Besides the most famous destinations like Buenos Aires or Iguazu Falls, Argentina is home to many lesser-known treasures that are just waiting to be explored.
From north to south and from east to west, leave the classic tourist destinations behind and travel a little further into some of the more remote regions to get a feel of authentic Argentina.
Here are five of our favourite off the beaten path adventures you should keep in mind if travelling to this vast and beautiful country.
Exploring the wineries of Cafayate
Famous for its Malbec, Argentina is the fifth largest wine-producing country in the world today. Up in the north-west near Salta, Cafayate is one of the country’s most outstanding wine regions, yet most visitors go to Mendoza. After crossing the scenic Los Cardones National Park from Salta, follow the legendary Ruta 40 road down the Calchaquies Valley, which is home to the highest vineyards in the world. With 99% of the vineyards being devoted to the production of fine wines, the area is particularly known for Torrontes white wines. This is the perfect place to explore a local bodega followed by wine tasting and an asado lunch, accompanied by artisan wine of course!
Hiking in Fitzroy
There is nothing quite like hiking under the granite peaks of Fitzroy to the turquoise waters of Laguna de Los Tres. This rugged landscape of beech forests and pristine glacial lakes is one of the world’s great places to hike, both on and off the ice. The great thing about Fitzroy is that most of the hikes start from the town of El Chalten, so it’s nice and easy and you really don’t have to walk very far at all to get a sense of these mountains. Whether you’re looking for serious hiking or more relaxed walks, there is a good range of different route choices according to your mood and energy levels. By the way, you can also grab a taxi to take you further up the valley to visit the impressive Lago del Desierto for some fantastic birdlife and unforgettable scenery.
Wildlife and Gaucho culture in the Valdés Peninsula
Tucked away on the eastern Patagonia coast, this rugged peninsula is crammed with wildlife and is one of the world’s greatest whale-watching destinations and marine reserves. You can choose to be as active or relaxed as you like, either way still seeing plenty of wildlife. Stroll along the cliffs to see huge colonies of elephant seals, penguins and sea lions frolicking in the ocean or lazing around on the beaches below. At certain times of the year, whales can be seen clearly from the cliff tops, but we recommend taking a boat trip for a much closer view. The endangered Southern Right whales that breed here are the main attraction. Other than that, the gaucho culture is a fascinating one which you may brush up against during your time too, and it’s likely that you will enjoy a maté at some point – the ultimate sign of hospitality in Patagonia.
Cruising the fjords along the Beagle Channel
Whilst cruises don’t exactly chime with our basic ethos (the sort of holiday which separates visitors from the countries they visit), there are places where boat travel is the best way to go. Skorpios in northern (Chilean) Patagonia and Australis in the south are two examples. These are genuine expedition cruises where the focus lies on active discovery rather than on wining and dining (which does of course have its place – just not as a priority while remarkable scenery passes by!). Of the two, Australis is perhaps the best as it offers active experiences with regular landings and hiking on shore, taking you through the fjords of the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego and reaching some of the world’s most remote glaciers. During the voyage the expedition team hosts interesting presentations (both on board and on land) on the wildlife, history and geography of the region. A pretty fine Plan B if you haven’t got time to get to Antarctica.
Road trip to Puna
Our last off the beaten path adventure in Argentina takes you to the remote high altitude puna area in the north-west, probably the most undiscovered part of the country. Empty and staggeringly unspoilt, only a few tourists actually reach the altiplano. At the wheel of your 4×4 explore a landscape full of volcanos, imposing salt flats, unexpected oases, and yellow grasses packed with llamas and vicunas. But also the biggest flamingo population in South America (up to 19,000) and, perhaps the most impressive of all, the silent sand dunes which are so white it almost looks like snow. The silence here is incredibly powerful and striking … no people, traffic, birds, animals, insects …nothing. It is very rare to experience such silence and it creates a real sense of the desert and isolation.