With its glacier-crowned mountains—dozens of which top 19,680 feet (6,000 meters)— and incredible scenery marbled with rushing rivers, it’s no wonder that whitewater rafting and kayaking have become popular outdoor sports in Argentina. From mellow, family-friendly Class II floats to adrenaline-inducing Class IV and even Class V rapids, you’ll find it all in Argentina.
Argentina’s most famous (and convenient) whitewater rafting river flows from the Cordillerano de Potrerillos into the heart of Mendoza’s wine country, the Mendoza River. There are several rafting companies located in the Andean town of Portrerillos, right on the water, but it’s easy to organize a tour from the city of Mendoza. The Class III and Class IV rapids are perfect active adults looking for a challenging way to see some of the scenery and work off that Malbec-inspired hangover.
The Mendoza River is at its best early in the season, but by January and February, depending on the year, water levels can drop and you might find a better ride on other, less-famous area rivers. Check out Mendoza’s Rio Diamante, close to the Chilean border on Maipo Volcano, which should still be running strong, as it is fed by melting glaciers. Also in Mendoza, you can raft the Rio Atuel, which begins at a high-altitude glacier lake and runs through canyons and other spectacular scenery.
The Andean town of Bariloche is a popular destination primarily for skiing and mountain climbing, but note that nearby Nahuel Huapi National Park is also home to two beautiful rivers, Rio Manso and Rio Limay. Either makes for a great family outing, as both the Rio Limay and upper Rio Manso are Class II floats, and generally safe for anyone over four years old. Those with a taste for rougher water can continue to the Lower Rio Manso, with Class III and IV rapids sure to test your skills. Unlike the muddy Mendoza, these clear, blue waters invite swimming and relaxation.
Not far from famous Bariloche is the less-visited mountain town of San Martin de los Andes. A popular spot for birders, hikers and other outdoorsy types eager to get off Argentina’s tourist trail, it has plenty of infrastructure for folks hoping to raft the Rio Hua Hum. The mostly mellow float caters to nature lovers, but a few Class II and Class III rapids will certainly get the adrenaline flowing.
In Patagonia, you have a range of options. A couple of multiple-day floats cater to fishers and families, along the Class I and II Alumine and Caleufu Rivers. More challenging are the Rio Fuy and Rio San Pedro, with Class III and IV rapids. The granddaddy of Patagonia whitewater rafting, however, is the Futaleufu River: Multiple-day rafting trips will take you through really raging whitewater, some of it crashing in at Class V+. You must be in good physical condition and have experience rafting elsewhere.
And that’s just the beginning. A quick search online yields several other possible treks; ask about a whitewater rafting opportunity close to you. And don’t forget, multi-country trekkers, just over the border in Brazil, the truly adventurous can even book whitewater rafting trips through iconic Iguacu Falls National Park, enjoying views of one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls. Why not?