Last Updated on October 9, 2023
When planning a trip to Argentina, the first things you probably think of are the mountains of Patagonia. But there is much more to Argentina than the glaciers, penguins, and icebergs of the southern regions!
The northern part of Argentina has just as much (if not more) to explore than its southern counterpart. With historic cities, natural wonders, vibrant towns, varied landscapes, and some of the world’s best wine regions, northern Argentina is a must-visit destination.
In this post, we’ll highlight the best places to visit in northern Argentina and things you need to know before you visit, so you can take in the best of Argentina’s culture, natural beauty, and activities.
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Best Places to Visit in North Argentina
Here are our 7 must-visit places which should be included in your North Argentina itinerary!
At the top of the list is the breathtaking natural landmark, Iguazú Falls. Located on the border between Argentina’s Misiones Province and Brazil’s Parana State, Iguazú Falls is undeniably one of South America’s most spectacular natural wonders. It has even been named one of the 7 wonders of nature and is a bucket-list-worthy place that is definitely worth visiting at least once.
Iguazú Falls is the world’s largest waterfall system, spanning 1.6 miles in width, and 80 meters up at the highest point. This waterfall system is part of the Iguazú River, which is split between Argentina and Brazil, although 80% of the falls are located in Iguazú National Park on the Argentinian side.
In Iguazú National Park there are several walking trails you can do for stunning views of Iguazú Falls. Along the trails, there are lots of different viewing platforms, including one directly over Devil’s Throat – the largest of Iguazú’s waterfalls. Viewing the falls from this point is particularly breathtaking and you can even feel the water as the spray and mist rises around you.
There is a lot of debate about which side of Iguazú Falls is better. Considering most of the falls are in Argentina, it’s definitely a site worth seeing from the Argentinian side.
However, the best way to see the falls is actually by visiting both sides. On the Argentinian side, you will get closer to the falls and see them from a lot more viewpoints. Whereas on the Brazilian side, there is only one main vantage point, but you will get a full panoramic view of the Argentinian side of the falls, which is quite spectacular to see!
Luckily, no matter which side of the falls you’re staying on, it’s an easy day trip over the border to get the full Iguazú Falls experience by visiting the other side.
If you’re a wine lover, then you’re probably familiar with Argentina’s Mendoza province. But Mendoza is not the only fabulous wine region in Argentina. If you travel a little further north, you will find Cafayate, located in the beautiful Calchaqui Valleys, in the Salta province of Northwest Argentina.
Cafayate is a charming town known for its breathtaking mountain views, eco-tourism, colonial architecture and, most importantly, its vineyards. It’s also Argentina’s largest pre-Columbian settlement.
Cafayate is a true hidden gem for wine lovers. It’s particularly well known for its Torrontés wine and is recognized for producing some of the best white wine in the country, thanks to its dry and sunny climate.
The best way to experience the Cafayate wine region is to take a guided tour of the vineyards, where you can indulge in different wine tastings.
Although if wine isn’t your thing, fortunately, Cafayate has a lot more to offer. The town is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in Argentina, with stunning canyons, deep ravines, and interesting rock formations.
Cafayate is a great place to base yourself for day trips to explore and hike the dramatic red rocks of the surrounding Calchaquí Valleys. Close by you will find some stunning and unique landscapes, including the Rio Colorado waterfalls, Los Médanos sand dunes, and the red rock formations of the Quebrada de las Conchas (also known as Shell’s Ravine).
So, whether you’re looking to indulge in some of Argentina’s best wine or not, there will be plenty of activities to keep you busy here!
Salta La Linda
The historic city of Salta (commonly called Salta La Linda, meaning ‘Salta the Pretty’), is about 115 miles north of Cafayate and is the gateway to the stunning Calchaquí Valleys. If you didn’t get a chance to explore the unique red landscapes of the valleys while in Cafayate, then luckily, it’s also easy to do from Salta.
This beautiful colonial city is renowned for its narrow cobbled streets, ornate architecture, and beautiful churches. The city’s pink and yellow-colored houses, along with bustling plazas, make for a beautiful atmosphere with lots to explore.
In addition to wandering Salta’s intriguing streets, another great way to see the city is from above. You can take the cable car to the top of San Bernardo’s hill for a panoramic view of the city and Lerma Valley below.
As well as enjoying the beauty of the city, Salta is an excellent place to learn more about Incan and colonial history. Originally part of the Incan Empire, the city was taken over by the Spanish in the early 1500s.
Now, Salta is home to several museums sharing this history, including the High Altitude Archeology Museum where you can see the world’s best-preserved Inca mummies, deemed to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of our time.
One of the most popular activities to do from Salta is to ride one of the world’s highest railways, the Tren a las Nubes (meaning the ‘train to the clouds’). This is a full-day trip as you will first need to get to San Antonia de los Cobres (a town about 100 miles away) by car or bus.
From there, you can board the train which drives slowly for about an hour through the beautiful landscape until it reaches the high point – the Viaducto La Polvorilla – at 4,220 meters, where you will get some of the best views in the region.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
Heading further north from Salta, in the northwest province of Jujuy, you will find the mountain valley of Quebrada de Humahuaca. This narrow valley is 96 miles long and holds evidence of settlement dating back to the first hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago, as well as the Inca Empire.
As such, this area is home to some of Argentina’s most captivating archeological sites and Incan ruins. The most famous of which is the Pucara de Tilcara Pre-Incan ruins, which loom over the town of Tilcara.
There is also a lot of natural beauty to see in the Quebdrada de Humahuaca Valley. Most notably, Argentina’s rainbow mountain, El Hornocal or Cerro de Los 14 Colores (meaning the ‘14 Colored Mountain’), is a must-visit attraction.
El Hornocal is just a 30-minute drive from the laidback town of Humahuaca and is an easy half-day trip. Although the viewpoint is at a high altitude (4,200 meters), you can drive to the top, making it a bit easier if you’re prone to altitude sickness.
Be warned, the road to El Hornocal can be a little difficult to navigate and is along gravel roads. If this is not something you’re comfortable with there are plenty of options for tours which you can book instead. And once you get there, the breathtaking views are worth it, and are arguably even better than Peru’s famous Rainbow Mountain!
Another natural attraction in the region, which is also worth exploring, is the Salinas Grandes salt flats, which are the third largest salt flats in the world. The Salinas Grandes are so big that they stretch 1,800 square miles across both the Jujuy and Salta provinces.
What makes these particular salt flats so impressive are the turquoise-colored salt extraction pools, and the contrast with the red Mars-like mountains in the background.
If you have time, there are also several other interesting towns to visit in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, including the merchant village of Iruya and the town of Purmamarca, which is home to a second rainbow mountain (known as the ‘hill of 7 colors’).
Next on the list is Argentina’s capital city, and cultural hub, the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.
Although not the furthest north, Buenos Aires is located in the north of Argentina’s most eastern region, just south of Uruguay, and is definitely worth a mention. As one of South America’s most significant ports, and the largest city in Argentina, Buenos Aires is an excellent start or end point for your trip to northern Argentina and is a practical city to transit through.
But its convenience is not the only thing that makes Buenos Aires worth visiting! The city is a bustling metropolis and tourist destination, with a strong history and culture. From beautiful tree-lined streets and European architecture to football and tango, Buenos Aires has something for everyone.
There are so many interesting barrios (neighborhoods) to visit and historic sites to see in Buenos Aires, such as the city’s iconic landmark – the Obelisk of Buenos Aires – in the city’s center. Some other popular sites include San Telmo – Buenos Aires’ oldest barrio, the colorful harbor neighborhood of La Boca, and the Parisian-like streets of Recoleta.
While in Recoleta, a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery is a must. Although this sounds a bit creepy, it is actually one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries, full of intricate marble statues and grand mausoleums. Recoleta Cemetery is also the final resting place of many high-profile Argentines, making this a great place to learn more about Argentina’s history and politics.
Something else you must do while in Buenos Aires is see a tango show, which is a quintessential Buenos Aires experience. Most of the shows will have a live band and tell a story through the dances, making it a very spectacular performance.
Finally, if Buenos Aires is known for anything, it is its food scene. This city has some of the best food in the world, from iconic Parillas (grill restaurants) and Argentinian-style pizza to typical desayuno (traditional Argentinian Breakfast), and ice cream on every corner. You won’t go hungry in Buenos Aires!
Mar del Plata
Although Argentina isn’t thought of as a beach destination, it does have 2,900 miles of coastline. While southern Argentina’s beaches might be too cold to enjoy, the central and northern parts of the country have some beautiful beach resorts. In particular, the beachside city of Mar del Plata, which is actually the most popular tourist destination in Argentina!
Although technically not located in Argentina’s northern region, Mar del Plata is in the northern half of the country, located towards the top of Argentina’s east coast, 260 miles from Buenos Aires. So, we feel it still deserves to make the list.
What makes this beach destination so popular is its nearly 30 miles of coastline, wide bays, beautiful sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and green natural landscapes. It’s an easy place to get lost in nature and make the most of the sunny summer weather.
However, Mar del Plata also has plenty of activities, nightlife, and attractions for more urban travelers. The city itself is full of entertainment venues with theatres, world-class restaurants, bars, and dance clubs. In fact, one of Mar del Plata’s biggest draws is its nightlife.
In the summer months, this is where Buenos Aires locals go to let their hair down, so you won’t struggle to find beach parties, live music, and dancing here!
Ibera National Park
Amidst the wetlands of the Corrientes province in Argentina’s Northeast, you will find Ibera National Park, and the adjacent Ibera Provincial Park. The newly named national park was created in 2018 in an effort to restore the land and reintroduce endangered wildlife following years of cattle farming. There is also a big push for more eco-tourism in the area, to further support the conservation efforts and boost the local economy.
Both the national park and provincial park belong to a protected area which is the world’s second-largest wetlands and is home to over 360 different species of birds, as well as 4,000 species of plants. Because of this diversity, and the ongoing restoration efforts, Ibera National Park has become one of Argentina’s best places for wildlife watching and is quickly becoming a must-visit destination.
The best way to see Ibera National Park is by doing a safari through the wetlands, where you will be able to see native animals and birds in their natural habitat. You can expect to see capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), howler monkeys, rheas, and kingfishers, among many other animals.
Things to Know Before Visiting Northern Argentina
Argentina is a big country and given how varied and spread out the different attractions in the north are, planning a trip to northern Argentina requires a lot of logistics and organization.
To make this as easy for you as possible, here are some useful things to know when planning your trip.
Climate and Weather
The weather in northern Argentina is a blend of mild, Mediterranean, and subtropical. The climate varies from one region to another.
During the summer months between November and February, some areas can be very hot and humid, whereas in the mountain regions, the weather can vary and gets cold in winter.
You should always research the weather in each of your destinations for the time of year before you go, to make sure you pack accordingly.
To explore northern Argentina, you will have to travel quite far distances, including to more isolated areas where there may not be public transport options available. The roads are generally well maintained, but access to some attractions might involve unpaved roads and rougher conditions. Keep this in mind when you’re planning how to get around and deciding between hiring a car or joining a tour.
Spanish is the official language of Argentina, and, in more remote areas, English isn’t widely spoken. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some basic Spanish and download a translation app before your trip.
Although Argentina is known for its steak, red wine, and empanadas, northern Argentina has a lot more to offer than just this, including some delicious vegetarian options. Some of the dishes unique to this region include locro, a hearty stew made with squash, beans, corn, potatoes, and humita, a traditional tamale-like dish made with corn, onions, and pumpkin. You shouldn’t struggle to find options which suit your dietary requirements in northern Argentina!
The economy in Argentina is extremely volatile and prices will vary in different destinations. Although generally Argentina is considered a cheaper country to travel to, prices in popular tourist destinations can be quite high, so don’t let this surprise you.
To get the most out of your money, it’s recommended to exchange funds using the blue dollar rate through Western Union. Luckily, credit card payments are now also being processed through the blue rate. But cards aren’t always accepted, so it’s also important to have cash on you. This is especially true when visiting more remote destinations where internet connections are less reliable, as this can make it more difficult to pay by card.
Safety and Crime
Most of northern Argentina is a safe place to travel, with relatively low crime rates compared to other parts of the country. However, scams and theft are relatively common in larger cities, in particular Buenos Aires, so make sure to exercise caution here and always apply common sense.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Northern Argentina
Northern Argentina is a stunning region that captures the true essence of South America. There is so much to see and do here, which could easily keep you occupied for several weeks or months.
Given northern Argentina’s diverse and unique landscapes, beautiful cities, natural wonders, and historical and archaeological sites, it truly has something for every type of traveler, and is an absolute must-visit destination.
Written by Chanelle Rosenbaum
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