Photographs of Argentina's dramatic and picturesque landscapes can go some way towards portraying her inherent geographical beauty, but images do little to transmit the warmth of the people and the unique atmosphere which exist in this country. The only way to really experience it is to travel to Argentina and visit; to taste the meat, to share the national drink (known as mate) with the locals, to revel in the atmosphere of a football match in Buenos Aires and to spend time strolling around the cafés and plazas of her cities and towns.
That said, the diversity and scale of Argentina's physical geography is undoubtedly a major draw for many visitors and reason enough to visit. From the vast Patagonian plateau in the south with its stunning glaciers, through the fertile plains of the Pampas, along the dramatic mountain ridges of the Andes on the western frontier, to the subtropical region in the northeast, which hosts the spectacular Iguazu Falls, Argentina has everything. There are few countries in the world which possess such a range of breathtaking natural attractions.
People, food and why Argentina is so special!
Just as significant as the spectacular environmental sites and culturally-rich cities, are the everyday aspects of life in Argentina. The food, and more specifically the red meat and wine, is arguably unparalleled in the world and there are high quality restaurants in towns and cities throughout the land. These are often very cheap, especially when compared to the cost of eating out in Europe and North America, and serve dishes specific to the different regions. Argentines also have an obsession with asados (think barbeques but on a much grander scale, with un-burnt sausages) and if you get lucky you'll get invited along to sample the meat for yourself. The chances are that you will get invited because the people of Argentina, particularly in the interior of the country, are incredibly welcoming and place an emphasis on enjoying and sharing the good things in life. This warmth from the locals, this sense of being made to feel at home even though you are only visiting, makes the experience of travelling around Argentina highly enjoyable and will leave you with countless tales to tell of your travels in this unique country.
Cities in Argentina
The cities of Argentina, where the vast majority of the nation's population reside, offer just as much to the visitor. The capital, Buenos Aires, is a major global city and has the cosmopolitanism and energy which comes with such a tag. The mix of European and South American influences creates a café-culture atmosphere during the day and evening, as well as a buzzing nightlife through to the early hours. The architecture and plazas in downtown Buenos Aires are grand and resemble that of major European cities such as Paris and Madrid, and are ideal for sunny afternoon strolls. In addition, the city hosts numerous barrios each with their own charm and forms of cultural expression. Buenos Aires has for a long time dominated the fortunes of Argentina but there are many other cities which are well worth a visit. A few cities which demand special mention include Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, Mendoza, the heart of the wine-producing region and home to some of the finest bodegas in the world, Córdoba, a university city with a thriving arts scene and Salta, located in the north with its beautiful colonial-era architecture and attractive mountainous surrounds. Of course, there are many other cities dotted across Argentina, as well as smaller settlements of varying sizes in-between and these are generally easily accessible thanks to Argentina's much improved transport infrastructure.
Travelling to and within Argentina
Whilst Argentina is situated a long way from Europe and North America the distance no longer serves as a hindrance, as many major airlines provide direct services (or with short stopovers in Brazil, the US or various European cities) to the international airport on the outskirts of Buenos Aires (Ezeiza). The ease with which one can now travel to Argentina is matched by the means of moving between cities within the country. There are numerous coach companies which provide secure and comfortable services to destinations all over Argentina. These are frequent, operating throughout the day and night, and are an extremely reliable and reasonable way to get around this vast country. The longer journeys often take many hours but having the comfort of a fully reclining seat and dinner on board make the experience of travelling by road within Argentina effortless, and even enjoyable. The levels of comfort and safety mean that you arrive at your destination fresh and ready to explore each new place on your travels. They also provide an excellent opportunity to strike up conversations with friendly locals who are usually more than happy to chat and offer helpful tips on where to visit in Argentina. There is also a well-developed and extensive internal air network, and although more expensive than travelling by road, this option can make sense particularly when in transit to the extreme north or south of the country.
There is a wide range of accommodation throughout Argentina to suit particular preferences in terms of finance and level of luxury. For those with a limited budget there are hundreds of friendly and innovative hostels which allow the visitor to meet locals and other travellers with a similar mindset. The favourable exchange rate for foreigners with US Dollars or Euros makes comfortable accommodation in Argentina very reasonable and easy to find. The general experience of travelling within Argentina is relatively secure, especially when compared with other countries in South America with more notorious reputations. Although there is discernible poverty and societal inequality, cases of violent crime are very unusual in and around the main tourist areas in Buenos Aires and beyond. Indeed, as you travel further away from the capital the ambience and people become noticeably more tranquil and the likelihood of encountering problems is reduced still further.