Travel & Learn Spanish in Argentina
Argentina is a lot more than the birthplace of tango and of some of the best footballers of all time. It’s a country of superlatives, especially when it comes to nature. It is home to the highest mountain in South America, the largest waterfall and one of the world’s most beautiful glaciers – and one of the few that are still growing.
Argentinian landscapes are as stunning as they are varied – from the high-altitude deserts of the Northwest, to the snow capped peaks of the Andes, the pristine lakes and glaciers of Patagonia and the windswept beauty of Tierra del Fuego, this country is sure to please nature-lovers.
Nature is not your thing? No problem. The country has cities of all shapes and sizes, many of which are great options to study Spanish in Argentina. The capital Buenos Aires is home to the world’s widest street (yes, another superlative). Rosario is supposedly home to the most beautiful women in Argentina, and Ushuaia, dubbed ‘Fin del Mundo’ (end of the world) is the southernmost city in the world.
Then there is Salta, the main city in the Argentinian northwest, with its Andean charm, and Mendoza, capital of Argentina’s main wine producing region. Did someone say wine? Argentina is the second wine producing country in South America, after Chile. Punchy Malbec and Cab Sauv are the perfect pairing with Argentina’s national dish, the asado (barbecue). In Argentina, a glass of wine is never far away.
And that is not all. Head over to the Brazilian border and marvel at the Iguazu Waterfalls, or climb Aconcagua, the highest peak of South America at 22,837 feet.
Bad news? The country is huge, and you’ll never get to see it all in one trip (unless you have months). Never mind, there’s always a good reason to return.
What to See & Do in Argentina
Old World Charm in Buenos Aires
One moment, you could be in Paris. Walk around the corner, and you’ll feel like you’re in Rome. Buenos Aires is South America’s most European city, with wide tree-lined boulevards, fin-de-siecle buildings and top-class restaurants. Catch a tango show in an upscale restaurant or head to La Boca, the rough and ready neighborhood famous for its colourful houses, and for being the home of tango and football. At the weekend don’t miss the San Telmo antique market and Feria de Mataderos just outside the city, where gaucho culture comes alive. Buenos Aires is the ideal place to learn Spanish in Argentina, with students visiting every year from all over the world.
Eat Asado Till You Drop
Argentina is heaven for meat lovers. The asado (open-fire barbecue) is the country’s national dish, and traveling around the country you’ll definitely be invited for one (or several). If not, just head to the nearest parrilla restaurant. When it comes to asado, beef reigns supreme – whether it’s vacio (flank steak), asado de tira (short ribs) or bife de chorizo (sirloin steak). Chorizo (sausage), black pudding and various kinds of offal are also often served. Vegetarian? You can go for provoleta, tasty grilled cheese, and hit the salad buffet.
Mendoza, Argentina’s Wine Paradise
Cafayate is a great place to make first contact with the world of Argentinian wine, but if you’re a serious foodie or wine connoisseur a visit to Mendoza is a must. The city is worth a visit for the stunning scenery alone, with the snowy peaks of the Andes just a stone’s throw away. There are dozens of wineries all around the city, from high-end ones with Michelin starred restaurants, to simple family affairs selling vino patero (foot-pressed wine). Mendoza is also the starting point for expeditions to Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America.
Cycle to Vineyards in Cafayate
A short distance from Salta, the wine-growing region of Cafayate is surrounded by mountains and red rocks, and it’s one of the best places in the country to learn about Argentinian wine culture. The wineries are reasonably close to one another, meaning you can hop on your bike and explore at will – and yes, you can grab another glass of Malbec.
Get Wet ‘n Wild at Iguazù Waterfalls
Spanning the border between Brazil and Argentina, the Iguazù Waterfalls are South America’s most visited, with over a million tourist visits every year – and that is just on the Argentinian side. The Brazilian side offers the ‘postcard pretty’ overview of the falls, but Argentina allows you to get up close, see water thundering down, creating a fairytale landscape of mist, rainbows and butterflies. La Garganta del Diablo is the most powerful section of the falls – make sure you don’t skip it.
Go Wildlife-watching at Esteros del Iberà
Do you have a yen to get off the beaten track? Head to Esteros del Iberà, a wetland area in the province of Corrientes. The landscape is a mixture of swamps, bogs, rivers and lagoons, habitat of caimans, capybara (a cuddly-looking giant rat, the largest rodent in the world) and dozens of bird species. There are farms in the area offering packages including food, accommodation and tours. You’re guaranteed to fall in love with the sunsets and the starry skies.
Explore Colonial History in Misiones
Do you remember the movie Mission, with Jeremy Irons crossing a landscape of forests and waterfalls? The Jesuits explored what is now the province of Misiones in the 18th century, to convert the local Guaranì tribes to Christianity. The shells of some colonial churches can still be visited, half crumbling half reclaimed by nature.
Slow Down in Salta
Salta is the largest city in the Argentinian Northwest, an area where Andean culture is alive and well. Think llama and alpaca roaming the mountains, ladies in colourful ponchos and rosy-cheeked children. The city is a great place to slow down for a few days – enjoy the plazas and colonial churches, visit the excellent archaeology museum or ride the Tren a Las Nubes, one of the highest railway lines of the world.
Perito Moreno, a Cathedral of Ice
Those brave souls who make it to Patagonia will be rewarded with silence and otherworldly nature, including some of the world’s most amazing glaciers. Perito Moreno is one of just three glaciers in Patagonia that is still growing, and is one of the most easily accessible, from the village of El Calafate. At Perito Moreno, you’ll learn that glaciers are living entities – they crack and move, and ice falls into the water in a thunder of spray. Pure magic.
El Chalten, Gateway to the Patagonian Mountains
The cute village of El Chalten prouds itself of the title of Capital Nacional del Trekking. In fact, if it wasn’t for trekkers and climbers, the village probably wouldn’t exist. So, whether you’re a daredevil rock climber wanting to conquer the wall of Cerro Torre, or just want to hike surrounded by Patagonian nature, head to El Chalten.
The hike to Laguna de Los Tres is a great day-trip from El Chalten, taking you to a view of Cerro Fitzroy surrounded by a lake.
Visit the Stunning Landscapes of the Argentinian Northwest
Rent a car from Salta and spend a day (or three) exploring the high-altitude Northwestern desert, stretching northwards from Salta to the Bolivian border. Some highlights include the Cerro de los Siete Colores near the village of Purmamarca, a mountain with a unique range of colors, Tilcara, where you can see some Inca ruins, and Salinas Grandes, the smaller version of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni.
Study Spanish in Cordoba
If Buenos Aires is too big for you, Cordoba is the ideal place to study Spanish in Argentina. The city is located on the foothills of the Andes, on the pretty Suquia River. It’s Argentina’s second oldest city after Santiago del Estero, and the University of Cordoba was the first to be founded in the country. Nowadays, it’s a lively student city, with a laidback atmosphere and crazy nightlife. Every October, pretty much all of Cordoba’s student population heads over to Villa General Belgrano, an Alpine-style village in the mountains, for Argentina’s very own version of Oktoberfest.
The Lakes of Bariloche
The alpine-style town of Bariloche lies in the heart of Argentina’s Lake District, with stunning turquoise lakes surrounded by mountains and forests. It’s a popular destination for winter activities, with southern hemisphere skiers and snowboarders flocking to the city when the snow falls and you feel like you’re in Switzerland. In summer, the cool temperatures make Bariloche ideal for hiking.
Go Whale Watching at Peninsula Valdes
This peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia is a nature reserve and haven for a variety of marine mammals and birds. But the reason why tourists flock in numbers to Puerto Madryn, the Peninsula’s main settlement, is one: whales. Peninsula Valdes offers world-class whale watching – southern right whales come to give birth in the warm waters around the peninsula between May and December, and if you’re lucky (?!), you’ll be able to see orcas snatching sea lions from the beach.
Ushuaia, the City and the End of the World
Argentinian sweethearts have a saying, that roughly translates as ‘with you, I will go to the end of the world’. The ‘fin del mundo’ is the magical city of Ushuaia, the southernmost in the world, and capital of the island of Tierra del Fuego. The southern nights are long and full of stars, and the sunsets are like nowhere else on earth. Stay a while and trek around Tierra del Fuego, or board a ship bound for Antarctica.
Wait a Second – is this Wales? No, it’s Trelew
Once you get to Trelew, you’ll be forgiven to believe you’re in Wales in the United Kingdom. The town prides itself of its Welsh heritage, and it’s a hit with tourists wanting to experience ‘traditional Welsh tea’ in one of many quaint teahouses. Welsh settlers arrived in the area at the end of the 19th century, and there are still about 1,500 Welsh-speakers living locally.
River Life in Tigre
The village of Tigre lies on banks of the Rio de La Plata, the delta formed by the Paranà and Uruguay rivers as they meet the Atlantic Ocean. Located within the Buenos Aires province, Tigre is surrounded by streams and islets and is a popular spot for wealthy Porteños (Buenos Aires locals) to have their weekend homes. Visit during the week to tour the delta on a mahogany boat or simply watch the cappuccino-coloured waters of the Rio go by. Alternatively, head to Tigre at the weekend and join one of many crazy parties.
Tigre is an easy day trip from Buenos Aires. Or you can also catch the ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay, visit Colonia for the day or spend the weekend in Montevideo.
Ruta 40, the Ultimate Argentinian Road Trip
Stretching from the Bolivia-Argentina border at La Quiaca to the city of Rio Gallegos in Southern Patagonia, the Ruta 40 is Argentina’s longest at 5,140 km. It’s also a hell of a ride – unpaved in most sections, it runs along the Andes in the western part of the country, traveling over high passes and through ghost villages. Be warned, a 4x4 will definitely come in handy.
The Argentinian Trail
Rapido travel2 weeks or less
This is a whirlwind tour of North-Central Argentina, perfect for a short visit. Make use of night buses or internal flights if you wish to save time.
Buenos Aires (day trip to Tigre) – Iguazù – Salta (day trip to Cafayate, a couple of days touring the northwest) – Mendoza – Cordoba – Buenos Aires
Tranquilo travelUp to a month or more
From north to south, then north again, this is the ultimate Argentinian itinerary – allow at least a couple of months to give this amazing country the time it deserves, and enjoy the laid back lifestyle of country villages.
Salta (tour the northwest en route from Bolivia) – Cafayate – Mendoza – Cordoba (look for a Spanish school in Cordoba and stop for a course) – Bariloche – El Chalten – Perito Moreno – Ushuaia – Peninsula Valdés – Buenos Aires
The Road less Traveled
Love nature? Fancy getting off the beaten track? This itinerary is just for you. Just head out and explore – if you learn Spanish in Buenos Aires or Cordoba before jetting off, it will come in very handy when you’re on the road!
Iguazù – Misiones – Esteros del Iberà (for wildlife watching) – Puerto Madryn (for Peninsula Valdes) – Trelew – Ushuaia (then head deep into Tierra del Fuego)
For Mountain Junkies
Mountain lovers, you’re totally spoilt here. Just one word – ANDES. Follow the mighty Cordillera from north to south taking the muddy Ruta 40, and you’ll have an adventure to remember!
Salta (for trips into the Argentine northwest) – Mendoza (to climb Aconcagua) – Bariloche (skiing in winter, hiking in summer) – El Calafate (for Perito Moreno) – El Chalten (to hike and rock-climb) – Ushuaia (because everybody needs to see the fin del mundo)
Argentina Travel Tips
Learn Spanish in Argentina
If you want to be based in the capital during your Spanish course in Argentina, Ecela Spanish in Buenos Aires is a great option. The school is located in the Recoleta neighborhood, an amazing place to wander around during the day and a nightlife hotspot. The school offers flexible courses starting year round and can assist in organizing day trips and activities like tango classes.
The same company also has a school in Mendoza, Ecela Spanish Mendoza, ideal if you prefer a smaller city (and if you like wine and mountains).
Are you a nightlife lover who wants to spend time in a student city? Opt for Able Spanish in Cordoba, offering group and individual classes. The school can also arrange volunteer and internship programs on request.
Rosario is the second largest city in Argentina, is positioned on the banks of the River Parana, just 4-hour ride from Buenos Aires. Spanish in Rosario, located in the picturesque old part of the city better known as Pichincha, is a small school offering personalized programs, including accommodation if you want to enjoy one of the cultural capitals of Argentina.
Nature junkies should look at destinations further south, like Bariloche, for example. La Montaña has a variety courses in a quiet spot in the heart of the city. They organize cultural and outdoor activities – how about an asado after your paragliding lesson?
Do you want to study Spanish at the end of the world? Patagonia Spanish School in Ushuaia is the southernmost Spanish school in the world. The school also offers homestay programs as well as tours around the remotest parts of Patagonia with their own travel agency.
guest author bio - Margherita Ragg
Margherita Ragg has been travelling the world since 2009, and her first destination was South America. The very first country she visited was Brazil, but it was Argentina that stole her heart after 3 months of crazy adventures and way too many glasses of Malbec.
When she’s not hiking somewhere or playing with her cat Tappo back home in Italy, she records some of the crazy stuff she’s seen around the world on The Crowded Planet, her nature and adventure travel blog.