The National Parks of Argentina: An Overview


Protecting an eclectic mix of terrain and habitat totaling almost nine million acres, Argentina has designated national parks in all but four of its twenty-three provinces, from its northernmost border with Bolivia to the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. The government holds additional territory as national reserves and national monuments. About half of its national parks are on the "must see" lists of many guidebooks for visitors on Argentina tours.

The three largest, Nahuel Huapi, Los Glaciares and Lanin, each comprise over a million acres, and the two smallest, Los Arrayanes and Pre-Delta, are tiny jewels of less than 10,000 acres. Some are so conveniently located that you can begin a hike from your hotel. Some are close enough together to be incorporated into a single trip.

The northern humid lands contain the most visited and perhaps least visited of the parks by travelers on Argentina tours. At the other end of the country, Patagonia's ten national parks have turned this remote region into one of Argentina's major tourist draws which would undoubtedly surprise Magellan and Darwin, two of the area's early international visitors.

On Argentina tours at some national parks, such as Los Glaciares and Iguazu, you'll have plenty of company. Great numbers of visitors descend on these parks because their attractions are dubbed "one of the continent's three top sights." Others, such as Baritu, Perito Moreno and Copo, are located in the middle of nowhere, so you'll have the place to yourself.

Argentina launched its national park system in 1934, establishing one park in the south to preserve a piece of its side of Patagonia, and one in the far north along the Brazilian border. The impetus had come thirty-one years earlier through a donation of land by an early explorer. Three other national parks were also helped into existence by private donations.

Over time, the government's goals in designating national park lands have evolved. What began as an effort to showcase sights of great natural beauty for visitors on Argentina tours, has broadened to include preserving the country’s environmental diversity and protecting the habitat of its endangered species. The parks also safeguard Argentina's most important archeological and paleontological sites, promoting research, educational and recreational activities in areas where significant artifacts and fossils have been discovered. The parks, which now represent all of the country's distinct eco-regions, are well-managed. Under a joint agreement signed in 1997 and renewed in 2002, the U.S. and Argentina park service agencies work together to develop management practices that promote sustainability in their respective national parks.

Three of Argentina's national parks have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, adding international distinction to the regions and their attractions. A fourth is currently under consideration.

With so many parks, it's easy to get confused about what is located where. For instance, it is Nahuel Huapi National Park in Northern Patagonia’s Lake District where Perito Moreno donated his land, not the national park that bears his name in Southern Patagonia. And don’t go looking for the world’s most stunning glacier (also named after him) in either place on Argentina tours, because this natural wonder is located in Southern Patagonia’s Los Glaciares National Park.

It’s best to research your destination before you embark on your Argentina tours to eliminate any snags once you arrive. Here's why: It is possible to pass into a different country either en route or while sightseeing in some of Argentina's national parks. At others, weather conditions make travel dicey at certain times of the year. Of the few parks that charge admission, the most expensive is Iguazu. Some charge only for entering particularly fragile areas of the park, and some attractions may be visited only with special permission or by guided tour when you travel to Argentina.

The offices of the Administracion de Parques Nacionales are headquartered in the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires in the once privately owned neo-Gothic mansion, Palacio Haedo, on Santa Fe Avenue near the Plaza San Martin. Its information center and library are open to the public if you want to learn more when you travel to Argentina. To learn more about these protected areas, see our website articles on each region's national parks and still more in our articles about the individual parks.