When people visit Argentina, they are naturally drawn to its capital city, Buenos Aires and its romantic gauchos, haunting tangos, rolling pampas, towering mountains and sparkling lakes. However, most people aren’t aware that because of Argentina’s size, it offers the best of both worlds from the Antarctica-like glaciers in Patagonia to its tropical jungle in the north. To get the most out of your trip to Argentina, here are some planning tips as well as some Do’s and Don’ts.
Choose a manageable itinerary that works within your time frame.
It takes 9 hours by plane to reach Argentina. Plan to spend some time traveling around the country because an internal flight lasting 1 ½ to 2 hours is usually required in order to reach the best destinations. If you are also planning to explore Chile or Brazil, you will have to limit the number of regions you will visit outside of Buenos Aires because most regions are worth visiting for at least three nights. Your budget, not to mention your time, will be overrun if you spend a significant amount of time on planes, and money on internal airfare.
Be mindful of the seasonality.
Remember that in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed. You should visit Argentina between late October and early April. During these months, the temperatures are more moderate and the rain is less plentiful because these are spring and summer months. However, you may feel free to visit the northern part of the country, which features both Buenos Aires and the Iguazu falls, all year round.
Cultural immersion opportunities abound.
If you are into dancing, you can choose to attend a tango show, take a private lesson, or visit a milonga, a dance hall where the natives dance tango during their lunch break from work. You can also watch a soccer game or a polo match, if you are more into sports. Teatro Colon, ranked by National Geographic as the third best Opera House in the world also puts on the best opera, ballet and classical music concert shows all year. While in Buenos Aires, consider taking a cooking workshop. It not only immerses you deeper into the culture, it also gives you a skill you can take back home with you.
Where to go and how long to stay?
• Buenos Aires, the “Paris of the South”, is worth at least two nights, three for city lovers. Free time here is not wasted but be careful of thieves.
• Glaciers National Park (Calafate) is the best place for seeing — and trekking on — glaciers within Argentina. The incomparably beautiful Perito Moreno glacier may just be the loveliest glacier outside Antarctica. Recommend three nights.
• The Lake District (Bariloche, Villa La Angostura) is justifiably called “Little Switzerland” for its mountains, lakes, rivers, lush vegetation and many adventure options – hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and kayaking. Three nights.
• Iguazu Falls are widely considered one of the two most impressive falls in the world — MUCH more impressive than Niagara or Angel falls. We recommend spending one or two nights to see both the Argentine and Brazilian sides, which offer completely different views.
• The Valdez Peninsula region is the best spot for wildlife viewing in Argentina. You can visit a huge penguin rookery in Punta Tombo, and observe whales, sea lions, elephant seals, guanaco and countless sea birds. Four hours of driving is required per day. Lodging is not upscale. Recommend two nights.
• Mt. Fitzroy (El Chalten) is one of the two most impressive sites within Argentina’s southern Patagonia region (the other being Perito Moreno glacier). A 3 1/2 hour drive from Calafate, this is a truly outstanding spot for scenery and hiking. Great for photographers. We recommend spending two nights at Fitzroy.
• Ushuaia is a pleasant town with a nice national park nearby (Tierra del Fuego) but the scenery in this region is not as outstanding as the places listed above. If you go, stay for two nights.
Do’s & Don’ts for Argentina
1. DON’T dress too casually. Shorts and flip-flops will raise eyebrows in a country that is very concerned with fashion and appropriate dress.
2. DON’T yawn or eat in public (on the street) – it’s considered very rude.
3. DON’T make the “OK” or thumbs up gesture – they are both considered vulgar.
4. DON’T expect social occasions to begin on time – it’s actually considered rude to arrive for a party on time.
5. DON’T say that you are “American”; instead say that you are from the “United States”, the “U. S. ” or from “North America”. (Spanish speakers can say that they are from “Los Estados Unidos”.
6. DON’T worry about change when the amount is small. Small-value coins and bills are rare in circulation and no one worries much about amounts less than 50 centavos.
7. DON’T talk about sensitive topics such as Argentina’s relationship with Brazil, Great Britain or The Falkland Islands, which could evoke strong reactions. Also avoid discussing politics and religion.
1. DO tip 10% at restaurants and 1 peso per bag to hotel porters.
2. DO share some mate (tea) with your fellow travelers – or with strangers. The national drink is passed around clockwise and shared as a sign of friendship and acceptance. The tea packs quite a caffeine “punch. “
3. DO expect to be kissed on the cheek when meeting or departing from acquaintances.
4. DO sleep in – Argentina and especially Buenos Aires has a thriving tradition of nightlife, and things rarely get started until near midnight!
5. DO try to learn the Tango. Tango is a way of life in Argentina, and being able to dance will make your time there more fun and exciting.
6. DO check out a Polo match. Argentinians love Polo and it is quite a beautiful sport to observe.
7. DO have a coffee at the famous Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires. The cafe has been popular with artists, intellectuals and others since 1858.