Chile vs Argentina… where to go
Are you struggling to decide whether to go to Chile or Argentina? Our guide will help you work out which is best for you.
The majestic Andes, vast coastlines and an enviable aptitude for wine production are just a few of things Chile and Argentina have in common. For those of us dying to visit South America, this can pose something of a dilemma – after all, with so much in common, these fascinating countries are hard to choose between.
The good news is that the choice becomes easier when you look through a lens. So today we are going to share some of the countries’ common elements with you – and how, despite their similarities, there are still differences enough to help steer your travel choices.
One of the most convincing reasons to visit either Chile or Argentina is the opportunities each offers for viewing spectacular scenery. The imposing Andes, lakes and coastlines mean the two have a lot in common when it comes to landscapes – especially as they have similar climates. However, there are some natural wonders that are unique to each place.
Desert – Chile
The sweeping sands of the Atacama desert are a spectacle you can only see in Chile. The driest desert in the world, this part of the country is known for its hot days and cold nights, as well as offering some of the very best stargazing in the world – something that can be attributed to the high altitude and pollution-free air. The salt flat is another highlight, particularly as you can spot flamingos standing here.
Iguazú Falls – Argentina
Situated on the border between Argentina and Brazil is one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls – the Iguazú Falls. Approximately 80 metres high and 2,700 metres wide, this awe-inspiring natural wonder lies at the heart of Iguazú Falls National Park – a Unesco World Heritage Site, which is also home to a wealth of flora and fauna, including tapirs, ocelots and jaguars.
Perito Moreno Glacier – Argentina
Visit the Argentine part of Patagonia and you’ll have the chance to see the colossal Perito Moreno Glacier. This spectacular natural wonder is one of the nation’s top tourist attractions, and is a truly humbling sight. It can also be a truly humbling sound, should you be present when a piece of it breaks off.
Shared by Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is of course one of the key elements these nations have in common. However, what you can see in Argentine Patagonia is quite different to what you’ll seen on the Chilean side – and knowing the differences can help inform your decision about where to go.
Torres del Paine National Park – Chile
The lakes and mountains of Torres del Paine National Park are utterly arresting – and its remote location only serves to add to its majestic ambience. There are a host of excellent hiking trails to follow, although anyone who wants to explore the scenery with a little less exertion will find boat rides are available too.
Los Glaciares National Park – Argentina
Sitting at the base of the Andes, Los Glaciares National Park is where you’ll find the aforementioned Perito Merino Glacier which is, without doubt, the highlight of coming here. One thing to bear in mind is, as the glacier is such a famous and popular attraction, it can get rather crowded. So, if you can, visit in the spring or the autumn when the visitor numbers thin out but the scenery is no less spectacular.
Both Chile and Argentina offer some marvellous opportunities for wildlife-spotting – but Argentina perhaps has the edge here, being home to one of the most celebrated spots. The Peninsula Valdes on coastal Patagonia provides habitats for a dizzying array of amazing creatures. Here, you can catch glimpses of whales as they move along the coast, not to mention elephant seals and sea lions.
It is also where you’ll find the Punta Tombo Reserve, where the world’s biggest colony of penguins resides – a truly magical sight for wildlife lovers.
As you would expect, there are some amazing cities to be discovered in both Chile and Argentina – but their capitals are actually very different. So, if exploring urban cultural attractions is high on your to do list, looking closely at what each has to offer is a good idea.
Argentina’s Buenos Aires is definitely the livelier of the capitals. There is a real buzz in the air here – an almost tangible energy that’s nigh on impossible not to get caught up in. This is the place to dance the tango with the locals and eat steaks (one of the nation’s specialities) in the finest restaurants.
Santiago is a much more laid-back destination – the relaxed atmosphere that is so characteristic of Chile and its people can really be felt here. With its cafe culture and charming city parks, it is a great place to unwind – though certain areas are very loud and have a much grittier urban feel.
Many travellers cite trying local food as one of their favourite things about going on holiday – and it’s a passion we understand and share. Argentina and Chile have much in common when it comes to cuisine, with each having a distinctly Spanish influence (that harks back to colonial times), as well as abundant seafood.
While each country produces outstanding wines, cooks fabulous steaks and makes delicious empanadas (which are similar to Cornish pasties), they are not gastronomically identical.
In Argentina, for instance, you’ll notice much more Italian fare, which is down to a greater level of immigration from this country, whereas in Chile you’ll come across a similar phenomenon, but with German rather than Italian food.
Tasting utterly out of this world, Argentine steaks may just have the edge over Chilean steaks – though you won’t be disappointed by what you taste in either country. In terms of drinks, wine is equally fantastic whichever destination you choose. One thing you will come across in Argentina which you won’t in Chile, though, is the prevalence of mate – a kind of green tea that many Argentinians carry around with them in flasks.
The best of Chile and Argentina
If you’re still unsure which nation best suits you, here are the three things we think each country is best for.
Top three destinations in Chile
• Patagonia – for Torres del Paine National Park
• The Lake District
• Atacama – for the desert, salt flat and stargazing
Top three destinations in Argentina
• Buenos Aires
• Patagonia – for Los Glaciares National Park
• Iguazú Falls
It is also worth considering an itinerary that allows you to explore both countries – something that can also help you gain a deeper understanding of their similarities and differences. Alternatively, combining one of the two with another South American destination might tempt you more. Argentina, for example, is a particularly good partner for a trip to Brazil.
View Cox & Kings’ holidays to Chile and Argentina, or call one of our Latin America experts on 020 7873 5000.