South America is home to some pretty astonishing sites! In Argentina and Chile, these sites are grouped into little clusters called national parks. So let’s go to the southernmost parts of the continent to explore 10 Staggeringly Stunning National Parks in Argentina and Chile!
1. Iguazú National Park
In Argentina’s Misiones province lies the impeccable Iguazú National Park. This network of 275 waterfalls is second in size only to the huge Victoria Falls. In fact, this spectacular sight is now one of the new seven wonders of the world!
The Paraná River feeds this massive waterfall region and is the second largest river in South America, second to the Amazon river. Covering an area of large tropical rainforest, this beautiful pocket of spillage lies on the border of Brazil. Sometimes, when the river’s water level is at its highest, Iguzú becomes the largest waterfall on earth, even surpassing that of Niagara Falls!
Take a tour with G Adventures to this spectacular sight with their four-day itinerary!
2. Los Glaciares
Behold, another UNESCO World Heritage site! Located in the Austral Andes of Argentina, Los Glaciares National Park features other-worldly beauty. Strewn about the park are towering mountains and various glacial lakes including lake Argentino, which is 160 kilometres long. Despite Los Glaciares’ name focusing on the extensive glaciers, there’s remarkable geological diversity here too.
This is where the Perito Moreno Glacier meets Lake Argentino, where the magic happens. The immense face of the constantly moving glacier more than 60 metres high crushes spectral blue-ish icebergs into the lake’s waters. Of course, this audiovisual phenomenon of crashing giants attracts many tourists annually.
Essentially, Los Glaciares National Park is an extensive and well-conserved sample of the Andean-Patagonian Forest and Patagonian Steppe. Take the 14-day tour to Los Glaciares National Park with G Adventures!
3. Los Alerces
In the Andean region of Chubut Province in Argentine Patagonia sits Los Alerces. Renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017 to further protect the Alerce tree. This park’s main attraction is that these Alerces trees can grow up to 50 metres tall! They are also very ancient trees, some an astonishing 3600 years of age! In fact, they are the second-longest living trees in the world! Witnessing their immensity is one of the most astounding, yet humbling, feelings ever.
Los Alerces contains an extensive system of interconnected, natural clear-water lakes and rivers. These waters display stunning shades of flowing hues of green, blue and turquoise, depending on the amount of sunlight and the time of year. Crystal-clear lakes are encompassed by mountain ranges, glaciers, snow-capped peaks and the Valdivian forests.
Tour this beautiful region with Tours By Locals’ full-day tour to enhance your overall experience from those that know the area best!
4. Los Arrayanes
Covering the Quetrihué Peninsula on the shore of the Nahuel Huapi Lake in the province of Neuquén, 3 kilometres from Villa la Angostura, Los Arrayanes is impeccable! Its array of rare, cinnamon-coloured arrayán trees makes this forest purely magical. Some trees are 600 years old already!
The Arrayán forest could be accessed by boat from different points of the Nahuel Huapi Lake. Alternatively, there’s also a 12-kilometre path from the beginning of the park at the port of Villa La Angostura.
Here, visitors could spot some pudus (the world’s smallest species of deer) or even the endangered huemul deer. Guanacos, monitos de monte, and small foxes could be spotted amongst birds, condors, eagles, hawks, and woodpeckers!
Book a day tour with Civitatis to walk through the astonishing, cinnamon-coloured Arrayán forest.
5. Monte León
This federally protected area in Santa Cruz Province was established as a national park in 2004. Monte León consists of high sandstone cliffs, rock structures, islands, wide beaches interrupted by thin bays, and sandbars that are exposed during low tide.
The park has a cold arid or semi-arid climate with an annual temperature of 6.8°C. Monte Leon is home to more than twenty species of coastal and marine birds. There is also a variety of penguins, three species of cormorants and a large flightless bird called the rheas.
Moreover, there’s an abundance of large mammals including southern right whales, sea lions, roaming guanacos and even pumas! And guess what! This is the only place on earth where pumas feed on penguins! Monte León runs along 36 kilometres of the southern Argentine Sea and hosts astonishing wonders of biodiversity and a variety of paleontological sights.
The best place to hike in Monte León is the 5,1-km long Sendero Pinguinera trail that features some of the best spots in the park!
6. The Iberá Wetlands
Welcome to the second-largest wetland in the world, after Brazil’s Pantanal. It’s also one of the continent’s most important freshwater reservoirs. “Iberá” comes from the indigenous Guaraní which means “bright water”. The national park boasts some impressive wildlife, too. From alligators to march deer, animal spotting here could be one for the books!
Currently, there’s a Jaguar Reintroduction Project that lets jaguars reclaim their place in the park after an absence of 70 years. This project is the first of its kind and targets the rehabilitation of ecosystems that are on the brink of irreversible damage. This follows the extensive reintroduction projects of various near-extinct animals like the giant anteater, pampas deer, collared peccary, bare-faced curassow and the red-and-green macaw.
For multi-day tours on horseback or a boat tour of the Ibera wetlands, book with Laguna Ibera/Casa de Esteros.
7. Los Cardones
Strewn with Argentine Saguaro cacti, this national park has the most interesting facade that you won’t see anywhere else. This needles-in-a-haystack-looking national park protects an area of the High Monte ecoregion. The Los Cardones National Park spans the Calchaquí Valley to towns like Cachi and Cachi Adentro.
Established in 1996, Los Cardones has four regions of ecological sections. The Altos Andes, Puna, Monte de Sierras and, Bolsones & Yungas. The climate is arid and has a large thermal amplitude, meaning there’s a major difference between day and night temperatures.
The arid climate serves as an effective way to preserve dinosaur tracks and fossil remains. It’s also home to over 100 species of birds with the Andean condor being a must-see for all its visitors!
Take a three-day tour with Viator to Cachi, Laguna Brealito and National Park Los Cardones.
8. Nahuel Huapi
The name, Nahuel Huapi means “jaguar island” in the Mapuche language. It’s the oldest national park in Argentina and lies in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes. The park consists of three types of landscapes. Altoandino is the first, then there’s Andino-Patagónicoand the Patagonian steppe. There are also some small parts of the Valdivian rainforest. Collectively, the region produces the qualities of the northern Patagonian Andean Zone.
The high mountain chain of the Andes accounts for the majority of the park’s landscapes. Expect waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, lakes, mountains, extensive forests, and snow-capped mountains.
The park is named after lake Nahuel Huapi, but there are several other lakes too. Then there are the mountains. The highest summit in the park is Cerro Tronador situated near the border of Chile and reaches an elevation of 3491 metres!
Nahuel Huapi Lake Tours could be booked with Viator and it’s a must-do and a must-see for any traveller!
9. Lanín National Park
Along the border of Chile lies Lanín National Park. The park marks the northernmost limits of the Argentine Lake District, and it’s gorgeous. The park contains the Lanín volcano, a cone-shaped stratovolcano that erupted an estimated 10000 years ago.
The nearest town is Junín de los Andes where one can stay of hiking on the itinerary. There are two paths to the summit, one starts at Tromen Lake and the other beside Huechulafquen Lake. The latter is a glacial lake with views of the volcano.
The vegetation here includes the rare Monkey-puzzle tree, Rauli, and the Roble beech. The pristine Andean-Patagonia forest combined with the mountain backgrounds and various glacial lakes creates unimaginable spectacles. The wildlife too is just as interesting. From cougars and foxes to green-backed firecrowns!
Tour Lanín National Park by booking with Viator.
10. Torres del Paine
Meet the park with a view over Grey Lake and the glacier. Torres del Paine is known as a hiker’s paradise. The park’s most famous hike involves a 50-kilometre walk up and down the park’s valleys to see its most famous sights. This national park brags with some spectacular mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers in southern Chilean Patagonia. ‘Paine’ means blue in the native Tehuelche language and is pronounced PIE-neh. ‘Torres’, of course, means towers.
The Torres del Paine are the distinctive three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif. The park is also famous for its strong winds, peaking from November to January. The park is not only adorned with towering blue mountains, but also with colourful evergreen vegetation.
The Calceolaria uniflora embellishes the park with its stunning orange body that thins towards its red and white head. They are also known as slipperworts and only grow up to 10 cm tall. In short, they look like fancy chocolate and orange desserts! If you enjoy reading this, be sure to check out the top 3 marine life spots in Argentina.
Tour Torres del Paine with G Adventures‘ various touring options for the ultimate Chile experience.
Not Every Paradise is Tropical!
A wellness vacation does not necessarily need to be warm with waves crashing onto sandy beaches. No. These 10 staggeringly stunning national parks in Argentina and Chile have it all. Vacations here are filled with hiking, touring, learning, sightseeing, and more! All the things that are good for the soul could be found at the southern tips of South America, easily!