Argentina’s varied geography is home to majestic glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls, to name a few. Luckily, a commitment to protecting its wild spaces means that these natural treasures are accessible to locals and visitors alike via Argentina’s fabulous national parks system, which boasts 33 parks in total.
While Argentina is a solid choice for any type of traveler, those seeking outdoor adventures are truly in for a treat. This guide will introduce you to Argentina’s national parks, highlighting what makes them so special and suggesting some off-the-beaten-path options for your next adventure.
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Best National Parks in Argentina
1. Nahuel Huapi National Park (and Los Arrayanes National Park)
The oldest national park in Argentina, Nahuel Huapi centers around a massive glacial lake of the same name – the lake is actually as big as the city of Buenos Aires! Located in the Lake District of the Patagonia region, there are loads of activities and vistas to explore, both in the park and in the nearby ski-and-chocolate hub Bariloche.
You can hike up dormant volcano Mount Tronador, easier out-and-back Cerro Campanario, or take on the epic Ruta de Siete Lagos, which boasts seven lakes from Bariloche to San Martín de los Andes.
There are also several refugio hikes that can range from single-day to multi-day in length. The most popular of these is definitely the Refugio Frey hike, with quaint wooden bridges and forest vistas, but if you’d like to stay overnight, be sure to book well in advance! Another (slightly less well-known) option is Paso de las Nubes, which takes you through the Pampa Linda, Laguna Frias, and Puerto Blest areas.
A winter visit is extra special for fans of cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, or sledding, while summertime is lovely for fly-fishing, mountain biking, ziplining, or water sports like whitewater rafting or kayaking. You can hike in some parts of the park year-round, though some trails are closed in the winter.
Note that Los Arrayanes National Park was part of Nahuel Huapi until the 1970s when it split off into its own park to better protect the rare Arrayan trees located there. Fun fact: urban legend says that the forest seen in Disney’s Bambi was based on this! It’s worth a side visit while you’re in Nahuel Huapi.
2. Los Glaciares National Park
Arguably the most famous of Argentina’s national parks, Los Glaciares is located in the southern part of the breathtaking Patagonia region. Home to the Perito Moreno glacier and Mount Fitz Roy, there’s an abundance of rugged mountains and electric-blue lakes perfect for hiking and exploring. All in all, Los Glaciares is a bucket list destination.
One of the best activities to do while you’re there is to take a boat ride up close to Perito Moreno, where you’ll be able to see large chunks of the glacier falling off (called “calving”). You can also hike on the glacier itself with a guided trek. Your tour will provide you with crampons and pickaxes, and you can choose between a mini-trek and a full trek, the latter of which takes about 3 hours.
Fun fact! 30% of the surface of Los Glaciares is ice, and the park is home to a whopping 47 glaciers in total, so keep an eye out for more of these majestic formations as you explore the park.
In addition to Perito Moreno, there are ample opportunities for horseback riding, hiking, climbing, and trekking within the park. In particular, a few trails are highly sought-after among hiking enthusiasts, such as Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Torre, and of course, Mount Fitz Roy – one of the most popular hikes in the world.
3. Iguazú National Park
No national park list would be complete without mentioning Iguazú. Spanning the borders of three countries (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay), Iguazú is made up of 275 waterfalls – making it the largest waterfall system on Earth. Most majestic is Iguazú Falls, which gets up to about 80 meters at its highest. This is the main attraction of the park and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
The viewpoint at Garganta del Diablo is the best place to see the highest volume of water, and there are also opportunities to explore various waterfalls on foot or by boat – notably on the Lower Walk and Upper Walk trails from the visitor center. While many people only go to see the waterfalls, don’t miss out on loads of trails for jungle trekking, mountain biking, bird-watching, and hiking.
Note that this park is a major tourist attraction, drawing more than two million visitors per year. This means that during peak season it can get extremely crowded. While the Argentine side overall has better tourism infrastructure than the Brazilian side, be sure to plan transportation and lodging in advance.
Many people opt for long-haul buses over flights to save money – they’re super comfortable and much cheaper than flying. Lastly, keep in mind that any travel between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina (the ‘Three Frontiers’) encompasses going through border control and passport checks.
4. Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego is Argentina’s southernmost national park, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. Like Patagonia, the Tierra del Fuego region spans both Chile and Argentina.
Named for the bonfires seen from a distance by Spanish explorers, the park is known for its unusual landscapes – vast tundras, bogs, and pristine forests – as well as for its ample opportunities for bird-watching (including majestic king penguins!) The closest big city to the park is Ushuaia, often called ‘The City at the End of the World’.
One of the most famous hikes in the park is the Cerro Guanaco hike, a day hike with astounding views of the Andes and glacial lake Lago Roca. While the best hiking conditions are during austral summer (October to April), there are ample opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and dog-sledding in the wintertime.
Keep in mind that the boggy nature of the park means that it remains pretty muddy year-round, so waterproof shoes or socks and several changes of socks are a must.
5. Cardones National Park
Perhaps you wouldn’t necessarily associate cacti with Argentina, but the greatest diversity of cactus species in the country is located in Cardones National Park. Located in the country’s northwestern monte, or grasslands region, there is a stunning amount of biodiversity here due to the rapidly-changing altitudes.
The closest big city is Salta, known for its colonial architecture and the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology. The latter is home to the Mummies of Llullaillaco, three Incan child mummies considered to be among the best-preserved mummies ever found.
It’s fascinating to observe how your surroundings change as you gain altitude here: closer to the bottom, there are beautiful forests, but as you keep going up, huge plains take their place. There are three main trails to explore the park, all fairly low-impact: Enchanted Valley, Eye of Condor, and Path of the Past. Don’t miss the fossils and dinosaur tracks!
Note that this national park is more off-the-beaten-path than the more popular parks. Other than trails, there is very little tourism infrastructure in the area, necessitating a bit of advance planning.
6. Esteros de Iberá (Iberá Wetlands)
For something a bit different, check out the Iberá Wetlands National Park. One of the newer national parks, it’s focused on ecotourism and animal conservation and is considered one of the most unspoiled parts of South America.
The Iberá Wetlands are the second-largest body of freshwater on earth, second only to Brazil’s Pantanal, and act as a crucial reservoir for the region. Interestingly, the water here is pure rainwater, not sourced by rivers or glaciers like elsewhere in Argentina.
Located in Argentina’s Corrientes Province, about 700 kilometers north of Buenos Aires, a variety of trails through the park highlight its delightfully swampy, marshy, squishy nature, and some camping is available as well. From the visitor’s center, there are two hikes available to explore the park, Sendero Curupí, and Sendero La Cañada. Both are short and considered to be well-suited for all activity levels.
Note that similarly to Cardones National Park, Iberá is quite off the beaten path. It can be challenging to access, as the starting village to visit the park, Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, is very remote (over three hours from the nearest airport). However, the opportunities for exploring virtually-untouched wilderness make it worth the journey there.
7. Los Alerces National Park
Los Alerces National Park is named for the stunning alerce (cypress) forest the park contains and protects. In fact, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 due to the sheer age of these trees. The oldest of them is over 2,500 years old and over 60 meters tall, making them the second-longest living tree species on earth. They grow extremely slowly and are often compared to the Sequoia trees in the US in splendor and magnitude.
Located in northern Patagonia, in the Andean region, the park sits right on the border with Chile. The closest city is Esquel, around 50 kilometers from the park entrance at Villa Futalaufquén. In addition to the alerce forest, there are also gorgeous lagoons, lakes, moraines, and even beaches to enjoy during your visit, formed due to glacial melt. Fishing and boating along the lakes (and particularly on y-shaped Lake Menendez) is also a very popular activity, but be sure to secure your permit in advance.
8. El Impenetrable National Park
Unfortunately, El Impenetrable National Park has a very grim origin story but is still worth a visit. This vast tract of land in northeastern Argentina’s lowlands used to be called Estancia La Fidelidad. It belonged to an eccentric rancher named Manuel Roseo, who was tragically murdered by home invaders attempting to seize the land. After his death, conservationists lobbied aggressively to make the land into a national park, as the area, which forms part of the Gran Chaco region, is heavily exploited for farms and ranching.
The Gran Chaco is the second-largest forest ecosystem in South America, connected to Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil, and home to South America’s ‘big five’ animals still in the wild (armadillos, anteaters, jaguars, pumas, and tapirs). Sadly, at the current pace of deforestation, it is at risk of disappearing altogether. El Impenetrable opened in 2017 as a national park and is now the largest park in northern Argentina, a huge win for conservationists.
To get there, you can fly into Resistencia, the capital of the region. From there, you go to Juan José Castelli, the closest town to the entrance of the park. Note that it can be a bit difficult to get to the park, and there is very little tourism infrastructure, so you may have to take a tour.
It’s best to visit in the shoulder seasons of September to November and March to May due to extremely hot summers and chilly winters. Fortunately, plans to expand this infrastructure are currently underway.
National Parks in Argentina: FAQs
There are 33 national parks in Argentina.
Los Glaciares National Park is the biggest national park in Argentina.
Los Arrayanes National Park is the smallest national park in Argentina.
Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest national park in Argentina and was established in 1934.
Ansenuza National Park and National Reserve was declared a national park in 2022, making it the newest national park in Argentina.
Overall, ‘wild camping’ or ‘free camping’ is very common in Argentina’s parks and is usually allowed. Make sure you research the particular place you’re going to ahead of time to make sure.
Especially at more popular national parks, it’s always a good idea to reserve a campsite ahead of time. For the more popular parks, this can be done online up to a few months in advance.
While most of the national parks are free to enter, eight of the most popular parks (including Los Glaciares, Tierra del Fuego, Iguazú, and others) vary in cost quite a bit. There are different prices for Argentines, non-Argentines, students, children, and seniors.
While a few areas have permitted areas for campfires (provided you bring your own wood from outside), overall the answer to this is no. Argentina is at super high risk for wildfires, most of which start because of human error and then blaze out of control.
Argentina’s national parks are a great option for nature lovers, hiking fans, and outdoor explorers of all stripes. From Tierra del Fuego to Iguazú and everything in between, you won’t regret spending all the time you can visiting the country’s variety of parks.
Full of pristine mountains, plains, and lakes; beguiling flora and fauna; and providing marvelous opportunities to get up-close and personal to some of South America’s most lovingly-preserved wild spaces, a visit to any of these Argentine national parks is a dream.
What’s your favorite national park in Argentina? We’d love to hear about your experiences, any off-the-beaten-path trail recommendations, and your favorite travel memories in the comments.