join a wine tour to discover the art of winemaking, stroll through lush vineyards, and, most importantly, taste a variety of exquisite wines. Some tours even offer the chance to blend your own wine - the perfect souvenir of your trip.
Adventure Activities in Mendoza
Besides its wines, Mendoza is also known for its array of outdoor pursuits. From white-water rafting in the Mendoza River to horseback riding in the Andean foothills, this region offers something for every adrenaline junkie. And for those who prefer a slower pace, the thermal baths at Cacheuta are the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Cultural Highlights of Mendoza
Downtown Mendoza has its own charms too. Wander around the lively plazas, admire the architecture, or visit one of the many museums. Don't miss the bustling Central Market, where you can sample local produce and traditional Argentinian dishes.
Patagonia: The Ultimate Wilderness
Our backpacking in Argentina adventure concludes with Patagonia, a land of unrivaled natural beauty that stretches across the southern tip of South America. With its diverse landscapes ranging from jagged mountain peaks to expansive ice fields, Patagonia offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
Trekking in Pristine Patagonia
Patagonia's vast, untouched wilderness is a trekker's dream. Trails weave through its many national parks, each offering its own unique set of landscapes and challenges. Whether you're trekking along the windswept plains of Tierra del Fuego or hiking the towering granite peaks of the Fitz Roy or hiking the towering granite peaks of the Fitz Roy Range, you'll find that Patagonia's trails offer unforgettable experiences. One of the most popular trails is the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, which takes you past azure lakes, colossal glaciers, and incredible mountain vistas.
Patagonia's Diverse Flora and Fauna
The sheer biodiversity of Patagonia is another of its many wonders. From Magellanic penguins and Andean condors to guanacos and elusive pumas, the array of wildlife is astonishing. The region is also home to unique and hardy plant species that have adapted to its harsh climate, adding another layer of intrigue to this stunning wilderness.
The Glacial Landscapes of Patagonia
Arguably the most iconic feature of Patagonia is its glaciers. The Perito Moreno in Los Glaciares National Park is one of the most accessible and regularly calves icebergs into the lake below. The lesser-known but equally stunning Viedma and Upsala Glaciers are also must-sees for those who wish to fully immerse themselves in the icy splendor of Patagonia.
The remarkable beauty and diverse landscapes of Patagonia provide the perfect conclusion to your backpacking in Argentina adventure. Whether you're a seasoned backpacker or a first-time traveler, the memories you make here will surely last a lifetime.
Salta: A Cultural Mosaic
As you continue your backpacking journey in Argentina, don't miss the chance to explore Salta, an eclectic city that effortlessly blends indigenous culture, colonial history, and natural beauty.
Architectural Wonders of Salta
Begin your exploration in the city's heart, where cobblestone streets lead to colonial buildings painted in vibrant hues. The Plaza 9 de Julio is a good starting point, surrounded by the grand Salta Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, each telling a tale of Salta's rich heritage.
Outdoor Adventures in Salta
Beyond its historical core, Salta offers a variety of outdoor pursuits. The surrounding Lerma Valley is a haven for hikers and horseback riders, with trails winding through forests, rivers, and local villages. Or, for a unique perspective, take a ride on the Train to the Clouds, one of the world's highest railways, offering stunning views of the Andean mountains.
Local Cuisine and Market Tour in Salta
To truly understand Salta, you must sample its culinary delights. Indulge in empanadas salteñas, humita, and a glass of local Torrontés wine. Visit the bustling Mercado San Miguel, where local vendors sell everything from fresh produce to artisanal crafts, giving you a taste of the everyday life in Salta.
Ushuaia: The World's Southernmost City
Lastly, as part of your backpacking in Argentina, journey to the end of the world — Ushuaia. Perched on the edge of the Earth, this city is a launchpad to Antarctica and a hub for wilderness adventures.
Exploring Ushuaia's Unique Geography
Ushuaia is a city like no other, set against the backdrop of the Martial mountain range and overlooking the Beagle Channel. Explore the Martial Glacier, visit the End of the World Museum, or just stroll through the city's streets, absorbing the unique blend of Patagonian culture and untouched wilderness.
Wildlife Tours in Ushuaia
Venture onto the Beagle Channel for a wildlife tour. Spot sea lions basking on the rocks, a variety of seabirds swooping over the waves, and perhaps even a glimpse of a Magellanic penguin. This is a wildlife experience like no other, set in the pristine wilderness at the end of the world.
Activities for Adventure Seekers in Ushuaia
Despite its remote location, Ushuaia offers plenty of adventures. Kayak along the Beagle Channel, hike in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, or take a dog-sledding trip in the winter. For the ultimate adventure, board a ship to Antarctica, following in the footsteps of the world's greatest explorers.
Every day in Ushuaia brings a new adventure, making it a fitting finale for any backpacking trip in Argentina. It truly is a place where both ends of the world meet.
Budget Travel Tips for Backpacking in Argentina
Embarking on a backpacking trip in Argentina is a thrilling adventure, but it's essential to have a few budget travel tips up your sleeve to make the most of your journey without breaking the bank.
Frugal Accommodation Choices
Staying at hostels is a popular choice for backpackers, providing a comfortable place to rest while also offering opportunities to connect with other travelers. In cities like Buenos Aires and Salta, you'll find a variety of hostels with shared or private rooms. For a more unique experience, consider camping in national parks or staying in rural guesthouses known as estancias.
Eating on a Shoestring Budget
Argentina's food scene is tantalizing, and enjoying it doesn't have to be costly. Empanadas and choripan are delicious street foods that you can find almost everywhere. Local markets also offer fresh produce and regional delicacies. If you're willing to cook, most hostels have communal kitchens, which can save you a significant amount.
Getting Around: Budget Transportation Tips
Argentina's size can make travel daunting, but there are budget-friendly ways to traverse the country. Long-distance buses, known as colectivos, are a cost-effective and comfortable option for overnight journeys. For shorter distances, consider shared taxis known as remises or even hitchhiking, which is relatively common in Patagonia.
Other Good Things Every Backpacker in Argentina Should Know
Finally, there are a few other essential things that every backpacker in Argentina should know to ensure a smooth and enjoyable adventure.
Understanding Local Customs and Etiquette
Argentines are known for their warm hospitality and vibrant culture. Understanding local customs, such as the importance of afternoon siesta hours in smaller towns, or the local etiquette around mate (a traditional caffeine-rich infused drink), will enrich your backpacking experience in Argentina.
Weather and Best Time to Visit Argentina
Argentina's vastness means the climate varies significantly. Generally, spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are the best times to visit. These seasons offer moderate temperatures and fewer tourists. However, if you're visiting Patagonia or the Andean region, summer (December to February) might be more suitable.
Essential Packing List for Argentina
Packing the right gear is crucial for your backpacking trip. Essentials include a good-quality backpack, sturdy hiking boots, weather-appropriate clothing (rain jacket, layers for cold, sun protection), a reusable water bottle, and a Spanish phrasebook or app. Lastly, pack a sense of adventure, because backpacking in Argentina will be a journey of a lifetime.
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There's no doubt that backpacking in Argentina presents an epic adventure filled with diverse landscapes, fascinating culture, and unforgettable experiences. From the roaring Iguazu Falls to the wild wilderness of Patagonia, from the bustling streets of Buenos Aires to the tranquil vineyards of Mendoza, every destination has something unique to offer. This guide has given you a glimpse of the 11 best destinations in Argentina, along with practical tips for budget travel and essential insights to help you navigate this beautiful country. So strap on your backpack, let your spirit of adventure guide you, and get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime in Argentina.