It’s hard to know where to start when describing Argentina: a country of vibrant cities that somehow find their way onto every backpacker’s wish list, Argentina is also a place of incredible diversity and natural beauty. From tango clubs in charmingly chaotic Buenos Aires to breathtaking treks across the Perito Moreno Glacier, it’s a truly beguiling travel destination.
What’s more, despite its modern (and often quite ‘European’) metropolises, Argentina is surprisingly affordable for backpackers with cheap buses connecting the major sights and plenty of Argentina hostels offering budget accommodation across the country.
The third largest city in South America, Argentina’s capital attracts its fair share of travelers every year. Unlike much of the continent, however, it has a European look. Huge developments in the 1930s were attempted to bring European ‘sophistication’ to the city – resulting in many of the narrow, twisting streets being replaced with grand, tree-lined boulevards.
But whilst the city’s character is undoubtedly influenced by this rather glamorous architecture, Buenos Aires remains an Argentinean city at heart, from the colorful houses of La Boca to impromptu milonga (tango dancing) in Plaza Dorrengo when the markets pack up.
Thanks to its large number of visitors, Buenos Aires also has an excellent infrastructure which travelers in Argentina can take advantage of. Domestic and international flights, along with long distance buses, all serve the city regularly.
Similarly, backpackers will find there are a number of Buenos Aires hostels offering an affordable base for exploring the capital, or as a stop off before heading deeper into the country. Picking up the bustling vibe of the city, many hostels in Buenos Aires are lively and sociable, often providing Spanish lessons and traditional cuisine as well as a cheap bed – and creating an excellent introduction to the city’s culture.
Cordoba and Mendoza
Located in the middle of Argentina, Cordoba is rather smaller and less grand than the capital city. But it’s definitely not without its charms. Attracting fewer visitors than Buenos Aires, it’s the perfect place for travelers to immerse themselves in authentic Argentinean culture and, as a vibrant university town, the country’s famous nightlife.
Although the city is home to a number of museums and fine churches (Monesteria de Santa Teresia is of particular note), the main attraction of Cordoba is its stunning surroundings. After a few nights of hedonistic partying, it makes a good gateway to trekking in the Central Sierras.
Similarly laidback, the city of Mendoza is a pleasant blend of leafy squares and tiled benches. But, just like Cordoba, its setting provides the main draw – Mendoza is on the edge of the Andes and in the heart of the wine-growing region.
However, the climbing and hiking opportunities from Mendoza should not overshadow the charms of the city itself. With so many wonderful vintages right on their doorstep, the city’s lively restaurants and bars make a definite highlight for travelers in Argentina.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Perito Moreno glacier is one of the most fantastic sights in the world. Fed by the South Patagonian Ice Field, it’s a huge monument to the amazing, vast and unspoiled landscapes of Argentina.
Standing at the foot of the glacier, El Calafate offers a convenient base for travelers in the area and, as in much of Argentina, there are good hostels available, as well as a variety of tour operators that provide tours and boat trips to explore the Purque Nacional Los Glacieres.
At the northeastern edge of the country, the Foz Iguazu provide a no less stunning spectacle. Set in acres of national park, the mighty ‘Iguazu Falls’ are actually made up of around 250 small waterfalls which combine to form a magnificent attraction.
Nearby, Puerto Iguazu has a few bars, restaurants and hostels, but the falls are unquestionably the draw for backpackers here. And it’s easy to spend quite a few days reveling in this remarkable sight and the diverse scenery and wildlife of the surrounding park.