Argentina for the Independent Traveller

The country and culture of modern-day Argentina is an enchanting mix of varied nationalities and incredible lands. Visiting Argentina means preparing to meet with people who are welcoming to tourists and planning to view such varying sites as icebergs, deserts, waterfalls, prairies, rivers, lakes and sprawling cities. Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital, is rather like the Paris of South America and it offers is own cosmopolitan blend of hospitality and charm.

Photo: Boat on Lake Nahuel Huapi arriving at Llao Llao
Lake Nahuel Huapi at Llao Llao

The lands of Argentina cover roughly 1,073,400 square miles. The variations of land and climate from region to region make it a fascinating country to visit. From the inland glacier known as Perito Moreno in Patagonia to the picturesque Lake Nahuel Huapi in the Andean lake district, there is something naturally phenomenal to see. The country is essentially divided into geographical sections. The Pampa is a flat fertile plain in central Argentina where agriculture and herding make up the life of this region. The Pampa is famous for its gauchos, South American cowboys.

Argentinian flag Capital: Buenos Aires
Language: Spanish (official)
Time: UTC -2 hrs
Currency: Argentine peso (ARS)

The Andes Mountains sweep up and down along Argentina's western border. Even today, travel is especially difficult in this area during winter months when blizzards rage within the valley walls. South and east of the Andes lies the Patagonia region that is zigzagged with canyons and rushing water. It had been a barren region for much of its history, but it has since been cultivated and produces grapes and produce from its vineyards and orchards. The northern section of Argentina contains the Chaco and Mesopotamia regions. Fertile plains and waterfalls such as Iguacu Falls are the signatures of these regions.

To view the country's native fauna and flora, visitors might travel to any of Argentina's thirteen national parks. From Jaguars to yellow-beaked toucans, there is a wide range of animals that are native to Argentine lands. Llamas and alpacas are common sights in the Andes regions of the country; Native Americans tamed these pack animals some four thousand years ago. Mountain sheep are also readily visible in the mountainous areas. Argentine waters contain a rich abundance of life. Rivers are filled with trout and bass. Large sharks, killer whales and sea lions are typical visitors to Argentine waters.

Buenos Aires attracts flocks of visitors annually. This international city contains the world's widest street - Avenida 9 de Julio is 425 feet wide. There are many places of interest in this city such as Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires Stadium, and the National Museum of Fines Arts. Visitors enjoy seeing the tango performed at various places in the city as well as football, or soccer, games.

Argentine cafes are also quite famous and travellers should take advantage of mingling with the locals who enjoy sipping yerba mate, coffees and playing chess. Argentine cuisine is meat-based as Argentina is home to numerous cattle ranches. Beef is the main faire in the Pampa, but Buenos Aires offers plenty of wonderful restaurants where tourists can sample all things Argentine.

Visitors to Argentina may also want to visit cities like Cordoba, Rosario and La Plata. The tip of Argentina is a stormy area of the world, but the history there makes it a worthwhile place to see. The country also has many wineries that make wonderful features to visit. Before visiting Argentina, immerse yourself in some Argentine history and read some of its authors like Jorge Luis Borges or Manuel Puig. Be sure to brush up on your Spanish as that is Argentina's official language. Otherwise, be prepared for a rich culture and fascinating lands.