Argentina is a vast country with a diverse landscape. As you travel from North to South, it’s hard to believe you are in the same country the entire time. Sixteen days in Argentina is not long enough to completely immerse yourself in all the beauty of this destination, so we had to narrow down our expectations to four different places to visit in Argentina: El Calafate, Bariloche, Mendoza, and Buenos Aires.
This Sixteen Days in Argentina Itinerary covers detailed things to do in Patagonia, while stationed in El Calafate and then traveling up to Bariloche for more hiking, wineries to visit in Mendoza, and how to spend your days in Buenos Aires. It is a packed itinerary and would require renting a car during some legs of the trip.
Argentina is immense and if you are traveling by land getting from one end to the other can take over 30 hours. Unless you have a couple of months to explore, which would be awesome, narrow your places to visit in Argentina down to what most interests you and what your budget allows. We enjoy good wine, so Mendoza was not going to be missed on this trip! We have traveled to Chile before where we explored the Northern and Central parts of Chile, so during this trip, we definitely wanted to make it all the way down to Patagonia!
Things to know about Argentina before you travel
Getting to Argentina
Your entry point to Argentina is most likely going to be Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has three main airports:
- Ministro Pistarini International Airport, Ezeiza (EZE) – Main international airport.
- Jorge Newbery Airport, known as Aeroparque (APE) – Serves mainly domestic flights and flights from neighboring countries.
- El Palomar (EPA) – Serves a range of low-cost domestic flights and has only been open since 2018.
If you are continuing on to another destination from Buenos Aires, you may have to change airports. It may not always be obvious when booking your flight that there is a change of airports required, so make sure to check! If you do have to change airports, make sure you have enough time to pick up your luggage, get to another airport (most likely from EZE to APE which is about an hour’s drive), check-in, and get through security. We had a five-hour layover when flying from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, and it seemed like just enough time where we didn’t feel rushed or have to wait around too long, it was a really nice scenic drive right through the center of Buenos Aires.
How to Get Around Argentina
Once in Argentina, you can find a lot of low-cost options to fly.
Tip: Do check if the low cost ticket includes luggage or an assigned seat, even a paper boarding pass can be an additional cost.
If flying doesn’t work with your budget, Argentina has a very developed bus system. These are not just regular buses, they are equipped with AC, TVs, toilets, fully reclining seats and food and drinks are served. With the long distances between destinations in Argentina, a lot of these bus routes run overnight. The overnight bus routes can be a good budget option, not having to pay for accommodations, and you get there early the next day refreshed and ready to explore.
You can also just rent a car and plan a road trip for yourself. Lastly, you can hitchhike! It is normal to see people with their backpacks on the side of the road hitchhiking to get from one destination to the next in Argentina and it is completely safe.
An entry visa is not required from the US, UK, EU, Australia, and Canada at this time, but double-check during your planning stages since it can take up to 90 days to receive a visa if needed.
The Argentinian currency is the Argentine Peso. It was impossible for us to find a bank or currency exchange place in the US that had any Argentine Pesos, not even the Miami Airport which is the main hub for most South American travelers to the USA. The exchange rate for Argentinian currency is so volatile that a lot of places do not want to take a chance of holding it. We sent ourselves money via Western Union and picked it up when we arrived in El Calafate in Argentine Pesos.
Be aware that however much money you send yourself, it will be a big stack (AR$ 100 = $0.29 currently). If exchanging US dollars for local currency while in Argentina (at the bank or the airport) make sure that your dollar bills are in pristine condition. If they have a rip or writing on them, they will not be accepted.
Argentina just like most other South American countries has stray dogs everywhere. They are usually very friendly and only interested in you if you are giving them food. However, they do sometimes have “turf wars” with other dogs and can be aggressive toward them.
220V supply voltage and Argentina has two plug types, type C and I. Plug C has two round pins, and plug I has three flat pins.
In Argentina, spring is from October to mid-December, and fall is from April to mid-June. The weather in Patagonia is unpredictable, to say the least, the wind is brutal, the rain is cold and the sun beats down and warms you up quickly. Pack a lot of layers and carry a lightweight backpack with you to store the layers in.
Argentina is mostly safe for tourists. Once in bigger cities like Mendoza and Buenos Aires, you can see the potential for petty crime, but we had no issues. Use common sense just like you would anywhere else.
Sixteen Days in Argentina Itinerary
- DAY 1: ARRIVE IN BUENOS AIRES, FLY TO EL CALAFATE
- DAY 2: EXPLORE EL CALAFATE AND DINNER SHOW AT ESTANCIA
- DAY 3: VISIT THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER
- DAY 4: EL CHALTEN
- DAY 5: TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK
- DAY 6: FLY TO BARILOCHE
- DAY 7: CERRO LLAO LLAO TRAIL
- DAY 8: FREY POR EL FILO (LITERALLY “FREY BY THE EDGE”)
- DAY 9: Route of the Seven Lakes
- DAY 10 – 12: MENDOZA
- DAY 13 – 16: BUENOS AIRES
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN BUENOS AIRES, FLY TO EL CALAFATE
El Calafate will be our home base for the next five days.
From here the places we will visit are:
An Estancia – a traditional working family ranch with animals, mainly sheep, and cows.
The Perito Moreno Glacier – a glacier in Patagonia, that you can walk on.
El Chalten – a small village with many hikes, but mainly known for accessibility to Fitz Roy.
Torres del Paine – national park in Chile side of Patagonia great for same-day hikes, or multi-day hikes (W Trek)
We found a tour agency and booked all our tours through them, but these are all very doable by yourself if you are renting a car with perhaps the exception of Torres del Paine. It was a long drive over unpaved roads and the tour company used off-road buses.
We stayed at Santa Monica Apartments. The little “resort” with about ten cabins right in the middle of everything. Close to all the stores and restaurants. Breakfast is available every morning starting at 5 a.m., and most of our days start very early.
Since we arrived in the late afternoon, the rest of the day we spent walking around town and finishing the day with dinner at La Zaina.
Tip: Make dinner reservations ahead of time, especially during the busy season. In Argentina dinner starts late, after 21:30.
DAY 2: EXPLORE EL CALAFATE AND DINNER SHOW AT ESTANCIA
After getting ourselves acquainted with the town and shops, we walked down to Lago Argentina for a beautiful glacier lake view and a visit to Reserva Laguna Nimez a sanctuary for many indigenous bird species.
Around 16:00, the pick-up is for the Estancia visit. The reservations, pick up, and drop off we were able to arrange through their website.
The Estancia we visited was 25 de Mayo, since it was Christmas Eve, they were the only ones open for dinner. 25 de Mayo is located directly in El Calafate which makes it very convenient. There are a few others to choose from, including some you can stay at, but they are located further outside of town. They provided a wonderful traditional Patagonian meal (lots of grilled meat!) and you can learn a lot about the history of El Calafate, Argentina’s cultural right – Yerba Mate tea and sheep rearing.
DAY 3: VISIT THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER
The Perito Moreno Glacier is about a 90-minute drive from El Calafate. If you don’t have a rental car, you can take a bus or book a tour that takes you there. Entrance to the park must be paid in Argentine Pesos ($800 ARS). The experience of seeing a massive glacier so close in front of you will have lasting effects.
While at the park, you can walk around the platforms and take some great pictures, book a tour to go kayaking or take a boat ride around the glacier for a closer look. Or our favorite option, go hiking on the glacier!
Tip: Keep an eye and ear out for the falling chunks of ice, it is incredible to see and hear.
Still in awe after experiencing such a towering force of a glacier, we chatted on and enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner at MAKO Fuegos y Vinos.
DAY 4: EL CHALTEN
El Chalten, known as the “National Capital of Trekking in Argentina”, is a tiny village three hours away from El Calafate and home of the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. It offers many day hikes with views of Fitz Roy. We hiked to Laguna Capri (4-5 hours roundtrip) but unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and we never saw the peaks.
After the hike, we stopped at the Patagonia Rebelde restaurant for a refreshing beer and a wonderful vegetable soup, to warm us after the ever-changing Patagonian weather soaked us with cold rain before we got on the bus back to El Calafate.
Once in El Calafate, we had dinner at Morrison. The rustic restaurant off the main path, with delicious home-style food and where we discovered our favorite Patagonian Pinot Noir – Saurus by Familia Schroeder.
DAY 5: TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK
No, one day in Torres del Paine is not enough, but if that is all you can fit into your trip, do it! Torres del Paine is unbelievably beautiful and worth a visit, even if it is just for a day.
Driving from El Calafate to Torres del Paine takes 3.5 hours, without any issues at the border, but crossing into Chile is never easy. Be prepared to wait in long lines, and do not bring any meat or fruit with you.
Spending a day in the park has solidified our plans to return and do either the ‘W’ or ‘O’ trek next time! We are already starting a new list of places to visit in Argentina.
On our last night in El Calafate, we had dinner at Isabel Cocina al Disco, sharing one of the ‘discos’, and instead of the wine list, the staff pointed us to the room where you walk in and choose your bottle.
DAY 6: FLY TO BARILOCHE
We got to “sleep in” until 7 a.m. this morning. Since we have been in El Calafate, every day has started around 5 a.m., and did not end until about midnight and it was starting to wear on us. We were looking forward to a low-key day. On your flight from El Calafate to Bariloche, try to sit on the left side of the plane (facing west), THE VIEWS! Breathtaking!
Upon arriving in Bariloche, we rented a car at the airport and headed to our AirBnB right on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi. After we settled in, we had lunch at Chimi Bar de Choris. This was our first introduction to Argentinian choris and we were not disappointed!
TIP: If you don’t have a car to get around town you have an option of using a bus, hire a remis or hitchhike.
After lunch, we took a hike to the top of Cerro Campanario. It is a quick (~30 – 45 minutes) but steep hike in the middle of the town. At the summit, you are rewarded with a 360° view of the numerous lakes and mountains surrounding Bariloche. Take it in. Also, there is a chairlift as an option to get to the top.
Our dinner for the first night in Bariloche was at Butterfly, a little house right on the lake converted into a family-owned restaurant with maybe ten tables total. It is reservation only and the reservations fill up quickly so plan ahead if you want to enjoy this wonderful restaurant. They offer a tasting menu with wine pairing, and everything was excellent. The only thing missing from this restaurant is music playing in the background, so you don’t have to hear everyone else’s conversation.
It was a great first day in Bariloche.
DAY 7: CERRO LLAO LLAO TRAIL
Tip: Ll is pronounced as “sh” in Argentina, unlike most other Spanish-speaking countries where ll sounds more like “y”. For example, if ordering vanilla ice cream, it will be pronounced vanisha.
The Llao Llao municipal park has a few different trails, all very well marked. We hiked to Cerro Llao Llao and then to Playa Villa Tacul, both with stunning views all around you. This can be 3-4 hr hike or an all-day event if you decide to have a picnic at the playa.
After the hike, we drove to Cerveceria Patagonia, for more beautiful views and refreshing beer. We do not think there could possibly be another brewery in the world with views like this!
We had dinner at El Mexicano and turned in fairly early in preparation for a big hike the next day.
DAY 8: FREY POR EL FILO (LITERALLY “FREY BY THE EDGE”)
To do the Frey por el Filo hike, plan to start early since it is 22 km. Make your way to the car parking lot at the base of Cerro Catedral and purchase lift tickets at the office (take the gondola ‘Amancay’ and then the ‘Diente de Caballo’ chairlift to the top).
Once at the top, there is a restaurant/café which is the last place to use a bathroom or fill up water until you make it to Refugio Frey. This is where the walk on the ridge of the mountain begins. Most of this trek is walking on rocks, using both hands and feet to climb up, and walking through snow patches and creeks. It is rugged terrain. We found it helpful to have a hiking pole in one hand and use the other hand to hold onto the rocks.
If you are uncomfortable with heights, there are other, less intense options to get to Refugio Frey. The Trek Bariloche website has very good details on the different options as well as other hikes around Bariloche.
The trail is marked with spray-painted red dots on the rocks (sometimes red dots will have a blue circle around them) and will lead you to the Refugio. At the Refugio, we used the facilities and had our lunch while enjoying the magnificent view.
We descended back to the parking lot using the normal trail. The descent was dusty and hot, and we refilled our water bottles numerous times at different streams that we came across. To complete the loop it took about 8-9 hours.
This was our last and favorite hike of the entire trip and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Dinner that evening was at BELEK brewpub, nothing like beer and burgers after a great hike, and BELEK came through!
DAY 9: Route of the Seven Lakes
We needed a less strenuous day today, plus it was New Year’s Eve and we wanted to be rested for the evening. With that in mind, we opted for a drive on the famous RUTA 40, a scenic drive of seven lakes – La Ruta de Los Siete Lagos. There are more lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and little creeks on this route, but the route is named seven lakes for the following lakes:
- Lago Nahuel Haupi
- Lago Espejo
- Lago Corresntos
- Lago Escondido
- Lago Villario
- Lago Falkner
- Lago Machónico
It takes about 3 hours one way to complete the route without stopping. Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to stop at each lake, and another hour or so for lunch. Click here for a link to a great post on the route.
We returned around 19:00 and got ready for New Year’s Eve celebration at Quiven. The perfect end to the day and our time in Patagonia.
One thing about Bariloche is that the views are endless and beautiful. We have not seen a place like this before. We highly recommend Bariloche make the “places to visit in Argentina” list.
DAY 10 – 12: MENDOZA
On day 10, we fly from Bariloche to Mendoza to begin the more “relaxing phase” of the trip.
The natural beauty of Patagonia is unparalleled, but we are ready to learn all about the famous Malbec of Argentina, also known as the “Bebida Nacional”. Over the next few days, we explore different wineries in the Mendoza area, learning about Malbec and different other grapes and blends from this region.
If you are interested in more information about the different Mendoza wine regions check out our wine blog post “Best Wineries to Visit in Mendoza”
In Mendoza, we stayed at the Diplomatic Hotel, rented a car and drove to the different wineries ourselves. There are plenty of options for guided winery tours that provide transportation if you think you may enjoy too much of the “National Drink”. For a wine lover and consumer, Mendoza must make a list of places to visit in Argentina.
However, Mendoza is not just for wine lovers. There are many other things to do and places to visit in the area.
Lake Potrerillos is just 50 km west of Mendoza, it is a man-made lake where you can relax and have a picnic, or if you are up for some more activity whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, and hiking are available in the area too.
Driving further west you can visit Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge), a natural arch carved by glacier melt.
Even further west is the park entrance for the hike to the Aconcagua summit. South America’s tallest mountain. The hike to the Aconcagua Base Camp is a day hike of about 16 km. You can find more information on their website as there is a permit that needs to be filled out and paid for, also public transportation options.
All in all, there are a lot of options for everyone to do around Mendoza.
Restaurants that we dined in while in Medoza: Oregano, Mumbai Masala, and Josephine – all excellent.
DAY 13 – 16: BUENOS AIRES
Buenos Aires, just like most major South American cities, is huge, and can be overwhelming to figure out where to stay and what to do. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood and used either the subway “SUBE” or Uber to get around, in combination with a lot of walking.
By the time we got to Buenos Aires, we were tired of having every day planned out and having to be somewhere at a certain time. We wanted to sleep in and stay up late, and we did! With our morning coffee, we would figure out what we wanted to do that day, then at some point, we would stop somewhere for a drink and figure out where to go for dinner and it was great not worrying about the schedule.
Things to see while in Bueno Aires:
- Plaza de Mayo
- Recoleta Cemetery
- La Boca
- Teatro Colon
- Jardin Japones
- Dinner and Tango Show
There are so many other attractions and day trips to take from Buenos Aires, so just put on comfortable shoes and walk around.
Restaurants we’ve eaten at:
- Chori – Traditional Argentinian sausage sandwiches
- La Mar – Peruvian seafood restaurant, amazing ceviche
- El Burladero – Spanish style food, paella was delicious
- Mishiguene – Jewish style food, everything was superb
- La Cocina – Oven baked empanada, need we say more!
Buenos Aires makes every list of places to visit in Argentina, and rightly so. However, for us it did not leave lasting effects like some cities have. It could be because we were toward the end of our trip and our motivation was dwindling down. Nevertheless, we would still recommend it as one of the places to visit in Argentina and we will return ourselves, just to give it another shot.
Time to fly back home…
The natural beauty we’ve seen on this trip has left us wanting to explore a lot more of South America! Bariloche left us speechless and the Frey Por el Filo hike was the highlight.
Some other places to visit in Argentina if you have more time:
- Iguazu Falls
- Valdez Peninsula
Other helpful posts…