Beyond the classic circuits, this list is full of ideas for planning a different trip.

1. MOCONÁ FALLS, MISIONES

Foto: Ministerio de Turismo de Misiones.

The Iguazú Falls are beautiful and impressive, but in Misiones you can visit other spectacular waterfalls that burst along the Uruguay River. The Moconá Falls (“the one who swallows everything”, as it was baptized by the Guarani) are ten-meter waterfalls that can be enjoyed on a boat or walking up. Known by many as “the other waterfalls”, they are located within the Moconá Provincial Park in the Yabotí Biosphere Reserve, 337 km away from Posadas. The adventure begins on the red dirt road from El Soberbio to the entrance of the park. Once there you have several hiking possibilities among the jungle to unveil impressive viewpoints. Inside the park, in addition to the ranger house, there is a restaurant, campsites, cabins, lodges, an interpretation centre and the jetty where you’ll find boats and canoes. A great option to get to know the whole area is to make “the route of the falls”, a program proposed by the Posada Puerto Bemberg (www.posadapuertobemberg.com) and Moconá Virgin Lodge by DON www.hotelesdon.com, from the Iguazú Falls to the Moconá Falls, visiting other less famous waterfalls.

2. BAÑADO LA ESTRELLA, FORMOSA

Foto: Ministerio de Turismo de Formosa

After the Pantanal of Brazil and the Esteros del Iberá, this is the third most important ecological reserve in South America. Located at 340 km from the city of Formosa, it covers an area of 400.000 hectares that were under water due to the overflow of the Pilcomayo river. Tourism is more recent in this area and the main towns where to stay to visit the place are Las Lomitas (40 km), where the majority of the lodging options are located; Fortín La Soledad, a small town accessed from Provincial Route 32 (unpaved); and Ingeniero Guillermo N. Juarez, although you can also visit for day straight from the city of Formosa.

In this valuable wildlife sanctuary, you can go hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, flight in small planes and also bird watching with the baquianos. An important fact is that in times of drought ­–when the water goes down a lot– you can not tour the area. For that reason, it is advisable to check the level of water in the bañado before programming the trip.

 

3. ESTEROS DEL IBERÁ, CORRIENTES

It is impossible to forget the scarlet sunset over the stillness of the water. An image that becomes a feeling when you remember it. The situation helps because the frame of this postcard is impressive and unique in the world wetland, with wild animals accustomed to the human presence.

All the water of these 1,300,000 flooded hectares comes from the rain. Dams, estuaries, lagoons and marshes harbour a fascinating diversity of birds, animals and plants, such as water lilies, water hyacinth, ferns, lilies and totoras. The list is long, very long. However, leaving aside the hundreds of bird species, the main characters are the yacaré, the capybara, the deer of the marshes, the aguará guazú, the monkey carayá, the boa vizcachera, the ox toad, the butterflies and the grey foxes, among many others.

The most developed access is Colonia Carlos Pellegrini near Mercedes, 800 km from the City of Buenos Aires, with 400 tourist places. But there are also other entry portals such as Concepción, San Miguel and Cambyretá. On this last road, tourism comes from Misiones, but also a good number of international guests because it is only 400 km from the Iguazu Falls. Touring the estuaries or the bañados on horseback, kayak, canoe or boat is a great way to learn a little more about the history of this incredible place.

 

4. QUEBRADA DE HUMAHUACA, JUJUY

The colours of the hills are so special that they seem to be deliberately painted. The range of browns, reds, yellows and violets unfolds along the way as a unique and unrepeatable backdrop.

The 9th National Route crosses the Quebrada de Humahuaca leaving in plain sight villages like Maimará ­–located at 2400 meters above sea level– where you’ll find Paleta del Pintor, a multicoloured hill. Even though Purmamarca is within this circuit it does not strictly belong to the Quebrada de Humahuaca. But, if there is time, it is worth getting 3 km out of the way to admire the Seven Colors hill, walk through its streets and buy souvenirs at the main square stands. From here, following along 52nd National Route, you reach Salinas Grandes, then continuing up to Susques and Paso de Jama towards Chile… but that is another trip.

Tilcara is the most developed touristic town in the whole Quebrada. There are nice hotels, restaurants, several museums, a university, the Garganta del Diablo and the Pucará. From this point, you can leave in a journey accompanied by llamas that is quite an experience.

Along the way, an hour more or less (42 km) you reach Humahuaca, a much quieter town with fewer services –at 3000 meters above sea level– that keeps almost intact all the imprint of the region. The star is the Hornocal or Cerro de los 14 colores, 21 km from the center. At the foot of the Heroes of Independence Monument there is a regional products trade fair. At night the lanterns of Humahuaca are lit and different musical groups move across restaurants giving away the best of the Jujuy tradition. Only 74 km (almost 50 of them gravel road) remain to reach Iruya, a unique place nestled in the mountain, an old town on its way to Upper Peru.

5. BARITÚ NATIONAL PARK, SALTA

Parque Nacional Baritú
Foto: Parques Nacionales de Argentina

In 1974 a group of naturalists proposed the creation of this national park to maintain unchanged a unique place in north Salta, 30 km from the city of San Ramón de la Nueva Oran on the Bolivian border. There are 72,439 hectares of very well conserved yungas or mountain jungles that make this park the most rugged, the only tropical and perhaps the least known of Argentina. Surrounded by mountains over 2000 meters high, such as Cerro de las Pavas and Cerro Negro, the landscape is so different from everything you’ve seen that it seems out of this world.

Departing from San Ramón de la Nueva Orán along the 50th national route, you will arrive at Aguas Blancas. There you have to go through Customs and Migration procedures to Bolivia and travel 100 km along a paved cornice road and an extraordinary beauty, bordering the Bermejo River. Then you have to go through El Condado-La Mamora pass and find yourself again in Argentina, where you’ll travel 17 km more through 19th Provincial Route up to Los Toldos, 44 km north of Baritú, the most important town in this remote Salta region.

From here you can access the park but only in the winter season and in a 4×4 vehicle because from October to May the prominent river beds makes it impossible to tour the park. The entrance is located crossing the Lipeo river, and after one hour of walk you’ll arrive at the Cayotal hot springs and near you’ll find the Molejón, an old stone mill that was once used for corn grinding. Among the animals that live here, there are eight species of felines, some of them are the yaguareté, the tirica, the margay, the ocelote, the jaguarundi and the wildcat. There are also tapirs, whose tracks can be seen along the paths and edges of rivers and streams; collar peccaries, mountain fox, coatis, agoutis, cay monkeys and fishermen bats, which feed on fish and aquatic insects.

 

6.TAFI DEL VALLE, TUCUMÁN

Tafí del Valle, Tucumán
Foto: Ministerio de Turismo de Tucumán

From Buenos Aires to Tafí del Valle (“splendid entrance village” in diaguita) there are almost 1,300 kilometres. This is a beautiful place that has lots of magic. You can visit de Dique La Angostura, an artificial lake where you can practice water sports and fishing. To tour around the valleys, visit the Las Carreras Estancia, buy handicrafts, visit the Mollar and see the Menhires archaeological reserve (monoliths of the Tafi culture), and taste the incredible regional food – especially the cheeses – you need at least three days. At 5 km from Tafí is Ovejería, a quiet secluded neighbourhood with houses and cabins to rent near the river.

To the North, by 307 National Route, after passing El Infiernillo more than 3000 meters above sea level, the next destination is Amaicha del Valle, a mystical stopped in time place that is the entrance to one of the trip highlights: the ruins of the ancient sacred city of the Quilmes Indians. Managed by the community and partially rebuilt, it is fascinating to visit the series of staggered terraces that follow one another at the foot of the hill, as well as the sacred places, the houses and the corrals.

 

7. JÁCHAL, BARREAL AND PAMPA DEL LEONCITO, SAN JUAN

The San Juan valleys are located within a radius of no more than 250 kilometres from the province capital. The journey begins with the Jáchal five flour mills, which are a National Historic Monument. These nineteenth-century buildings are a true jewel. Also in Jáchal, inside a church, there is a crucified Christ brought from Potosí at the end of the 18th century whom they call “The Lord of Agony”, and it is a life-size black leather structure. After a few hours of travel, you will arrive at the Pismanta Hot Springs, in the department of Iglesia, which has natural springs at 2010 meters above sea level and its healing properties are an attraction of the area. Bathing in those volcanic and light waters, with temperatures that vary between 38 and 45 °C, is a pleasure that is well worth turning into a habit. The Chapel of Achango, built by the Jesuits in the 13th century, is another unforgettable place to visit there.

Right at the foot of the Andes, about 230 kilometres west of the city of San Juan, Barreal rises with its poplar grove and the imposing mountain landscape. Horseback riding, mountaineering in the high mountain range, trekking, rafting, enduro and fishing in the rivers are some of the possibilities. At 30 km in Calingasta, within the national park of the same name, you can visit the El Leoncito Astronomical Complex, an observatory where workshops and guided tours are held every day.

In the Pampa del Leoncito, a huge plain of pale earth, you can practice carrovelismo in sail karts driven by the cordilleran wind, which exceed 70 km/h. To the Northwest, in Rodeo, windsurfers from all over the world come to the Cuesta del Viento dam: a water mirror that has unique conditions for this sport, with winds all year round and in the midst of a lunar landscape. For rafting the whitewater of the Jáchal and Los Patos rivers are ideal.

 

8. LAGUNA BRAVA, LA RIOJA

After visiting the Talampaya Canyon, perhaps the most famous place in La Rioja, where the red earth and the geological formations are protagonists, the path continues to discover other less explored but of a singular beauty places. Between Villa Unión and Chilecito appears the Cuesta de Miranda on the 40th Route. This totally paved and easy to cruise road crosses a gap between the Famatina Sierras and Sañogasta and reaches an altitude of 2040 meters. The views leave you breathless, it is a landscape that you have to see at least once in your lifetime. From Villa Union, you can travel to Laguna Brava (170 km), at 4200 meters high in the Rioja mountain range. It is a solitary water and salt mirror that occupies a 50 km2 area in the deepest part of an extensive deep area covered by a uniform gravel layer, where dozens of pink flamingos fly over or sink their long legs on the marshy shores of the lake. These are ideal scenarios to take pictures not only of those spectacular birds but also of several species of vicuñas, guanacos, red foxes and hares that cross the road. It is better to visit the place with a guide, ideally in autumn or spring because in winter there is usually snow and the lagoon freezes, and in summer the rains complicate the terrain.

9. SAN RAFAEL, MENDOZA

With quiet airs, several parks and wineries to explore and enjoy the best of Mendoza cuisine, it is the second most important city in the province. San Rafael is the entrance door to beautiful and natural sites such as the Atuel Canyon in Valle Grande – just 37 km away – where the classic rafting, rappelling, climbing and mountain biking excursions take place. There are also several viewpoints to observe the natural sculptures carved by the wind and the rains in the rock. At 30 km from the birthing place of the Atuel River is Lake Nihuil and on its coast there is a small town of about 1,000 inhabitants with cabins to stay and places to eat. Near San Rafael -35 km along a road that goes up the mountain- Los Reyunos dam and the lake of the same name appear, a spectacular image amid the vegetation and clay walls. The water mirror is immense. There you can fish salmon and pejerreyes, and on its western margin you’ll find the Fishing and Nautical Club, a hotel, a restaurant, supplies, cabins, three campsites and private houses as if they were sculpted in the heights. In the nearby Diamante river, much more stirred than the Atuel river, you can practice kayaking and rafting with a higher difficulty level.

10. THE JESUIT ESTANCIAS, CÓRDOBA

The Jesuit Block of the Córdoba capital and the five estancias in the interior of the province (built between 1616 and 1725), all declared Cultural Patrimony of Humanity, form the Jesuit complex. Three or four days are enough to discover some of the architectural treasures that the Jesuits built in these lands. To better understand the logic of their organization the ideal thing is to travel the road as they did: starting in the city. In the Jesuit Block there is the church of the Company of Jesus, the oldest building in the country that is distinguished among the other Jesuit temples by the roof’s originality, similar to the carcass of an upside down ship built in Paraguayan cedar brought in jangadas along the Paraná River. Through the original passages you can enter the rectorate of the National University of Córdoba (former Colegio Máximo) and the Colegio de Monserrat. In the rectorado the Jesuit library is exhibited, consisting of more than 500 original books.
In Alta Gracia, 36 km from the capital, still remains one of the best-preserved estancia. In Jesús María, 48 km from the city, there is another estancia that can be visited in the same day along with Colonia Caroya and Santa Catalina. 14 km from Santa Catalina is located Ascochinga and with it another vestige of history that combines with the most generous nature: the estancia La Paz, which belonged to Julio A. Roca. Staying there overnight, visiting for tea or just walking through the park is an awesome experience. You can also visit the estancia La Candelaria (220 km northwest of Córdoba) in the department Cruz del Eje, the most austere establishment of the five listed.

11. HIDDEN GLACIERS, SANTA CRUZ

glaciares escondidos argentina
Foto: Cristina Mahne

The Perito Moreno glacier is impressive but in El Calafate there are other beauties to discover, no less dazzling and much more intimate. You have to put your body into this crossing (boat, hike, gomón, trekking), but for that price your eyes will be filled with blue.

The adventure begins with a half an hour navigation on the southern arm of Lake Argentino, accompanied by the guanacos that populate the banks. Upon disembarking a walk of 2 km through a forest of Magellanic cherries, ñires and lengas bring us to the Frías lake. Once on the beach, you have to wear your life jacket and enjoy half an hour on the raft that crosses the lake. From there starts the second trekking, longer and with a very different landscape from the previous one. In that 7 km, you’ll first find an area with cliffs and small waterfalls on the left and snowy peaks on the right. Afterwards, the floor softens, you enter an area of dunes that come from glacial sediment. It is grey sand with which exfoliating creams are made. The environment has something that relates to the lunar surface. After walking on the coarse sand you have to hike on rocks improvising a path, until finally reaching the natural viewpoint of the Grande, Frias and Dickson glaciers. It’s like a giant amphitheatre that you need to look in parts because it is impossible to cover that much immensity. In the absence of boats – at the foot of the Grande – a large lagoon hosts icebergs that move and rub against each other. From time to time you ’ll hear a thunder, which is nothing but a glacier calving, and right away you’ll see the avalanche, a white cloud that in the distance drags the ice blocks down the slopes.

 

12. USHUAIA, TIERRA DEL FUEGO

The clarity of the Ushuaia Bay water reflects the city. Behind it, the snow-capped Martial mountains deliver a frame for the landscape and it is not difficult to imagine everything that can be lived here, an extreme experience that includes a lot of history (you can visit the prison, the Maritime Museum and the Bridges Islands), a great dose of first level Patagonian cuisine and of course, winter activities in Cerro Castor -26 km from the city. At the Tourist Wharf, international catamarans arrive and others sail through the Beagle Channel. Towards the Southeast, the boat approaches Isla de Los Lobos to see the hundreds sea lions specimens in their natural habitat. It also goes through the Isla de Los Pájaros, where many cormorants live, some Magellanic and other imperial; very easy to confuse them with penguins, but at close range you can clearly see the difference between the two austral species. The trip continues towards the Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs (“the illuminators” in French), in the archipelago of the same name. It is common to confuse this lighthouse with that of the End of the World which gave the title to Jules Verne’s novel, but that is another one located on the Island of the States.

Valle de Lobos is an extraordinary experience not only for its landscape, the excursions that can be done and the delicious Fueguian lamb cooked with lenga embers but mainly for Gato Curuchet, the owner and architect of this place. Among the activities proposed, you can walk with snow rackets through the forest, tour the valley on sledges pulled by dogs, drive a 4×4 vehicle between fairy tale settings or enjoy a night cruise with a bonfire included.

Along 3rd National Route, you reach the Tierra del Fuego National Park, created in 1960, and the only one in the country that combines coastal, forest and mountain landscapes. The ride that the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino or End of the World Train makes is a very good way to get to know the park. From the main station, it travels along the last 7 km of the original 25 km route that the prisoners’ train made almost one hundred years ago. The snow dominates most of the journey in winter but in summer the intense green alternates with the zigzagging of the Pipo River. The Cañadón del Toro, the Macarena Waterfall, Lapataia Bay (where the extensive route 3 ends) or the Roca Lake are some of the scenarios that can be visited here and where you’ll find vestiges of the Yamanas, the ancient aboriginal people that used to live here in perfect harmony with nature.

 

13. PUERTO MADRYN, CHUBUT

Because of their calm, the water of the New Gulf and the San Jose Gulf are chosen every year by thousands of southern right whales to mate and reproduce. From June up until the first days of December groups of mating can be seen as well as mothers with young specimens that show their tail above water, jump and take out their head full of calluses. They are huge -up to 15 meters long and 40 tons weight-, impressive and fascinating. In the El Doradillo beach, near the cuty, you start to see whales blow or a whale calf with its mom learning how to move around the shallow shore waters.

Located 100 km from Madryn, Puerto Pirámides is the only town in the Valdés peninsula from where excursions depart for on-board sightings. Before arriving and along the route you can enjoy the coastal landscape, the estancias -which are mostly dedicated to the breeding of sheep-, and guanacos and foxes can be seen running across the steppe. El Desempeño, the former ranch of this region, is the entrance to Valdés where you pay the admission to the protected area. There are several companies in charge of whale watching at sea, with whom you can make this excursion that lasts an hour and a half and is accompanied by a guide that explains the cetaceans behaviour. Sunset is the ideal time to embark, just when the sun dyes the sky over the cliffs pink and orange.

Other options are Punta Delgada, where you can see sea lions, visit estancias and the lighthouse. And Punta Tombo, 171 km to the south, a natural paradise where from September to March you can see the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world.

14. ROUTE 40

Through its 5100 kilometres at the foot of the Andes mountain range, from Cabo Vírgenes (Santa Cruz) to La Quiaca (Jujuy), this magical road -created in 1935- crosses 11 provinces, more than 200 bridges, borders a dozen large lakes and allows you to visit reserves and national parks. Days, perhaps more than a month, no matter how long it takes to cross the longest and most spectacular route in our country it is worth and it’s a real challenge. It is not all paved, and not only the weather alters its appearance, but in some sections the loneliness is absolute. They might be kilometres without crossing with vehicle or any place. That’s why you have to be prepared and take on board everything you need for any setback on the way.

In the Andean Patagonia the landscape is mountainous and the route is in many parts gravel; already in Cuyo, landscape combines desert, mining towns, archaeological sites and reddish earth; and finally, in the North, salares, termas, indigenous ruins and adobe chapels. Different sunsets in each destination, winds and dust, unrepeatable landscapes, land of dinosaurs, glaciers, underground caverns and Inca roads are just a sample of what you can experience when travelling this extensive Argentine route.

15. VILLA LA ANGOSTURA AND VILLA TRAFUL, NEUQUEN

The Seven Lakes Trail is one of the most attractive routes in the country, located between forests, snowy hills and crystal clear waters. It is 107 kilometres long across Route 40, from San Martin de los Andes to Villa La Angostura. As in a fairy tale, La Angostura is in perfect harmony with nature, has a very careful alpine architecture and the landscapes there leave you breathless. Located to the north of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, only 42 km from Chile, there are several viewpoints to simply enjoy the view. What this place has to offer is very extensive throughout the year due to the thermal amplitude that exists between winter and summer, with temperatures ranging from -15 ° C to 30 ° C. The hot months are warm and dry, and ideal for kayaking, windsurfing or sailing, as well as mountain biking and trekking, two activities that also adapt to other seasons; and in winter, of course, skiing in Cerro Bayo.

In addition to resting, every day you can take different excursions or visits, such as walking to the port on Bahía Mansa, going to the Laguna Verde natural reserve, taking pictures in all the of the Quetrihue isthmus viewpoints, touring the Los Arrayanes National Park, taking a boat to Victoria Island, visiting or staying in the beautiful Manzano Bay, fishing in the Correntoso River, among many more experiences. A must do is enjoying the gourmet cuisine, one of the stars of the town, where you can taste different dishes with wild boar, trout or deer and Patagonian wines.

65 km from La Angostura, Villa Traful is another very good option to spend a few days in the area. Built on the slopes of the mountain and in a stepped way, it looks like a balcony over the impressive Lake Traful. Horseback riding, adventure tourism, recreational fishing, an artisans route, cave paintings, a submerged forest with sixty dry cypress trees (where you can dive), streams and waterfalls or excursions to the Monje and Negro hills are just some of the activities you can do in this privileged environment.

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