My 10 Perfect Moments in Argentina


Llama against the stark beauty of northwestern Argentina—C.Helbig

We just got home from a month in South America: three weeks in Argentina, a 4-day jeep tour in southern Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, and a few days in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Yup, a whirlwind of greatest hits and a few off-the- beaten-path gems. This is the first in a series of posts about the natural wonders and cultures of these countries. I’m still on cloud nine thinking about all our amazing experiences. I’m going to start with the highlights of our travels in Argentina. They aren’t in any specific order, except perhaps the first one.

Fall hiking in Patagonia (El Chaltén) 


View to Fitz Roy on the Laguna de los Tres trail—C.Helbig

This wasn’t just a perfect moment, it was four days of perma-grin plastered on my face. Sure, I’d seen photos of Patagonia, but in real life those towers of the Fitz Roy range are completely overwhelming. Add the fall colours, and…well…I’m still speechless. We were there the second week of April, the peak time for fall foliage. The small town of El Chaltén is a day hiker’s paradise with trailheads just steps from hostels and hotels. Imagine a day of hiking through scenery like this and then topping it off with glass of Malbec and Argentinian steak. It’s hard to beat. I’ll be posting about several hikes.

The beauty and sound of Glaciar Perito Moreno


Viewing platforms at Glaciar Perito Moreno—C.Helbig

Glaciar Perito Moreno is beautiful and enormous (30 km long, 5 km wide, 60 m high), but it’s the sound of the glacier that lingers with me. As pieces of ice calved, thundering crashes disrupted our contemplative awe. We were lucky to see several huge pieces break off and plummet into Lago Argentino. Parque National Los Glaciares has done a fantastic job with the boardwalks that let visitors see the glacier from every vantage point. The park is easily accessed by private car or tour from the town of El Calafate, 78 km away.

The jungle trails of Iguazú Falls


Early morning view along circuito inferior—C.Helbig

Most people head straight for the Garganta del Diablo (the devil’s throat), the highest and deepest of the falls and the star attraction at Iguazú. It is indeed amazing, but we equally enjoyed the trails that wind through the jungle to glorious viewing platforms that are blissfully uncrowded, especially early in the morning. Later in the day, exquisitely coloured butterflies are everywhere. We spent a very full day exploring the falls on the Argentinian side and another half day visiting the Brazilian side. Both are glorious and I really recommend seeing both. I’ll tell you why in a dedicated post.

Wine pairing lunch in Cafayate


A long, luxurious afternoon at Bodega Piattelli—C.Helbig

Nestled up in the northwest of the country, Cafayate is the second most important wine growing area in Argentina (after Mendoza) and the highest altitude wine growing region in the world. We stumbled upon Bodega Piattelli, a gorgeous winery, where we whiled away the afternoon on their beautiful patio over a five course wine pairing lunch. The wine, the food, the view, the temperature…everything was perfect. Luckily our hotel was only 3 km down the hill! Cafayate is most easily accessed via the lovely town of Salta.

Driving the Valles Calchaquíes loop from Salta


Quebrada de las Flechas—C.Helbig

The off-the-beaten path Valles Calchaquíes packs an incredible diversity into a relatively small area. We rented a car in Salta and did a 3-day loop that took us through jungle, cacti-strewn highlands, otherworldly rock formations, traditional villages and sophisticated wineries (see Cafayate above).  Visually, my favourite was the tortured landscape of Quebrada de las Flechas (arrow gorge). A good portion of the loop is unpaved and there are steep switchbacks with precipitous drops. But, this area is meant to be savoured, slowly. Three days are minimum; five or six would have been perfect.

Exploring the Quebrada de Humahuaca


The village of Pumamarca—C.Helbig

We traveled north from Salta with Poncho Tours, exploring the spectacular Quebrada de Humahuaca for three days before being dropped off at the Bolivian border. The mineral rich mountains, awash in reds, purples and yellows, provide an enchanting backdrop for the traditional towns. Purmamarca is incredibly scenic, but I enjoyed less-touristed Tilcara even more. And my absolute favourite of this region—Hornocal (see below). You’ll be seeing more of Hornocal and other wonders of the Quebrada de Humahuaca region.

Breathless at Hornocal 


Surreal landscape at Hornocal—C.Helbig

No, I haven’t doctored this photo. Located near the town of Humahuaca, at an elevation of 4350 m (14,272 ft), Hornocal takes your breath away in more ways than one. Created by the accumulation of sediments during different time periods, this place is like nothing I’ve ever seen. For now, it remains very untouristed. It’s difficult to get to with public transit, and most tours don’t visit Hornocal.  I’m so glad I was obsessed about getting there. We visited as part of our private tour with Poncho Tours, but it’s doable on your own in a rental car (with good tires and adequate power to get up the steep, curvy, gravel road).

Stories from Cemetario de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires


Cemetario de Recoleta, Buenos Aires—C. Helbig

A cemetery making it into my top highlights, hmmm? But this cemetery, in the tony Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Recoleta, is no ordinary cemetery. Its 4700 mausoleums and countless sculptures are works of art, and it’s the final resting place of many notable characters. A shout-out to Free Walking Tours Buenos Aires who enthralled us with stories about the cemetery’s”residents”. Most notable among them is Eva Perón, and I shall attempt to relay the fascinating story of her long and circuitous journey to Recoleta Cemetery.

Passion in spades in La Boca, Buenos Aires


Mural in La Boca depicting Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo—C. Helbig

The colourful neighbourhood of La Boca dates back to the rapid settlement of Buenos Aires near the end of the 19th century with the influx of millions of European immigrants. They were a passionate and resilient lot, living in crowded tenement housing. But they left their mark on art, music, dance (the birthplace of tango), politics and sports. Brightly coloured houses and captivating murals give this neighbourhood a distinctive look. Current residents seem just as passionate as their forefathers, especially when it comes to their beloved Boca Juniors football team. Another shout-out to Free Walking Tours Buenos Aires from whom I learned all this interesting stuff.

Vicuñas: Getting to know the sexy llama


Young vicuñas in northwestern Argentina—C.Helbig

Seeing llamas was a lovely novelty for us, but our introduction to the beautiful vicuñas was even more special. While related to llamas, vicuñas are wild and the former are domesticated. They are high elevation dwellers, hanging out at no lower than 3200 m (10,500 ft). The ones in the photo were grazing on the steep slopes leading up to Hornocal. Vicuñas are a protected species but they are corralled periodically so their prized wool can be shorn. Later in our trip, in Bolivia, our guide referred to them as sexy llamas. I love this description of the elegant vicuñas.

I hope you enjoyed my highlights from Argentina. They represent only a fraction of what this richly diverse country has to offer. There is much to elaborate on in this post,  but I’m also anxious to write about our extraordinary time in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni. I’ll see what I feel like.

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43 thoughts on “My 10 Perfect Moments in Argentina

  1. Words fail me. OK, just one – Spectacular! Anita

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steven & Patricia Hunt

    Caroline, you continually set the bar higher with your photos and descriptions. What an amazing trip. Steve and I were in Argentina a few times in the early 90’s but did not get to these amazing sites (other than the Falls which we saw from the Argentinian and Brazilian vantage points). Our appetites (both eye candy and gastronomically!) are whetted for your next installments!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks guys! We were amazed by the beauty and diversity of Argentina. The vast size of the country means that you need to build in extra time for flights or very long bus rides if you want to take in “the greatest hits”, but it was totally worth it to see everything from glaciers to falls to vineyards….Having said that, there is so much to see and do in each region; Id be thrilled to go back and explore Patagonia or the northwest in detail (and spend more time leisurely sipping wine in Cafayate). Time to win that lottery!


  3. Pingback: Reblog: My 10 Perfect Moments in Argentina – Over The Andes

  4. What a fantastic group of places

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  6. Gorgeous photos!!! A very inspiring trip through Argentina.
    The story of how Eva came to rest in Recoleta can beat most fictions reads!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You surely have inspired me to visit some of these places. Wow, Argentina seems beautiful. I am hoping to travel there in July. Patagonia is on my list too, but it will be pretty chilly when I go, so maybe I can replan to go in April of 2019. But thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting and great to hear that you’ll be traveling to Argentina. It is an amazing country. I think July is fine for many parts of Argentina, but if hiking in Patagonia is high on your list, you’ll find that many of the facilities and hostels are closed. But, I have heard that hiking is possible and winter brings some beautiful clear skies. April is the tail end of the main hiking season (we loved it because it wasn’t busy and the fall colours were beautiful).


  8. A few days ago I also stumbled upon a blog post about some of the most stunningly beautiful places in Argentina, so two of such post in a week… the universe might be trying to tell me something. 🙂 However, for some reason it seems very hard for Indonesians to get Argentinian visa. A famous writer who has traveled to many countries around the globe was denied entry to the country several years ago; a friend of mine who works as a flight attendant and is very well-traveled also has his visa application rejected; another friend who used to work at a travel agency here in Jakarta told me that he preferred not to take any visa application for Argentina. Anyway, I won’t lose hope. Maybe one day when the opportunity arises, going to Argentina would be much easier for Indonesians.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bama, I’m very sorry to hear about the Argentina visa situation for Indonesians. This is such a shame. We met some young Chinese travellers in Patagonia who told us that it had been really difficult for them to visit Argentina up until a couple of years ago. It sounds like a fast growing economic relationship between the two countries plays a big role. Do you know whether it is as difficult for you to get visas for other South American countries? We spent a bit of time in Bolivia and Chile (posts to come), and we really enjoyed our time there too. I hope things change for you soon with respect to travel in Argentina. But, in the meantime, thankfully there are many other beautiful countries that will happily welcome you.


      • Fortunately Indonesians can visit Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia without visa, and from what I heard getting a Brazilian visa is relatively easy. Bolivia, on the other hand, is even harder to get than Argentina. Looking forward to your upcoming posts, Caroline!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my gosh, what a fabulous trip. I’m so looking forward to reading all your posts. Hornocal in particular looks AMAZING.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought you might be intrigued by the unique geology of Hornocal. Other places in northwestern Argentina reminded me of landscapes in parts of the US southwest. Really interesting place!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is one of my life-long dreams, so I’m pinning this and I’ll be eagerly awaiting those posts about the hikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you enjoy hiking and incredible scenery, put Patagonia on your list. I live next to a mountain range, and have visited many beautiful mountainous areas, but Fitz Roy and the incredible rock towers surrounding it are like nothing I’ve seen before. I feel so lucky to have spent a few days there. Hopefully I’ll get to those hiking posts soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Monika

    Caroline, what a treat for me to read about some of your recent adventures! What an amazing trip you and Mike had!! Can’t wait to hear more about it. Spectacular!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Brian Foster

    Incredibly beautiful locations and shots. You guys certainly got out and about and away from the mainstream while still doing that as well. Making the anticipation of going back to SA next year even stronger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Brian. We were really impressed with what we saw of South America and are now anxious to explore more. As you know, distances are vast, so the more time you have the better. Plans yet on where you’re going?


      • Brian Foster

        It’s a special birthday year for Barb so she wants to do Chile and sail into Antarctica at minimum. She’s planning this trip.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Awesome! Friends did an 18-day Antarctica trip with Swoop last year. It’s not cheap but they raved about their experience and their photos are incredible. If Barb is interested in any firsthand info I can get you in touch.


          • Brian Foster

            That would be great. Always good to find out from someone who has ‘been there, done that’. Thanks


          • Brian, could you send me your email address. The one Mike gave me is wrong. If you don’t want to make public, send me a private message through my Contact page.


          • Brian Foster

            Sent by contact. Thanks Brian


  13. Mike Hohmann

    Looks like a wonderful trip, Caroline. As I viewed the Fitz Roy range photo, a smile began forming, and I thought -now she’s done it! Then I read of the ‘perma-grin’ plastered on your face, and began laughing! Glaciar Perito Moreno is indeed beautiful, although that term seems inadequate and doesn’t seem to do it justice. And the wine tasting at Bodega -as you toast the readers -the smile again returns to my face! Beautiful photos and nice references/referrals. I look forward to the future posts! Thx.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mike. Ya, I felt very very happy hiking in Patagonia and we were so lucky to have a few good days of weather where we could see Fitz Roy’s towers…unbelievable that these have been climbed. A great hike and good wine….my happy place! You’re absolutely right about “beautiful” being inadequate to describe Glaciar Perito Moreno. This was my first time seeing a glacier of this size up close and it was extraordinary seeing and hearing the forces of nature at work. As opposed to other glaciers, this one is actually advancing. You’ll be seeing more of this glacier. Cheers, Caroline

      Liked by 1 person

  14. David Neasmith

    Caroline, your post certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities and vistas of South America. Beautiful photos and some useful links. The Hornocal and Iguizu Falls areas really do look to be absolutely exquisite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad David! I’ve noticed that it’s not a destination that is front of mind (for many Canadians anyway). But, we found it really great there: good transportation and infrastructure, nice people, and incredible attractions. Argentina is a huge country so it does take time traveling but they are expanding their domestic air service and several lower cost carriers are expected in the market within the next year. I’m sure you guys would enjoy it there, and I can give you more specific info when needed. Cheers, Caroline


  15. Duncan Greenland

    Wonderful post ; have fond memories of us meeting together with my son in Laos north of Luang Prabang town two years ago ; VERY muddy buffalo as I recall !

    Duncan Greenland

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Duncan, great to hear from you! We too have fond memories of that other spectacular trip in northern Laos where we met you. So many great travel destinations! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Cheers, Caroline


  16. Nicole Beissner

    Looks like a fantastic trip! Better than the West Coast Trail?! It’s been almost a year! Look forward to reading more about your South America adventures and the pics are spectacular!! See you one of these days. Renee and I were talking on the weekend about a summer adventure 🙂 Nicole

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nicole, there’s nothing that quite compares to the West Coast Trail, and in my mind it keeps getting better as time goes by! I thought of it while we were away, and also thought of how much you’d love hiking in Patagonia. Hope you’re still planning a SA trip. Cheers, Caroline


  17. Caroline what a wonderful post with absolutely MAGNIFICENT photos!!! You brought back some wonderful memories for us for a few of the places we have been to, such as the cemetario in La Recoletta in Buenos Aires, and the cacti strewn landscape and rock formations in the North. We have such special memories from those places. We had a business importing artisanal interior decorative objects and furniture from Argentina and so had the opportunity to travel there several times to meet Argentinian artists and furniture makers.

    We did not make it to Patagonia in the South and hope we do some day. Your photo of the ice glaciers is absolutely incredible. Your trip sounds like it was rich and full of adventure and discovery. Makes us eager to return. Look forward to reading more!

    Peta & Ben

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta and Ben, As usual, you guys amaze me with all the fascinating things you have done around the world. Lucky you to have visited Argentina several times! I’m glad I brought back good memories. Argentinian Patagonia is simply incredible (I haven’t been to the Chilean side so I can’t compare). I’m glad we were able to see a cross section of Argentina’s many special areas on this first trip. But now, I could easily see another trip just exploring the glaciers, mountains, wildlife and towns of southern Patagonia. Cheers, Caroline


  18. You’ve certainly piqued my appetite! You know I can’t wait to get your take on some of the stuff here that we have done (I’m already envious of the Fitz Roy views), but I’m equally if not more excited about the places we did not venture to. That geology at Hornocal is mind-boggling (reminds me a little of the many “flame-stitch” patterns an upholsterer tried to sell me once – haha), and I’ve always wanted to see the Salar de Uyuni and the Atacama Desert. Looks like an amazing trip – how lucky to be able to go for so long!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Flame-stitch patterns, haha, they are very retro. You’d be right in style again! Hornocal is mind-blowing. I’ve never been on an acid trip but that term did come to mind as I was looking out over those insane colours and patterns. Put the Salar and Atacama on your list—incredible (though San Pedro de Atacama was very busy). I must say, I was in heaven down in El Chalten! Lots more to come. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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