Argentina is huge. 2.78 million km2 to be exact. So if you are on a tight schedule you might want to pick where you plan on going before you arrive. Do you want to go north and see the incredible Iguazu Falls and the indigenous provinces of Salta and Jujuy with their amazing rock formations? Do you want to check out southern Patagonia and the Perito Moreno glacier and go trekking in El Calafate? Or hit northern Patagonia with Bariloche and the Lake District? Or drink wine for days in Mendoza? The choice is endless, so plan ahead.
The Argentine capital of Buenos Aires is the cultural capital of South America, so beware, you might be one of the many who gets sucked into the city by its charms. From buzzing nightlife to a wealth of independent theatre, tango shows, world class restaurants and a thriving music and art scene, there is something for every culture vulture in Buenos Aires. If this sounds like your thing, maybe decide to spend a few weeks in the capital, rent an AirBnB and sign up for some Spanish classes to help you integrate with the locals, for the real Argentine experience.
Argentines love their meat, and it is estimated that each Argentine consumes more than 100 pounds of beef per year! Parillas, or steakhouses, are ubiquitous all over the country, and if you’re lucky enough to make friends with some locals, you will almost certainly be invited to an asado, or barbeque. It can be tricky being a vegetarian or vegan on your trip to Argentina, and many often find themselves sampling the meaty delights the country has to offer, as the meat served is some of the most delicious in the world.
And what goes better with meat than red wine? Mendoza is the country’s premier wine producing region and it is where the world famous Malbec that Argentina is so well known for comes from. If you don’t do well with wine hangovers, try mixing your red with soda water, it won’t be frowned upon here, because as much as Argentines love their fine wines, they aren’t huge drinkers, and will do what they can to prevent a hangover before it starts. Either that or just don’t over-indulge, but this is harder than it looks, so delicious is that ever-flowing Malbec.
Argentines like to take their time, and often people don’t start work until around 10am. If you’re from London or New York where everyone is lining up for coffee at 7am, give yourself a well deserved break from the grind, because it is literally impossible to find anything open before 9am. Same goes for the evenings. Get used to eating about 9 or 10pm, as it is only tourists who show up to restaurants at 6pm. And then, of course, there are drinks after dinner, with locals hitting the bars at 12 or 1am. Take it easy, you’re on Argentina time now!
In Argentina, like most of the rest of Latin America, Spanish is spoken, but here it is called Castellano. Seeing as the country is based on a heritage of mainly Italian and Spanish immigrants, their Spanish has more than a smattering of Italian influence. Hand gestures, the accent that they speak Spanish with and the gusto with which they speak could all be attributed to their Italian forefathers, so be prepared to scratch your head if you already speak Spanish, because this is a whole different ballgame.
Patagonia is a large swathe of land in the southern cone that is shared by neighbours Argentina and Chile. Argentina is home to 2,780,400 km2 of Patagonia, while Chile owns 743,812 km2. Glaciers, lakes, mountains, coastline, wildlife, grasslands, Patagonia has it all. It is a must visit for any outdoor enthusiast and also claims the highest peak in the world outside Asia, Mount Aconcagua in Mendoza, which sits at 6,961 m.
Do your research before you come to Argentina, as, depending on what year it is, who is in power, if there have been any recent economic crises or global political shifts, the economy could swing positively or negatively in your favour. Argentines are used to weathering economic storms, but you might be unpleasantly surprised by the cost of things if you are probably under the impression that this South American country is cheap. Inflation has been around the 40% mark for the past few years and the latest government devalued the Argentine peso by 30% over two years ago, and the economy has struggled to recover since then. You have been warned.
Dictatorships, colonisation, economic crises, wars, territorial battles, Argentina has seen it all. People in Argentina are hardened against the ravages their country has suffered, but as a visitor it really puts it into perspective just how much this country has been through, especially since news from the south of the continent doesn’t reach other parts of the Western world and beyond so easily.
Argentines are some of the warmest and most open people you will meet. You are almost guaranteed to leave with a few new friends who will treat you like royalty while you’re here. Tourism in Argentina is a relatively new thing, only in about the past 10 to 15 years, so people are always curious to know where you are from and how you like their country. Everyone who speaks English is always keen to practice, but of course you’ll go a lot further if you have a couple of words or phrases. “Che Boludo!” should be your jumping off point!