Argentina: 5 Incredible, Alternative Travel Destination Options
Argentina is a beautiful, diverse country located in South America.
It’s a massive republic, being the eight largest sovereign territories in the world, and only second to Brazil in South America.
Most tourists have heard of its most popular attractions, such as the Iguazú Falls, the Perito Moreno Glacier, and the End of the world, considered to be the southernmost town in the world. But what about all the other stunning, awe-inspiring destinations Argentina has to offer?
In this article, we’ll recommend five incredible options to avoid the usual tourist traps.
Devil’s Bridge in La Poma, Salta
On the outskirts of La Poma, you’ll be able to discover a series of hidden caverns in the Calchaquí riverbed.
It’s easy getting lost in these caverns, so authorities recommend tourists don’t just visit the location on their own. Many professional tour guides can tag along and help you get the best possible experience.
Between the countless caverns, you’ll find the Devil’s bridge, a formation that was naturally created by the explosion of the local volcano, known as Los Gemelos, or The Twins. When the lava solidified on the Calchaquí River, it obstructed the water’s flow. Still, nature wouldn’t be deterred: centuries of erosion created a natural bridge of about 150 meters long.
Some paths lead the locals and visitors toward the caverns hiding beneath. Taking this road, tourists will be able to marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites and the incredible colors of the stones underneath it. Due to the oxidization of the iron, it developed a reddish hue, creating an astonishing palette that goes from white to ocher.
To enjoy some of these caverns, you must be certain you are in good physical shape. Some are easily accessible, getting only your shoes wet and requiring some trekking experience. The most challenging paths will have tourists walking in almost complete darkness, with water coming up to their necks.
It’s not a good idea to visit this incredible location during the winter, as the temperatures can make it difficult to walk around the icy water. Though in Salta the weather conditions don’t allow for water to freeze, it will be an uncomfortable experience. In Argentina, spring and summer seasons go from September 21st to March 21th, so those are the best months to visit the Devil’s Bridge.
Arrayanes woods in Villa La Angostura, Neuquén
Argentinian’s own Arrayanes Wood is a national park is located in the southeast of the Quetrihue Peninsula in Neuquen. This is an incredibly unique place to visit, as it’s the very last Arrayan forest left in the world after the Japanese forest disappeared back in 1945. For this reason, it’s been declared a protected area, due to the importance of its species and the variety of native life.
Quetrihué is a term given to this region by the Mapuche, the native dwellers of the land, which means “where arrayanes grow.”
These beautiful woods can be reached in two different ways, depending on how long a trek tourists are willing to take. The shorter options are taking a boat ride around the Nahuel Huapi lake and arriving at the National Park within a few minutes. The most challenging road is to walk the 12 km path, starting at the Park’s entrance in Villa La Angostura.
It is estimated that these trees are around 300 years old, though the most ancient species are known to have been growing for over 600 years! The arrayanes can grow between 18 and 25 meters high, with trunks as thick as 50 cms, which can twist in different angles.
It’s easy to recognize the arrayán by its back, which is cinnamon-colored and covered with irregular white spots. Another interesting detail is that this tree always seems to be cold and soft to the touch. Its flowers are small and white, similar to orange blossoms, which grow into violet fruits. These are turned into a fermented drink known as chicha by natives.
As the terrain is filled with gentle slopes, it’s quite common to make this journey on bike rather than on foot, and you’ll be able to find places that rent bicycles inside the national park.
The best time of the year to visit this beautiful park is, without a doubt spring, which is the season when the arrayanes begin to blossom.
- La Payunia or the black desert, in Mendoza
The Provincial Reserve “La Payunia,” is located in the southern region of Mendoza. With more than 10 volcanoes per 40 square miles, it’s considered to have the highest density in South America.
These volcanoes have transformed the area into a black desert, as the lava stones were turned into sand due to the erosion of wind and rain and spread all across the region.
La Payunia may only be visited with an authorized guide, since its routes can go on for miles and miles without any road signs or gas stations, and cellphone signal is almost non-existent.
La Payunia is also home to a lava river that extends for over 111 miles. Though it’s now dry, it once flowed out of the Santa Maria Volcano and is considered to be the longest in the world.
The good news is that all the volcanoes in the area haven’t been active for thousands of years, so there is no risk you’ll find yourself trapped in the formation of a new lava river.
One of the most thrilling spots to visit is, without a doubt, the Malacara Volcano. As its sides were eroded by the rain and volcanic residue, it has several openings that allow tourists to travel through the interior of its gullies.
It’s not a good idea to visit this location during the peak of summer, as temperatures can make it impossible for tourists to walk through this seemingly endless desert for long. Even if you choose to take a 4×4 tour, the heat will still make the trip an uncomfortable experience.
- La Cumbrecita in Cordoba
La Cumbrecita is an adorable little town that seems to have been frozen in time. It’s located in the Calamuchita Valley, close to the Sierras Grandes, about 1450 meters above sea level.
It’s a secluded alpine village surrounded by woods that still features many houses made out of picturesque logs, resembling the typical ‘house in the prairie’ style. What’s particularly charming about this town is that it’s a pedestrian area. Vehicles are only allowed in certain spots, and there are assigned parking places surrounding the village.
There are countless tours to take around the small yet beautiful town, as well as the surrounding woods and mountains. The trek up the mountainside can be steep, but many guides will be happy to help you in your journey.
Those tourists who are looking for a bit of adrenaline will find it by traveling through the treetops by zip line.
As the town’s founders were german immigrants, you’ll get the chance to enjoy delicious and traditional germanic meals. You’ll also notice this culture’s influence in the village’s architectonic style.
A fundamental tip is to bring cash with you from nearby cities, as La Cumbrecita doesn’t have banks or ATMs, and neither will you find gas stations. It’s a trip to the past, and their inhabitants want to keep it that way.
This is an ideal location to visit all year round, as each season allows tourists to enjoy a different kind of landscape. During winter, it’s essential to bring coats and thick pants, as it’s usual for the Cumbrecita to be covered in snow between the months of July and August. It’s genuinely charming during this season, making visitors feel like Christmas arrived early that year.
- Serranía de Hornocal in Jujuy
This stunning geological formation located less than 15 miles from the city of Humahuaca. The ascent should be made without any real hurry, as it reaches peaks of 2.9 miles.
Composed almost entirely of yacoraite, a type of limestone, these mountains offer a range of gorgeous colors, ranging from ocher to yellow, green, and even different shades of white. It’s said that on certain spots, it sports 33 different tones.
Since the trip up its peak is steep, it’s vital to make usual stops to avoid altitude sickness. Though you may visit this destination all year round, its best to avoid doing so during the peak of summer, as temperatures can make trekking these high altitudes an uncomfortable and challenging experience.
To reach the mountain chains, you must either drive your own 4×4 vehicle or rent one of the tours that take tourists to the area. There is no public transportation that reaches the Serranía due to the steep terrain.
It’s important to note that there are no food stalls or restaurants in the Serranía, so you must remember to bring food and water as well as other supplies with you when visiting this location.