From north to south, from east to west…No matter what corner of the country you are standing in, you are bound to find a myriad of varied sceneries.
rgentina boasts a prominent system of protected natural areas, the most important being its national parks, whose aim is the preservation of the biodiversity and heterogeneity of the ecosystems as well as the preservation of the archeology and paleontology sites. Another contribution is that to the development of eco-friendly tourism along with the preservation of the local communities. Currently, Argentina features 35 national parks and some ongoing projects for the creation of more protected areas.
When deciding which places to visit, the Argentine national parks become the protagonists, given their diverse natural beauty and the recreational activities offered in these sites. An admission ticket must be paid and its cost varies for local and national residents as well as for foreigners. The money raised goes to the administration of the whole system of protected national areas for its investment in the maintenance, support and enhancement of the national parks. Among the actions the money is allocated to are:
– Infrastructure maintenance (walkways, sign posts, notice boards, trails, etc)
– Forest fire prevention and firefighting
– Emergency services
– Control tools to avoid the development of prohibited activities such as camping, campfires, hunting and fishing.
– Contribution to the local communities, depending on the region of each protected area.
Listed below are the main national parks in each region and those that are generally visited on our recommended itineraries, both for self-drive and guided tours.
THE SOUTH (Patagonia)
TIERRA DEL FUEGO NATIONAL PARK
Located in the southernmost province in Argentina, only a few kilometers away from the city of Ushuaia. This park covers an area of 70,000 hectares of Patagonian forests along with mountains and seascapes. It is home to a great number of hiking trails with diverse levels of difficulty.
LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK
This is located in the province of Santa Cruz and boasts a total covering area of 726,927 hectares. Home to a significant area of continental ice, Patagonian steppe and Andean forests, Argentina’s largest park features an area for hiking, sailing, trekking on ice and fishing. The nearest cities are El Chalten and El Calafate.
PATAGONIA NATIONAL PARK
Covering an area of 52,811 hectares, this is one of the newest parks in our country and it is located in the northwest of the province of Santa Cruz. A must-see while travelling along route 40 in the area of Los Antiguos, La Cueva de las Manos and the plateau of the Buenos Aires Lake.
NAHUEL HUAPI NATIONAL PARK
This was the first national park to be created as such after Perito Francisco Pascasio Moreno donated this land to the national government (year 1903). With a total area covering 717,261 hectares, it is home to immense blue lakes, Andean forests, all surrounded by the majestic Andes mountain range. Visitors often base themselves in the cities of San Carlos de Bariloche (Rio Negro) and Villa la Angostura (Neuquén). It is the gateway to the famous Lake District area (Ruta de los 7 Lagos).
ARRAYANES NATIONAL PARK
This park covers the Quetrihue Peninsula, housed in the Nahuel Huapi Lake in the province of Neuquén, very close to the city of Villa la Angostura. Though covering a tiny area (1,796 hectares) when compared to the rest of the national parks, Arrayanes boasts a great natural beauty. The arrayanes (myrtle) trees are the most predominant and protected species in this natural setting. It is a must-visit while travelling the Lake District area.
LANIN NATIONAL PARK
It is located in southern Neuquén, with a total covering area of 402,013 hectares. It is home to Andean forests, the Patagonian steppe, and most importantly, its main emblem: the breathtaking Lanin Volcano. Another icon featured here is the araucarias (native pine trees). It can be visited either from San Martin de los Andes or Junín de los Andes. It houses an area for hiking, fishing and sailing.
TALAMPAYA NATIONAL PARK
Located in the center of the province of La Rioja, this park covers an area of 213,800 hectares that belong to the Monte de Sierras and Bolsones eco-region. Its unique landscape is the result of water and wind erosion along with the tectonic shifts taking place so many years ago. An important area of archeological and paleontological sites. Among the main activities here are hiking, the observation of flora and fauna, camping and full moon tours. Located roughly 80 kilometers away from here is the Ischigualasto Provincial Park (a.k.a. Valle de la Luna), which is often visited as part of the same tour.
IGUAZU NATIONAL PARK
This is the second oldest and certainly the most- visited park in our country. It is located in the province of Misiones, very close to the city of Puerto Iguazu and bordering both Paraguay and Brazil. Housed in this park are the famous and majestic Iguazu Falls. With a predominantly Paranaense biome, it covers an area of 67,620 hectares. It is toured through its many walkways, which are grouped into three different circuits: The Inferior, the Superior and the Garganta Del Diablo circuits.
IBERA NATIONAL PARK
Located in the Esteros Del Ibera (Ibera Marshlands) eco-region, in the heart of the province of Corrientes, this is an area of great marshes and wetlands, with an amazing wealth of wildlife and native vegetation. It can be visited through various points of access. The main activities here are the observation of flora and fauna, water sports, horse-riding, bike-riding, and fishing lodges.
LOS CARDONES NATIONAL PARK
This park in the province of Salta, in Cachi department, covers an area of 64,117 hectares, and it is crossed by Route 40. Its landscape is a transition between the Puna, the Andes mountains, the sierras and the Yunga valleys. It was named after the extensive presence of “cardones”, which are native cacti. Among the activities in this setting are the observation of native vegetation, altitude trekking, horse-riding and fishing.
CALILEGUA NATIONAL PARK
This park preserves the Yungas (altitude jungle) scenery in its maximum expression. Located in the province of Jujuy, it covers an area of 76,306 hectares. The place offers numerous trails for altitude trekking. The best time to visit it goes from April to November, to avoid the rainy season in this region.
As Van Gogh used to say, “If you really love nature, you will find beauty everywhere”. Following his advice, while travelling around Argentina, you are more than likely to marvel at the great variety of natural settings. This being said, one should not overlook the need for the care and preservation of these national parks so that they can be enjoyed for much longer.
Come and immerse yourself in this natural paradise!