Argentina is a diverse and large country which covers so much land of South America. In the south you can travel to Ushuaia – known as the “End of the World” as it almost reaches Antarctica. Extending from north to south, the country is supported by the backbone of the Andes Mountains. There are endless places to visit in Argentina, including many hidden gems.
I should say that the landscapes are very different in the north to those in the south. Surrounding the mountains are amazing landscapes (like near Aconcagua) and then you have lake areas and glaciers in the deep south. Argentina is a country that surprises people a lot due its variety in landscapes. My country definitely offers more than just Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls! So, what are these amazing hidden gems of Argentina?
In this blog, I will be outlining the 10 best hidden gems of Argentina that you should add to your South America bucket list. All of these places will show you a different side to my country that not many tourists get to see. Many of these spots aren’t mentioned in your standard guide book or on the average blog. These places are recommended by me personally after having traveled the country extensively and capturing its beauty.
Before we get started, I would like to introduce myself – so you have a better idea of who I am and why you should trust my recommendations! I’m Gus and I was born in the capital city of La Rioja Province. I lived there until I was 18. Then I went to Cordoba to study film and TV. Shortly after commencing my studies, I began working at a production company.
This was perhaps the largest production company in Cordoba. There were five of us at the company and we did everything: editing, camera work, lighting, studio, production, etc. It was a spectacular experience because while my university classmates were still waiting for their turn to use a camera, I was making video clips, shows, TV programs and documentaries.
I traveled a lot when I was a child. Even at the ages of 3-7 I would travel with my uncles in addition to taking trips with my father. My uncles would ask me if I wanted to go and I always said yes! Most places we went to were in Argentina and Chile. Since then, I have had the travel bug. Mixing that passion with photography is a combo that makes it hard for me to stay still! It’s so great that nowadays you can find a job in photography, for example as a travel photographer, and combine your favorite work with pleasure!
After living in Buenos Aires for eight years, I decided to settle in San Martin de los Andes in Patagonia. The landscapes here are epic! Everyday there is something new to see and every season offers something different. In general, this is the area where most of my work for brands and projects are located. My latest challenge is YouTube. On this platform I will start showing videos of my trips, my work, and providing photography tips.
Top 10 Hidden Gems of Argentina
I have traveled through Argentina extensively but there are still a few places left on my list. There are a couple of provinces which I would like to explore in more depth, such as Tierra del Fuego, and I would love to go to Antarctica! Patagonia would be my favorite area of Argentina. Places like El Chalten, Fitz Roy, Aguja Poincenot and Cerro Torre are fantastic.
However, this area only scratches the surface of what Argentina offers. The north is entirely different and the destinations up there consist of deserts, salt flats and high altitude towns. This is another favorite region of mine as you will soon find out in the best hidden gems of Argentina outlined below. So without further ado, here are the best kept secrets of Arg:
1. Salinas Grandes, Jujuy & Salta Provinces
The Salinas Grandes span 212 km² across the Jujuy and Salta provinces. The average altitude here is 3,450 meters above sea level, so it can take some getting used to if you have just entered the region. The immense salt flats here go as far as the eye can see and make for some incredible photos. This is a fantastic alternative destination to Salar de Uyuni if you don’t plan on heading up to Bolivia on your South America trip.
2. Quebrada de las Flechas, Salta Province
Quebrada de las Flechas is a canyon situated between Cafayate and Angastaco. It’s here where you can drive through these stunning rock formations which are protected as a Natural Monument. The canyon is located in the Valles Calchaquies with Ruta 40 running straight through it. This makes Quebrada de las Flechas a perfect road trip experience, where you can stop to take photos of its lunar-like landscapes along the way.
3. Cono de Arita, Salar de Arizaro, Salta Province
The volcano called Cono de Arita in the Salar de Arizaro, Salta Province, has to be one of the best hidden gems of Argentina. This naturally formed volcano sits on a bed of salt and stands at a height of 400 feet. It’s an intriguing place to photograph and learn about as many legends describe this cone as being a ceremonial place prior to the Incas arrival. Getting here is a journey in itself. You will travel across bumpy roads but it’s worth it!
4. Dunes of Taton, Fiambala, Catamarca Province
If you are looking for a sandy adventure off-the-beaten-path then head to the Dunes of Taton while in Catamarca. Here you can find some of the biggest sands dunes of Latin America, located west of Catamarca. I traveled here with my younger brother Salva and we had a great time. Visitors can enjoy hiking, sand boarding and off-roading at these amazing dunes.
5. Campo de Piedra Pomez, Catamarca Province
Campo de Piedra Pomez translates to “Pumice Stone Field” in English. The landscapes at this Catamarca destination combine white rocks, giant dunes and colored hills into a tapestry of different colors and visuals. Over 5,000 rocks, all differing in size, span an area only 25 kilometers long by 10 kilometers wide. It’s a wonderfully enchanting place to discover in a 4×4.
6. Laguna Brava Nature Reserve, La Rioja Province
Wildlife lovers will love this hidden gem of Argentina because you can spot flamingos! Laguna Brava, situated on a mountain range in La Rioja, is a blue colored pond where flamingos and other birds hang out. This nature reserve was formed in 1980 to preserve endangered species. Highlights of the reserve include: the Bermejo River, Quebrada de la Troya, La Piramide and spotting wildlife such as flamingos, guanacos, vicunas and eagles!
7. Aconcagua Mountain, Mendoza Province
To the experienced mountaineers of the world, Aconcagua will need no introduction. It’s the highest mountain in all of the Americas and climbing it is a tough but rewarding experience (it can take up to 20 days of hiking to complete). This Argentine mountain is part of the “Seven Summits” – the tallest mountains of each continent. Typically, people will attempt this summit after climbing smaller mountains such as Mount Kilimanjaro.
8. Lanin Volcano, Neuquen Province
Lanin Volcano is one of those hidden gems of Argentina that I just love to photograph! I also love to go camping in the area to experience its energy up close, and to ascend the volcano for a challenge. I remember one time when I summited the volcano, the sun was rising over our shelter. At this moment, the moon began to illuminate the sea of clouds above us, turning everything white and blue. It was a moment that I will never forget!
9. Ruta de los Siete Lagos, Neuquen Province
The Seven Lakes Route is one of my favorite places to take a road trip, as it connects my town of San Martin de los Andes with Villa La Angostura. The route is over 170 kilometers long and it winds through stunning landscape after stunning landscape. Every turn provides a new vista that will take your breath away. Waterfalls can be spotted along the way as well as the lakes which include: Nahuel Huapi, Machonico and Villarino, among others.
10. El Chalten, Santa Cruz Province
El Chalten is arguably the best town to base yourself in for hiking adventures in Patagonia. The highlight of the area is the Laguna de los Tres hike from El Chalten – an iconic trail with jaw-dropping views of Los Tres Glacier, Cerro Madsen and Fitz Roy along the way. But this hiking trail is not for the faint of heart. It’s 20 kilometers long and at the end of the trail it gets difficult. The best time to hike Laguna de los Tres is in the summer.
I remember the first time I went to El Chalten many years ago. I went alone to Laguna de los Tres and went out early in the morning with my flashlight to walk through two kilometers of rocks to try and find the first light I could. When I find some light, I recall seeing the sky above me very clearly. There was no wind and then suddenly the magic began. Slowly, those masses of rock started to turn orange, fuchsia and yellow as the sun rose. It was epic!
Uncover the Hidden Gems of Argentina in a 4×4
For me the best way to travel in Argentina is in a 4×4. Tourists can rent one of these or a car, because the public transport only follows conventional routes. For example, from the list I made, only four of them can be accessed by public transport. Also, many of the routes aren’t paved and sometimes GPS doesn’t work. So I can say the best way to travel in Argentina is with a lot of time, with a desire for adventure and to complete the trip in a 4×4.
Best Time of Year to See the Hidden Gems of Argentina
Argentina is a very large country and the differences in temperatures and conditions between the north and the south (even during the same time of year) can vary drastically. That is why many people choose the south and the Atlantic Coast in summer, and the lakes and the north in winter (when the weather is better). During winter, the southern areas like the mountain ranges, have many ski centers open which attract plenty of tourists.
In the city where I currently live, San Martin de los Andes, we have the best ski facilities in South America – awarded by the world ski center association. Winter activities are very important here. And personally I love the winter season and skiing, as it offers a unique context to generate my content.
Tips for Argentina Travel and Finding those Hidden Gems
The first thing to know if you want to experience the best hidden gems of Argentina is to research the places in depth. As I said, access to these spots can be difficult and far. To give an example, there are places where you have to take an extra tank of gas because there will be no service station for ages. And during 95% of the route, you won’t have Internet access!
It’s crucial that travelers know where they are going and have precautions in place. The second important consideration is that you can always utilize local guides in the provinces you visit. They know all of the best spots and hidden gems, and booking with them can make your trip so much easier as well as helping to boost the local economy and create jobs in tourism.