Argentina road trip in 4 × 4: the balance sheet

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Here’s finallyitinerary of our family road trip in Argentina, for this fabulous 9 weeks trip, in 4X4. I’ll give you the day-to-day details of our program, road conditions, attractions.

For this 2.5 month itinerary, we were driving with our own 4 × 4, and our roof tent, allowing to enter and leave the country, without problem. Ask about the conditions, if you rent locally.

Here’s how our 9-week trip broke down:

  • Route report from September 6 to September 13: Iguazu and the Northeast;
  • Itinerary from October 22 to December 7, 2018: crossing from Argentina to Ushuaia
  • Itinerary from 17 to 27 December 2018: El Calafate / El Chalten to Cueva de los Manos
  • 4-day itinerary in March 2019 northwest Argentina Border Chile – Bolivia

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Road trip in
Argentina in 4 × 4 and with family: our itinerary

Our itinerary in the North East of Argentina: 10 days

During this journey,
we were coming from Uruguay. So we didn’t visit Buenos
Aires, demanding a detour, which seemed too long to us. We are
will catch up later!

Border – Mercedes Day 1

  • To see: nothing special on the road, expressway
  • Kms: 310 km for 3h30

Mercedes – Esteros de Ibera Day 2

  • To see: lots of animals on the track before arriving at the park – First walk
  • Kms 135kms for 3h, a good part of the road to Esteros de Ibera

Esteros de Ibera Day 3

  • To see: walk on the marked trails, boat trip to try to see the caimans, a superb sunset … Really a very beautiful place to put on the program of a fairly short trip to Argentina, for the diversity of animals to see on such a small space!

Esteros de Ibera – San Ignacio Mini

  • To see: Posadas on the road
  • Kms: 270 km 3h15 tarmac road

San Ignacio Mini Day 4

  • To see: Jesuit mission in the morning before the heat (there is a very nice night show that we missed)

>> See our article on Ibera and San Ignacio Mini

San Ignacio Mini – Puerto Iguazu Day 5

  • To see: Monte-Carlo, where there are many tourist attractions, we got lost in a plant labyrinth)
  • Kms: 265 for 3h30 tarmac road
  • Campsite:

Iguazu Falls 2 days

To visit the Argentinian and Brazilian side a little short!

>> more information on the Iguazu Falls with the family

Duration
recommended
: 10 days (3 days on Iguazu – 2 days in
Esteros de Ibera – 1 day in San ignacio Mini and Buenos Aires:
3 to 5 days)



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Northwest Argentina: Salta 15 days

An incredible region, that I suggest you discover before South Lipez if your trip takes you to Bolivia! Indeed, the region around Salta is magnificent, but a little below the landscapes of South Lipez (very personal opinion!)

North of Salta: Coming from Bolivia, we made a small detour to Yavi for cave paintings and its petroglyphs, then at Iruya, small village perched in a narrow valley. Very nice for a little walk in altitude. (2 days – Tupiza / Toroyoc stages – 310 km – 5h30)


Then, descent to Salta, passing by the tracks and major cities of this sector: Humahuaca and the mountain of 14 colors. We didn’t like the city at all, but the site of the 14 colors is really superb! (1 day – Toroyoc stage – Humahuarca – 140kms for the stage – 3h + 2H for the mountain with 14 colors)

The next day allows us to visit Pucara de Tilcara, superb preinca site then Pumamarca, for another mountain with amazing colors. We end the day on Salta passing by the superb route 9, green after these 2 days of Andean desert (1 day – Humahuaca stage – Salta – 240 km – 4h)

Salta: We stayed 3 days in Salta, but only visiting 2 days. A day was dedicated to travel obligations (washing, running, etc.). We really enjoyed this city and its museums. Maam and the Museo de Cabildo, which allow to know more about the Inca culture

The south of Salta: after this short break on Salta, we were able to digest the difference between south Lipez and this region, and it is with a new eye that we are discovering this region. We voluntarily avoid Salines Grandes since we saw the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. This tour goes through the route 33 and the Cardones park, dotted with impressive cacti to reach Cachi, a very touristic village (1 day: Salta – Cachi stage – 160 km – 3h30) – Our visit to the region (1 day) continues normally on route 55, to reach the Las Fléchas Valley, Cafayate and all the remarkable sites of the road which goes up towards Salta (if you make a loop) – We continue lower than the usual loop by joining the site of Quilmes, city cited preinca then we join the city of Taffi (1 day – Las Conchas stage – San Fernando de Catamarca – 430 km – Travel time: 7h)

Duration
recommended
: 7 to 10 days with Salta: 2 days –
Salta North Loop in 3 days – South Loop in 3 days

  • All our articles and videos on Salta and its region
  • Ideas for activities in the Salta region

Ischigualasto
and Talampaya:

Our journey to the north of Argentina leads us to
Ischigualasto and Talampaya, a big detour from
San Fernando de Catamarca since
these sites are fairly close to Chile. We
indeed wanted to enjoy Chile and not cross into Argentina
in this sector. We we don’t have
visited only the park of Ischigualasto,
because
Talampaya seemed far too expensive to us! (2
days

– Catamarca – Talampaya – 400
km – 5h)

  • See our article on these parks

Except
off the beaten track: the track of the old Ruta 40

3
days of incredible tracks, really off the beaten track!
Arriving by Paso Jama from Chile, direction left
towards Rosario to cross very small villages in full period
carnival, to be “floured” …

Discover
a new moon valley, and roll in the river / road
gorges. A timeless moment for beautiful encounters like
that llama shepherdess!

Argentina Atlantic Coast: 15 days – Argentina road trip itinerary

After one
very fast crossing of the center of
Argentina
in 2 days – 1 night
in Rio Quarto in a hotel. Sure
the road, the small town of Cosquin and its green region would have
deserved a little longer break. The 2nd day on the road took us
taken directly to the Atlantic coast at Pedro Lura, on the
Laguna for a beautiful bivouac, unfortunately in the rain.

This portion was
crossing too quickly to reach the Valdes peninsula at
time to watch whales. But the landscape is quite little
varied on this great plain!

Thanks to our
4 × 4, we choose to join the Valdes National Park by passing
la ruta 1, a beautiful little track
well silted up,
along the ocean
Peaceful. This detour will take us 3
days
, with the observation of our
first sea lions and elephant seal
freely.

>> See our article on ruta 1


Peninsula
Valdès –
5 days

In this sector, little has been covered. The first night was on Puerto Madryn for the chore part: washing, purchase of provisions, etc arriving from Las Grutas on ruta 1 (Stage Las Grutas- Puerto Madryn – 350km – 4h). The second day took us to Puerto Piramides, after whale watching from the coast on the way (Puerto Madryn – Puerto piramides stage – 160 km). We had Meeting at the Puerto Piramides campsite with a French family. Day 3 direction Caleta Valdès to see the colony of sea lions and elephant seals. Return by the salinas, to get out of touristy paths! The 4th day return to Caleta Valdes to try to see the Orcs, then drive to Punta Norte, but unfortunately no seal. We will come out of the park in the evening to sleep at playa Doradillo.

  • See our article on Valdes
  • Activities around Puerto Madryn

Playa Union –
4 days

A
site for a dolphin watching cruise
Comerson. We stayed at the campsite for several days to
shelter from the wind which was gradually increasing since our
entry to Patagonia (see our Patagonia file with the family). A
day will be devoted to rest and sharing with friends, a
full day visiting Trelew and its Dinosaur museum (Stage
Playa Union – Trelew – 100km – 1h30), a day at the
sea ​​trip.


Playa Escondido
and Camarones – 4 days

Isolated places,
but really charming! Playa Escondida is a small beach
hidden as its name suggests where a sea lion colony nestles
and elephant seal! A wonderful bivouac, but very
windy! A detour before Camarones to Punta Tombo which I
recommend the museum, free, while watching penguins
is paying!

Then break from 3
days in Camarones,
a small lost village, just for fun
to take the time! Right next to this village is
theFlorent Pagny’s hacienda and the Dos Bahias reserve where
can observe penguins and
Vigognes!


From Camarones to
the Chilean border – 9 days

This part of the
Argentine road trip is a bit long. Some points are really
interesting:

here is a summary
of our different stages and our visits

  • Camarones – Rada Tilly – Day 1 – 260 km – 4h30 A night with winds over 110 km / h… A beautiful beach for walking
  • Rada Tilly – Puerto Deseado – 310 km – 4h 3 days on Puerto Deseado, with a superb excursion on Isla Pinguinos to see the Rockhopper Penguins with Darwin expeditions.
  • Puerto Deseado – Jaramillo Grove – 250 km – 3h30 visit of the site to see the impressive petrified trees with a beautiful walk, impressive because of the wind at the top of the hill
  • Jaramille Grove – Puerto San Julian – 290 km – 4h – In Puerto San Julian, we visit the replica of Magellan’s boat since it was in this region that he spent almost 6 months, awaiting better weather to continue on 1er world Tour ! In this region, we met French families almost every day, so we took the time for games for children and aperitifs for parents!
  • Puerto San Julian – Rio Chico: 110 km – 1h30
  • Rio Chico – Puerto Santa Cruz : 140 km – 2h – We wanted to visit Monte Leon park, alas it was closed!
  • Puerto Santa Cruz – Rio Gallegos – 280 km – 3h – for a technical break: race, overhaul, tire change…
  • Rio Gallegos – Laguna Azul: 90 km – 1 hour, for a walk around ancient volcanoes and join our fellow travelers!

Advice: On the last part, after Puerto San Julian, if we had better prepared our advance, rather than following the friends we met on the road, we would have crossed directly towards El Chalten or Torres del Paine, because little point of interest along this coast after Puerto San Julian. But perhaps, crossing in this direction, we would have been less amazed by Ushuaia!


Argentina family trip visit Jaramillo Grove

Ushuaia and Argentine Tierra del Fuego: 15 days

After one
express crossing in the rain of Tierra del Fuego, we
here again in Argentina to join Ushuaia

Laguna Azul –
Tolhuin –
2 days – 460 km – 5:30 am 2 night stay at
Tolhuin to hike in the area on the Laguna Negra and discover
the first ravages of Beavers.

Ushuaia:
5 days
– Stage Tohluin – Ushuaia – 130 km – 2h

This stage was a little longer, because our loulou celebrated his 7 years there and I worked since we had rented a cabaña! A day was dedicated to the Laguna Esmeralda hike, at the bottom view Martial glacier … One afternoon, the children and their dad went to visit the maritime museum, then walk around town. A third half-day is devoted to a small hike from Baliza Escarpados to Mirador San Sebastian.

The Last 2 days are located in the Tierra del fuego national park to enjoy hikes with travel friends.

We leave towards
Tohluin to then pass into the Chilean Tierra del Fuego before
join Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine.

Recommended duration
in Patagonia: around 3 to 4 weeks

  • Our article on Ushuaia
  • Our Patagonia family file
  • Ideas for activities around Ushuaia

Andes Argentina: Perito Moreno and El Chalten: 10 days

This part of
our trip to Argentina took place around the Christmas period.

4 Days in El
Calafate for the Perito Moreno glacier

After Torres del
Paine and a border crossing at Paso Rio Don Guillermo (stage
Torres del Paine Park – El Calafate – 310 km – 4h30, we
join El Calafate. Again, the work catches up with me and on the
4 days spent at the campsite, 1 day is devoted to the park
National of Perito Moreno, and 1/2 day for the visit of the
Glaciarium!

Duration
recommended: 3 days
to add a hike
interesting opposite the Perito Moreno


6 days from
hikes to El Chaten and the Fitz Roy

We were there for Christmas, and took advantage of this cool place by sleeping in a campsite, rather than at the bivouac with our friends. Day 1: The Condores and Los Aguilas hike near the park house – Day 2 Laguna Torres hike – Day 3 Rest – Day 4 Fitz Roy hike and Christmas Eve at the campsite – Day 5 Rest and Christmas with friends

Recommended duration: 4 to 5 days depending on your recovery capacity between hikes


2 days in Cuevas de las Manos

A long journey for a 1/2 day visit to Cuevas de las Manos, an exceptional Unesco World Heritage site. To see only if you go to Chile.

We then leave Argentina for the Chile and come back only for 3 days at the top of Chile to return in Bolivia we loved

Impressions and tips for a family trip to Argentina

When everyone told us that Argentina was a very developed country, I found that everything was damaged, in poor condition, etc. But this is surely due to the economic crisis !

The Argentines are super nice ! Well, we haven’t known any! So yes, they stop you in the street to take your picture, but the relationships end there (well for us!) A little disappointment on that side!

Argentine timetables: Argentina is a bit like Spain in Europe! The hours are really different from other countries! The mid-day break is spread from 12 or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in some cities ! It was difficult for us to live with it! And in the evening, it’s the fiesta until very late! I advise you to find bivouacs far from cities!

The cash withdrawals in Argentina: following this economic crisis, ATM cash withdrawals are capped, around € 150 per withdrawal ! Not at all practical to support a family of 4! So we took cash dollars, which we changed (on the street) on the spot and a sum large enough not to fall short of a city!

The police checks : at each exit from the provinces, even cities, the police are posted ! Don’t worry: they note the flow of the country, with your license plate! Only one seemed honestly borderline, but showing him our customs paper, we did not have any problem.

Highway Code and your vehicle: It appears that large vehicles need to stick reflective tapes to the back of their vehicle; We put them on the 4 × 4 just in case, but I think it was superfluous! You also need in the vehicle a first aid kit, and an easily accessible fire extinguisher, the tow ball is prohibited if you do not have a trailer; but nobody controlled them! No customs book for your vehicle in Argentina, but a temporary import

The distances are huge, the paved roads are very, very monotonous. Watch out for the wind in Patagonia on the roads. Buy a map to find the slopes!

Find our specific advice on Patagonia here

Budget for one
family trip to Argentina

In 2018, Argentina is experiencing a real economic crisis, every day the price of its currency collapses! When we were preparing our trip, 1 € was worth 20 Argentine pesos; when we were there: 1 € was worth 42 Argentine pesos! We should have spent a lot less than expected: except that! As we felt it was not expensive, we bought the groceries from the big supermarkets (which cost much more than the markets), and booked many trips to see the animals. In June 2020, the Euro was worth 77 Argentine pesos!

Difficult
to share a budget with you, since we spent several
times in Argenine, in very different places:
daily rates are for the family, ie 4 people.

  • In September, northeast region towards Iguazu : 72 € / day for 4 i.e. 507 € / 7 days including 113 € of diesel, 77 € of restaurant, Iguazu visits and others: 139 €, camping: 60 € camping
  • In November, a full month in Argentina: 77 € / day (excluding 4 × 4 revision) but € 4,520 / 48 Days
  • In December, El Calafate / El Chalten region: 59 € / day – 653 € for 11 days
  • In March, on the slopes: € 4 / day
  • In summary : 59 € / day for 4, out of revision 4 × 4

This is the budget breakdown for Argentina for the full month of November:

Transport cost – Argentina family travel budget

Over a full month in November in Argentina, we spent € 659 for full fuel. YPF service stations offer free or paid showers super nice for the most part. If you are not going to the campsite, here is a great tip for cheap washing!

4X4 overhaul: € 818 (2 BF Goodrich tires € 465 and Overhaul € 353)

Accommodation budget in Argentina: camping

€ 164 for campsites especially on the Atlantic coast to protect us from too strong wind in Patagonia for our roof tent!

The bivouacs are not that easy to find, in the center and in Patagonia. The pampas’ roads are bordered by the fences of huge hacienda, making it difficult to find discreet places. Either you sleep at the side of the road, or you are welcomed in the hacindas, if the locals see you or you continue further to find a campsite

Food expenses – budget road trip Argentina

  • 455 € of groceries often bought in supermarkets in big cities – mistake, it explodes the budget, prefer the markets.
  • 190 € of restaurants

Taste beef here or in Chile, in the north of South America, we eat more chicken!


Cost of visits in Argentina with your family

€ 40 for entry into national parks – € 276 for visits and museums

Most national parks and reserves are chargeable. but for animals, lots of free spots are easy to access. Respect places and animals well to avoid them being closed!

Other
expenses:

Budget
laundry: 20 €

Well, I hope this article will help you prepare your next itinerary in Argentina with your family. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

For further
  • All our articles about Argentina
  • Ideas for activities in Argentina
  • One year in South America in 4X4
  • All our tested accommodations

Ideas for family tours in Argentina