Argentina isn’t top-of-mind for lots of families looking for a unique travel destination – but it really should be. Just find 10 days on your calendar, pack some “strong” dollars, hop a red-eye from Miami and you’ll land in a country packed with epic landscapes, renown wines and outdoor adventures galore.
ROAM spoke with regional travel experts Patricia Sanchez and Corinne Tateossian of Deluxe Argentina to get an orientation to the travel opportunities awaiting families.
ROAM: How much time is needed to get a feel for Argentina?
Deluxe Argentina: First, it is important to realize that Argentina is a very large country – about one-third the size of the Continental U.S.– so it is not possible to see it all on one trip. But our size means we offer visitors several different regions and a variety of amazing landscapes and outdoor adventures. That said, you don’t need a month either. We recommend a minimum of ten days. That time will allow you to visit three destinations – Buenos Aires plus two other regions. Most of these areas are a 2-3 hour flight from the capital.
ROAM: Can you describe the most interesting tourism regions for families?
Deluxe Argentina: Let’s work our way around the country. Starting in the northeast, the world famous Iguazu Falls sits on the border with Brazil and Paraguay.
This jungle area offers 2-3 days worth of sights and activities, including boating under the falls or helitour-ing over them! Trekking in the national park in Argentina, visiting the famous bird park on the Brazilian side or biking with lights through the jungle at dusk are all easily doable with kids.
The Esteros del Iberá is a hard-to-reach but amazing experience visiting wetlands in the east. Representatives from a ranch will pick you up from Mercedes City and take you to their marshland property, full of alligators, deer, capybaras and monkeys. They offer night safaris, boat rides and horseback rides through this unique remote area located miles from the nearest settlement.
Wine lovers never miss 2-3 days near Mendoza in the west. Home to the Malbec wine country, this fertile ground at the base of the Andes offers far more than wine tasting: mountain biking, horseback riding and river rafting are just a few of the adventures visitors enjoy in this gorgeous area.
From Mendoza, it is easy to hop over the western border to Chile and the Torres del Paine in Patagonia or the Atacama Desert. Families love this desert area because of the geothermal attractions. You can see geysers, dunes and then float in a “Dead Sea.” Atacama is also world famous among astrologers. If your kids are into astronomy, this area offers some of the best stargazing in the world.
In the very, very south, Ushuaia is known as the southernmost city in the world. That’s why many tourists like to take a ride on its train – which is also the southernmost in the world. From Ushuaia, you can also sail throughout the Beagle Channel and watch the arctic wildlife of the area. Trekking at the national park surrounded by forests and lakes is also a great experience.
At the southern end of Patagonia, families aim for El Calafate. Visitors aged 12-65 can take a tour to walk across a glacier in a small group and finish with a picnic of local cheese, smoked salmon and fruit – and adults can sip whiskey atop glacial ice.
Patagonia is known as the land of the Argentinian gaucho. Families often want to stay on a cattle ranch for a few days to get a glimpse of “gaucho life” – how the cattle are managed and how the farm works. There are hikes and horseback rides that end with beautiful picnic lunches. The best ranches to stay at are located in Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes.
On the Atlantic coast at Peninsula Valdes, the sea is rich with life. From July to December, the sea here is by far one of the best places in the world to observe the Southern Right whales because mother whales deliver their babies in a tightly concentrated area.
There is also a very important colony of Magellanic Penguins here. It is also possible to see orcas, sea lions and other forms of sea life. Kids can appreciate the spirit of undersea explorers in a semi submersible boat that was designed and built to not only watch these sea creatures from the outdoor deck but also from underwater as if you were diving with them! Truly, it is a one-of-a-kind experience…
For families wanting an off-the-beaten-path corner of Argentina, our favorite, less-touristic destinations are the provinces of Salta and Jujuy in the north. You really need five or six days to appreciate this area, which seems lost in time. These are small villages filled with artisans and Incan influence.
The towns are surrounded by hills of spectacular colors – like the Hill of Seven Colors – and vast salt flats. Here we send families on bike trips across the salt flats or on half-day or full-day trekking adventures with aboriginal people and llamas.
ROAM: What do families enjoy doing in Buenos Aires?
Deluxe Argentina: Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with all the museums and city squares and parks that any capital city would have. But we find young tourists are most excited about experiential things to do.
Lots of families start with a city tour and then do a bike tour or graffiti tour to look more in-depth. There is a delicious food walking tour of the old district of San Telmo and cooking classes for the whole family that teach how to make empanadas – including how to properly make the repulge – their twisted edge – and prepare the infusion for maté. We help also arrange trips to a soccer game or to the polo fields to watch or try Argentina’s most famous sports.
A fun day trip visits the unique community near Buenos Aires that lives in the Rio del Plata river delta. They live over the islands and move around by water. Kids love this area because they can see how the locals go to school by boat or shop in stores on boats or islands. It is an easy day trip from the city.
ROAM: What itinerary combinations do you recommend for families?
Deluxe Argentina: Our most popular itinerary starts with 2-3 nights in Buenos Aires, moves to Iguazu Falls area for 2-3 nights then heads to Patagonia for the rest of the trip. Wine loving parents usually go from Buenos Aires to Mendoza for a few nights then on to Santiago and the Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine or both. Our bucket list trip stops in Ushuaia and boards a two-week cruise to Antarctica.
ROAM: What is the best season to go to Argentina?
Deluxe Argentina: Our summer is the best time to visit – from September to March, so Argentina is a great winter holiday or off-season destination for Americans. Also, if you can add a few days to your spring break, which would be a perfect time to visit.
ROAM: How safe is independent travel in Argentina compared to other South American destinations?
Deluxe Argentina: In Buenos Aires or other big cities, we recommend tourists take the same precautions they would in any other major metropolitan area. You shouldn’t dress too flashy or walk alone in certain areas. In other areas, we recommend going with a local – like to a soccer match, for example – so that you can stay safe and have an authentic experience.
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