Buenos Aires: two days
On your visit to Argentina, it’s probable that you will be flying in to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, and it would be a sin to not spend a few days getting to know this incredible city. Home of such cultural icons as Eva Peron and Jorge Luis Borges, Buenos Aires is at once charming and chaotic, but for such a big city actually has quite a laid-back feel.
The best way to explore Buenos Aires is on foot, as it is a city to be experienced rather than to tick sights off a list, as there aren’t that many notable landmarks that Buenos Aires is famous for. The real beauty of the city lies in its many diverse neighbourhoods: the trendy enclave of Palermos Soho and Hollywood, the low-key yet super-hip Chacarita, the upscale beauty of Recoleta, the noisy melee of Once, tango country in Abasto, old-world elegance in San Telmo and new-world glamour in Puerto Madero.
Check out the Recoleta cemetery, then lunch in Palermo, spend some time perusing the Sunday market in San Telmo and check out a tango show in the evening. Walk around the centre where you can see the government buildings, and on Thursday afternoons see the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo marching in the main square. Dine in a parilla like a local and head to the MALBA for your art fix. There is so much to do in Buenos Aires, so two days really isn’t enough. But if you spend a day exploring and another ticking off some of the above suggestions, you will at least have scratched the surface of this incredible city.
Iguazu Falls: one day
The amazing Iguazu Falls are only a short plane ride from Buenos Aires, and the stunning collection of over 250 impressive waterfalls is the main attraction of the town, so there is no need to spend more than a day here to visit the Argentine side, or a day-and-a-half if you want to get in the Brazilian side too. Both are stunning and the Argentine half offers you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the falls, as you will make your way through the jungle that surrounds them, twisting and turning through the foliage on paths that will afford you different vistas of the falls at every turn. You can even take a boat under the falls themselves.
If you do plan on going to the Brazilian side, leave yourself time in the morning the day after the Argentine side (there are plenty of full-day tours available, or you can just pay entry into the park and go yourself). Visiting the Brazilian side will give you spectacular views of the falls from further away, which is great for photo opportunities. Beware that if you are from the United States you will need to have a visa for Brazil before visiting the falls, and this can be a costly and lengthy process, so plan this in advance.
El Calafate/El Chalten: four days
From the jungle to the mountains: a week in Argentina is not very much, you could spend years here and still not see everything. However, one thing that you cannot miss are the incredible glaciers in Patagonia. Glaciers National Park is located near the travel hub of El Calafate, a three-hour plane ride from Buenos Aires, and from El Calafate (a pretty, Alpine-esque town on the banks of Lago Argentino) you can head to see the infamous Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina’s most famous ice sheet. Perito Moreno benefits from great touristic infrastructure, and there is a network of walkways and lookout points so you get the best views of the glacier.
If you are feeling adventurous, book a Big Ice tour which will take you to walk across the top of the glacier. And if you want to get the most impressive views of the front of the glacier, take a boat tour which brings you past the imposing walls of ice. Stick around for a while and you will definitely see and hear the rupture of the glacier, and watch as strips of ice fall in almost slow motion off the face of the glacier and into the sea. El Calafate is a quaint town, but seeing as you are on a tight schedule, best to only spend about a day-and-a-half here.
Heading out of El Calafate, after a bus ride of about three hours you will arrive in El Chalten, the hiking capital of this area of Argentine Patagonia. The town itself was created so neighbouring Chile – who are renowned in Argentina for moving the land border to claim more swathes of Patagonian territory for themselves – wouldn’t take this precious piece of land. El Chalten has grown into a tiny, tidy touristic town that benefits from a dearth of incredible natural features, including the famous Mount Fitz Roy, the form of which inspired the logo for the Patagonia apparel company.
The beauty of El Chalten is that there are plenty of day hikes to take part in, so you can experience the natural splendour without having to trek and camp overnight, perfect for the end of your seven-day trip to Argentina. Four days between El Calafate and El Chalten will allow you to see the glacier and do one or two day-hikes, so you can certainly tick Patagonia off your list afterwards.