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The beauty of Argentina is that it doesn't have just one iconic sight to tick off your list, it doesn't offer just one travel style to enjoy; the whole country is a destination to be discovered and explored.

Argentina has a rich history, fascinating landscapes, beautiful wine, rich cuisine, a unique and varied geography, and some of the most vibrant cities in South America... discover more about Argentina with our guide:

History

The history of Argentina dates back over 10,000 years when early human habitation was taking place in the form of hunter-gatherers in the more temperate regions, however severe drought in the region between 4000BC and 2000BC resulted in a significant depopulation and the area remainded very sparsely populated for thousands of years until the arrival of the Europeans. Some of the societies that existed during this time include the Charrua, the Minuane, and the Onas in southern Chile and Argentina.

The Portuguese first arrived in Argentina in 1502. A future expedition in 1512 made contact with the Charrua people in the Rio de la Plata area, and it was through communication with this indigenous society that the Portuguese heard about "people from the mountains" (the Inca). The Spanish first arrived in 1516 and in 1536 created a small settlement near what the current location of Buenos Aires, although this settlement was abandoned shortly afterwards.

By the mid 16th century parts of Argentina were officially classed as the "Viceroyalty of Peru" (the Spanish colonial regions of south America, including much of the former Inca Empire) and in the late 16th century new settlements were founded in the the Buenos Aires and Cordoba regions, at that point under rule of the Viceroyalty of Peru in Lima.

In 1776 the Spanish created the "Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata" (which would roughly the region of Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina) which had partly been formed to reduce illegal imports through the port cities of Montevideo, Asuncion and Buenos Aires. Under the Viceroyalty of Peru officially all shipments were supposed to have been processed through Callao port near Lima, which had led to illegal trading through these port cities on the South American east coast. It was during this time that Buenos Aires grew into a major port city, becoming a large, rich and important part of the Spanish Empire.

In 1807 and 1808 Britain invaded Argentina and Buenos Aires twice and was defeated both times, and shortly afterwards the Peninsular War started in Spain in 1808 which had led to the abdication of the Spanish King Ferdinand VII and the Spanish throne going to Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte. With local confidence at a high following victory over the British, and with faith in Spain at a low due to the Peninsular War, thoughts of independence became strong culminating in the May Revolution from 18th to 25th May 1810 during which the Viceroy was removed and the first local government was formed.

For the first few decades following independence the country underwent civil war with opposing sides fighting over how the country should be structure and ruled, with one side fighting for a US-style state system and another fighting for a standard government with Buenos Aires as the capital. Buenos Aires was officially a separate province until it was federalised in 1880 and officially declared the capital of Argentina.

Since 1880 Argentina has passed through years of war, peace, instability, revolutions, severe inflation, and democracy, all of which have contributed to the rich history and culture that is to be discovered on a trip to this fascinating country.

Geography

Argentina is a huge country stretching all the way from Ushuaia in the deepest regions of Patagonia right up to the Bolivian border in the altiplano highland regions of the eastern Andes. As such the geography of Argentina is very varied and very rich and if you are visiting more than one region during your travels you can expect variety and beauty as you discover each of the new regions.

To help explain the complex geography of Argentina the country is typically split into 7 main geographic regions:

Argentina north west: In the far northern regions around Salta and Jujuy the altitude is relatively high with much of this region located on the high western slopes of the Andes. The landscape here is very rugged and mountainous, and due to the altitude the climate is very season and can vary from region to region (depending on the altitude) with a distinct rainy season (from late October through to early April) and dry season (April to October).

Gran Chaco: This area is located in northern central Argentina. It is a very rural part of Argentina with a very low population consisting mainly of indigenous tribes. The region borders Brazil's Pantanal. The climate is typically hot and semi-dry, with sparse shrubbery and grasslands.

Mesopotamia: This region of Argentina is in the north east of the country, and contains the Iguassu Waterfall. The climate is sub-tropical, hot and humid with frequent rain.

Central: The Central region borders Uruguay to the east and covers the region immediately to the north of Buenos Aires including the major cities of Cordoba and Santa Fe. 

Cuyo: Located in mid-western Argentina this is predominantly a wine-growing region and includes the major city and wine-producing region of Mendoza. The western area of Cuyo includes the western slopes of the Andes mountains so this region is home to some beautiful valleys and snowy mountain peaks as well as the rolling valleys found further east. The climate is semi-arid with low rainfall and very hot summers.

Pampas: This region stretches south from Buenos Aires and contains temperate landscapes with warm summers and mild winters. This region is very fertile and is popular for farming and agriculture.

Patagonia: Patagonia refers to the southern portion of South America, covering both Chile and Argentina, with the region stretching from the eastern coast across the Andes and into Chile. The northern Patagonia region borders the pampas and as such is a temperature region, but further south the landscape is subject to much more seasonal variation resulting in bitterly cold winter days with short daylight hours and an incredibly barren rocky landscaoe. The elevation rises from the eastern coast in a series of steps into the high Andes, with the mountainous region home to a variety of geographic structures including glaciers, lakes and igneous rock structures with frequent rainfall.

Time Difference

GMT - 3hrs

Argentina does not operate daylight saving time and currently maintains GMT - 3hrs throughout the year. It is worth checking however, as individual provinces have the authority to "opt out" of the national time.

Top Attractions

Argentina is a vast country with many top attractions that cover a range of interests, including history, culture, wildlife, landscapes and scenery, food and drink and sport.

The capital city Buenos Aires is packed full of interesting places to visit, including the wide 9 de Julio avenue (with the pointy obelisk), Recoleta Cemetery (with the tomb of Eva Peron), the famous La Boca district with its colourful houses and tango street, the trendy district of Palermo with its fine eateries and bars, the historical district of San Telmo, and the main Plaza de Mayo with the Casa Rosada (with its famous balcony where Eva Peron would appear, as made famous in the Evita movie).

In northern Argentina the region around Cafayate is famous for its wine and also for the stunning Quebrada de Cafayate - this incredible valley has to be seen in real life to appreciate the stunning beauty and incredible colours on display.

The Iguassu Falls on the border with Brazil and Paraguay are the largest waterfall system in the world (dwarfing Niagara) and are a true natural marvel and a highlight of any trip to South America as well as Argentina.

The Patagonia region of Argentina is one of the countries most popular destinations and is home to endless beautiful lakes, valleys and mountains. Key destinations within Patagonia Perito Moreno Glacier, Mount Fitz Roy near El Chalten, and the beautiful lake region around El Calafate.

Population

Argentina has a population of around 44 million people.

Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires, is the largest and most populous city in Argentina (and the second largest city in South America) with a population of around 14 million people in the metropolitan area.

Sports

Argentinian people are great sport fans and watch and play a vast array of different sports.

The most popular sport is football, and the Argentina national team is regarded as one of the greatest national teams of all time having won the Football World Cup on two occassions in 1978 and 1986. The domestic football league is also incredibly popular, particularly in the larger cities such as Buenos Aires, and the most popular and successful domestic clubs include Boca Juniors and River Plate.

The national sport of Argentina is called Pato, which is played on horseback and is similar to polo.

Rugby Union is a very popular game in Argentina, particularly in the Buenos Aires region, and the national team competes at a high level internationally.

Other popular sports in Argentina include athletics, basketball, volleyball, handball and tennis.

Religion

The main religion in Argentina is Catholicism and around three quarters of the population are catholic. The Catholic religion was introduced throughout South America mainly by the Spanish during the conquests in the 16th century and beyond, and Argentina is a good destination to learn more about the history of this religion as well as visit some of the incredible churches and cathedrals within the country.

Argentina in the Movies and on TV

The cinema industry in Argentina is very strong and Argentinian movies are among the best in South America. The below movies are, in our humble opinion, the highlights of what is a very wide selection of movies to choose from:

El Secreto de sus Ojos (the Secret in their Eyes) won the Oscar for best foreign language movie at the 2010 Oscar ceremony, and this taught thriller is an excellent movie but also a great insight into the political corruption that occurred in previous decades. The movie was remade into a Hollywood English-language version starring Nicole Kidman in 2015, although the original version is the superior movie. The movie stars the famous Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin who also features in a host of other Argentinian movies including Wild Tales, the beautiful Chinese Take-Away set in Buenos Aires, the Aura and Nine Queens among many others.

The Motorcycle Diaries stars Gael Garcia Bernal in the role of Che Guevara and follows the route of Che's famous motorcycle journey across South America in his younger days. The movie is set and was filmed across South America, including in Argentina, and showcases some of the fantastic scenery that can be expected in this part of the world.

Bonbon El Perro is a wonderful Argentinian movie from 2004 following the journey of Coco and his dog through the Patagonia region.

The 2010 British-Argentine co-production Patagonia, about a Welsh settlement in Argentina, was set and filmed in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

One of the more famous movies documenting the history of Argentina is Evita, the Hollywood movie documenting the life of Eva Peron and starring Madonna in the lead role.

Famous Argentinian People

Argentina has many internationally famous people across a variety of subjects including sport, religion, politics, history and science.

Pope Francis is from Argentina, being born and raised in Buenos Aires and serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to his papacy.

Che Guevara was from the Argentinian city of Rosario and started his famous "Motorcycle Diaries" journey in his home country.

Diego Maradona is one of the most famous footballers in the world and his famous "hand of god" goal celebration against England in the 1986 World Cup is one of the most iconic moments of the sport. In Buenos Aires it isn't unknown to spot a Diego Maradona look-a-like, particularly in the La Boca region near the football stadium of Boca Juniors. Maradona isn't Argentina's only famous footballer and Lionel Messi is another famous name widely regarded as one of the most skillful players of the modern game.

Football isn't the only popular sport in Argentina, and in the 1990's Gabriela Sabatini was a household name as a popular tennis star.

Eva Peron was the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 to 1952 and would go on to become an iconic vision of Argentina. Her tomb is in La Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires.

The singer congwriter Chris de Burgh was born in Santa Fe Province in Argentina.