Argentina is the kind of destination that any seasoned traveller will fall in love with; from the eclectic and dynamic capital of Buenos Aires to the rugged beauty of the Andes to the rich wine terroir of Mendoza, this South-American gem is a paradise of pristine beauty — a perfect mix of wild and urban.
But being the eighth-largest country in the world, Argentina does have its way of overwhelming holidaymakers with its plethora of attractions. Quotient drills down to five quintessential experiences you should try, to make the most of your first trip to Argentina. Check them out before you say hola to this Spanish-speaking nation!
Tango the night away in Buenos Aires
Designated UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind in 2009, the tango with its inimitable movements and music is certainly a fascinating form of dance and a treasure close to the hearts of the passionate Argentines.
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, holds fort as the world capital of tango and is the perfect place to experience this mesmerising display of dance mastery. The city teems with “milongas” or tango salons, tango shows, tango schools as well as tango-themed cafes and hotels, and fancy footwork often keeps locals and tourists entertained till the wee hours.
While most travellers will choose to watch the show, some brazen onlookers can also choose to dance as most “milongas”offer lessons before the floor opens up to dancers.
Scale Perito Moreno Glacier
The magnificent Los Glaciares National Park is one of Argentina’s best-loved UNESCO World Heritage sites, boasting over 240 glaciers of which 47 are fed by the largest ice cap outside of Antarctica and Greenland.
The park’s most famous glacier is none other than the massive Perito Moreno, known for its dynamic ebb and flow as well as spectacular ice falls. It is also impressive as one of the rare glaciers that expand instead of retreat in today’s global warming context.
Visitors often crowd the boardwalk to observe the glacier, but to get up close and personal with the glacier and feel its thunderous ‘voice’, there’s no better option than trekking on the ice; you will be treated to magnificent panoramas of the surrounding landscapes at different heights and even a glass of whisky on the rocks… literally!
Watch whales in Reserva Faunística Península Valdés
Península Valdés, another UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its natural beauty, is a sanctuary for wildlife such as whales, sea lions, elephant seals and birds.
The peninsula boasts one of world’s highest concentration of whales per square kilometre, making it a superlative place for observing these large marine mammals including the southern right whale. The whale watching season stretches from June to mid-December, with September and October the best months.
Other than going on wildlife tours, you can also indulge in gastronomic delicacies such as seafood and lamb dishes as well as new Patagonian wines.
Sip malbecs in Mendoza
In Mendoza, you will first be wooed by the beauty of the scenery as lush rolling vineyards and the imposing snow-capped Andes are definitely an instant eye-candy. Then the impressive variety of wines hits you.
Dominating Mendoza are, deservedly, the world-famous, award-winning malbecs. Argentina is the global king of this distinctive dark wine, and Mendoza accounts for over 80% of the country’s total land area dedicated to producing Malbec wines. Enjoying a few glasses of pure or blended malbecs is an obligation here, but save some alcohol quota also for other varietals. Wine production in Mendoza — pay attention to Luján de Cuyo, Maipú and Uco Valley — is modern, even state-of the-art, but just for kicks, there’s also vino patero or foot-pressed wines.
Besides exploring Mendoza’s vinous environs, spend some time in the city itself, which teems with good restaurants and wineries, traditional bodegas and cutting-edge cantinas or bars. For adventure-seekers, the province is also replete with adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities such as hiking, birdwatching and skiing.
Ski at the cathedral in Bariloche
Just like Mendoza is synonymous with wine, San Carlos de Bariloche loudly resounds as Argentina’s skiing frontier. This beautiful town bordering Lago Nahuel Huapi, a large glacial lake surrounded by the snow-crowned Andes, is a visual gem. The entire region consists of 20 lakes and valleys and has protected land and ski areas.
Bariloche’s architecture is a faithful reminder of the Swiss one, so in winter, the main draw here are definitely winter sports. The iconic Cerro Catedral or Mount Cathedral, so named for the resemblance of its peaks to the towers of a medieval temple, rises up to 1,030 metres above sea level. From July to September, it offers a variety of options to all levels of powder enthusiasts, ranging from alpine skiing to off-piste to snowboarding.
During summer, the landscapes are verdant and there are plenty opportunities to hike up to waterfalls and explore caves.