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Written by Zoe Faulkner on 07 / 06 / 2022

Gap Year Advice

Argentina is a huge, fiercely independent country with an unrivaled energy and excitement. It is the birthplace of Evita, Che Guevara and Maradona, sensual tango bars and rugged gauchos working expansive cattle ranches. The landscapes are magnificent, and the people are proud and passionate, and you will hold Argentina close to your heart for years to come after your gap year. Beyond the captivating capital of Buenos Aires, a vast natural wonderland unfolds, everything from the wild and arid Patagonian steppe to lush wetlands, thundering waterfalls, icy glaciers and famous vineyards. Trek through the grassy pampas, hike or kayak past mighty glaciers, see the emerald waters of the Lake District and the jagged peaks in Patagonia.

The highlights include Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and the Perito Moreno Glacier but you need to spend time off the beaten track - so much to see. Here we talk you through our suggested route so you don't miss a thing.

1. Buenos Aires

A great place to start your gap year, flights from the UK are direct and not too expensive. This cosmopolitan capital city is an exciting mix of culture, café society, dining, history and tango. The people and buildings are stylish, with its wide boulevards and green parks and the food is fabulous. The city is made up of neighbourhoods (barrios), each different yet all full of character, so you've got to explore them all:

  • La Boca – working class barrio – colourful buildings
  • Ricoleta – chic barrio where the tomb of Eva Peron lies in a lavish cemetery
  • San Telmo – bohemian with a market on Sunday
  • Palermo – trendy
  • Puerto Madero – full of restaurants, hotels and bars and the Plaza de Mayo

Visit an Estancia

A stay on an estancia (traditional estate) is what life in rural Argentina is all about, see the gauchos in action. These estancias traditionally powered the Argentinian economy, but now they host visitors who can help with cattle rearing or sheep herding. Your visit will be based around food, drink and horses. Easy to organise from BA.

2. Iguazu Falls

Next up head north to these falls. These vast waterfalls between the Argentinian and Brazilian border are truly breath-taking. Set in the midst of a subtropical jungle, 275 separate falls crash over a horseshoe-shaped sheer cliffs nearly 5 km wide and 90 metres high. The scale of the falls and the sheer volume and force of water in their unique natural setting is a truly humbling experience. You can see the falls from both sides of the border but Argentina provides the show and Brazil enjoys the view. The Devil’s Throat is where several falls join together to hurtle down a sheer drop. The park is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. Stunning.

3. Ibera Wetlands

Also known as the Esteros del Ibera are a protected area of seasonally flooded swamps and marshes. You can explore these lagoons and creeks floating on a canoe amongst caiman, capybara, deer and otters and other wonderful wildlife. It is also home to over 300 species of birds.

If you have time, you can visit the ruins of the Jesuit missions in the wetlands of Paraguay, San Ignacio Mini and Santa Ana.

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4. Salta and the Northwest

A colourful city with striking traditional colonial buildings with easy access to the dramatic landscapes on its doorstep. Known locally as ‘Salta la Linda’ (Salta the beautiful), this is the starting point to explore northwest Argentina. It is set in the picturesque Lerma Valley.

North of Salta is like a lunar landscape with its giant cacti, sculpted rocks and mountains that are striped, red, amber, coffee and ochre. Beyond that it turns into salt flats and tiny settlements at nearly 4000 metres above sea level. Purmamarca, (by the Hill of Seven Colours) is a base for you to travel further north to the beautiful Humahuaca Gorge. You can eventually cross the high plains into the Chilean Atacama Desert.

5. South of Salta – Calchaqui Valley

  • Cafayate, Molinos and Cachi
  • Desierto del Laberinto – fossil desert 10 million years old
  • Cono de Arita – a volcano in the middle of a vast salt flat that appears to change colour
  • Campo de Piedra Pomez – white rock formations and dunes also known as the Pumice Stone Field caused by historic volcanic activity and wind erosion

6. The Puna

This is the high-altitude grasslands, valleys, and plains across South America’s central Andean range.

7. Mendoza and Vineyards

In the foothills of the Andes, Mendoza is at the heart of the ‘land of sunshine and wine’. This city with its wide tree-lined streets, plazas and parks known for its world-renowned wines.This province produces about 70% of Argentina’s wine output, thanks to its warm climate and all the melting snow from the Andes. It is very picturesque with its snowy peaks and lush green vines.There are several bodegas (wineries), where you can go on guided tours, tastings and lunches.

  • Day trips to Maipu, Tupungato and Lujan de Cuyo
  • Mount Aconcagua via the Alta Montana route which eventually leads to Chile’s capital, Santiago

8. Argentina’s Lake District

This area on the northern edge of Patagonia is beautiful and is waiting to be explored. It is full of glacial lakes, emerald forests and snow-capped volcanoes. Bariloche is the main centre and an ideal base to explore the pristine national parks nearby. It turns into a ski resort in the winter, and in the summer, you can trek the woodland trails, go rafting or explore the area by car. From Bariloche you can take the breathtaking road and lake journey across the Andes to Puerto Varas in Chile. You can also visit San Martin de los Andes on Lago Lacar. This is fantastic horse-riding country.

It is possible to go on a Patagonian Express steam train.

9. Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate is the gateway to the stunning Los Glaciares National Park, where the Perito Moreno Glacier is the magnificent centrepiece.This ancient glacier has advanced into Lago Argentino, with a frontage that is five kilometres across and 60 metres high.It creaks and breaks into the milky waters below, which you can see from an observation platform or a boat. It is also possible to trek on the glacier itself.

Abundant wildlife including penguins, whales and sea lions can be spotted off this remote peninsula.

10 . El Chalten and Fitzroy

El Chalten is a small village at the northern tip of the park and is a base for the Fitzroy Massif. This is a cool little town with a mix of architectural styles and a stunning setting. The surrounding area is challenging but rewarding place to trek around. Mount Fitzroy is in the middle and stands out at 3400 high with its large granite peak.

11. Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego

At the far tip of South America, the Andes meet the sea, breaking up into a series of rugged islands and peninsulas. The biggest island is Tierra del Fuego, ‘Land of Fire’, a windy outpost that feels like the end-of-the-world. The city, Ushuaia, which has colourful houses on the shores of the icy Beagle Channel is the base to explore the Lapataia and Tierra del Fuego National Parks. You can also take boat trips on the Beagle Channel to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.

12. The Atlantic Coast and Peninsula Valdes

This wild peninsula is a UNESCO protected nature reserve and is home to a great variety of wildlife.The marine life is extensive with whales, penguins and elephant seals and on the land, you can see guanacos, rheas an armadillos.

There you have it. The must see hit list of

Argentina, leaving no stone unturned this is the ultimate route to see

it all. View the interactive map here.

Want the inside scoop?

Join Leap VIP to access our insider knowledge, access to the corporate team at Trailfinders who will secure your flights, unlimited consultations with us to plan your onward travels and further access to our global network of hosts who are ready and waiting to host you.

Discover Leap VIP

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