Our Argentina Itinerary
Are you thinking of flying to South America and visiting Argentina? International flights are long and can be expensive. We flew from Europe, but there are some great deals for Argentina travel from the United States, or through the Middle East. Want to see mountains, lakes, glaciers, wildlife and enjoy some city time? No idea where to begin with planning your Argentina itinerary, or Patagonia itinerary?
Don’t worry, we have made it easy for you, with our three-week itinerary that includes Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Find out how to get to Patagonia; when’s the best time to visit Patagonia, how much does following a three-week Patagonia itinerary cost and where’s the best place for some Patagonia hiking.
Day One to Four – Explore Buenos Aires
You may be itching to get out into the nature of Patagonia but there’s a lot to see and do in Argentina’s capital, so it’s worth spending a few days here. Here are a few of our favourite things we did while in the city.
- If you’re in Buenos Aires over a weekend, you must visit the weekend markets at San Telmo or Recoleta.
- Talking of Recoleta, you really should visit the cemetery. Yes, I know roaming a cemetery sounds a bit weird, but it’s lovely.
- I’m sure you will see Evita’s tombstone at the cemetery, now you will want to know more about her life. Visit the small Museu Evita, tucked away in a small side street. The restaurant next door is a nice place for lunch.
- Visit the Floralis Genérica sculpture in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. One of Buenos Aires’ iconic spots!
- Visit the world’s most beautiful bookshop, El Ateneo. Once a theatre for tango dancers and the first place to show sound movies in Buenos Aires.
- Take a tango lesson or at least see a tango show
- Visit the ESMA Site Museum where the Clandestine Centre of Detention, Torture, and Extermination was based. Learn about those that ‘disappeared’ during the last military dictatorship in the late ’70s.
- Visit the Memorial Park by the Rio de la Plata.
- See the colourful houses on Rua Caminito in La Boca. While in La Boca, pop by the football stadium and enjoy a fantastic lunch at El Obrero.
- Want another stamp in your passport, head across the Rio de la Plata and visit the historic city of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.
- Enjoy a steak meal.
Check out this post from our friend Barbara Weibel of Hole in The Donut, for a more in-depth photo journey through Buenos Aires.
Where to stay while I tour Buenos Aires?
There’s accommodation to suit all budgets in Buenos Aires. We stayed with our friends in the Palermo area, just a ten-minute walk from Recoleta. It’s a good base from where to explore the sights of the city.
Video of Street Dancing in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Day Five to Ten – Explore Patagonia’s Lake District – Bariloche, Villa la Angostura, and San Martin de Los Andes
To truly experience the Lake District, we really recommend renting your own car. Don’t worry the roads are paved most of the time and it’s well signposted. It just makes getting around so much easier.
So here’s a list of our favourite things to see and do in the Lake District.
- Take the cable car to the summit of Cerro Otto. It’s only five kilometres outside Bariloche. If you don’t have a car, there is a free shuttle bus that regularly runs from Bariloche town.
- Drive the Circuito Chico. A stunning 60 kilometres circular drive from Bariloche offering fabulous mountain and lake views.
- If you don’t have your own transport, take bus number 20 to LLao LLao. A great place for some Patagonia hiking.
- Drive the Route of the Seven Lakes (Ruta de Los Siete Lagos). It’s a stunning drive. You really should have your own transport for this section, although tours are available from agencies in Bariloche, Villa la Angostura, and San Martin de Los Andes. It’s also possible to visit each of the towns around the lake by local bus.
- Drive Route 40, come back on unpaved Route 65 via Lake Traful.
- Eat chocolate.
- Best steak meal, according to Jonathan, was at the Alto el Fuego restaurant in Bariloche.
If we had had a little more time, we would have loved to have visited El Bolson. Have you been there? What did we miss?
Where to stay in Argentina’s Lake District?
We stayed in Bariloche, Playa Bonita, Villa la Angostura, and San Martin de Los Andes. There is accommodation to suit all budgets – from hostels to luxury resorts. If travelling in high season, we recommend making reservations in advance.
Days 10 to 14 – El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier
There’s more to El Calafate that just the Perito Moreno Glacier, however, if your time is limited, be sure to allow at least one full day for visiting the glacier.
So here’s our list of our favourite things to see and do around El Calafate.
- Spend a full day at Perito Moreno Glacier. With your own transport, you can arrive before the crowds. Without your own transportation, there are plenty of bus shuttles that run from the town of El Calafate to the Glacier.
- Enjoy the many boardwalk trails near the glacier. Each path offers a different aspect of the glacier. All trails are well signposted and graded by distance and level of difficulty. Even the most challenging is not that challenging for anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness.
- Take a boat tour to visit the north face of the glacier.
- Walk on the glacier.
- Visit the Glaciarium Patagonian Ice Museum. An interesting museum about glaciers and climate change. All signage and documentaries shown in the museum are in both Spanish and English. If you don’t have your own transport, there is a free shuttle from El Calafate to the museum.
- Visit Reserva Laguna Nimez, a wetlands area, just on the edge of El Calafate and an easy walk from the town centre. A lovely three-kilometre nature trail and perfect for bird watching. I don’t know much about birds, but we saw loads of flamingoes.
- See Rock Paintings at the Walichu Caves alongside Lago Argentino.
Where To Stay In El Calafate?
There’s accommodation to suit all budgets in El Calafate – from dorm beds to luxury accommodation. We stayed in the simple Las Cabanitas, a quiet guesthouse but an easy walk to the bars, restaurants, and shops of El Calafate.
If we had had longer, we would have loved to visit El Chalten and done some hiking around Mount Fitzroy. El Chalten is a three-hour bus journey from El Calafate.
For more information about our stay in El Calafate, please click here.
Days 15 – 17 – Ushuaia at the End of the World
No Patagonia adventure would be complete without a few nights at the end of the world. There’s a lot to see and do at the southernmost city in the world.
Here’s a list of our favourite things to see and do around Ushuaia.
- Enjoy some of the walking trails at Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Check the cruise schedule to make sure you don’t arrive at the park when a giant cruise ship is in because you know where those passengers will be going.
- Take a trip on the Beagle Channel. We recommend Tres Maria’s as they take just a maximum of twelve people. We hiked on one of the islands, saw sea-lions up close, and visited the lighthouse.
- Eat a giant crab.
- Enjoy a fish lunch at a restaurant in the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Almanza.
Where to stay in Ushuaia?
There’s accommodation to suit all budgets from dorm beds to luxury rooms. Note that the really luxury hotels are quite a way out of town. We stayed in the Matices del Fin del Mundo apartment. Simple but homey apartment and just a short walk into town. Some people do Ushuaia as a day trip from a cruiseliner, but we think that is missing a lot.
For more information about our stay in Ushuaia, please click here.
Day 18-20 See The Penguins in Trelew, Chubut Province
Ok, we will be the first to say that Trelew isn’t the most beautiful city in the world, but it’s a real city and that in itself after all the more touristy towns in Patagonia is interesting. Although, if we were to come to this region again, we would probably base ourselves in Gaiman or Puerto Madryn. Why did we choose Trelew? Because it’s the nearest city to Punta Tombo for seeing penguins in Argentina! (Yes, you can see penguins in Ushuaia, but this place is terrific.)
So here’s a list of our favourite things to see and do in Chubut Province.
- Without a doubt, Punta Tombo Penguin Sanctuary. It’s a bit of a trek to get out there, but totally worth it. Need a minimum of four hours here.
- Visit the Welsh town of Gaiman for a colossal cream tea and learn about the history such as why did the Welsh come to Patagonia.
- Enjoy a seafood tapa lunch in Rawson. Also possible to take a boat tour from here to see dolphins.
- Explore the seaside port of Puerto Madryn. From June to December, it’s possible to go whale watching from Puerto Madryn and the Valdez Peninsula. Apparently, there are times the whales are so close you can see them from the shoreline, but alas in January we were too late.
- See sea lions at the Punta Loma Natural Reserve.
Where to stay in Chubut?
There’s accommodation to suit all budgets. We stayed in the Patagonian Suites Express in Trelew which is not as fancy or as expensive as the name suggests.
For more information about our visit to Punta Tombo to see the penguins, please click here. For Gaiman, click here.
Day 21 – Back to Buenos Aires, it’s time to go home!
How To Get To Patagonia?
In case you haven’t realised by now, Argentina is a large country. The distance between places is vast.
It’s possible to travel by bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche and from there to all other destinations in Patagonia. Travelling by bus takes time, but does save on a night’s accommodation. It took 24 hours just to travel by bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche.
Although we bussed the first section of our itinerary, we flew the other sectors — journeys of over 24 hours versus an hour or two by flight. Indeed during the peak season, when we were there, the cost of flying, especially if you found promo seats, were about the same price as the bus. Book ahead to secure the best prices. We flew with Aerolineas Argentinas, but Latam and Norwegian Airlines also fly these routes.
To check bus prices and schedules, we used https://www.plataforma10.com.ar/pasajes-micro.
When’s The Best Time To Go To Patagonia?
The best time to visit Patagonia is during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer from around mid-November to late March. Summer days are long, making them perfect for Patagonia hiking, spotting wildlife and sightseeing. Temperatures around El Calafate and Tierra del Fuego, near Ushuaia, can reach 20° C highs and low as 10°C at night but the wind-chill can make it feel a lot colder.
In January and February, around the Lake District and Chubut Province, temperatures go much higher. We hadn’t expected to see people sunbathing in Patagonia.
If you want to avoid the peak season, consider travelling in the shoulder season from mid-November to mid-December or from mid-March to the end of April.
During the winter months from May to August, many parts of Patagonia freeze over and become inaccessible.
Next time we visit Patagonia, we probably wouldn’t travel in January, the busiest time. Why not? Fewer crowds, less expensive and more freedom to be spontaneous.
Where’s the best place for Patagonia hiking?
Sadly we didn’t do any serious hiking on this trip, as Iberia lost our luggage on the way over, but that’s another story, but Patagonia’s many National Parks are all fantastic for walks and hikes.
How Much Does A Patagonia Adventure Cost?
Patagonia isn’t particularly cheap, but that has a lot to do with the vast distances between destinations.
To give you an idea, we travelled in January which is the most expensive time to visit.
On average we spent around $40-50 a night for accommodation. It’s possible to pay less and stay in a dorm, but we are too old for that now. It’s possible to spend a lot more and stay in luxury. But for $40 a night, you had a clean room with private bathroom. Sometimes breakfast was included.
Car rental was expensive as we booked last minute. We could have saved a lot more if we had booked in advance. We spent around $60-70 a day for a car. When there’s two or more of you travelling together, having your own car can work out cheaper than taking tours and is a lot more fun.
Eating out wasn’t bad at all price wise. On average for a three-course meal with wine, we were spending around $20 each.
For more details on entrance fees to individual parks and the cost of reaching them, please click on the individual destination link.
We hope this Patagonia and Argentina itinerary has been helpful to you. Obviously, three weeks is not enough to cover all of Argentina. If we had had longer, we would love to have extended our Patagonia adventure and visited El Chalten and popped across the border into Chile to visit Paine National Park. We are already planning a return trip. Next time, maybe to explore the wine regions of Mendoza and see Iguazu Falls. The opportunities for Argentina travel are endless.