|Country Information & Lifestyle|
The only experiences you regret are the ones you have never had
Argentina, the name immediately conjures up images of Pampas, Gauchos, passionate men and women, and long nights of eating the best meat in the world, sipping mate afterwards. The Tango is the gift from Argentina to the world; this sensual dance with its mesmerising music, is one of Argentina's most distinct pastimes.
At the southern end of South America, Argentina is shaped like an ice-cream cone, and is the eight-largest country in the world. To the west is Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia to the north, and the east, (separated by rivers), Tierra del Fuego, (The Land of Fire).
Argentina possesses some of the worlds highest mountains, expansive desert, and impressive waterfalls. The diversity of landscape ranges from wild, remote areas in southern Patagonia, unique thorn forests, virgin rain forest, flowering cacti, extensive forests of araucarias, (monkey puzzle tree), to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires in the north.
The people are awesome, full of kindness, and the weather is mostly pleasant all the year. Many people call this the Bariloche of the Americas. The people of Argentina are football crazy, Buenos Aires has 20 stadiums in the area, and Diego Maradona, one of the best football players of all times was born in Buenos Aires.
Argentina produces everything from beef and wine, to grain, dairy products and leather goods, folk music is thriving and the tango has captured the romantic worldwide. Argentina is one of the major food producers in the world; it is a leading producer of beans, corn, meat, milk, wheat, soybeans.
Argentine cuisine is long well developed; it has heavy influence of Italian, Spanish, French and other European roots. In Argentina beef has high quality; a preferred manner is asado, where a variety of roasted dishes can be enjoyed. In Patagonia lamb and goat are eaten more than beef. Chimichurri, a season of herbs and chilli, is often the only sauce for steak and chorizo. Milanesas is a meat dish made up of beef, chicken or veal, beaten eggs, seasoned with paprika, salt and other ingredients.
Argentinians also eat lots of vegetables and salads, and pastries of meat and cheese, are part of their favourite cuisine. Another popular food is the tasty stew Purchero, the Locro made from port and maize, squash in cream, empanadas(puff pastry with different ingredients most commonly meat), panqueques,(delicious crepe desserts), and the policemans or truck drivers sweet,(cheese with quince pastry.
The national drink of Argentina is an infusion called Mate and is consumed on a regular basis by 92% of Argentinians. It is made using dried leaves of yerba mate, served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash and a straw called bombilla. The sharing of Mate, Paraguayan tea, is a ritual more than a beverage, and if offered is a special expression of acceptance.
Buenos Aires, dynamic yet laid back, South Americas most alluring capital, combines cosmopolitan sophistication with deep-seated neighbourhood traditions. Buenos Aires has four seasons with almost perfect weather, an opera house, the best nightlife areas, 60 private golf clubs in and around the city, polo, tennis, fishing and skiing close by.
The city has no dominating monument, no natural monolith that serves as its focal point. Instead, Buenos Aires is composed of many small places, intimate details, and tiny events and interactions, each with a slightly different shade, shape, and character.
Glass-sheathed skyscrapers cast their slender shadows on 19th century Victorian houses; tango bars hazed with the piquant tang of cigar smoke face dusty, treasure-filled antique shops across the way. This complex, energetic, and seductive port city, which stretches south-to-north along the Rio de la Plata, has been the gateway to Argentina for centuries.
Portenos, as the multinational people of Buenos Aires are known, possess an elaborate and rich cultural identity. They value their European heritage highly--Italian and German names outnumber Spanish, and the lifestyle and architecture are markedly more European than any other in South America. One of the world's finest opera houses, the Teatro Colon, flourishes here on the plains alongside the river.
Portenos are intensely involved in the life and culture of their city, and they will gladly share the secrets of Buenos Aires if you lend an ear and relate your own stories in return.
The city's neighbourhoods are small and highly individualised each with its own characteristic colours and forms. In the San Telmo district, the city's multinational heritage is embodied in varied and cosmopolitan architecture - Spanish Colonial design couples with Italian detailing and graceful French Classicism. La Boca's pressed tin houses are painted a rainbow of colours, and muralists have turned the district's side-streets into avenues of colour.
For all its diversity, the elusive spirit of Argentina as a country is present everywhere in Buenos Aires. The national dance, the tango, is perhaps the best expression of that spirit--practised in dance halls, parks, open plazas, and ballrooms; it is a dance of intimate separation and common rhythm, combining both an elegant reserve and an exuberant passion.
Cordoba is Argentina's colonial capital, a picturesque city on the edge of a mountain range known as the Sierra Chica. Prior to the rise of Buenos Aires, Cordoba was Argentina's centre of arts and learning, a place of scholars and priests, churches and universities. The city still retains an independent spirit and distinctive grace. Because of its proximity to the mountains, Cordoba is a perfect base for excursions into the natural beauty of the Andes, or even the Pampas 100 km to the south.
Mesopotamia, a broad, flat plain between the Parana and Uruguay Rivers in northern Argentina, is wet, swampy and extremely hot during the summer. The northern province of Misiones, a more mountainous region nearly enclosed by Brazil and Paraguay, is densely forested and contains a section of the majestic Iguazu Falls. The brute force and natural beauty harnessed by the falls put every other falls to shame and make an unforgettable experience.
The Jesuit Mission of San Ignacio Mini, originally funded in 1610, occupies six blocks at the northeastern end of the village of San Ignacio and is the best preserved in the entire mission region. Considering its home to such a major attraction, the town of San Ignacio is remarkably tranquil.
The parched area in the west is part of the enormous Gran Chaco, a region that Argentina shares with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. The Chaco contains grassland, virtually impenetrable thorn-bush, river valleys and subtropical lowlands. Inhabited by isolated cattle ranches and occasional communities of Guarani and semi-nomadic Ayoreo, the Chaco is one of the last great wildernesses of South America and supports plenty of wildlife, including jaguars, peccaries and deer.
In the west the Andes have some of the highest mountains in the world and offer great outdoor opportunities, hiking, skiing, and much more. The foothills are wine-growing hills, whilst the fertile lowlands have subtropical rain forest. The area surrounding the Andes began as a colony of Peru, but today only a few miners and herders occupy this unforgiving region of volcanic peaks and salt lakes.
Behind Buenos Aires, the land of the Pampas begins. The Pampas consist of the Humid Pampas along the seaboard and the Dry Pampas in the west and south. These fertile plains are Argentina's bread- basket. The wanderers of the pampas, the Gauchos, are tireless horsemen, romantic icons, and could be the equivalent of the North American cowboys.
The charming town of San Antonio de Areco is the recognised centre of pampas tradition with a popular gaucho festival, some highly respected artisans and an attractive and unusually well-persevered town centre. Here too you will find some of the classiest estancias offering a combination of under-stated luxury and horseback adventure activities.
Patagonia, the far south of Argentina is a rugged and cold land. The area around Ushuaia, southern most city of the country, is mild in October to May. The vast region of Patagonia begins at the Rio Colorado, south of Buenos Aires and stretches to the Straits of Magellan. It encompasses interior mountains, pastoral steppes and glacier regions in the provinces of Rio Negro and Neuquen, sandy beaches on its Atlantic coast, and forests of beech wood and monkey puzzle trees where it meets the Andes.
The spectacular Perito Moreno Glaciers towering sixty-meter walls carve icebergs into the lake below and the beauty of Patagonia has been preserved in several national parks. Owing to the vastness of the country and the temperature varies considerably. The climate is varied and ranges from mild to subzero and the terrain varies from bucolic river valleys to the gigantic, ice-capped southern Andes. Its cool grazing grounds support enormous flocks of sheep, and numerous fruit and vegetable farms can be found in the valleys. Patagonia also holds vast reserves of oil and coal.
The provincial capital, Neuquen sits at the point where the Limay and Neuquen rivers converge. It is the agriculture service centre for the Rio Negro valley. The Peninsula Valdes is home to large numbers of sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos, rheas, Magellan penguins and numerous other sea birds. Whale sightings are best in August. Sheep ranches occupy much of the interior section. 30 km from Zapala in a barren volcanic area is the Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca. The lake is one of only two swan sanctuaries in the western hemisphere; it is a breeding ground for the distinctive black- necked swan.
Few relics remain testifying to the life of the former missionary base and subsequent prison at Ushuaia. It became a key military base in 1950 and is now a major vacation destination. Forestry and fishing are the chief occupations of its inhabitants.
Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire), is actually an archipelago including the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, (which Argentina shares with neighbouring Chile), and numerous smaller islands. Northern Isla Grande is similar in terrain to Patagonia's plains, while the mountainous area in the south is filled with forests and glaciers. Its climate is usually mild year-round, although storms are frequent.
Argentina is blessed with more than 20 beautiful national parks protecting the wildlife such as puma, guanaco, rhea, Andean condor, flamingo, calman, and various marine mammals and unusual seabirds such as Magellan penguins.
The main feature of Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi is the 100 km long Lago Nahuel Huapi, formed by glaciers possessing a single narrow island at its centre. Isla Victoria is notable for rare species of trees, and for a number of exotic animals including the pudu and the huemul, both rare indigenous deer. Just west of the lake is Tronador meaning thunderer an extinct volcano and the Chilean border.
The Parque Nacional Lanin is a tranquil forest which extends 150 km north from Nahuel Huapi to Lago Norquinco, with snow- capped, Volcan Lanin as its centrepiece. Its flora includes huge stands of broad-leaf deciduous southern beech, rauli, and monkey puzzle tree, plus many finger-shaped lakes attest to the passage of glaciers.
Parque Nacional Los Alerces is located west of Esquel and features pristine lakes and streams, enchanting views and excellent fishing. The area is usually mild in summer although it can be quite wet at other times.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is home to almost four dozen major glaciers and is a unique opportunity to see some of the most powerful forces of nature. Moreno glacier, one of the world few remaining advancing glaciers is the most spectacular, currently grinding its way down to Cordillera directly into an arm of the enormous Lago Argentino.
Parque Nacional Perito Moreno is a jewel of a park often overlooked by visitors to the area. Here glacier-covered mountains rise majestically above blue lakes where migrant birds sojoum and herds of guanacos lazily feed.
If there is one place Argentinians choose to go on their summer vacations, Mar del Plata is it. Lying about 400 km south of Buenos Aires on the Atlantic Coast, Mar del Plata and its surroundings offer miles of some the best beaches in South America. Along with the natural beauty of the area's wind-swept dunes and dramatic cliffs, there are ecological reserves, fancy resorts, charming fishing villages, and of course the culture and vibrant nightlife of the city itself.
Argentina is a vibrant, beautiful country bursting with so much to offer to the visitor and ex-pat alike. Whether you decide to live in the cities, coast or in the interior there is always going to be something to do. Learn to dance the Tango, cheer at the football stadiums, drink mate with the locals or maybe ride with the Guachos, whatever you do you will be thrilled at this amazing, stunning and exquisite country. The only experiences you will regret are the ones you the ones you have never tried.