Argentina is a country which presents a number of different faces to the world. If you were suddenly transported to a pavement café in Buenos Aires you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Barcelona; Rosario feels somehow Italian; and maybe it’s the wine talking, but Mendoza feels irresistibly French.
That’s all very well up in the sub-tropical heat of the north, but as you head further south, Argentina changes again and once you reach the epic landscapes of Patagonia it’s like you’ve again been transported to a different country: a real winter wonderland! There are technical definitions of exactly where Patagonia starts and ends, but most travellers agree that the small town of Bariloche is the gateway to Argentinian Patagonia. Arguably the cutest little town in Argentina, Bariloche looks like an entire Bavarian or Swiss village decided to up sticks and move to South America, complete with chocolate-box houses and – as a bonus – the best chocolate shops in South America.
Beautifully situated on the shores of, it’s also a perfect base for some gorgeous lake cruises and for treks out into the surrounding National Park. If you’d like to extend your Argentina holiday with then you can also do that from Bariloche: a day’s journey by a combination of boat and bus will have you arriving in Puerto Montt in Chile the same evening. If Bariloche shows the impact of German immigration on Patagonia, then Esquel to the south is a reminder of the number of Welsh migrants who made their home here in South America. Founded by Welshmen back in 1865, today it’s twinned with Aberystwyth and you can enjoy some moments of slight cognitive dissonance as you see sights like a typical Welsh chapel against a backdrop of the snow-capped Andes. If you have any Welsh heritage at all, then Esquel – together with other Welsh centres like Trevelin – is a must see on your Argentina holidays. To experience the real scale of the landscapes, however, you need to travel deeper still into Patagonia.
By common consensus, the town of El Calafate, a massive 1700 miles by road from Buenos Aires, is at the heart of everything that makes Patagonia so special, and any holiday in Argentina should involve a stay of at least a few days here. The biggest – both literally and figuratively – reason to visit is to see the enormous Perito Moreno glacier, which forms the centrepiece of the Los Glaciares National Park. This natural behemoth covers nearly 100 square miles and is nearly 20 miles long.
Most trips take you to a series of platforms opposite the glacier ‘cliff’, which is 3 miles wide and 75m high, but probably the best way to truly appreciate the awesome scale of this beast is to take a boat trip out onto Lake Argentino so you can sail right up to the base of the glacier: possibly the best way in the world to make yourself feel small! You can do a variety of other trips from El Calafate, including overland into Chile to visit the Torres del Paine National Park on that side of the border. However, if you really want to get to grips with Patagonia then the best way to do it is to incorporate some trekking in your Argentina holidays. You’re really spoilt for choice for trekking routes from El Calafate, whether you just want to trek for a couple of days, or a full-on expedition into the Perito Moreno National Park or to climb Cerro Torre. Finally, and right at the southern tip of Argentina, the town of Ushuaia is the base for trips into the. This final outpost of Patagonia opens out onto the cold, dark waters of the Southern Ocean and so you can even take a cruise from here to Antarctica.