Argentina or Chile: Where Should I Go?
We often get asked: “Should I go to Argentina or Chile?” Argentina boasts the world’s best beef, tango, waterfalls and striking glaciers. In Chile, volcanoes, deserts and tasty seafood accompany a unique take on pisco sours.
These two South American countries that share so much in common have left many travellers struggling to choose which one to visit. For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers there are plenty of things to do in Chile, while Argentina also offers a wide variety of activities and experiences. Whether there’s a clear winner is largely dependent on what you’re looking for from your trip. Here’s our advice to help you decide whether you should go to Argentina or Chile.
Which is better: Chile or Argentina Patagonia?
Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina is naturally stunning. Argentina Patagonia is best (and biggest) for a wider range of landscapes. With the glistening alpine Lake District, to the fjords and islands around Ushuaia. Chilean Patagonia is smaller, and crammed with activities. Torres del Paine alone offers hikes, horseback riding, boat trips, kayaks and more.
El Calafate is Argentinian Patagonia’s standout region. It offers excellent opportunities for hiking and magnificent landscapes dotted with glaciers. When it comes to hiking itself, though, El Chalten has Argentina’s best climbing and trekking. When debating whether to go to Argentina or Chile, ice climbing enthusiasts should keep this in mind. Nestled just beneath the FitzRoy and Cerro Terro mountains, this unassuming village has one of the world’s most dramatic horizons, with jagged vertical peaks piercing the skyline.
Once you’re done hiking, venture on to Ushuaia – the southernmost city on Earth. A frontier city at the end of the world, Ushuaia has grand appeal of being on the last outpost of civilisation before the icy sweeps of the Antarctic. Spend your days in Ushuaia hiking or canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park, cruising through the Beagle Channel or board the “Trencito de los Presos” – a narrow-gauge track train that was once used to transport prisoners.
If glacial hiking and wildlife sound like they’d be right up your street, then visiting Argentina’s Patagonia is your best bet if you’re wondering whether to go to Argentina or Chile. When it comes to scenic tours Calafate is best, and perfectly positioned for visiting Perito Moreno Glacier. Spend some time at Estancia Cristina which offers some wonderful scenic excursions, cultural explorations and traditional meals. Or take in the incredible views at Eolo which is set on a 10,000-acre estancia.
The gem of Chile’s Patagonia, and arguably Patagonia in general, is Torres del Paine. Breathtaking mountain peaks combine with turquoise glacial lagoons, endless fjords and sweeping forests to make this a very special part of the world. If you’re an adventurer, then Chilean Patagonia is the way to go. When it comes to the best time to go we suggest you avoid the winter months between June and August, when services shut down and passes are too snowy to explore. As well as incredible photo opportunities, Torres del Paine is a region that lends itself to adventurous activities and it’s undeniably best for hikers. You can head out on trails across the many snow-capped mountains, ride horses through the forest or try your hand at a spot of mountain biking.
The Aisen region in Chile’s Patagonia is also stunning. This area is great for travellers looking to get off the beaten track, as simpler accommodation and longer drives mean it’s less explored than Torres del Paine. Its fjords and lakes are teeming with wildlife so the majority of waterside hotels offer boat, canoeing and kayaking trips out onto the deep blue glacial waters of the lakes. Marine life enthusiasts can venture further out to sea to catch glimpses of dolphins, marine otters and South American Sea Lions to name a few.
Argentina’s food and drink or Chile’s food and drink?
Argentina’s steak scene is second to none. With a plethora of steakhouses across the country, food in Argentina is a major part of daily life. If you’re a real foodie, you can learn about the ‘Nueva Cocina Argentina’ movement on a culinary tour of Buenos Aires. Then, head to the vibrant Boca district for lunch in a traditional parilla (steakhouse) before attending a cooking demonstration by the head chef at the renowned Tarquino restaurant. Those with a deep interest in Buenos Aires’ food history can also spend some time with our local wine and food expert in a private home.
Argentina is home to some of the best steak in the world, whilst Chile is more of a seafood nation. From erizos (large sea urchins) to machas (razor clams), Chilean food, its seafood in particular, is eclectic. Although Argentina might be a popular foodie destination, Chile does cocktails better than its neighbour. This slim South American country does a great take on a pisco sour. In the Atacama Desert, local plants and herbs such as rica rica give this cocktail a distinct Chilean flavour. Food-wise, in both Argentina and Chile, portions are generous – so make sure you leave enough room to fill your stomach.
Chile or Argentina Wine Region?
Argentina’s Mendoza is one of the most beautiful wine regions on the planet. It’s a prime area for vine growing due to the almost constant sunshine and water supplied by the run-off from the Andes. The focus here is on reds, as the climate lends itself to growing varieties such as Malbec. The home of Malbec is the Central Valley or Primera Zone, made up of the counties Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Guaymallén and Godoy Cruz. Some of the most prestigious wineries in Argentina are also located in this area. If you want to catch the harvest festival, then aim to visit in February or March.
A good way to introduce yourself to Mendoza’s wine is on a privately guided tour. From small boutique wineries to larger operations, you’ll get to truly experience the best of the region on a tour through the Central Valley. The whole experience ends with a gourmet tasting lunch at a local Bodega – a great way to get an insight into Argentina’s food and wine culture. Mendoza’s Valle de Uco is also worth a visit, as a scenic drive down Los Cerrillo Route makes the wine tasting here feel magical. One of our favourite places to stay in Mendoza is Cavas Wine Lodge.
If you want to discover the wine in South America but you’d prefer not to dedicate three or four nights to it, then Chile’s wine region wins the debate of whether you should go to Argentina or Chile. It’s extremely accessible in that it’s very close to the international airport. Chile has been shaped by both Spanish conquistadors and French immigrants, leading to the wine regions here being among the largest and most important in the world. To the north of Santiago and east of Valparaiso is the Aconcagua Valley and stretching south of the capital is the Valle Central – divided into the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys. Go in autumn between March and May for beautiful colours and wine festivals.
To make the most of Chile’s wine region, take a half day tour around the Indomita and Casas del Bosque wineries. Both are located in the Casablanca valley, a relatively young wine area where winemakers only started planting vines in the mid-1980s. This region is perfect for lovers of both red and white, as cool coastal temperatures produce excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. If one wine tasting is enough for you, then you can move on to explore the beautiful countryside either on foot or on horseback. One of our favourite spots to stay in this region is Vik Chile, which is modern in both aesthetic as well as the wine-making technology used.
Argentina’s Coastline or Chile’s Coastline?
Argentina’s Peninsula Valdes is on the rugged Patagonian coast and is one of the best places to see wildlife in the country. For those with an interest in marine life, it’s a don’t miss destination. As well as being home to Southern right whales, sea lions and Magellanic penguins, the three giant salt lakes in the middle of the peninsula are awe-inspiring due to their natural beauty. This coast is ideal for diving, as the UNESCO World Heritage Site remains pristine with crystal clear water. There are plenty of ways to explore this Patagonian coastline, from riding along the beautiful Argentina beaches on horseback to salmon fishing.
Chile’s coastline is still great for scenic walks to superb historical sites and quaint fishing villages. Take the time to visit Chiloé, a wild and beautiful island with inviting villages and colourful houses. And then there’s one of the most enigmatic, intriguing and isolated locations on earth, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. Chile beaches may not be the primary draw, but the scenery is spectacular and time spent along the coast is well worth it.
Chile or Argentina Lake District?
Argentina’s Lake District has an alpine feel to it – majestic snow-capped peaks sit alongside dense forest and crystalline lakes. This is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors with all manner of outdoor activities possible, from mountaineering to skiing to kayaking. Chocolate lovers will also be glad to know that Argentina’s lakeside paradise is just a stone’s throw from Bariloche, home to the best chocolate in the country. Set on an outcrop of the Llao Llao peninsula, Llao Llao is among our top hotels in the region.
Chile’s Lake District is very similar to Iceland and is a lot more volcanic than Argentina’s. Here, it’s easy to combine outdoor pursuits such as fishing with more relaxing options, including visiting hot springs and lake side beaches. Charming lakeside towns, epic 4×4 drives, scenic picnics, kayaking, hiking and white water rafting are just some of the other ways to pass the time. Or take a spectacular helicopter flight directly over the Villarrica Volcano summit. If you’re looking for a more relaxing break, then spend time dining on delicious seafood and gourmet cuisine at luxury lodges or indulge in various spa treatments. Speaking of great food, Vira Vira is one of our top accommodation picks in the region for that very reason.
Argentina's desert region or Chile’s Atacama desert?
Starkly beautiful, Argentina’s Puna region is the perfect destination for off-the-beaten-track and adventurous escapes. Think exciting road trips and 4×4 voyages through stunning landscapes that include salt lakes, clay deserts, dunes and extraordinary colours. A gateway city in the north west of the country, Salta sits in a lush green valley, but just a short drive away you’ll find dramatic landscapes ready to be explored. The many small villages and towns in the area are also great for sinking your teeth into Argentinian life, so if the perfect combination of scenery and culture are what you’re looking for when choosing between Argentina and Chile, then Argentina may come out tops for you.
While Argentina’s desert areas are great for adventure seekers, Chile is ideal for making the most of the other-wordly landscapes and remote beauty. One of the driest regions on earth, the Atacama Desert offers incredible luxury lodges and is known for some of the best star gazing in this part of the world. In fact, many lodges have their own telescopes so you can make the most of the vast night skies. While shared group tours are common in this region, Awasi Atacama offers private excursions. And after exploring the remarkable surrounds, take some time out at the spa and in the hot springs at Nayara Alto Atacama.
Argentina’s culture or Chile’s culture?
Argentina and Chile both have deep and rich cultures, but depending on your interests you may gravitate more towards one than the other. One of the highlights of a stay in Argentina is learning about and experiencing the Gaucho culture in the Pampas. By spending time on an estancia, you’ll learn about cattle rearing and agriculture as well as their skilled horsemanship. Over in Buenos Aires you can feel the beat of the tango that keeps the city pulsing. Take in a vibrant show over dinner, or even join a class yourself. For an interesting mix of history and culture, head to Ushuaia where a historic, narrow gauge steam train can take you along a scenic route into the Lapataia National Park.
The street art culture in Valparaiso is vibrant and ever changing and a great way to immerse yourself in the spirit of the city. It’s also packed with history as a visit to the working fort will reveal and the fish market is not to be missed if you want to get a feel for what makes this part of Chile so unique. Poetry enthusiasts will relish the opportunity to visit poet Pablo Naruda’s hilltop house, that is almost boat-like in its appearance. And of course, Easter Island is ideal for those wanting a glimpse of the ancient cultures that called Chile home.
Which is the Best City: Buenos Aires or Santiago?
Choosing between Buenos Aires and Santiago isn’t easy – both are vibrant cities worth visiting. For travellers interested in city life, cultural heritage and varied architecture, then Buenos Aires is the city for you. If you prefer incredible mountain views, fascinating museums, trendy neighbourhoods and markets then Santiago is ideal for you.
Buenos Aires is a city of fascinating architecture. A Four Balconies tour will take you to some of the most distinctive districts, taking in history, culture, architecture and contrasts. Speaking of culture, you’ll definitely want to make time for a Porteño show with its detailed scenery and costumes. And, of course – no visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without a good dose of tango – take in a show, join a class, or why not do both?
There’s so much to discover in Buenos Aires, especially if you slow your pace and take time to get to know your surroundings. Take a bike tour through Argentina’s largest Barrio, Palermo, or head out on foot to discover some Recoleta’s beautiful boulevards and impressive cemeteries.
Soccer enthusiasts won’t want to miss a Boca Juniors Stadium Tour and a visit to the fascinating museum located inside it. It might just be the deciding factor in whether to choose Chile or Argentina.
For incredible mountain ranges, dramatic scenery and breathtaking views Santiago comes out ahead of Buenos Aires. Head up San Cristobal Hill to marvel at the vistas below. The city, located in a bowl-shaped valley, is ideally placed for astounding views of the surrounding Andes Mountain Range as well as the Chilean Coastal Range. This unusual position gives you the perfect balance of city living and remarkably easy access to beautiful nature spots close by.
If history is your thing, Santiago has a lot to offer. A visit to Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square is a treat for history enthusiasts. There are a variety of significant buildings to see as well as an historic church, monument and commemorative structures. The cafes and restaurants that surround the square are perfect for people watching. A stroll through the city also unearths a variety of excellent museums. Pop into Museo de la Memoria for a thought-provoking look at recent history through different mediums.
Santiago’s Mercado Central dishes up one of the most impressive arrays of local diversity in the country, making it a great choice if you have to choose between Santiago and Buenos Aires.
Finally, the lively and colourful neighbourhoods of Lastarria and Bellavista offer a laid back free-spirited welcome, with plenty of book stores, street art and cafes to assure you you’ve made a good choice.
Awasi PatagoniaYou wouldn’t think that the spectacular Patagonian region of Torres del Paine could get any better regarding luxurious design-led hotels, but it has, courtesy of the exclusive sibling hotel to Awasi Atacama, and the only lodge in the area to offer tailor-made excursions for each guest. Adding to that, a portion of the proceeds from each guest’s stay helps to support The Awasi Patagonia Conservation Project, which aims to create a natural corridor for wildlife. Awasi guides also help to monitor the puma populations and keep hunters away, increasing the properties, and its guests, positive impact on the region. 14 wooden-clad, shipping crate-style ‘villas’, which were inspired by the old outpost shelters, lie scattered over the wind-protected private reserve, facing the epic Lake Sarmiento and the famous three-tower peaks. Inside, the warming and minimal Scandinavian cabin decor nicely cushions you from the harsh weather outside, with natural wood interiors, large inviting beds, your own living room with log fireplaces, a hot tub and with every modern amenity to hand. The master villa, which has two bedrooms, is perfect for families. The dispersal of these freestanding villas befits the solitude of your surroundings, giving you a pleasing level of privacy but also a heightened experience of the landscape’s isolation. The main house, just a short walk from the villas, features a Relais & Chateaux restaurant, terrace and living area. Awasi is renowned not only for its style, but for tailoring its tours to each individual guest and for serving delectable gourmet food. Guests can choose whatever excursions they want to do, without having to compromise for the sake of a group.
The Vines Resort & SpaA chic and highly anticipated addition to Mendoza’s collection of boutique properties. A contemporary, low-lying structure, the hotel seems to have been built so as not to disturb the uniform horizon of the Uco Valley’s perfectly combed vineyards. The smart collection of twenty-two villas echo this style and with their exposed interior stone facades, wall-to-ceiling windows, earthy tones and simple elegance combine for an aura of modernistic calm. There are one or two bedroom sizes available, and each comes with its own modern kitchen, sitting areas and private patio. And there’s more. The hotel has additionally modeled itself on being a culinary resort as well, managing to secure a restaurant designed by the internationally renowned chef, Francis Mallmann. There is a Winery on the estate for tastings, wine making tours and activities, not to mention a full spa for expert pampering. Try some horse riding in the morning through the vineyards and high blue skies, followed by breakfast and a swim in the infinity pool that drops off into the combed lines of twisted vines beyond. In the afternoon, maybe some wine tasting with lunch and a spoiling treatment at the spa.
Vik ChileThe extraordinary sophistication and contemporary chic of the Vik Chile is quite simply unparalleled in Chile’s wine region. Fresh from an extensive refurbishment, this 22-room (with seven Puro Vik glass pods) avant garde luxury boutique hotel is set within the 4,400-hectare Millahue Valley and Vik vineyard, just two hours south of Santiago in the Colchagua Valley area. Each suite is individually themed and decorated, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows which allow guests to take in the majestic views of the region. A newer addition to the hotel, guests can now choose to stay in one of the separate Puro Vik glass pods, providing an incredible vantage point for overlooking the valley. The lodge is decorated in keeping with the vineyard’s holistic and ecological principles and it’s almost as if the exterior’s inconspicuous minimalism was intended to touch the hillside on which it perches. This spectacular sense of floating is further emphasised by seamless glass windows-for-walls in the rooms. Yet the insightful use of dark heavy woods, rough natural materials, functional furniture and a minimal elegance also makes the lodge feel contrastingly very solid, grounded and stylishly real. The lodge enjoys uninterrupted views of the vineyards and lake and there is a cosy sitting area with a fireplace, patios with sofas, and a well-equipped and elegant dining room where excellent traditional Chilean cuisine is served. Plenty of activities and expeditions can be arranged to suit guests according to their time and preferences, especially with immediate if not exclusive access to the vineyard and winery.
Explora El ChaltenExplora El Chalten sits enshrouded by mountains overlooking the Electric Valley and Marconi Glacier. Opening its doors in 2020, this is the latest Explora property, famed for their amazing locations/service and guiding. The lodge is in the depth of some of Patagonia’s most impressive trekking country with fantastic trekking opportunities here to explore the awesome landscape. With only 20 rooms and a dedicated in house expedition team at hand there’s a high focus on the guest’s experience. Inspired by the hacienda style properties, each room has modest cosy wooden interiors and large picture windows framing the humbling views. Hotel facilities include a luxury spa to retreat to after a day’s adventure with a sauna and hydromassages, the treatment rooms overlook the valley views. All meals and a full program of activities are included.
Nayara Alto AtacamaAlmost imperceptible from its backdrop of baked red rock, emerging as a perfectly placed traditional adobe settlement, it takes an even closer look to discover that this is, in fact, the very conscientiously designed and luxuriously authentic Nayara Alto Atacama. Its beauty is matched by its sustainable ideals, with the resort dedicated to integrating into the environment without causing harm to the immediate landscapes or ecosystems. In the shadow of the Cordillera de la Sal and with the San Pedro River coursing by its enviably remote and magical position in the Atacama desert means it is well placed to explore the surrounding natural sights of deep, sweeping valleys and canyons, kaleidoscope skies, serene lagoons, ancient ruins and tempestuous geysers. Yet the location is only part of the hotel’s unique allure; its design both in and out stylishly embraces the aesthetic of the Altiplano and Atacama. Varying textures in the form of colourful earth-tone tiles, Brea lamps, cave paintings, local iconography, sculptures, and coarse Aguayo tapestries and Amerindian textiles, blend to create an inviting, warm and intimate atmosphere to the contrasting wilderness outside. Each comfortable room features its own terrace and is equipped with many modern appliances and luxuries. What’s more the hotel’s activities and expeditions are expertly planned and personalised to you, with private guiding available. The staff will do their utmost to look after you and there are many facilities to enjoy at the hotel, such as yoga, spa treatments, hot springs, or just sitting under the patio awnings gazing at the spectacle in front of you.
Finca ValentinaFinca Valentina is a charming, small boutique hotel situated at the foot of the Andes, just outside Salta in Northwest Argentina. A refurbished country house, it maintains the local traditional architecture with the layout, light and comfort of modern living. The main house of the finca offers five standard rooms and a two-room suite. Outside, there’s also a cottage with two independent rooms, each with a private patio. The lounge and the dining room are completed by a fireplace and are pleasant, modern and strewn intermittently with the odd antique or gaucho garb. Hear the quiet preparation of meals from the cook in the kitchen whilst reading a book from the finca’s charming gardens or the outside decked seating area, sometimes shared by the owners’ three lovely labradors. Located in the south-western outskirts of city, you get the peace and splendid views of the Andean countryside as well as being close to the sights of Salta.