Argentina in Four Weeks

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentinian Patagonia

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentinian Patagonia

Do yourself a favor, and don’t fly down to Argentina if you have only four weeks. The world’s eighth largest country, not to mention the world’s largest Spanish-speaking country, is not ideal for such a short trip. While Shane and I did indeed hit the most beautiful sights during our trip to Argentina in 2011, I remember being far too stressed from covering large distances by bus (5 trips of 30+ hours each). In fact, it has taken me so long to sit down and write about this trip, because I’ve needed time to pass in order to get over the embarrassment of my having planned so poorly for the trip. I consider myself a seasoned traveler, and rushing through an itinerary is a rookie mistake! Please heed this lesson I learned the hard way; don’t try to cover too much ground in too little time. I would recommend a minimum of SIX weeks for Argentina, and I recommend extensive research ahead of time so that you can craft detailed itineraries in order to book yourself internal flights. The bus rides were pretty mind-numbing and expensive. One may be worth it as a rite of passage, but five? No thank you. The frenetic pace of this blog post is indicative of how I felt, bouncing from one gorgeous site to the next. We would have been better off traveling slower, spending more time in each location.

MENDOZA: wine country

Our trip to Argentina started in Mendoza. We crossed over the Andes during the night by bus after enjoying two weeks in Chile.

Mendoza: Argentina's wine country. Go for the malbecs!

Mendoza: Argentina’s wine country. Go for the malbecs!

In Mendoza, it’s a no-brainer to rent a bike, in our case, a tandem bike, and enjoy a warm sunny afternoon of biking punctuated by wine and olive oil tasting under the cool canopy.

BARILOCHE: lakes district

Lago Nahuel Huapi

Lago Nahuel Huapi

After Mendoza, we headed south to Bariloche, a great hiking destination. While still quite far north of Patagonia, Bariloche offers a great preview of the stunning views that await farther south. The lake serves as the backdrop for all of your breathtaking pictures!

Lago Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche

Lago Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche

GLACIAR PERITO MORENO: famous glacier

Glaciar Perito Moreno in Argentinian Patagonia

Glaciar Perito Moreno in Argentinian Patagonia

No trip to Argentina is complete without an afternoon spent at the Perito Moreno glacier. Shane and I spent hours trotting up and down the man-made catwalks, photographing the glacier from every angle possible. Then we sat for a long time on various benches, cameras poised, just to be ready for when the pieces of ice would calve off into the water. The sight and noise are very dramatic! Sure the glacier is located at the end of the Earth in El Calafate, but it’s worth traveling the distance. Make sure you take the boat ride!

Boat tour of Glaciar Perito Moreno

Boat tour of Glaciar Perito Moreno

EL CHALTEN: Patagonia

We finally made it down to El Chalten, Argentina’s gateway to Patagonia, and home of Fitz Roy.

Shane and I have this picture framed in our living room.

Shane and I have this picture framed in our living room.

Unfortunately there is a really corny welcome sign when you pull up in your bus to El Chalten. Once you can get past that, beautiful hiking opportunities abound in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We were there in November, Argentina’s spring, and the hiking was very easy. All of the lakes we photographed are easily accessible from El Chalten as moderate day hikes; we chose to camp in our tents in the backcountry rather than staying in the town.

This photo, taken in front of Cerro Torre, is one of my favorites from my entire lifetime of travels.

This photo, taken in front of Cerro Torre, is one of my favorites from my entire lifetime of travels.

PENINSULA VALDES: wildlife tours

Whale watching off of Peninsula Valdes

Whale watching off of Peninsula Valdes

After having worked our way down the western interior spine of the country, we headed north up to Peninsula Valdes, about halfway up the country on the Atlantic. Skip Peninsula Valdes unless it’s whale season, which it was in our case! Otherwise there are Magellanic penguins to see, but the tours are overpriced, and the elephant seals don’t do much except loaf around on the sand, so it’s a bit anticlimactic.

BUENOS AIRES: culture, museums, food, shopping

We finished our trip in Buenos Aires.

Argentina's Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s Casa Rosada, or “pink house,” serves the same purpose as the American White House. It’s also easy to spend hours at the Museo Evita taking in Eva Perón’s collections of hats, shoes and gowns.

Museum dedicated to Eva Perón.

Museum dedicated to Eva Perón.

Street performer dazzles the entire crowd at Mercado San Telmo on an overcast Sunday in November.

Street performer dazzles the entire crowd at Mercado San Telmo on an overcast Sunday in November.

My favorite part of Buenos Aires was Mercado San Telmo on Sundays, and Shane’s favorite, as usual, were the choripan sausage sandwiches, fresh off the street grills.

Choripan grilling on the street. Top them off with an ají marinade.

Choripan grilling on the street. Top them off with an ají marinade.

After Buenos Aires, I had to head home to get started at a new job. Shane continued on his own to Iguazu Falls and Bolivia. He told me his tour of the Salar Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia was his favorite part of our South America trip, sigh, so I’ll have to put that on my to-do list. Fortunately it sounds as if he liked it enough to want to go back! Any suggestions in the comment box below on Bolivia would be much appreciated! I hope to return to Argentina soon, because despite having covered a lot of ground, I don’t feel that we became culturally immersed. Covering too much ground in too little time loans itself to a superficial trip; we didn’t delve in as deeply as compared to our other travels. Now that we’ve learned our lesson, we would approach the other regions of Argentina with a better plan!

Happy traveler!

Happy traveler!

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