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Argentina family holidays

The colourful neighbourhood of La Boca, Buenos Aires © Rachel NeatheyThe colourful neighbourhood of La Boca, Buenos Aires © Rachel Neathey© Rachel Neathey
Flying Time 16hrs
Currency Peso

Today

Overview

Argentina is one of the easiest South American countries where family holidays are concerned – it’s the one where Europeans feel most at home, meaning you won’t stick out in the crowd, yet it has exotic touches.

This enormous country covers steamy jungle, the great Pampas grasslands, Patagonia and the mysterious Tierra del Fuego, so there’s plenty of scope for adventurous family travel amidst stunningly beautiful landscapes, but also the opportunity for a relaxed family holiday spent exploring Buenos Aires, one of the world’s loveliest and most intriguing capital cities.

Things to do with kids in Argentina

Discover Buenos Aires with its mix of elegant architecture, fascinating museums, great restaurants, bustling markets, intriguing (and often intimidatingly chic) people and steamy weather. There is something in the air in Argentina's capital: a touch of the tango, wonderful music emanating from shop doors, and passionate football fans – entire streets are painted in team colours, and some people talk of nothing but the beautiful game (join them to watch it at the world-famous Boca stadium). It’s an intoxicating place yet one where you’ll feel comfortable with kids. The old neighbourhood of San Telmo with its 19th-century colonial buildings, cobbled streets and street performers is particularly characterful. In the Palermo district, Buenos Aries Zoo has conservation high on its agenda.
 
For more animal fun, Bioparque Temaikèn 50km from Buenos Aires is a nature reserve where families can learn about the environment and biodiversity (‘Tem’ means ‘land’ and ‘aikèn’ means ‘life’) through games. Many of the animals, which can be viewed at close quarters and without the use of cages, are endangered species; native Argentine species include caimans, tapirs, capybaras (the world’s largest rodents) and tortoises.

Also not far from Buenos Aires, Parque de la Costa is one of the largest amusement parks in South America, with rollercoasters, Ferris wheels, adventure rides, plenty of activities for younger children, and shows (most in Spanish with no translation).

Buenos Aires is also handy for some of the best Argentine beaches, although they get packed out in summer. Miramar with its 20km-long beach and watersports activities is probably the best bet for family holidays; Pehuen Co is much less of a resort and a place for those seeking to escape the crowds.

Families in love with adventure watersports such as rafting or canoeing head for northern Argentina, which also has many lovely natural pools and waterfalls for memorable swimming. The UNESCO-listed Iguazú Falls National Park, which Argentina shares with Brazil and Paraguay, has a truly spectacular 80m waterfall. You can often see awesome rainbows here – the best are at Devil’s Throat Falls. The park is home to about 400 species of bird  – parrots and toucans but also many others that your kids (and perhaps you) will never have heard of – and more than 2,000 plants, including enormous orchids and extraordinary trees. It’s not too difficult to get to or around. Also in the northeast are the Iberá Marshes – 7 square km of swampland and lagoons populated by monkeys, swamp deer, turtles, caimans and capybaras.  

Take older children to experience the overwhelming vast emptiness of the Pampas, a grass plain in south-central Argentina said to be so large and flat that you can see the curvature of the Earth. Complete the experience by staying in one of the growing number of estancias (see Accommodation) here. The Pampas is the best place for horse-riding in Argentina, for anything from a day to a week (although the activity is offered throughout the country). One of the most exciting ways to ride is to copy the Gauchos and go cowboy with an American saddle.

If the Pampas seems a little intimidating, try the Lake District, a magical place in northern Patagonia, with Andean glacial lakes, alpine highlands and temperate rainforests. Its parks are open year long, but winters are rainy. There is a wealth of outdoor activities, and accommodation ranging from camping to more luxurious options.

For more adventurous families spending a substantial amount of time in Argentina, there’s the Tierra del Fuego National Park on Tierra del Fuego island to the far south. It’s very long way from anywhere, but the train ride that you can take when you get there is one of those ‘100 things to do before you die’ type of experiences. A picture-book old-fashioned engine, the End of the World Train (Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino or El Tren del Fin del Mundo), pulls modern cars on a three-hour loop from the River Pipo Valley 8km west of Ushuaia.

Take wintersports enthusiasts to Argentina’s southernmost region of Patagonia, a spellbinding place for skiing, snowboarding and sledging, with lots of resorts and some wonderful runs. Best of all, perhaps, is a family cross-country sleigh run under the stars. Also here is Las Grutas, a popular but charming beach on the San Matias Gulf, with the warmest ocean water in Argentina despite its southerly position.

Eat

Eating in Buenos Aires is easy peasy – there are pizza restaurants on every corner, vast steakhouses beside them, and just down the road plentiful ice-cream and fruit vendors. Steak, for which Argentina is famous, is usually fabulous, although many are actually ox, which has a flavour you need to get accustomed to.

Local produce is superb throughout the country, too – Argentina encompasses so many different climates that you can get everything from pineapples and avocados to asparagus and strawberries.         

Those here on a family holiday need to bear in mind that Argentinians keep Spanish-type eating hours – dinner is usually served from 9pm. Breakfast generally consists of small sugary croissants and fruit – delicious but not that filling – so lunch may turn out to be your most important meal.

When to go to Argentina

The best time for family holidays in Argentina is our wintertime, when it’s hot and humid except in the Andes and Patagonia, which are cool. In our summertime, Buenos Aires and the Pampas are cold.

For advice on travel to Argentina, including info on the danger to asthma sufferers from pollution in major cities, see the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website, fco.gov.uk.

Cost

Despite its economic recovery over the last decade, Argentina remains a good-value destination for a family holiday. Flights between London and Buenos Aires cost from around £500 in economy.

Most ranches offer full-board accommodation including horse-riding, with children charged a percentage of the adult rate based on their age and whether they are sharing a room with parents. A sample price per night is £70pp (estancias vary widely in degrees of luxuriousness – some are more like boutique hotels).

A starter and main course in a steakhouse in Buenos Aires generally costs £6–12.

By Georgina Allen

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