It’s time to open a bottle of Malbec and dive into the beautiful nation of Argentina, home to a dizzying array of bucket-list favourites and bursting with culture. A South American giant, Argentina occupies much of the cone-shaped end of the continent, making it the 8th-largest country and the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world. A holiday to Argentina is sure to be a diverse experience, as the country’s greatest assets are its abundant natural beauty, from the epic icy landscapes of Ushuaia, at the literal ‘End of the World’, to the tropical rainforest that surrounds the Iguazu Falls. The capital city, Buenos Aires exudes a cosmopolitan charm and attracts artists and literary-types from around the world.
An intense city, Buenos Aires and its famous square Plaza de Mayo is filled with emotion and passion, from the sidewalk Tango dancers to the groups of friends and families spending balmy evenings on cafe terraces in the city plazas. With a distinctive creative atmosphere, Buenos Aires is the usual ‘jumping-off’ point for tours of Argentina. A legendary national cuisine, tantalizing wine scene and a fascinating cultural mix of Latin and European to boot, Argentina tours are a must for travel lovers.
History of Argentina
Like many South American countries, Argentina has a diverse and multi-faceted history. Before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th-century, indigenous communities had inhabited the land for millennia, the oldest evidence of which still exists at the archaeological site of Piedra Museo in the province of Santa Cruz. Parts of northern Argentina were already incorporated into the mighty Inca Empire when the Portuguese and later the Spanish arrived.
The Portuguese discovered the Rio de la Plata and when the Spanish conquistadors landed in 1536, it wasn’t long until Buenos Aires was settled for the first time. Though no gold was found in the country, Spain established Argentina as part of the Viceroyalty of Rio de La Plata in 1776, and it played an important role in the administration of Spanish colonies in South America. On a Argentina package tour, you’ll be sure to notice the colonial architecture of the cities that transport you back to the days of the conquistadors.
Independence was won by Argentina in 1818, after an 8-year struggle, although civil war followed. From the mid-1800s onwards the country saw a period of relative peace and stability and a surge of European immigration, particularly from Italy, which is reflected in many elements of Argentinian cuisine today. It wasn’t long until Argentina has grown into a very wealthy and prosperous country, but the Great Depression of the 1930s affected the economy greatly.
A military coup overthrew Isabel Perón in 1976 and saw a crackdown on leftist politics and state terrorism in the aftermath, a period known as the ‘Dirty War’. Walking through the streets of Buenos Aires today, you can trace the turbulent history of the 20th-century through the different neighbourhoods and monuments, an eye-opening experience on a trip to Argentina. Following the Falklands War of 1982, the dictatorship of Videla fell and a democratic election was held to establish a new government.
Nature in Argentina
A package holiday to Argentina is sure to focus on the spectacle of nature and its beautiful landscape. You can do it all in Argentina, from trekking in the Andes mountains, spotting whales in the Beagle Channel and learning to ride horses in the ‘wild west’ of the country. The highest point in Argentina is the staggering Aconcagua at almost 7,000 metres high in the province of Mendoza.
Many visitors to Argentina head straight for Patagonia, a sparsely populated region in the south, shared with Chile and famous for its magnificent mountains such as Fitz Roy, in the Argentinian side, which is accessed from El Chaltén in Argentina by the Los Glaciares National Park; and Torres del Paine, in the Chilean border.
As well as breathtaking scenery, Argentinian Patagonia has coasts on both the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, home to seals, sea lions, whales, orcas, dolphins and penguin colonies, so boat trips are a popular way to experience the region. Although there is so much to see in terms of natural wonders, there are a number of top sights that characterise any great tour to Argentina. The Tierra del Fuego National Park is the jewel in the crown of Patagonia and loved by all intrepid travellers that make the journey to its epic landscapes. It’s home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world and is a bird-watchers paradise, with species ranging from penguins to eagles. Wildlife lovers should keep a lookout for pumas who roam the rocky wilderness. Tierra del Fuego is often described as ‘Patagonia in a nutshell’ and its capital, Ushuaia, is the southernmost city in Argentina and Punta Arenas in the Chilean side.
Another Patagonian treasure is, of course, the Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina’s most popular natural attraction and at a staggering 30 kilometres long it is one of the world’s largest freshwater reserves. Along with its immense size, the Perito Moreno is also incredible in that is is one of the few glaciers in existence to continue advancing, whilst most are retreating. Boat trips and glacier trekking are the best ways to get up close to the Perito Moreno.
In comparison to the snow-blanketed south of the country, the Iguazu Falls is another icon of Argentina. On the rainforested border with Brazil, lies this incredible natural wonder, composed of a 3 kilometre-long chain of cascades that make up one of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights. The thundering sound of the falls with move you as you come face-to-face with the walls of water on the fantastic network of walkways.
Culture in Argentina
Argentina boasts a highly sophisticated and complex culture known for its sultry Tango dancing and brilliant cuisine. In the cities, such as Buenos Aires, you can expect a plethora of museum, galleries, literary bars and a cosmopolitan culture composed of a mix between Italian and Spanish cultures; a result of immigration. A holiday to Argentina is incomplete without taking the time to soak up the melting-pot vibe of the big city Buenos Aires, discovering its famous neigbourhoods, such La Boca, San Telmo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero and Palermo.
On the other hand, in the wilds of Argentina’s Pampas region, traditional gaucho culture is alive in the many remote ranches and farms where horsemanship and cattle rearing reign supreme. Argentinian’s are social people and you’ll notice the warm hospitality if you take a trip to Argentina.
In the evenings the city is alive with families and friends spending time together and you’ll often see the passing around of special metal gourdes filled with mate, a herbal drink made from the yerba mate plant and a traditional Argentinan custom. Argentinians are proud of their national achievements such as the impressive number of Argentinan Nobel Laureates; a total of five in a range of different fields.
Experience one of the treasures of South America with a tour package of Argentina. From the artistic capital of Buenos Aires to the dream-like landscapes of Patagonia, Argentina excites and amazes with its bucket-list-worthy sights and complex culture and history. So, set off on an unforgettable journey to the ‘End of the World’ and let your ears and heart be filled by the rhythm of Tango music.