From Andean volcano peaks to rainforest waterfalls, Argentina has a wealth of natural beauty, and travelers can enjoy many of the best experiences in day trips. The following list highlights the 10 best (and one worst) Argentine adventures that make for memorable days on bikes, boats, feet and 4×4s.
Near the village of El Chaltén on the Argentine-Chilean border, Fitz Roy (pictured above) is the mountain whose namesake range appears in the Patagonia clothing logo. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, Fitz Roy has a challenging summit that should be left to experienced climbers, but clearly marked paths allow the average person to enjoy various day hikes. For example, the Laguna Torre hike leads to a lake at the base of the 10,262-foot-tall Cerro Torre, while the strongly recommended (yet more difficult) Laguna de los Tres trek provides one of the best views of Fitz Roy.
Talampaya National Park
Talampaya and Ischigualasto (the latter to follow) are contiguous parks separated by the provincial border of La Rioja and San Juan. Both provinces are associated with winemaking, but these parks have closer ties to a T-Rex than a Torrontés. On the Rioja side, Talampaya claims some of the world’s oldest dinosaur fossils, and prehistoric petroglyphs and paintings provide insight into the desert park’s lost city. Likewise, Instagram addicts will enjoy shooting geomorphic rock shapes with names like the Monk, Chimney and Chessboard as well as sheer 500-foot red-colored walls. Villa Unión is a main departure town for tours, which require a ranger or registered guide.
Ischigualasto National Park (Valley of the Moon)
Just north of Talampaya, the lunar landscape of Ischigualasto Provincial Park inspired the alternate name Valley of the Moon, and the heavily eroded terrain would certainly give Buzz Aldrin flashbacks. Though its neighbor also has dinosaur bones, the mother load was found on the Moon Valley side, and the park museum collection includes the Eoraptor, one of the earliest predatory dinosaurs. Ischigualasto also claims a larger collection of geomorphic rock resemblances with names like the Submarine, Worm, Sphinx, Bowling Field and Thor’s Hammer. Those who opt for a full moon tour will be happy to hear none of rocks are called Dracula.
Laguna Brava and Corona del Inca
In the Andes of La Rioja Province, small groups in 4×4 vehicles ascend the rugged trails to the Laguna Brava reserve and Corona del Inca crater set in desolate mountain terrain. At around 10,000 feet, Laguna Brava (Angry Lagoon) is a multi-hued hypersaline lake steeped in Jackson Pollock-style color splatter. Towering volcanic peaks like Pissis (the Andes’ third-tallest at 22,297 feet) overlook the reserve, while out-of-place pink flamingos add a tender touch to an otherwise apocalyptic landscape. During the South American summer, tours can continue to Corona del Inca, a sapphire-blue crater lake near 18,000 feet. By means of contrast, Lake Titicaca (Peru/Bolivia) is called the world’s highest navigable lake at only 12,500 feet.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
Photo: Flickr/Klaus Balzano
Snaking its way toward Bolivia in the north, the UNESCO-crowned Quebrada de Humahuaca is a mountainous canyon with vast minerals and strata eroded into a parade of vibrant colors. The valley reaches its chromatic peak at three places, i.e., the Painter’s Palette, the Hill of Seven Colors and the Mirador del Hornocal. Though location makes it the least-visited of the bunch, the Mirador is unequalled with more than a dozen rich colors stacked in layers like upside down Vs. Few operators, if any, offer group tours that visit all three locations in a day, so rent a car and visit them independently instead.