Located at the bottom of South America, Argentina is the second largest country in South America and the eighth largest in the world. It is the home of the tango, the pampas, some of the world’s best beef, and penguins. It also boasts one of the world’s greatest cities – Buenos Aires.
Argentina was only sparsely populated before being colonized by the Spanish, perhaps due to its climactic and geographic extremes. It has some of the highest mountains in the Americas, steppes, glaciers, beaches, and jungles.
While this may not have made it the friendliest place for inhabitation in its early days, it does make it a great place for a vacation no matter what you fancy. For those who feel variety is the spice of life, this is the perfect way to pack it all into a single vacation.
When it comes to diversity and options, Argentina has it all. Here are reasons you need to put this country on your vacation bucket list.
#1: Buenos Aires, the birthplace of the tango
This is one of Latin America’s liveliest cities. It is the birthplace of the tango and there are many street dances and other activities held around the famed dance throughout the city, particularly in the barrio of La Boca.
The latter is home to numerous tango clubs and tango-related memorabilia as well as the colourful homes on Caminito Street.
Buenos Aires has all the amenities you would expect of any world class city – fashion, great restaurants, wicked nightlife, museums, zoos, botanical gardens, theaters, etc.
Soccer (or football, depending on what part of the world you live in) is huge in Argentina and you can catch a game at several different stadiums in the city. Even if you are not a fan of the sport, a game can be an exciting and fun way to spend an afternoon and the atmosphere is electric.
#2: Iguazu Falls
Located on the border between Brazil and Argentina at the northern end of the country, Iguazu is a major tourist attraction. It is actually a series of waterfalls located at various levels along a mile long stretch of cliffs.
There are between 275-300 individual waterfalls with many small islands helping to separate them. The more adventurous can take a helicopter or boat ride so they can get a closer lake to this natural wonder.
#3: Talampaya National Park
This is a red desert found in the northwestern part of the country. It is ancient with many amazing rock formations that have come about over millions of years. It is here that the oldest dinosaur bones in the world have been found. There are also petroglyphs from ancient cultures that once inhabited the canyon. Not surprisingly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The park covers over thousands of acres and can only be viewed in the accompaniment of a tour guide. This is for safety reasons as well as preservation of the landscape. Tours can be done on foot, bicycle and in a vehicle.
#4: Argentinian wineries
If you love wine (and who doesn’t?), you are likely well aware that Argentina has been building an enviable reputation as a producer of fine wines. You can do your own driving tour or take one of the many tours now geared towards introducing you to some of the best vineyards Argentina has to offer.
For those looking to try some Argentinian wine in advance of their visit, standout varieties produced there include Malbec (my personal favourite), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc.
#5: Bariloche, the honeymoon capital of Argentina
Think of it as Switzerland in Argentina. This town is often called the “honeymoon capital of Argentina”. It has a Swiss village like atmosphere complete with mountains, skiing, cable car rides, and even chocolate shops.
Apart from skiing and other winter sports, there is a national park nearby that offers rafting, picturesque lakes, and horseback riding along with hiking and other sports. In the summer the lakes offer swimming, beaches and sunbathing as well as other water sports. Should you feel a need to consume anything besides chocolate, Bariloche offers everything from traditional Argentinian cuisine to typical European fare.
#6: Glaciers in southern Argentina
How often can you go somewhere and see glaciers? Ok, they can be a bit chilly but they are still one of nature’s wonders. While there are a number of places to see glaciers in southern Argentina, the best is Los Glaciares National Park. You can take tours by boat and also by foot to see the glaciers and the wildlife that inhabit them.
The Perito Moreno glacier is one of the highlights as is the Glaciarium, a museum devoted to the glaciers. For those who want a one of a kind experience, go down to the Glaciobar in the basement of the Glaciarium. In the bar, everything including the walls, seats, bar and glasses is made of ice. Seating is limited and special tickets are required. The bar serves free alcohol and the maximum stay is twenty minutes.
Argentina has a very diverse fauna, much of which is rare and unusual. If you enjoy sea animals, you’ll want to head down to the Valdes Peninsula where the southern right whales breed along with many other sea mammals and birds, including penguins. Diving is also a popular activity in southern Argentina, where you can get a closer look at the sea animals as well as some famous wrecks.
For those who are interested in land animals, the Valdes Peninsula is also home to rhea (a large flightless bird), guanaco (related to llamas), and the mare (which looks like a very large hare).
For those seeking something a bit different the Ibera Wetlands, are the world’s second largest freshwater wetland and home to many fascinating species including multiple species of caiman, capybara, marsh deer, wildcat, maned wolf, neotropical otters, and many others. For bird watchers, this is paradise with rhea, various species of condor, eagle, stork, heron, hummingbird, tanager, and duck.
Regardless of why you go to Argentina, there really is something for everyone. It’s a large country that deserves multiple visits, so pick what fascinates you most and target those areas first. No matter what you choose to do, make some time to tango and enjoy a glass of Malbec for me.
Cover photo: www.taringa.net