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Argentina is a country of immense beauty and proportions. Its geographic diversity spans the most breathtaking terrain from Antarctica, through the wild, glacier-filled mountains of Patagonia and massive open plains of La Pampas to the deserts and tropical jungles in the north.
The country can be enjoyed for its natural wonders alone, but no visit here could be called complete without a glimpse of its soul, the capital city. Elegant Buenos Aires is home to 40 percent of the population, and is a buzzing metropolis with a rich, passionate and tortured history that is integral to its character. It is Europe and Latin America contained in one geographical location, with elements of the unknown around each corner. It is familiar and strange at the same time, but at its very core, wonderfully welcoming.
Along the avenues of the fashionable districts, sophisticated diners observe passers-by while they sip strong coffee or enjoy smooth . The constant smell of meat grilling from every corner and sidewalk reveals the Argentine passion for . Neither glamour nor passion is in short supply in this cosmopolitan hub where Porteños are equally versed in football, politics and fashion.
There are disparities between the rich and poor, with many people living in near-slum conditions in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Since 1992, the economy has teetered near collapse due to corruption and government mismanagement, prompting regular and sometimes violent demonstrations. However, it is business-as-usual as far as tourism is concerned; in fact, the resultant devaluation of the peso has made the country much more affordable for travellers.
From the colourful and bustling of Buenos Aires to the breathtaking Andes Mountain Range in north, Argentina has no shortage of sightseeing opportunities. Boasting a plethora of different habitats and environments to explore, it would take visitors a good few months to see everything this South American gem has to offer.
The northern regions of the country offer an exciting blend of colonial heritage, natural beauty and an indigenous flavour, while the spectacular Iguazu Falls, surrounded by the lush forest of the Iguazu National Park, are a must see. Enjoy a day of wine tasting in Mendoza, or head west towards the Chilean border and marvel at the Andes Mountain Range. The curious mix of desert, snow-capped mountains, sandy beaches and majestic glaciers in the Patagonia region is extraordinary, and the world's southern-most city, Ushuaia, nestled on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, is a departure point for those keen on a trip to Antarctica and also offers some of the best brown trout fishing in the world.
The sights and sounds of Buenos Aires are a major draw for many. Stroll along the tree-lined parks and boulevards, visit Evita Peron's grave at La Recoleta Cemetery, explore La Boca, the city's most popular barrio, and take in the Latin American flair by enjoying a romantic night of tango.
Buses are the most cost effective way to navigate the country and for longer journeys domestic flights are available at affordable prices. The best time of year to visit Argentina is during the autumn months from March to June when the weather is a little cooler.
With so much to see and so little time, there will never be a better choice than packing up and heading off to Argentina for the adventure of a lifetime.
Sitting opposite the Casa Rosada on the Plaza de Mayo, the Cabildo is an old colonial building fronted by rows of breathtaking arches. Construction began in 1610 and ended in 1894, with the interior housing museums dedicated to its illustrious past and boasting relics, religious icons and paintings by Enrique Pellegrini. The changing of the guard is a popular attraction, with the troops being members of the revered Regimiento de Patricios and dressed in traditional uniforms unchanged for nearly 200 years. Lastly, craft markets are hosted on the back patio on Thursdays and Fridays, from 11am to 6pm.
The famous Casa Rosada is iconic, rousing images of fiery political rallies or the tragic romance of Eva Peron. The Italianate-style mansion is front by palm trees and fountains, its edifice painted pink when it was converted into a presidential palace. The building has since been declared a National Historic Monument of Argentina. Today, the building houses a small basement museum, and each evening, a small platoon of mounted grenadiers emerges from the guardhouse to lower the flag on the plaza, adding a touch of pomp and ceremony to the striking building.
Situated in the Plaza de Mayo, the neoclassical Cathedral Metropolitana houses the tomb of General José de San Martin, the revered hero who liberated Argentina from the Spanish. The mausoleum is guarded by three sculptures, each a life-size female figure representing Argentina, Chile and Peru. It also contains the remains of General Las Heras, General Tomas Guido and the Unknown Soldier of the Independence. The cathedral has been periodically rebuilt and renovated since the 16th century, its gilded columns, Venetian mosaic floors and silver-plated altar in pristine condition. Some interesting things to see in the cathedral are the two pulpits, a wide variety of colonial sculptures and paintings, and the 1871 Walcker Organ, one of the finest examples of its kind.
An unlikely tourist attraction, La Recoleta Cemetery is well worth visiting to see its magnificent display of monuments and the ostentatious tombs of Argentina's rich and famous. The cemetery is the second largest in the world, covering more than five hectares and filled with more than 4,700 vaults. Each vault has the family name carved over its entrance, while a collection of brass plaques next to the entrance displays the names of all the family members buried inside the vault. One of the more modest but most celebrated is the grave of Eva Peron where thousands leave flowers. Another famous cemetery inhabitant is the supposed daughter of Earl Alexander Walewski, Isabel, who died in Buenos Aires when just a baby. The superstitious say that on some nights, you can hear the baby crying from her godmother's arms.
Plaza Dorrego lies in San Telmo, the bohemian artists' quarter of Buenos Aires and the birthplace of tango. The tiny square is surrounded by elegant houses, now mostly converted into antique shops and bars whose tables overflow onto the street. There are numerous excellent museums nearby, including the Museo Histórico Nacional and the Museo de Arte Moderno. On Sundays, the plaza hosts the Feria de San Telmo. You won't find too many bargains, but you may find an interesting souvenir or two. Once the stallholders pack up their wares, the square becomes a stage for informal tango dancing, popular with locals and tourists alike.
The Teatro Colón opened in 1908 and is one of the largest performing arts theatres in the southern hemisphere, second only to the Sydney Opera House in Australia. It was designed by Italian architect Francisco Tamburri and is an Italian Renaissance-style building with seating for 2,500. Richly decorated in scarlet and gold with frescoes lining the cupola, the theatre has hosted many international performers including Nijinsky, Pavarotti and Domingo, and is considered to be among the top five venues for acoustics in the world, an opinion voiced by Pavarotti amongst others. The theatre is also home to the Superior Arts Institution of the Teatro Colón, and guided tours take visitors to the theatre's workshops, rehearsal rooms, auditorium and stage.
Situated in the south-east of Buenos Aires at the mouth of the Riachuelo River, La Boca is the most colourful neighbourhood or barrio in Buenos Aires, original home of both football legend Maradona and the tango. An assortment of brightly-painted houses made of wood and metal line streets of artisans, painters, street performers, cantinas and open-air tango shows. Originally settled by Genoese immigrants, it's now a veritable melting pot of cultures and people. Today it is frequented by crowds of tourists who come to soak up the lively atmosphere and sit in picturesque cafes sipping coffee and beer. Some places of particular interest in La Boca are La Ribera theatre, and La Bombonera, the home of the famous Boca Juniors football club.
The Iguazú National Park is a huge subtropical rainforest covering 135,000 acres and is home to thousands of different species of flora, fauna and birds, including colourful parrots and hummingbirds. It is most famous for the Iguazú Falls, declared a National Heritage Site by UNESCO. The deep flowing waters of the river tumble down 275 falls, the most famous of which is Devil's Throat. On the border with Brazil, it drops 230ft (70m), almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. As well as enjoying the stunning views from the series of platforms, visitors can enjoy kayaking and other watersports on the river. Iguazú is home to the Guarani people, as well as ruins of Jesuit missions. Some activities available to visitors include a ride on the Ecological Jungle Train, a meal at La Selva Restaurant, and a trip to the San Martin Island at the heart of the falls. Travellers can also enjoy a trek along the Green Trail or Macuco Trail, a walk along the Upper Circuit or the Lower Circuit or a full moon hike accompanied by national park guides.
Mendoza Province rests at the foot of the Andes and is Argentina's main wine-producing region, peppered here and there with vineyards offering tours and tastings. Known for its malbec, it also produces some good cabernet sauvignon. The city of Mendoza is characterised by wide, leafy boulevards and a massive network of canals. Well worth seeing is the Enoteca Giol wine museum while those visiting in late February shouldn't miss the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, an annual grape-harvest festival accompanied by concerts and local celebrations. Bodega La Rural is one of the biggest wine farms in the area, offering tours that demonstrate the entire wine-making process.
Near the border with Chile lies Mount Aconcagua. At 23,000 feet (6,900m), it is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. The mountain and its surrounds are wonderful for hiking and mountain climbing, although it's important to note that during low season, tourists are allowed only short hikes for safety reasons. Throughout the year, hiking without an official guide is discouraged, but even driving along the roads surrounding the mountain will give plenty of scenic views. Additionally, Mendoza is home to La Lenas, one of the biggest and most famous ski resorts in Argentina.
The vast flat plains of the Pampas are Argentina's agricultural heartland and the birthplace of the gaucho cowboys. Lying southwest of Buenos Aires is the location of Argentina's famous beef and grain industry, the source of the country's wealth. The area is festooned with small agricultural towns, which are home to the majority of Argentina's population.
The area provides some of the best horseback riding in the world, and excursions are available to different ranches where visitors can feast on asado after a day's horse riding. Visitors to the area can also attend a doma, a gaucho gathering held every Sunday. The domas consist of rodeo-like events, horse racing and other games and competitions, as well as a market of stalls selling gaucho-inspired crafts.
There are also some interesting animals that live only on the pampas, including the rhea, the pampas deer, the pampas fox, several armadillo species, the white-eared opossum, the Elegant Crested Tinamou, and more.
Adventurous travellers are drawn to the savage beauty and rich wildlife of Patagonia. This region of contrasts and extremes, stretching across Argentina and Chile, runs from the Colorado river, south of Buenos Aires, across to the southern tip of South America. Many people visit the famous wildlife reserve of Peninsula Valdésgo between July and April, where southern right whales, elephant seals and other rare marine mammals come to breed in their thousands. However, those going further south should visit only in the summer months if they wish to avoid temperatures that plummet to -13°F (-25°C).
In villages along the valley of the Río Chubut, visitors can explore the cultural legacy of the Welsh pioneers, and nearby at Punta Tombo lies the continent's largest penguin colony. Keen fly-fishermen come from around the world to test their skills in the region's rivers, the best known of which is the Río Gallegos. On the western fringe, along the Andes, you will find the most impressive of Patagonia's great lakes and national parks. The Parque Nacional Perito Moreno, home to the aquamarine gem of Lago Belgrano, has excellent trekking possibilities, as does the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Here visitors will find one of the world's natural wonders, the vast Perito Moreno Glacier, a great river of ice that breaks off into Lake Argentino.
This island territory at the tip of South America is shared by Chile and Argentina and is a place of staggering scenery. Though further south, the region doesn't reach the extreme temperatures of neighbouring Patagonia. The principal tourist destination is Ushuaia, a base for those visiting the dramatic Canal Beagle, trekking in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, and hiking the mountain ranges of southern Tierra del Fuego, with its magnificent scenery of lakes, snow-capped peaks and beechwood forests. Ushuaia is also the place to go if you want to visit Antarctica, since many ships depart from there to visit colonies of penguins, seals, sea lions and seabirds. The Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is another drawcard, the area hosting a few small ski resorts, both downhill and cross-country. Visitors to the north of the island are usually keen fly-fishermen heading to the Río Grande, the world's best brown-trout river.
Situated in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier is nearly 19 miles (30km) in length and spreads over an area of 97 square miles (250 sq km). The spectacular, blue-white ice formation is one of the only glaciers in the world that is growing, at a rate of seven feet (2m) per day. Enormous chunks of ice break off into the water with deafening crashes, creating icebergs and large waves. Also world renowned for its unique rupturing process, where high pressure causes the dam of ice to crack and shatter, sending icebergs downstream. Ruptures like this occur on average every four to five years, although sometimes as often as every other year. The closest town to this natural wonder is El Calafate in Argentina's Santa Cruz Province, which is about two hours' drive away.
Floralis Generica is a working metal sculpture located in the United Nations square in Recoleta, composed of stainless steel, weighing 18 tons and measuring 76 feet (23m) high. It was offered to the city by Argentine architect Eduardo Fernando Catalano, who described it as an 'environmental structure'. Its metallic petals open and close based on the incidence of solar rays and visitors to the site will find the giant metal sculpture in full bloom beneath the sun and closed at night. The sculpture sits above a reflecting pond, and the area around it has been landscaped to resemble woodlands. The sheer genius and technical artistry of the giant flower makes it a sight worth seeing.
At 416 feet (127m) wide, spanning the width of an entire city block, Avenida 9 de Julio is claimed to be the widest avenue in the world. Named for Argentina's Independence Day which falls on 9 July, the avenue was only completed in the 1960s, some 70 years after its original planning. The avenue runs from the Retiro district in the north to Constitucion station in the south, roughly one kilometre to the west of the Rio de la Plata waterfront, and consists of 18 lanes of traffic, nine on each side. In the middle of the street stands the impressive 67-metre-tall obelisk marking the heart of Buenos Aires.
The Galileo Galilei Planetarium is located inside the Bosques de Palermo, its massive dome making it almost impossible to miss for those who love the stars. The building is made up of six floors, five staircases and a main room with a 60-foot (20m) diameter, filled with 360 seats. On any given day, this planetarium is abuzz with the chatter of children enjoying a spot of stargazing. The planetarium regularly changes its shows and displays, including First Man in Space, A Blue Planet, and Super Moons. In addition to the main show, there is also a small museum containing a lunar rock, a collection of 100-million-year-old sea life fossils and a metallic meteorite from Chaco Province.
Lined with trees, flowers and other indigenous plants, the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens are a great place to take the kids. Open since 1898, the grounds contain a symmetric Roman garden, a picturesque Oriental garden and a mixed French garden. With plenty of open space, hundreds of stray yet friendly cats and a fascinating greenhouse for inquisitive kids, it's the ideal location to relax with a picnic or take a leisurely walk with the family. Its 33 sculptures and monuments, along with a botanical library, are also open to the public.
One look at the beautiful beaches will tell you why it's become one of Argentina's most popular resorts. A dramatic landscape of cliffs and plateaus shield hidden strands and caves, giving way to gorgeous sea views. Each beach is numbered from zero to seven, with zero being the closest to downtown. The town boasts some of the warmest waters in the country and a rugged coastline ideal for paragliding, hiking and scuba diving. Las Grutas itself is small, with a few hotels, restaurants and spas. But it's great for exploring surrounding areas such as San Antonio Oeste, Puerto Madryn, Sierra Grande and Punta Tombo.
Argentina's elongated geography ensures that the country has a diverse climate. The north is subtropical with rain throughout the year and is best visited between May and September when the heat and humidity is less oppressive. The south has a sub-arctic climate and is best visited in the summer (December to February). The central area is temperate, but can be hot and humid during summer and cool in winter.
A grand coffee house with a longstanding history, Café Tortoni is a must see on your Buenos Aires exploration. Unpretentious and with an old world charm, patrons can rest a while under the high ceiling of the dining hall, while sipping on a freshly brewed Argentinean coffee. Snacks with a hint of a Spanish flair are on offer throughout the day. Visit any day of the week and perhaps catch a glimpse of one of the many tango shows or jazz concerts that take place on the small stage.
Presidents, movie stars, and Porteños come here for the best meat in Buenos Aires. In fact, the restaurant has its own (ranch), which raises the cattle used for its famous grilled lomito and (beef cheeks). The wine cellar is well stocked with superb Argentine wines and the service is impeccable. If you have to wait long for a table, as you undoubtedly will, enjoy a glass of champagne in the cigar bar. Reservations are recommended. Open daily from 12pm to midnight.
For modern Argentinean cuisine, silky red wines and a comfortable contemporary atmosphere, try out the renowned Sucre restaurant. With both a lunch and dinner menu, this Argentinean favourite serves up mouth-watering meat dishes and light fusion tapas. Enjoy a pre-drink at the trendy bar and soak up the lively ambiance of this well-established Buenos Aires eatery.
Buenos Aires is known for its 'closed door' (puertas cerradas) restaurants, where top-class chefs create mouth-watering meals in their own homes. One of the most popular is I Latina, serving five- to seven-course Latin fusion meals with wine pairings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The restaurant also serves brunch on Sundays. Reservations are required.
A well-known restaurant among tourists, La Cabrera is situated on a corner and makes a wonderful setting for outdoor dining, but the charming inside dining room with exposed brick walls and antique posters is just as pleasant. La Cabrera serves some of the best steak in Buenos Aires, with portions guaranteed to suit their prices. One of the restaurant's specialties is pamplona, a roll made of various meats and sauces. The pork ribs with a sauce of dried tomatoes and pesto is a definite must and all meals are served with a selection of olives, spreads, sauces, breads, and other appetisers. Open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, Mondays and Tuesdays dinner only. Reservations are recommended.
The Sushi Club is part of a very popular chain, but of all the locations throughout Buenos Aires, this is by far the nicest outlet. The Sushi Club lives up to its name, serving sushi and other Japanese cuisine in a club-like interior with orange, black, and metallic décor, creating a trendy dining environment. The selection of sushi rolls is extensive with many taking themes from various countries and creatively using ingredients to match. Other highlights on the menu include plenty of fish and beef seasoned the Japanese way. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
After ample empanadas and asado, travellers looking for something a little different might want to try some authentic Korean fare at Una Cancion Coreana. This family-run restaurant is situated in the Flores barrio of Buenos Aires, sometimes called Pequena Corea (Little Korea), and offers Korean specialties like kimchi, bulgogi and the infamous soju. Simple, neat and spacious, this friendly neighbourhood restaurant is well worth the taxi ride it takes to venture out of the city centre.
The unit of currency is the Argentinean Peso (ARS). Currency can be exchanged at banks and cambios (bureaux de change) but it is easier to use ATMs, available in most towns, which reflect the current exchange rate. Major credit and debit cards are generally accepted, and US Dollars can be used in many tourist establishments.
Spanish is the official language of Argentina but English is generally understood in the tourist areas.
Electrical current in Argentina is 220 volts, 50Hz. Most hotels and offices use the three-pin flat plug, however most older buildings use the two-pin round plug.
US nationals: US nationals require a passport for travel to Argentina, but no visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
UK nationals: UK nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days for British Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Overseas Citizens; and 30 days for British Nationals (Overseas).
CA nationals: Canadians require a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
AU nationals: Australians require a valid passport, but no visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
ZA nationals: South African nationals must hold a valid passport, but no visa is required for a maximum stay of up to 90 days.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, but no visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Valid passports are required for travel to Argentina. Visas are not generally required for stays of less than three months, with the possibility of an extension of stay. Visas are valid for several entries within the period of validity stated in the visa. It is recommended that all visitors have sufficient funds, as well as onward or return tickets and documents required for next destination. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
There are no major health risks in Argentina, except potential mosquito-borne viruses in the northern regions of the country. But the risks are still fairly minimal and common safety precautions should provide enough protection. Medical facilities are good in the major cities. Treatment is expensive, however, and medical insurance is advised. Asthma, sinus and bronchial ailments can be aggravated by pollution in Buenos Aires. Those with specific conditions should bring a sufficient quantity of medical supplies and medication for the trip.
A 10 percent tip is expected at restaurants in Argentina. Porters expect some small change per bag.
There is no specific threat to foreigners and travellers should not be discouraged from travelling throughout the country. But be aware of bag-snatchers, pickpockets and con men, particularly in crowded areas in Buenos Aires, on public transport and in popular tourist haunts, such as San Telmo.
Argentineans are warm and unreserved people. Both men and women greet each other by kissing on the cheek, and will often touch each other when speaking and maintain little physical distance between speakers. With its origins in the working-class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires, tango lives on today as a cultural pillar of Argentinean society. Likewise, football in the country is almost like a religion and is a hugely significant part of its cultural identity.
Business people dress well in Argentina and visitors are expected to wear a smart suit. Handshaking is normal. Argentineans are great conversationalists and are interested and knowledgeable about world events, politics and sporting. Meetings usually begin with small talk. Use titles when addressing people: Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) and Señorita (Miss) followed by their surname.
Business culture in Argentina can be bureaucratic and as with most South American countries negotiation and decision making can take a long time and is best done face to face. Make sure you see the right people, as only those in high positions are likely to be able to make a final decision. Business hours are 9am to 5pm in Buenos Aires, with an hour for lunch. Outside the capital, it is normal to take a siesta between 1pm and 4pm. Many business people are away on holiday during January and February.
The international access code for Argentina is +54. Mobile roaming charges can be expensive, prepaid local SIM cards are available for purchase on arrival and are a good alternative. Free wifi is offered at most restaurants, cafes and hotels in tourist centred areas of the country.
Travellers to Argentina over the age of 18 years can bring in the following items to the value of US$300 without incurring customs duty: two litres of alcohol, 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and 5kg of food items. Restrictions apply to fresh foodstuffs such as meat and dairy products. Prohibited items include explosives, flammable items, narcotics and pornographic material. Firearms and ammunition for sporting purposes are allowed if accompanied by a license/certificate.
National Secretariat of Tourism, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4316 1600 or www.turismo.gov.ar
Embassy of Argentina, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 238 6400.
Embassy of Argentina, London, United Kingdom: +44 207 318 1300.
Embassy of Argentina, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 2351.
Embassy of Argentina, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6273 9111.
Embassy of Argentina, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 430 3524/7.
Embassy of Argentina, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 269 1546.
Embassy of Argentina, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 472 8330.
United States Embassy, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 5777 4533.
British Embassy, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4808 2200.
Canadian Embassy, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4808 1000.
Australian Embassy, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4779 3500.
Embassy of South Africa, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4317 2900.
Embassy of Ireland, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 5787 0801.
New Zealand Embassy, Buenos Aires: +54 11 5070 0700.
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