Discover the sites in Argentina that will fill your family vacation with culture, epic wildlife sightings, and ample adventure.
Argentina offers destinations and activities that lie on a vast spectrum ranging from laid-back, sun-drenched spots for lounging, to enthralling adventures in the country’s wild terrain. While many countries bordering Argentina are primarily known for high-octane journeys, Argentina dials back the extreme and provides families a platter of options filled with excitement, without being drenched in danger.
With opportunities for cultural enrichment in Buenos Aires (“The Paris of South America”), water play in the Lakes District, jaw-dropping waterfalls at Iguazú Falls National Park, thrilling wildlife sightings on Peninsula Valdés, and glacier exploration at Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina has a flavor for every taste of family adventure travel.
Before striking out into the diverse landscapes of Argentina, infuse your trip with culture by enjoying art, neoclassical architecture, museums, parks, and of course, one or five tango performances in Buenos Aires.
A few favorite spots to start include El Museo de Los Ninos (a children’s museum), especially on a hot or rainy day as it’s all indoors, Buenos Aires Playa, a sandy area with lounge chairs and umbrellas overlooking the water and backed by a little water park, playgrounds, and moon bounces, and the Participatory Science Museum, which is self-explanatory.
And then there’s Caminito (“little path”), an unofficial outdoor museum consisting of a winding street featuring brightly hued buildings, a myriad of street performers and characters famous in the Argentine culture offering photo ops. It also has restaurants hosting tango shows, and street vendors selling art. It will be a win for your whole crew. With that said, don’t go at night, as it turns into a less-family-friendly scene.
If you’re nervous about stoking your kiddos’ interest, know that something as simple as a photo scavenger hunt and a prize could pique their interest. To do this, make a list of sights you’re likely to see, give your kids disposable, or shockproof digital, cameras and tell them that if they take a picture of everything on the list they’ll score a prize. You can do this in any location that elicits an “I’m bored” chorus.
Tip: A killer scavenger hunt prize in Buenos Aires is a Dulce de Leche ice cream at Freddos, the city’s favorite ice cream chain.
The place to go to get your fill of looking at water, hiking to water, playing in water and gliding atop water, Argentina’s aptly-named Lake District, perched in Patagonia, offers seemingly endless waterfall hikes and bodies of water to explore via kayak or canoe. When the water is too cold to play in, this area offers ample opportunity for chilly weather fun, like snowshoeing and skiing.
Start this leg of your journey in Bariloche, a town on the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and the gateway to the nearby Nahuel Huapi National Park. Kayaking is a popular pastime, in addition to hiking and cycling on the perimeter of the lake, and within the park. Those with older children might enjoy the many horseback tours in and around the park, or white water rafting in Rio Manso.
From Bariloche, head to San Martin de Los Andes where laid-back vibes and the sapphire waters of Lake Lacár await. This peaceful lake can easily be explored on kayaks or a sailboat, but a guided boat tour will help ensure you explore the best the lake has to offer.
Other family-friendly activities in the area include a picnic on the shores of La Islita, shopping for handmade Patagonian goods at Plaza San Marrin, a road trip on The Route of the Seven Lakes, and a soak in the Lahuen Co thermal hot springs.
Iguazu National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is rich with natural wonders, specifically the 1.5-mile long Iguazu Falls composed of 270 waterfalls. In addition to the falls, the park’s subtropical rainforest contains a web of hiking trails and is home to an array of creatures, from ocelots, jaguars and anteaters, to monkeys, toucans and caymans. And there’s butterflies, lots of butterflies. (Or as Hudson calls them, “flutterbies.”)
If extensive hiking doesn’t sound appealing to your brood, opt for a ride on the park’s Ecological Train that leaves from the visitor’s center and stops at Estacion Cataratas and Estacion Garganta del Diablo, which is your stop if you’re headed to the falls. From Garganta del Diablo, you’ll follow a path that leads to Devil’s Throat, the most popular waterfall in the park. It puts Niagara Falls to shame.
After ooing and ahhing, take the train back to Cataratas and follow the upper circuit trail offering panoramic views of the falls and providing access to a boardwalk that takes you right above the falls. Needless to say, keep a tight grip on your child’s hand at the majority of stops in this park.
For families up for a longer walk, take the lower circuit from Cataratas that takes you past eight overlooks and below the Two Sisters falls. This trail also provides access to a path that leads to free boat rides to Isla San Martin, an island located in the midst of the falls.
If you want an even longer hike, go back to the visitor’s center and take the Sendero Macuco loop that winds you past the jungle and the uncrowded Arrechea Waterfall.
While on the trails, keep an eye out for butterflies, monkey and iguanas. If you can get the kids to play the silent game, you’ll have more luck.
Note: There’s a lot of theft in the park... by coati monkeys. So don’t bring any valuables, and keep cash securely hidden.
Reserva Faunistica in Península Valdés
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site and patch of Patagonia, Reserva Faunistica is the place to go for animal-loving families, as this 889,579-acre wildlife wonderland is flush with Southern Right Whales (especially between September and November), Magellenic penguins, orcas, elephant seals and other captivating critters.
As the park has around 250-miles of coastline, a boat tour is a great way to experience the bays, shifting coastal lagoons, mudflats, sandy and pebble beaches, active sand dunes, and small islands that make up this eclectic shoreline. In addition, a boat ride will get you up close with the whales, sea lions and elephant seals. If you're scuba certified, consider the unique opportunity of diving with these creatures.
After your aquatic tour, road trip it through the interior of the reserve, where you'll likely come across the ostrich-like rhea, llama-like guanaco, and mares. Start your journey in San Lorenzo and Punta Norte, before driving to Punta Norte Wildlife reserve where orcas have been known to beach themselves in order to snap up sea lion pups. Then, drive from Caleta Valdes to Punta Delgada and observe the thriving colony of elephant seals. And finally, check out the sea lions at Punta Loma.
Los Glaciares National Park
As the name implies, this park is covered in glaciers - 30% of it to be exact - and boasts the world’s largest continental ice extension, after Antarctica. And as it’s home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, and the Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre mountains, located in the Patagonia Ice Field, this otherworldly expanse offers truly dazzling sights that will make even the most jaded of teens’ jaw go slack.
Some favorite activities for families with children of all ages include watching chunks of the Perito Moreno Glacier fall into Largo Argentina during a boat tour, checking out the glaciers from above at the viewing platforms on Peninsula Magallanes, or navigating the Perito Moreno Glacier trail (use the photo scavenger hunt idea listed above if you have hiking un-enthusiasts in your crew. Or try one of these games.) Speaking of cameras, bring your telephoto lens as condors, guanacos and other exotic fauna is common in the park.