The ‘land of contrasts’ tag is perhaps something of an over-used cliche but in the case of Argentina it is perhaps more apt than almost anywhere. From Ushuaia in the south to Iguazu in the north is around five hours by plane and taking your time to explore the land between these extremities will reveal a diversity of people, culture, geology and wildlife.
Here are just seven of Argentina’s many highlights:
1. Buenos Aires
A South American city with a distinctly European flavour, Buenos Aires is one of my favourite capitals. In the day you can wander through the antique markets of San Telmo, hang out in the colourful streets of La Boca (a rough district with a couple of sanitised blocks that are very popular with tourists) and visit the famous Recoleta cemetery. At night the choices for great food are endless, while it’s hard to leave Buenos Aires without experiencing a tango show.
But Buenos Aires is not just about ticking off the must-do places from your list. You’ll find tango dancing when you walk along many streets; you may well make friends with more than one stranger; and you’re very likely to find yourself making a detour from your walking route to hear a musician or even a full band who are playing on a nearby street corner.
2. Iguazu Falls
One of the world’s great waterfalls, Iguazu sits on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The falls are actually comprised of over 275 separate waterfalls and cover a distance of over 3 kilometres. Tourism is well developed here with a wide range of hotels and side activities to enjoy.
3. Whale watching in Peninsula Valdes
This beautiful part of southern Argentina has been declared a World Heritage Site and is a joy to visit at any time of the year (with appropriate clothing!). Whale watching is best here between August and November. Talking of Wales (sort of) this part of Argentina also boasts a healthy Welsh population where visitors can experience a culture that is more traditionally Welsh than you’ll find in many parts of Wales.
This argiculutural area is a great place to visit on a fly-drive trip, with most places of interest located many miles apart. This is a wide open landscape, with the Atacama desert to the west and multi-coloured rock canyons to explore nearby. I haven’t been up to Salta but most people I speak to who have been there list is as one of their highlights of Argentina.
Argentina’s Lake District is a popular destination for domestic and international visitors. With over 30 lakes and many attractive towns to visit it’s perfect both for those who want to experience the great outdoors in all its isolated wonder and those who are happy to view it from the panoramic window of a cafe. Bariloche is the main resort and is known for chocolate production and skiing (at least one of these should appeal).
6. Perito Moreno glacier
Why this is not listed as one of the wonders of the world is beyond me. A truly incredible sight, with the glacier wall stretching for 4km and towering high above the peaceful lake. Venture to the edge of the glacier in a boat and experience the thrill of seeing chunks calve from the face of ice and crash into the water. Don’t miss the chance to view Perito Moreno from a distance to appreciate its enormity behind its final wall – it reaches over 1000m in thickness in parts.
‘The end of the world’ is how Ushuaia markets itself. It is a remote place and for many people they will pass briefly through here on their way to Antarctica. Ushuaia is worthy of a visit in its own right, with boat trips into the Beagle Channel, horse riding, hiking and jeep safaris on offer. There’s even a dog-sledding centre in the mountains above the city. Look out for cyclists who are finishing their pan-American journeys. This is the end-point of their 18,000 mile trip; be nice to them and cheer them as they near the finish line.
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by Andy Jarosz