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  • Northern Argentina

    Northern Argentina travel guide

    Overview

    Begging to be explored, the less travelled northern regions of Argentina are an interesting mix of colonial heritage, incredible natural beauty, agriculture and an indigenous flavour.

    Two major Argentinean rivers, the Paraná and the Uruguay, flow together in the northeast of the country, creating the Rio de la Plata estuary. The land in between the rivers is known as Mesopotamia, a swampy, wet and sweltering region covered with yatay palms, orchids and tree ferns.

    One of the principal attractions in this region, the spectacular Iguazú Falls in the Iguazú National Park, are tucked away in the extreme northeast, bordered by Brazil. Lush forests bursting with wildlife and impressive, rugged mountains lie in contrast to the vast, fertile plains of the Pampas below.

    Spread over a large portion of the country, the Pampas are known as the Gran Chaco in the North, and these plains form the agricultural heartland of Argentina, where gauchos (cowboys) roam and where the country's famous beef comes from. The Gran Chaco is much drier than the central part of the Pampas and is a rich source of tannins and timber.

    Closer to the Chilean border in the west lies the impressive Andes Mountain Range and its highest peak, Cerro Aconcagua, situated in the famed wine region of Mendoza. The bustling city and industrial hub of Córdoba is where Jesuit traditions, colonial architecture and traditional gaucho culture combine, resulting in plenty of annual traditional festivals and local arts and crafts to be enjoyed.

    From the abundant natural treasures of the Iguazú National Park to the hidden tastes of Mendoza's vineyards, there are many treasures to be found in the north by travellers willing to venture beyond Buenos Aires.

    Iguazu National Park

    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.

    Iguazu Falls Iguazu Falls Martin St-Amant
    Mendoza

    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.

    Malbec Grapes Malbec Grapes IanL
    The Pampas

    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.

    The Pampas The Pampas Roberto Fiadone

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    English Pronounciation

    Northern Argentina offers visitors a diverse range of attractions, from colonial towns and Andean villages to lush rainforest and wide, open plains. Travellers can seek out llamas and pre-Columbian ruins in the Andean highlands of the northwest, or toucans and anteaters in the subtropical forest of Iguazú National Park in the northeast, where they can admire the impressive Iguazú Falls.

    The majestic city of Salta boasts some of the country's finest colonial architecture, with visitors exploring the nearby Salinas Grandes salt flats, the otherworldly rock formations of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) and the multicoloured canyon of Quebrada de Humahuaca to the north.

    Explore Argentina's cultural heritage in the pueblos (villages) of the northern Andes; get a taste of traditional gaucho (cowboy) culture in Argentina's agricultural heartland or sample some of the country's fabulous wine on one of the many bodegas (wineries) in the Mendoza province. The northern region of Argentina is perfect for trekking, horseback riding, skiing and white-water rafting, while the brave can attempt to conquer Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia at 22,838 feet (6,961m).

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