Located in South America, Argentina has a population of approximately 45 million, which live in an area of 2,780,400 square kilometres or 1,073,500 square miles, making it one of the largest countries in the world, which is also home to a diverse climate, from the sub-tropical warmth of the north to the polar colder weather conditions in the south. The majority of Argentineans are of Spanish, Portuguese or Italian descent; however, many including the Germans, English, middle eastern and more recently Chinese have influenced modern-day Argentina.
Over the past five years, Argentina has seen crippling inflation and more recently the devaluation of their currency, making it difficult for those living in the country, however an attractive option for tourists. With anti-discrimination laws and the first country in South America to legalise Gay marriage, Argentina has been growing in popularity as a travel destination for people from across the LGBTQ+ community. Though many within Argentina still practice Catholicism, as a nation most are pretty liberal, and it is ingrained in Argentineans to have “a live and let live” attitude, with many of the young men and women being metrosexual, attitudes in the major cities towards the LGTBQ+ are generally positive, and most visitors come away with positive experiences when visiting the cities and towns.
Given the economic woes, petty and serious crimes are on the rise; however, there is a clear police presence in key tourist areas, and there is even a department within the national police force which are dedicated to tourism. If you are cautious, carry only what you need, keep valuables safe when in populated areas and at night stay in well-lit and busy areas, you will generally visit Argentina without incident. When you leave the city or go to rural areas you will likely see less police presence, so it is important to be extra vigilant.
Argentineans speak a dialect of Spanish known as Castellano, with distinct differences such as the subject ‘Tu’ (meaning you) is replaced with ‘Vos’ (pronounced Bos), where the personal pronoun ‘Vosotros’ is not even used, and ‘Che’ is a slang term used to say ‘hey’ or as a way of getting someone’s attention. Even the way Argentineans speak is unique, they speak with the passion and rhythm of Italian, but with the words and language of Spanish. Argentineans love beer, barbeque (known as Parrilla), empanadas (similar to a pasty), milanesa (thin meat in breadcrumbs), all types of meats, pizza, pasta and gelato ice cream. Argentinean food is heavily influenced by Italian cuisine, and even though there are many vegetarians across the country, most menus are dominated with meat dishes. Argentineans love anything sweet, especially the national Dulce de Leche, a thick caramel-like spread that they include in many of their desserts.
Most younger Argentineans speak a little English, as they are often taught a basic level at high school, enough to be able to communicate with and getting around is easy, with most cities having decent, low cost and frequent bus services, plus there are mainland trains, coach services and planes connecting cities and towns across Argentina.
When most people think of Argentina, they will likely think of the people and landmarks found in Buenos Aires. Though Buenos Aires is a made up of forty-eight neighbourhoods known as barrios, most landmarks are conveniently located within no more than ten barrios. The key landmarks such as Casa Rosado (pink house famous for the speech by Eva Peron – Evita), Plaza de Mayo, the iconic obelisk, Teatro colon, Buenos Aires Cathedral, Plaza Dorrego and Palacio Barolo are all found close together and are a short walk from one another. Recoleta cemetery, Parque Tres de Febrero and the Palermo Parks are all near one another, but a bus or taxi ride from Casa Rosado.
One of the most beautiful landmarks can be found in the far north of Argentina in the state of Missiones, known as Puerto Iguazu. The falls connect Argentina and Brazil, the falls are approximately 82 metres tall and have around 275 drops, making it one of the largest waterfall systems in the world.
With over 80% of the falls located within Argentina, they say that you live the falls on the Argentinean side, which you can do so by taking one of the many walking routes and by following the steel platforms taking you over and around the falls. When walking, you quickly discover the size, scale and force of the falls, whereas from the Brazilian side you get to go below the largest part of the falls and take in the breath-taking views of the many drops. There are daily flights from Buenos Aires to Iguazu, which takes approximately one hour and twenty minutes and you can quickly go over to the Brazilian side via taxi or by using public transport.
Found at the western side of Argentina, next to the Andes mountain range is Mendoza. Approximately a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Buenos Aires, Mendoza is a must for wine lovers as it is the region within Argentina where about 60% of Argentinean Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignons, Tempranillo and Chardonnay wines are produced in the many wine bodegas. The city of Mendoza has many beautiful parks, historic buildings and monuments; however, there are also a number of options to visit the surrounding mountains.
Depending on the time of year that you visit, your experience will likely be very different. If you visit in the heart of the winter months (June to September), you will be visiting ski resorts, deep snow and open log fires, however, in the summer, it is warm, surrounded by rolling green hills with stunning landscapes. Bariloche was one of a few German and Swiss settlements within Argentina and is now famous for its chocolate and a type of jam known as ‘Rosa Mosqueta’ made from rosehip. In the summer months (December to February), you can visit the many islands found within the national park within lake Nahuel Huapi. Boat tours take you around lake Moreno - named after the founder of the national parks within Argentina (Perito Moreno), Victoria Island, Llao Llao, El Trebol, Puerto Blest and Lago Frias. Bariloche is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Buenos Aires, and it is not uncommon to see people hitchhiking to get around the town. Though sightings are rare, Bariloche is also home to the native Condors that have made their home high up in the mountains and hills.
Further south in Argentina is El Calafate, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, a large natural icescape that draws visitors each year to see this ever-shifting glacier, a natural wonder to see and experience. The flight to El Calafate takes about four hours from Buenos Aires and is located in the southern part of the country. From north to south the Argentinean landscape changes, from the warmer sub-tropical climate and landscape in the north to the colder, greener landscape in the south.
There is a lot to discover within Argentina, with something to suit all tastes, whether it is horse riding in many of the gaucho ranches or relaxing on the beaches found in the Atlantic coastal resort of Mar del Plata, Argentina’s people, landscape, culture and attitudes make it an often fun and exciting place to visit. Once you have visited, you will be captivated by this diverse country and will likely want to go back, time and time again.