Often described as the spine of South America, the Andes Mountains cut through South America, giving countries such as Peru and Chile high-altitude terrain that is perfect for hiking and other outdoor adventures. But it’s along the Andes in Argentina where unique climatic features and the accessibility of certain peaks have been used to benefit the local tourism industry.
Here are five of the cities lining this mighty mountain range, offering everything from skiing to wine tasting and awe-inspiring glaciers.
In the far northwest of Argentina, Salta is an elegant town that sits in the shadows of the Andes Mountains and owes much of its traditional culture to the surrounding peaks.
While the architecture here has a distinctly colonial character, particularly in its various churches and Neoclassical cathedral, it’s the food that gives a flavor of the city’s Andean heritage. Expect meals to have been cooked with a lot more spice than you taste in dishes from other parts of the country.
Nearby, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is Salta’s most famous geographical attraction thanks to the striking rainbow colors of the rock that make up the walls of this gaping canyon. Visit with a guided tour from the city.
For those planning a vacation in Argentina, Mendoza often tops the list and for good reason. Located in the foothills of the Andes, Mendoza has a climate that’s hugely influenced by these mountains, particularly as many of the vineyards here are found at higher altitudes than others around the country.
These unique conditions allow for a large range of temperatures during the day and night, which, combined with the ample availability of water from the Andes and the strong sunshine that the region experiences, produces both young, fresh wines and those with a great potential for aging.
Whether you’re a wine expert or just partial to sampling award-winning malbecs, Mendoza is a memorable destination for taking a vineyard tour. Arrange one directly with the wineries themselves or book via a local agency.
Situated much further down the country, Bariloche is yet another interesting Argentinean city that has grown out of the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Here, the topography of the terrain has resulted in the emergence of the region’s favorite sport: skiing.
Cerro Catédral is the one of the largest ski resorts in South America, with 1,500-acres (600-hectares) of skiable areas including a selection of runs suitable to all levels.
What’s more, this mountain boasts dramatic views across Lago Nahuel Huapi and the Nahuel Huapi National Park which are two other important tourist attractions in the region.
In the shadow of the Andes and, more importantly, on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, El Calafate remains one of Argentina’s most visited cities for one key reason: Glacier Perito Moreno.
Although it’s not even close to being the largest glacier in Patagonia, Perito Moreno is one of the most accessible, thanks to a boardwalk that allows visitors to stand mere feet away from the snout, as ice calves into the milky waters of Lago Argentino below.
Situated at the very tip of the country, Ushuaia is close to the very final stretch of the Andes in Argentina, which finish by dropping into the ocean a short distance away at the tip of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago.
For many, a trip to the southernmost city in the world is as much about ticking a box on their bucket list as appreciating a surprisingly pretty place that is surrounded in the north by sharp peaks and in the south by the waters of the Beagle Channel. But many are surprised by how much there is to do here, including taking a cruise to Cape Horn or ice hiking on the nearby Martial Glacier.
How to visit these cities along the Andes in Argentina
With the distance separating Salta in the north and Ushuaia in the south close to 3,000-miles (4,500km), it’s fairly improbably that you’ll want to visit all of these destinations in one go.
Instead, consider planning a vacation exclusively in the north of Argentina, or take a look at our two-week Patagonia itinerary for suggestions about how to visit the cities in the south.