Argentina is a country of staggering diversity in climates and landscapes. It is also a country that has become a major producer of fine wines. Mendoza, the capital of its wine-growing region at the foot of the Andes, is a beautiful city of large plazas and broad streets made green and shady by trees along the wide sidewalks. There’s skiing to be done, or hiking and horseback riding. The main reason to be in Mendoza in spring is the annual wine harvest festival, the Vendimia, for wine tastings and other things.
Apart from the wine, another big reason for visiting Argentina is the charm of its capital, Buenos Aires, one of the most fascinating capitals in South America. Soak up its unique atmosphere as you go around, and slowly understand why it was once said that Argentina is the most American of all European countries.
Argentina straddles the Tropic of Cancer and the most southerly tip of all the Earth’s landmasses. You have a choice where to go: from the hot and humid jungles of Argentina’s Amazon in the northeast, to the arid highland steppes of the northwest, down through the windswept stretches of the starkly beautiful Patagonia plains, and stop short at the Tierra del Fuego, Argentina’s archipelago at the end of the world.
Nature and Wildlife
Many think of Argentina as one big cattle ranch. In its midriff, with the flat pampas and millions of cattle, you would surely think so. But Argentina is much more. Outside the capital the attractions are, naturally, wildlife and adventure in the outback. If you could hop on a plane, it is possible to watch howler monkeys and colorful toucans carousing in their jungle habitat in the morning, and observe penguins sliding off rocks into the freezing South Atlantic in the afternoon.
The avid birder will go wild over hundreds of bird species, including the majestic condor and three species of flamingo. The extensive forests and mountainsides are home to pumas, armadillos, llamas, several foxes, and tapirs. There are lush tea plantations and parched, blinding-white salt flats; there are thick palm groves and monstrous, blinding-white icebergs. And then, there is the Iguazu, the world’s mightiest waterfalls.
What Else to Do
If you can spend only a week in summer, the Lake District is fine for walking or fishing in mountain lakes, and exploring the area around El Boson. You can go far south to El Calafate to see glaciers, fly to Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego, where you can squeeze in a boat trip along the Beagle Channel.
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A week in winter is perfect for skiing at superb Las Leñas. A sidetrip to Mendoza for wine-tasting at a vineyard or two should be invigorating. Cross-country skiing is also superb is Ushuaia.
Three days at the Iguazu Falls also allow you a good view of the national park and a visit to ruined missions. Put some contrast by combining it with a day in Buenos Aires and two days among the cattle in the Pampas, to get a feel for the gaucho culture and life on the land — the essence of Argentina.
When to Go
Argentina is in the southern hemisphere. Summer is from early December to March, autumn from March to May, winter from June to late August, and spring from early September to November. The country is so vast and so varied that there is always a good place to visit whatever the time of year.
The northeast areas around Iguazu Falls are good to visit anytime, although in summer it can be very hot. Winter is a good time to visit the northwest and its altiplanos, and many high altitude places remain warm and sunny. The wine-producing region of Mendoza can be enjoyed any time of the year, but trekking west of the city is best between December and March.
Planning Your Trip
Argentina is vast, 2.8 million square kilometers of immense diversity. Unless you spend a month, you may appreciate the country better by exploring one area in depth. International flights to Buenos Aires are plentiful and you should have no problem getting in or out. Within the country, domestic flights allow you to reach most destinations from the capital within a couple of hours, but if you go overland, the overnight buses crisscrossing the country are comfortable.