Welcome to Argentina
Capital: Buenos Aires
Argentina (/ˌɑːrdʒənˈtiːnə/ (About this sound listen); Spanish: [aɾxenˈtina]), officially the Argentine Republic[A] (Spanish: República Argentina), is a federal republic located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with its neighbor Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. It is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
The earliest recorded human presence in the area of modern-day Argentina dates back to the Paleolithic period. The country has its roots in Spanish colonization of the region during the 16th century. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, culminating in the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. The country thereafter enjoyed relative peace and stability, with massive waves of European immigration radically reshaping its cultural and demographic outlook. The almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity led to Argentina becoming the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world by the early 20th century.
Studded with outstanding natural wonders and endowed with one of the world’s hot-list cities, Argentina is a vast and varied land. Tapering from the Tropic of Capricorn towards the tip of Antarctica it encompasses a staggering diversity of terrains, from the lush wetlands of the Litoral and the bone-dry Andean plateaux of the Northwest to the end-of-the-world archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Its most emblematic landscapes are the verdant flatlands of the Pampas and the dramatic steppe of Patagonia, whose very name evokes windswept plains inhabited by hardy pioneers.
One of Argentina’s top attractions is the Leviathan metropolis of Buenos Aires, the most fascinating of all South American capitals. It’s a riveting place just to wander about, people-watching, shopping or simply soaking up the unique atmosphere. Its many barrios (neighbourhoods) are startlingly different – some are decadently old-fashioned, others daringly modern – but all of them ooze character. The other main cities worth visiting are colonial Salta in the Northwest, beguiling Rosario – the birthplace of Che Guevara – and Ushuaia, which, in addition to being the world’s most southerly city, enjoys a fabulous waterfront setting on the Beagle Channel.
But the country’s real trump cards outside the capital are the sheer size of the land and the diverse wildlife inhabiting it. In theory, by hopping on a plane or two you could spot howler monkeys and toucans in northern jungles in the morning, then watch the antics of penguins tobogganing into the icy South Atlantic in the afternoon. Argentina hosts hundreds of bird species – including the Andean condor and three varieties of flamingo – plus pumas, armadillos, llamas, foxes and tapirs roaming the country’s forests and mountainsides and the dizzying heights of the altiplano, or puna. Lush tea plantations and parched salt-flats, palm groves and icebergs, plus the world’s mightiest waterfalls, are just some of the scenes that will catch you unawares if you were expecting Argentina to be one big cattle ranch. Dozens of these Biosystems are protected by an extensive network of national and provincial parks and reserves.
For getting around and seeing these marvels, you can generally rely on a well-developed infrastructure inherited from decades of domestic tourism. Thanks in part to an increasing number of boutique hotels, the range and quality of accommodation has improved no end in the last decade. Among the best lodgings are the beautiful ranches known as estancias – or fincas in the north – that function as luxury resorts. In most places, you’ll be able to rely on the services of top-notch tour operators, who will not only show you the sights but also fix you up with a staggering range of outdoor adventures: horseriding, trekking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, skiing and hang-gliding, along with more relaxing pursuits such as wine tasting, bird watching or photography safaris. Argentina offers such a hallucinating variety it’s all but impossible to take in on one trip – don’t be surprised if you find yourself longing to return to explore the bits you didn’t get to see the first time around.