Argentina is bigger than you probably think. Trying to see the whole country in just three weeks is possible, but you’re going to have make some allowances. We did it and got from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back, but with hindsight, changes would be made. Here’s how we did it, and how I think I would do it again, should the possibility arise.
OK - so that main reason for writing this is that prior to our 3-week vacation to Argentina I researched the question a lot. Is it reasonable to expect to see the whole country in 3 weeks, and how does one do it? After doing the trip, I have the feeling that a lot of content out there that addresses this topic, is factually incorrect - not taking into account travel time, stop overs etc. And, trying to see everything in the country, from the Iguazu Falls, to the Valdés Peninsula and Ushuaia, is not only challenging, but almost near impossible. With that in mind, it’s best to pick some things you want to focus your time on — hiking, wildlife, cities — and plan your trip in that mind.
That said, we tried to do as much as possible - leaving a big gap at the end to embrace the most of Tierra del Fuego, which was totally worth it. Although not having seen everything in Argentina, I would recommend that these be a must see on your adventure: the Perito Moreno Glacier, El Chalten in southern Patagonia, everything Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, and obviously, Buenos Aires.
This was our itinerary:
- Buenos Aires: 3 days
- San Martín de los Andes: 3 days (flight from BA)
- Bariloche: 3 days (bus from SM)
- El Calafate + El Chaltan (3 days) + 1 whole day bus ride from Bariloche
- Ushuaia (5 days) + 1 whole day bus ride
- 1 more day in Buenos Aires (flight from Ushuaia)
Flying inside the country is expensive, and most flights require you to fly and re-connect back in Buenos Aires, so in most cases the bus is more effective. For instance the bus from Bariloche to El Calafate, although is was over 24-hours long, was a near luxurious journey, with big seats, on board water and coffee and great views. Also costing less than EUR 100,-. In contrast however, the bus from El Calafate to Ushuaia was a little more ragged, and was delayed by over six-hours due to bad weather.
So, how would I do this again? Firstly, I’d cut out San Martin - although it’s stunning, and is the entry point to los rotos de siete lagos (which we didn’t even have time to balk at), it’s attractions are more befit to locals, and the time required to move from one activity to the other is too long. On the other hand, I would spend far more time in Bariloche. There are a lot of great mountains to climb, and there are still some I would like to go back too, including The Frey - and everything around that area. The Circuito Chico, a bike trip in the national park deserves an entire day of your attention, as to do the breweries and myriad beaches in the area.
There’s only one reason to go to El Calafate - and that’s to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. This cutesy, Mountain-town doesn’t require you to spend anymore time here. Once you’ve been to the Glacier, go to El Chalten, the entry point to Los Glaciares National Park where, weather permitting, you can see the Fitz Roy mountain range, and ultimately spend days upon days hiking. My biggest regret on our journey was not spending more time here and seeing everything it had to offer.
Finally, Ushuaia. Although the city is not up to much (yes, go on a tour of the bay), there are so many options for exploring; kayaking, the Martial Glacier, more hiking, island exploring etc. We spent three days camping in Teirra del Feugo, which was totally worth it - but if there was more time, I would have easily have done more. Ushuaia is also cheaper than the rest of Argentina, as there no added tax on purchases.
The final point to address is Buenos Aires - it’s an incredible city, with so much to do and see. The people are great, and with the food, one could eat here for years. However, it is like any other modernised city - sprawling, with great culture, and lots of architecture. I always find that one city, is ultimately just like another, so if you’re pressed for time, just pass through this.
If you’re reading this, why don’t you let me know how you ventured in Argentina?