Planning a visit to a huge country like Argentina can be challenging in deciding what to see. The landscape changes dramatically from the barren and dry north to the glaciers and big ice of Patagonia. To help you make some tough decisions, here are the top eight places to visit in Argentina.
1. Nature imitating art along the Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy province
This is mother nature showing off. The Quebrada is a multicoloured mountain range that stretches 155km along the valley of the Rio Grande. Part of the extensive network of Inca trails dating over 10,000 years back, archeological and historic sites are plentiful along this valley. Tilcara is a great village to explore the area from. It's rich in history and traditions also offers a pre-Incan fortress nearby, Pucará de Tilcara. For those looking for a larger town to spend some nights in, head straight to the capital of the province, San Salvador de Jujuy.
2. Fancy vibrant colonial architecture? Make sure you stop in Salta, Salta province
A great city to explore by foot, Salta offers bright coloured churches, manicured town squares and cobbled streets. It's charming colonial architecture is said to resemble Andalusian villages in Spain, whilst the culture is a mix of european, indigenous and non-indigenous. A unique quality that differentiates Salta from the much more European influenced cities further south.
If you've come to Argentina in search of the best steak, you will find it here. Try El Viejo Jack and their Bife Chorizo (US$8) with an accompanying bottle of Malbec (US $8). You'll spend much of the rest of your life searching for one that compares.
3. Food and wine lovers find their paradise in Mendoza, Mendoza province
Supplying almost two thirds of the entire country's wine production, Mendoza is spectacularly nestled afoot the snow capped Andes towering over its vineyards.
Malbec, Tempranillo, Torrontes and Chardonnay are the stars of the show, thriving in the higher altitudes of Mendoza's wineries at around 2,000-3,600 feet. Accommodation and cafes around town and near the wineries range from international Michelin quality to rustic family style experiences. Take a day trip to Aconcagua and its glacier capped peak, to experience the Andes up close. Javier from Plaza Italia B&B tailors personalized boutique wine tours for small groups which include a five-star lunch at award winning winery Ruca Malen.
4. More ice than Elsa could ever poke her magic at in El Calafate & Los Glaciares National Park, Santa Cruz province
El Calafate is the gateway to spectacular Los Glaciares National Park and home to it's most famous attraction, Perito Moreno. A day trip by boat is the way to see this wonder. Tours include hotel pick up, a boat trip past floating ice bergs and 4 majestic glaciers before revealing the 60m high Perito Moreno. Watch large chunks of ice crash into the water below in Hollywood movie worthy fashion.
Central El Calafate has a ski-village feel with souvenir shops housed in wooden huts and plenty of hot coffee aromas filtering through the air. Other opportunities include glacier treks and a well executed glacier museum, the Glaciarium. Eat tender open fire roasted Patagonian lamb with views over the town at Don Pinchon.
5. The ultimate hiking destination. El Chalten, Santa Cruz province
Still within the Los Glaciares National Park lies hikers paradise El Chalten. Purely a tourist village, hikers come here for the warmer months (November to February) to visit the surrounding Cerro El Torre and Cerro Fitzroy. Walkers are rewarded with spectacular views of valleys, glacial rivers and lakes reflecting adjoining mountains on paths varying in degrees difficulty. The centrally located tourist office has hiking maps and advises on potential dangers and path closures.
There are a limited number of guest houses available which fill up in summer, so book ahead.
6. Ever wondered what the end of the world looks like? Find out in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego
At Argentina's 'End of the world' lies Ushuaia. Not entirely postcard worthy itself, it's everything surrounding Ushuaia that is spectacular. Foremost, it's the jump on/off point for adventure cruises to Antarctica. Great walking opportunities, such as the hike up to Glacier Martial just 10 minutes by taxi from town are plentiful. Wildlife lovers, hop on a tour to Harberton Ranch, a 1886 missionary pioneer home housing a laboratory for the study of sea mammals and birds. Many trips include a boat ride across the Beagle Channel to Isla Martillo where you can experience a large penguin colony up close. Return to Ushuaia via a boat cruise down the Beagle Channel showing off snow capped mountains, bird and sea lion inhabited rocks, not to mention the southernmost 'Lighthouse at the end of the world'.
7. Look down the 'Devil's Throat' at Iguazú Falls, Misiones
Tourists descend on the frontier city of Puerto Iguazú to witness nature's great forces of the Iguazú falls. There isn't much to the town itself, but the waterfalls are deemed one of the world's natural wonders for a reason. The acoustic impact alone can make your heart stop but standing on top of the falls looking down the "Devil's throat" of the falls is visually and viscerally inspiring and a little frightening.
8. The country's saucy mistress: The Autonomous City of Buenos Aires
Opulent architectural structures along wide boulevards could convince you you're in Europe. This is also reflected in Buenos Aires' famous cemetery, Recoleta, resting place of their once 'spiritual leader of the nation', Evita Perón.
The city's many quarters offer light and shade. Once shady La Boca today is mostly a tourist attraction known for it's vibrant streets, souvenir shops, restaurants and Tango performances on the weekends. Palermo on the other hand is the trendy quarter with lots of parks, cafés, restaurants bars and boutiques. Its bohemian sister, San Telmo is more rustic with antique shops and markets connected by cobbled streets. Puerto Madero has transformed from industrial port to warehouse apartments and high end restaurants lining the waterfront.
Get involved in a mate ceremony, indulge in dulce de leche and enjoy the warm hospitality of Argentina!
Sandra is a freelance writer and spends most of her cash on travel and food. She captures those experiences at www.sandrashakespeare.com