One week

With just one week in the country, it is best to limit your itinerary. The essentials for any trip are the bright lights of Buenos Aires and the stunning Iguazú Falls. To experience Buenos Aires, watch some football and perhaps do a little shopping, you need a minimum of three days. Then take an over- night bus (16 hours), or a more expensive but much shorter flight, to Iguazú Falls. Two days is sufficient to see both the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the falls, or better still allow two days to explore the larger Argentine park. Then, returning to Buenos Aires, the more budget conscious could spend the weekend in the fantastic HI hostel in the delta system just north of Buenos Aires. Alternatively, spend a night at one of the grandiose
close to the capital, where you can ride horses, play sports, swim or just relax in the sun. Those with a little more money could fly down to El Calafate in Patagonia to experience the immensity of the Perito Moreno Glacier for two days. Spend a whole day staring at the 60-m-high ice walls from the wooden walkways on the peninsula, then return to a luxury spa and complete the trip with a full-body massage.

Two weeks

Two weeks allows you to see a lot more, but will require a non-stop itinerary. Enjoy fast-paced Buenos Aires in all its glory for three packed days before flying or taking an overnight bus to Iguazú Falls. After two days
exploring the walkways and waterfalls,
fly via Buenos Aires to either El Calafate (at its best from November to March) or Salta (preferably May to October when the heat isn't unbearable). In El Calafate, once you have spent a day at the Perito Moreno Glacier, catch the four-hour bus to El Chaltén to enjoy the relatively easy four-day hikes into the mountains. Relax at night in one of the cosy hotels and visit the lively restaurants in this small tourist town. Otherwise, skip El Chaltén and head across the border to Puerto Natales in Chile. From there, hire your camping equipment and head off on the 'W' circuit of the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park.

In the cooler months (from May to October) when El Chaltén and Torres del Paine close, head north to Salta: the cultural capital of Argentina. Salta is host to a wealth of impeccable colonial architecture, the exhilarating Tren a las Nubes (one of the highest trains in the world), and a rich culinary tradition (try the spicy
). Don't forget to visit the nearby vineyards in Cafayate for a day as well.

Hire a car or catch the local buses up to Quebrada de Humahuaca in the north, an ancient rock formation with astounding colours, connecting a string of little villages, including Tilcara, Humahuaca and Purmamarca. Stay at the fantastic HI hostel in Tilcara for priceless views, or head to exclusive Purmamarca for a luxury resort. Fly back to Buenos Aires and spend one last night drinking local wine and eating
dulce de leche

Three or four weeks

A month is the ideal amount of time to spend in Argentina, but three weeks is a good compromise, giving you enough time to get a feel for the country's extraordinary contrasts. With a month, start in Buenos Aires before heading up to the Iguazú Falls for two days. Then the best option is to fly south to El Calafate to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier (don't miss the glacier ice trek). From November to March head over to El Chaltén (four hours) for a few days' hiking, or cross the border to trek the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. In the cooler months (April to October), you can still visit the glacier in El Calafate but just make sure you have enough warm clothes! From there, fly to Ushuaia to see the 'End of the World'. You could visit a local
, take a tour on the Beagle Channel or visit one of the world's most southerly ski fields

Next, head north. From El Calafate take the Ruta 40 to Bariloche stopping off at the Cueva de las Manos: incredibly preserved prehistoric cave paintings in the middle of nowhere. From Ushuaia, take a flight to Bariloche. The next few days should be spent either hiring a car or catching the fantastic local buses around the Lake District: from hippy El Bolsón with its home-made jams, to the 2000-year-old trees of the Alerces National Park, from the serene lakeside setting of San Martín de Los Andes, to the bright red bark of the Arrayanes National Park. There is plenty here to keep you busy. Camp, stay at the wonderful hostels or splurge on boutique lodges. Moving on, head further north by bus to Mendoza to visit the nearby vineyards and do a winery tour, before travelling to Córdoba to marvel at the colonial architecture and the restored Jesuit missions. Then finally, make your way up to Salta in the north to try the food, experience the Andean culture and visit the stunning Quebrada de Humahuaca, staying in one of the little adobe-built hotels in Tilcara or Humahuaca, before heading back to Buenos Aires for your final night.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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