Enjoy the best of gay Argentina: from vibrant towns to the most amazing national parks

A liberal affair with frisky tango sessions and gaucho cowboys, Argentina is arguably the most gay-friendly country in South America. Gay nightlife flourishes across the big cities such as Bariloche, Córdoba, Mendoza and Salta, led by queen bee, Buenos Aires, while, in smaller towns of rural regions quieter gay liaisons await. Whatever you’re looking for, Argentina will take you there via the scenic route, surprising you along the way with flavoursome cuisine, immense natural wonders and modern culture mingled with unique European and indigenous heritage. Adventure through the subtropical north towards the glacial provinces of the south to find famed mountain ranges (Hello, Andes), salty desert plains and lost cities, while, amidst it all, wildlife abounds. We’ve put together a guide to the best of gay Argentina, so you don’t have to.

Tailor Made Journey

Tailor-Made Argentina & Chile: Journey to Patagonia

Embark on a culinary odyssey through Chile and Argentina, experiencing unforgettable wine and food as you visit a bustling market, where you sample local fare; benefit from reservations at coveted restaurants; sit down and dine with a local resident; and experience cultural and culinary immersions at every turn.

Andes | Photo: Sebastian del Val

Gay travellers in Argentina

The first country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage back in 2010, Argentina has long led the way for gay rights in the region. Of course, influence from the Catholic church cannot be denied and it must be said that this side of society remains fairly closed-minded. You’ll find this to be the case in traditional areas untouched by modernity but rarely will these attitudes be caused to worry. Homophobia in Argentina rarely takes the form of physical violence and with discretion, you shouldn’t experience any problems. On the flip side, Argentina’s big cities can be considered a paradise for gay travellers. Buenos Aires continues to become ever more welcoming to queer life, with dedicated gay hotels, bars and nightclubs in strong supply. Find South America’s largest gay pride here in the buzzing capital, an event which is unmissable for the Argentina gay community, attracting upwards of 100,000 people from across the globe every November.

Cultural customs in Argentina may leave you wondering a few things, particularly in regards to displays of physical affection among locals. Bear in mind that straight men in skin-tight clothes may greet each other with a kiss while female friends will commonly hold hands in public. As much as we’d like to believe the entire city is openly gay, it is rare to see two men holding hands and doing so may draw negative attention.

Areco, Argentina | Photo: Nicolas Taylor

1. Buenos Aires

The first city across the region to enact a civil unions law for same-sex couples, Buenos Aires is by far the most liberal city in Argentina. Gay rights is not the only area where the capital marks progress, however, for the entire city is a celebration of modernity, paving the way for shifting perspectives on conservative culture. Never is this more apparent than in the gay neighbourhood of Palermo, quickly followed by the areas of Barrio Norte, Recoleta and San Telmo. Despite lacking an official gay neighbourhood, Buenos Aires offers a unique gay scene by way of gay hotels, bars, dance clubs, saunas and regular LGBT parties across the city.

As well as understated gay life, San Telmo offers cultural immersion through its many tango halls and leisurely cafés around city’s oldest barrio. Recoleta meanwhile stands as the wealthiest district, home to the city’s best colonial architecture and a majority of the most famous tourist attractions. Big and beautiful is Palermo, another upmarket area known as the fashionable meeting point for gay travellers and ex-pats alike. Spend your days, soaking up the café culture here, moving between famed art galleries and lively plazas framing the social lives of passionate Latinos on every corner. From sunset tango sessions beside Italian-style palaces to smoky flavours at sensational steakhouses, Buenos Aires will awaken every one of your senses to the tune of live music and exciting porteño chatter. To live like the locals, have a lie-in and push dinner waaay back; booking a table for 10 pm is the norm here, sipping on Malbec at a slow pace before reaching a club, not a moment before 2 am and peaking on the dancefloor shortly before sunrise! Want to discover the best boliches gay Buenos Aires has to offer? Read more in our full Buenos Aires travel guide.

Buenos Aires | Photo: Sadie Teper

Photo: Nicolas Horn

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Not far from the Chilean capital of Santiago and backgrounded by the Andes, Mendoza is perfect for adventurers and wine connoisseurs alike

2. Mendoza

Taking the tempo down a notch is the equally captivating city of Mendoza, a westerly beauty warranting a weekend on your itinerary at the very least. Not far from the Chilean capital of Santiago and backgrounded by the Andes, Mendoza is perfect for adventurers and wine connoisseurs alike. Whether you’re looking for a base before skiing, river rafting and trekking ventures, or you simply want to spend a leisurely few days sampling the local vintage in cosmopolitan climes, Mendoza will surely please you.  Move with ease from bodega to bodega, sampling world-famous Malbec, before retreating to nearby boutique hotels for ultimate comfort. If you visit towards the end of the summer (at the end of February to early March), all the more grape-based fun awaits you; for this is wine harvesting season! In addition to a number of dedicated wine festivals, a highlight for the gay community is the LGBTQ Vendimia festival, an event bringing gay winos together from all over the world!

While wine takes centre stage in Mendoza, the city is also a pleasure to explore sober. Move slowly through tree-lined avenues and artsy squares, or rev it up on motorbike excursions into the Andean mountains (take it easy on those hairpin bends, mind!). Other top outdoor attractions in the surrounding region during summer include paragliding, zip-lining, rafting and fly fishing, meaning there’s no room for boredom while in Mendoza. When snow veils the mountains between mid-July and early September however, skiing becomes the go-to activity, complimented beautifully by a relaxing spa treatment within the city’s best thermal pools and detoxifying mud baths. After all this adventure, you may be too tired to party, but if you are searching for the Mendoza gay scene, head downtown for the handful of venues that make up gay Mendoza. When out and about in the city, be aware that Machismo culture is prevalent in more rural areas, meaning PDA is best kept at a minimum to avoid unwanted attention.

Mendoza | Photo: Nicolas Perez

3. Córdoba

Argentina’s second-largest city, set within the foothills of Sierras Chicas between Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is the wild city of Córdoba. Located on the Suquía River in proximity to glorious mountains, lakes, farmland and more, Córdoba is both natural beauty and a glam queen. A student city with a penchant for all-night partying, Córdoba offers the best of both worlds, with limitless outdoor adventure in addition to trendy nightlife options. While not as diverse as the gay scene in Buenos Aires, Gay Córdoba Argentina is refreshing for its small-scale bohemian feel. The cool commercial centre of Güemes is where most nightlife is located, adjacent to the finest restaurants and hippest boutiques. Gay Córdoba is also centred here, with new clubs opening on the regular. Ask the hotel staff for the most up-to-date information or check event schedules in stores and cafés about town. Though progressive and youthful, the city resides in Argentina’s most rural heartland, meaning that some attitudes remain on the conservative side. If you keep this in mind, you should have no trouble exploring Córdoba and surrounding regions.

After a fair amount of partying, revive yourself with outdoor adventures amidst phenomenal natural scenery, trekking up on the Sierras mountains or within Terrones National Park. Quebrada del Condorito National Park is no less impressive, proffering rolling green landscapes and gliding condors overhead. The air here is so clean that the parents of Che Guevara moved to the local hillside town of Alta Gracia to help with the young boy’s asthma. Their house still stands as a museum to the nation’s favourite revolutionary in an area of extraordinary beauty. As well as small towns like Alta Gracia, the region is also home to a number of gaucho ranches, known as ‘estancias’ where native cowboys may teach you how to wrangle.

4. Rosario

As well as being an industrious port town and key trade hub in the Santa Fe province, Rosario, today stands as an emblem of regeneration, turning its disused warehouses into art galleries and its empty spaces into commercial centres, skate parks and man-made beaches, which now buzz happily with life. The unique history of Rosario gives the city a pre-loved feel, most evident in the stark contrast between its ornate early 20th-century architecture and rather more functional apartment blocks. Confident and fashionable despite her sometimes rough-and-ready features, Rosario is a joy to discover. As Argentina’s third-largest city, home to over 1.2 million inhabitants, Rosario is in some ways a smaller, cheaper and less crowded version of the capital, with vibrant nightlife options to keep you amused.

Come to the birthplace of national icons Lionel Messi and Che Guevara to find a fun-loving city that lives along its waterfront, a two-kilometre-wide avenue stretching along the entire east side of the city (a total of eight kilometres in length). Follow this riverside promenade to be met with sleek condos, parks, bars and restaurants, ending in the north with a series of sandy beaches that can be reached by boat. The laid-back nature of the locals here creates a wholly gay-friendly vibe, with most of the bars in Rosario attracting mixed crowds. Sadly, gay Rosario was hit by a recent recession and exclusive gay bars became few and far between. Nevertheless, Rosario continues to draw queer travellers for its alfresco dining and culture-filled days. Wander the streets taking in the modernist chalets, monuments to national independence and repurposed warehouses, where important institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art now reside.

Rosario | Photo: Lisboa Ind

Rosario | Photo: L.M. Martin

5. Puerto Madryn

Journeying south to the natural wonders of Patagonia, we find the idyllic beach town of Puerto Madryn, a place much-loved for its marine wildlife and unhurried tempo. Known as the gateway to Península Valdés, Puerto Madryn is also a popular gay marriage destination where LGBTQ couples from any country can tie the knot under ‘Casamiento Express’ in just five days. Whether a shotgun wedding is on the cards or not, Puerto Madryn is an ideal place for a gay honeymoon, boasting intensely beautiful surroundings and relaxed café culture.

Gay Puerto Madryn is small yet playful, centred around La Rambla promenade on the beachfront. Outside of gay Madryn, spend time sampling the local seafood beside the port or learning more about regional conservation at the University of Patagonia’s centres of marine biology. If you want to get a little closer to the marine life here, take to the water for whale watching excursions and diving adventures. Outside of Puerto Madryn meanwhile, another town worth exploring before venturing into Valdés is the quirky Puerto Piramides, a small seaside setting offering a number of cool cafés and fossil museums. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of movement on the rocky coastline, as seals and penguins like to lounge here!

6. Península Valdés

If you came for whales, then it is to Península Valdés you must go. This is the top whale-watching destination in the country, allowing visitors to catch sight of killer whales with their young. January to April is prime whale-watching time, with October to December also popular. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, Península Valdes is a protected natural reserve bursting with life in all shapes and sizes. As well as orcas, you can expect to find Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, dolphins, armadillos and beyond, each with their own habitat covering shrub, grassland and coast. Bare, treeless and almost detached from the mainland, the peninsula seems entirely its own land, spanning 400 kilometres of shoreline encircling inland lagoons, mudflats, sand dunes and wetlands.

As though that weren’t enough for one vacation, Argentina’s Chubut Province gets wilder the further south you travel. A four-hour drive from Valdés, the desert-like Bahía Bustamente awaits, safeguarding the outermost ecosystem of Peninsula Gravina. The Magellanic penguins that populate the rugged beaches here have it pretty good, with few humans and much pristine wilderness on which to hatch their young. If seeing fluffy penguin chicks is on your agenda, come in November or December, with other species best viewed between November and April. As well as uninhibited wildlife, the surreal landscapes are worthy in and of themselves; marvel at sweeping panoramas of shapely bays with the Atlantic Ocean as the infinite backdrop.

Valdes Peninsula | Photo: Cynthia Del Rio

7. Los Glaciares National Park

Find our next offering in the chilly region of southern Patagonia, a region boasting the mother of all ice caps which feeds into as many as 47 different glaciers. Within Los Glaciares National Park itself, visitors can discover the Perito Moreno glacier; a site which stretches five kilometres wide and 78 meters in height, owing its existence to the Ice Age which began 2.6 million years ago. Today scientists calculate the glacier to be 18,000 years old, (still impressive!) a site where visitors can observe frequent ice falls from boat or observation platform a safe distance away. Arrange to trek on the glacier itself for an up-close view of the azure cracks that cleave through its surface. The largest national park in Argentina, Los Glaciares has more than just ice sheets to keep you amused, however. Base yourself in El Calafate beside the centrepiece of Perito Morino before branching out to explore the imposing Andes in the west and the Patagonian grasslands to the east, meeting grand forests and tranquil lakes along the way.

Not far from Los Glaciares is the small mountain village of El Chaltén, a must-visit destination for anyone in the area. Though small and sleepy, El Chaltén packs clout for outdoor adventurers and hikers alike, as the gateway to the Patagonia Fitz Roy Range, an incredible spot for multi-day trekking and wilderness camping right on the mountain. A major Patagonia hiking destination with a small-town feel,  El Chaltén is sure to leave you spellbound. As well as hiking, other things to do in El Chaltén include moseying through the colourful village enjoying the nomadic vibes and petting the wild (yet tame) dogs that roam free. There are a number of places to stay within the village, or head straight into the wild, taking on the best El Chaltén hiking trails on Mount Fitz Roy before camping either side of Laguna Sucia or Laguna de Los Tres for majestic and misty sunset views.

December to February is the summer here in Patagonia and the most popular time to visit Los Glaciares. In winter (from May to September) however, the region becomes rather more ghostly, with fewer hotels and transportation links operating from El Chaltén.

Mount Fitz Roy | Photo: David Mark

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Offering a little bit of everything, from bustling metropolis to eye-tricking deserts, Salta – both the province and the city –  is a delight to visit all year round

9. Salta

Offering a little bit of everything, from bustling metropolis to eye-tricking deserts, Salta – both the province and the city –  is a delight to visit all year round. Not only is it said that Salta is home to the best empanadas in the country, but this laid-back region in the north is also just a short ride away from any number of natural beauty spots, earning its nickname as “Salta the Pretty”. Within the city itself, waste no time in trying the best regional cuisine, just one way in which to learn about authentic Quechan and Andean culture. Digest with a walk around Plaza 9 de Julio, appreciating the beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. Less influenced by European culture than elsewhere in the country, Salta showcases indigenous culture at its best, with friendly, down-to-earth locals and archaeological sites dating back to Inca and pre-Colombian Indian life.

As well as enjoying the slow pace of the capital’s thermal hot springs, cathedrals and museums, be sure to swap the city for the countryside, with a road trip through the province. Try the towns of Humahuaca and Cafayate, two unique jumping-off points for exploration in the region. Factor in long drives to uncover blushing mountain landscapes in desert oranges and reds (known as ‘the Quebrada de Humahuaca’), off the beaten track and stunning from any angle. Hot and dry year-round, Salta offers vast scenery in near isolation beside the Bolivian border. One of the top attractions in the region and often crowded as a result is the Salinas Grandes, otherwise known as Argentina’s dry salt lakes, similar to those in Bolivia. Don’t stop there however because Salta has more; board the Cloud Train, climb Cerro San Bernardo or marvel at Purmamarca’s coloured rock formations… whatever you decide on, Salta is sure to take your breath away.

Salta | Photo: Hector Ramon Perez

Salta | Photo: Hector Ramon Perez

10. Ushuaia

With a name that sounds like a strong breeze rushing through snow-capped mountain ranges, Ushuaia is aptly located at the point where the Andes meets the Beagle Channel. A port and adventure town for certain, Ushuaia is a pure dream for fans of skiing, kayaking, hiking, sailing and even scuba diving. The city bears the nickname of ‘the end of the world’ and is the world’s southernmost city and a gateway to Antarctica for the most hardy global pilgrims. As a final stop on your travels, however, Ushuaia is very much worthy, providing authentic indigenous culture and epic train journeys through inimitable glacial wilderness.

Shrouded by forestland and protected by mountains, Ushuaia might even be considered relatively balmy – relative to its location that is. Expect winter to bring averages of 1.6°C while summer enjoys a mild 10.3°C. That being said, Patagonian weather can be unpredictable, particularly in winter. Visit in spring and summer to maximise your chances of sunshine but know that a blanket of cloud cover is not uncommon. Like the icy region itself, gay Ushuaia is relatively muted in comparison to other Argentinian cities, but there are a few mixed bars in the city to make new friends. A tempting alternative is to take an LGBTQ cruise departing from Ushuaia and heading along the Beagle Channel towards Antarctica. Expect to be met by whales, albatross and penguins among the world’s most breath-taking scenery.

Ushuaia | Photo: Luuk Wouters

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Perito Moreno Glacier | Photo: Mike Swigunski

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