Suggested length of stay
Argentina has a wealth of natural attractions and regions to explore and you could quite easily fill a month and barely scratch the surface! However, for a snapshot of classic Argentina visiting Iguazu, the Lake District and Patagonia, you will need a minimum of 10 days. An extra week will allow you to discover more in each of these areas as well as open up a side trip to areas such as Mendoza, the Valdes Peninsula or Salta. However, for a comprehensive overview of the country, you should allow around 3 weeks.
Buenos Aires 2-3 nights, Iguazu 2-3 nights, The Lake District 2-3 nights, Patagonia 2-6 nights, Mendoza 2-3 nights, Valdes Peninsula 3 nights, Salta 3 nights +
Modes of transport
Argentina is blessed with an excellent infrastructure and roads, on the whole, are very good. Key arteries are paved while isolated highways are a mix of asphalt and well-maintained gravel tracks. However, though there are good long distance buses, the sheer scale of Argentina makes travelling by road from one corner of the country to the next impractical for the majority of visitors. Patagonia, the Lake District and Salta, to name a few, still involve long journeys to appreciate the highlights though the magnificent scenery as you zigzag through forests, gorges and isolated mountain passes more than makes up for it. For the adventurous, avoiding the cities of course, hiring a car is a wonderful way to explore the spectacular scenery. The roads on the whole are long, wide, empty and for their most part devoid of traffic and well signed. Patagonia, the Lake District and the highlands around Salta are ideal areas for self-drive and enable you to get off the beaten track to explore independently.
Argentina has a comprehensive network dominated by Argentine Airlines and the Latin American giant Latam (result of the recent merger between Lan and Tam) both of which have regular flights to the key destinations. All itineraries will involve a number of flights more often than not routing through the main hub Buenos Aires and your choice of flying Latam or Argentine Airlines is best determined by what additional travel you are looking to do in South America. Please do contact Oasis Travel for more information regarding airpasses.
Once the envy of the Americas, Argentina’s rail network featured some 47,000km of track that linked all corners of the country. However, it soon fell into decline after the Second World War replaced by long distance highways and today only isolated fragments remain. There is still an excellent network surrounding Buenos Aires’ metropolitan area though for visitors, there are three journeys that truly stand out. In the north, just outside Salta, the “Train to the Clouds”, an engineering masterpiece, cuts a dizzying trail high into the red-rock canyons and gorges of Argentina’s altiplano and reaches a maximum height of 4220m. Towards the south at the heart of Argentina’s picturesque Lake District, “La Trochita” is a narrow gauge steam train, immortalised in Paul Theroux’s classic travelogue “The Old Patagonian Express”, that has been tirelessly restored and which links the pretty town of Esquel with its neighbour Nahuel Pan. The third, in deepest darkest Patagonia is the world’s southernmost railway dubbed , “the train to the end of the world”, a narrow gauge steam train that runs from just outside Ushuaia and takes visitors into the Lapataia National park.
Argentina offers excellent mountain biking especially around the Lake District in the south and Salta in the northwest. Various tours catering to both serious and non-serious riders can easily be arranged to get off the beaten track and explore lesser-visited trails, villages and national parks.
Adding a boat trip to any Argentine itinerary is no problem. There are a whole host of options throughout the country from Iguazu’s “Gran Aventura” which takes you under the thunderous waterfalls to the more gentle outings in the Tigre Delta in Buenos Aires or even across the River Plate to visit Colonia in Uruguay. The highlight of any trip to the Valdes Peninsula is a whale-watching trip from Puerto Pirámides while one of the Lake District’s main attractions is the “Cruce de Lagos”, a combination of bus and boat travel which takes you from Bariloche through a chain of lakes topped by glorious mountain scenery to reach Puerto Varas in Chile on the other side of the border. In the far south, there are day trips to penguins and sea-lion colonies out on the Beagle Channel, though for a dedicated 3 or 4 night ocean cruise, look no further than Cruceros Australis. From Ushuaia, Cruceros Australis operates 2 boats, the Stella and Via Australis, through the breathtaking glacial scenery of the Patagonian Fjords including a visit Cape Horn National Park (weather permitting) to reach Punta Arenas across the border in Chile. Please do contact Oasis Travel for more details.
There is wonderful hiking throughout the length of the Andes though Patagonia, centred on Argentina’s iconic peak and national park Mount Fitzroy, offers some of the finest day-hikes in the Americas. Based around the friendly frontier town of el Chalten, trails lead off into the imposing, granite massif to a number of breath-taking viewpoints and allowing a night or two’s camping, opens up dizzying views over the great southern icefield. Further north, the picturesque Lake District offers a range of options from gentle walks through the pretty forests and glacier-topped mountains to a challenging 3 day ascent of the spectacular snow-capped Lanin Volcano. Serious trekkers, however, flock to Mendoza to make an attempt on Aconcagua which at 6962m above sea-level is the highest mountain in South America.
Argentina’s weather is as diverse as the country’s landscapes. In the far south, temperatures reach the high teens during the spring and summer months of November to March (best time to visit) though can drop close to zero at night. Due to its latitude, days are long – 16 hours of light in December which contrasts with around 8 hours in mid-winter when temperatures run close to zero during the day and sub-zero at night. Heading north, the Lake District follows a similar pattern though is warmer over 20° in the summer and wettest in March/April though with beautiful autumnal colours. Buenos Aires and central Argentina enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate with annual highs of 30° while the subtropical north is very hot and sticky with tempestuous downpours during the summer months – Iguazu Falls are particularly impressive in January in February though often the sheer volume of water and surrounding mist shroud the view.
From the steamy sub-tropical forests of the north to the ice-fields and wind swept Patagonian steppe in the far south, Argentina is a country of dramatic extremes. Bound by the towering Andes to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Argentina is the second largest country in South America behind Brazil and covers some 2,780,400 km². Encapsulating every landscape bar Amazon rainforest, the country can be divided into 4 main regions. To the north, bordering Brazil and Paraguay respectively, the hot and steamy lowlands of Mesopotamia and the Gran Chaco are shrouded in temperate rainforest that teem with tropical life while in the northwest, the land rises up to meet the heights of the Andes with landscapes characterised by red-rock canyons, gorges and traditional altiplano. The central plains are dominated by the fertile pampa grasslands home of Argentina’s cattle industry while the vast, rain starved Patagonia plateau reigns supreme in the south with majestic peaks rising up from rolling grass deserts punctuated by age old icefields.
Meat is unmissable in Argentina and traditional “parillada” barbeques are at the heart of national culture and identity and rightly so - the country offers some of the finest steaks in the world which are often grilled alongside offal, spicy sausages and even sweet breads. In rural areas, where the gaucho cowboy culture is strong, a lamb barbeque (“asado al palo”) is very popular washed down with full bodied Malbec wine, grown in the footballs of the Andes principally around Mendoza. Argentine cuisine also displays strong Mediterranean influences due to the country’s Spanish and Italian heritage with good pasta and pizza throughout. If you have a sweet tooth, the “dulce de leche” (toffee) “alfajores” are delicious. Equally as famous as meat, Argentine tea – “yerba mate” is an acquired taste again at the heart of gaucho culture and drunk socially through a metal “bombilla” straw. The mate gourd is passed around from one person to the next and regularly topped up with hot water. Bitter and mildly addictive, mate has all manner of protocol and social stigma attached to it – do not try and add sugar!
Water is treated but to be on the safe side, it is not advisable to drink tap water in Argentina. Bottled water is very cheap and widely available in all areas of the country.
Australian citizens are currently required to pay a reciprocity visa of US100 before entry into Argentina. Payment must be made online before travel and the resulting confirmation then presented to Argentine customs. For details please refer to the following webpages:-
Oasis accepts no responsibility regarding the issue of visas.
The local currency is the Argentine “Peso” though US dollars are often accepted in the capital’s hotels, tourist shops and restaurants. ATM’s are common throughout and credit cards are also widely accepted though often discounts will be offered for payments made in cash. However, once you leave the main hubs and head into the local villages and markets, it is important to have small denominations of local currency. Traveller’s Cheques are still accepted though commissions vary between one agency to another and are often more of a burden.
Tipping is common throughout Argentina and as a guideline, you should allow US10 for a half day guided tour (US20 for the full day) while for the driver US5 (US8 full day). Of course, only pay for good service. For general transfers, there is no need to tip unless of course they have gone out of their way to help you (ie stopped at a local pharmacy en route).
Inoculations & health precautions
Please consult with your doctor at least 6 week before travel to Argentina. For visits to Iguazu, both ant-malarials and a yellow fever jab are required.
The standard of medical facilities and care in Argentina is generally very good in the key towns and cities. There are foreign private medical clinics and hospitals throughout the country with facilities and services comparable to Australian standards. Medical facilities and care at most public hospitals are also good though medical evacuation to a major centre may be required for minor operations. Most hotels work with a private doctor who will visit you at your room, however, both doctors and hospitals will expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.
It is vital to have good medical insurance before you travel.
Australian Embassy contact in Argentina
Buenos Aires C1426BMJ
Telephone +54 11 4779 3500
Facsimile +54 11 4779 3581
Argentine electrical current is 220 volts at 50 cycles though some bathrooms work off 110V. Plugs are either 2 flat, oblique blades that form an inverted V, or 2 round-prong style. Some isolated estancias or rainforest lodges run off generators and it is recommended you bring along a small torch.
Argentine Airlines offers a direct service from Sydney to Buenos Aires three times a week though depending on your additional travel arrangements you may prefer to look at Qantas or Latam (Lan) which route through Santiago, Chile. Qantas offers a direct service from Sydney to Santiago three times a week while Latam (Lan) offers daily flights to Chile which touch down in Auckland en route. There are other routes available via the US or even via Dubai though only one-world partners Qantas and Lan will entitle you to discounted fares for the Lan dominated internal flights within South America.
Non-stop flight time Sydney – Buenos Aires approximately 15 hours
Non-stop flight time Sydney – Santiago approximately 14 hours
Non-stop flight time Santiago – Buenos Aires approximately 2 hours
Time difference GMT - 3 hours
Tip - Keep some local currency on departure for airport tax