With so many climate zones and such a wide variety of terrain, Argentina is a haven for outdoor activities of all kinds. Locals have a healthy sense of adventure, and recreational outdoor sports are an important part of life here. Activities around Iguazú Falls range from easy hiking along the waterfall circuits and on San Martín Island to speed-rafting along the river and trekking into the jungle. The high plains of the Northwest draw adventurers seeking a little-traveled wilderness that can be explored by bike, on horseback, or in a 4WD vehicle. Near Mendoza are the tallest mountains in the Western Hemisphere, with spectacular rivers and high plains. And of course, Argentine Patagonia has more kayaking, climbing, and trekking opportunities than you could possibly fit in one lifetime.
Here is a brief introduction to the main outdoor activities in Argentina. Many will require you to hire a local guide to help you navigate the local terrain -- and the sometimes-confusing local permit process. For more information, visit the website of the Argentine National Parks Service at www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar.
Overnight hiking trips will take you even deeper into the mountains and farther away from the hustle and bustle of life. Organized campsites dot most national parks and have rustic facilities. Camping is a popular activity for young Argentines, who flock to the peaks for their summer holidays in droves. There are excellent backpacking trips in the Lake District, where you can connect rustic and friendly mountain huts in Nahuel Huapi National Park. In the El Chaltén area, overnight trekking can take you beneath the granite spires of Mt. FitzRoy and Cerro Torre. Be sure to head out well prepared, with appropriate clothing and safety gear, a good map, and a reliable weather report. Always tell someone where you are going.
The wide-open spaces and notoriously long distances can make for some adventurous two-wheel trips. With so many seldom-traveled dirt roads, a good suspension bike will certainly come in handy here. The most popular area for recreational mountain biking is the Lake District, where you can cross the Andes to Chile and back, or pedal the stunning (albeit dusty) Seven Lakes Route, camping lakeside each night. Mountain biking is also popular in the Nahuel Huapi National Park area near Bariloche, as well as in the northern province of Salta, where tours take you from the clouds to the jungle. Biking in the wine country near Mendoza is also fun. And such cities as Córdoba have established bike routes. Virtually every town has a local bike shop, where you can rent a bike and ask locals for trail ideas.
Argentine Patagonia is one of the world's premier destinations for fishing, particularly for fly-fishing. Trout and salmon populate the picturesque and isolated rivers and lakes from Junín de los Andes south to Esquel. Tierra del Fuego also draws fly-fishing fanatics. The fishing season runs from November through April, generally, and strict catch-and-release policies are in place in certain locales. Fishing on the Atlantic Coast is popular anywhere there is a dock, and the giant dorado fish in Entre Rios province is legendary.
Argentina has one of the world's great horse cultures, from the polo fields of Buenos Aires to the gauchos roaming the Pampas and Patagonia, and the terrain is ideal for horseback riding. Horses are well cared for and very common. Hour-long trail rides are offered at estancias throughout the country. In the wilder areas of the Northwest, the Mendozan Andes, and Patagonia, visitors can sign up for multiday pack trips.
Thanks to the steep eastern slopes of the Andes, there are many fun rivers with bubbling rapids to entertain enthusiasts here. The Mendoza and Atuel rivers, in Mendoza Province, and the Juramento River, in Salta, are important spots. In the Lake District, the main river for rafting and kayaking is the Manso, south of Bariloche, although there are dozens of nearby rivers to keep a river rat happy.
Mountaineering & Rock Climbing
Alpine climbers are drawn to a few hot spots in Argentina: to the mighty summit of Mt. Aconcagua in Mendoza, the tallest mountain in the world outside the Himalaya; to glaciated volcanoes, such as Mt. Tronador or Volcán Lanín, in the Lake District; and to the famous granite spires near El Chaltén.
The Atlantic Coast of Argentina offers some good scuba diving at Puerto Madryn, where experienced divers can get close up with marine wildlife. There are also a number of places in the Lake District for freshwater diving.
Alpine skiing and snowboarding in Argentina offer plenty of choices for foreigners. The biggest resort, Las Leñas, is nestled in a high altitude valley 5 hours south of Mendoza city. Farther south, the biggest ski resort is at Bariloche's Catedral; and such gems as Chapelco in San Martín or Cerro Bayo in Villa La Angostura are nearby, allowing travelers to visit a few different resorts over the period of one visit. Finally, Cerro Castor in Ushuaia is the southernmost ski resort in the world. The Austral ski season runs from late June to September. Nordic or cross-country skiing is not as popular, as it requires a deeper snow base. Backcountry skiing, or ski-touring, is also on the rise.
Riding the breaks off the Atlantic Ocean is a growing sport, and there is a healthy beach culture to accompany the local surfing scene. The most popular area is near Mar del Plata, but there are a dozen interesting surfing spots in the Buenos Aires province as well.
With the spine of the Andes as a western backdrop, Argentina offers many options for hikers. The north of the country offers good trails heading out of virtually every town -- from the high altiplano of the Northwest, and the tallest mountains in the Western Hemisphere near Mendoza, to the rolling hills of Córdoba. Farther south, the Lake District has dozens of good day hikes that wind through lush valleys and along high ridges. The El Chaltén area of Los Glaciares National Park is one of the world's top trekking destinations. Don't forget Tierra del Fuego, where the national park blends coastal marine life with high mountains.
Another growing sport, the wind- and kite-surfing scene just outside Buenos Aires at Peru Beach is popular. In the notoriously windy expanses of Patagonia, these sports are somewhat challenged by daunting gusts and cold water, although Bariloche hosts an annual Wind Riders Festival each January.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.