Exploring the Spanish Speaking World: ¡Vámos a Argentina!

If you’re intrigued by both Europe and Latin America, you’ll love Argentina! This South American country is a true melting pot. If you spend a little time here, you’ll notice the contributions of indigenous people mixed with influences from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Ireland, Wales, and Eastern Europe. Argentina’s landscape is just as varied. Let’s take a quick tour of some of Argentina’s most eye-catching cities, regions, and traditions!

Culture in the Capital and Beyond

Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is a lively metropolitan city. It is a major center of politics, business, culture, and technology in South America. It’s a port city that locals call “Baires” and its residents are known as porteños. Like most Argentinians, porteños are known for their love of conversation. You’ll find them chatting together in the streets of Buenos Aires, enjoying long lunches, and heading out for dinner at 9pm or later. Restaurants here aren’t busy until 11 pm!  

The influence of Italian immigrants is strong here and the accent has a noticeable Italian flair.  Similar to their Old World counterparts, you’ll hear porteños bidding farewell to each other with “¡Chau!” instead of “Adios.

You can’t visit Buenos Aires without experiencing the passion of Argentina’s iconic dance – the tango!  The city is full of tango shows at venues called milongas. If you stroll through the colorfully painted neighborhood of La Boca, you may even catch an open air performance as an impromptu tango show plays out in the streets.  

Speaking of passion… Argentinians in Buenos Aires and all over the country are crazy about soccer!  While it’s not the national sport, it’s the most popular by far. Legends like Maradona and Messi have inspired generations of fans to watch and to play fútbol.

A few hours inland, you’ll find the city of Córdoba.  It is the second biggest city in Argentina and the pace is a bit slower. The colonial Spanish architecture here might make you think you’re in Spain!  These older structures are beautifully preserved and can be found alongside more modern buildings. Córdoba is a major academic center, with eight universities including Argentina’s oldest, founded in 1613. The city is nicknamed, “La Docta” (The Learned) for this reason. 

Vino, Por Favor

Wine lovers will enjoy a visit to the vineyards in the country’s northwest (areas such as San Juan and Mendoza).  Some vineyards sit at an altitude of 5,000’ above sea level. These areas have extremely low humidity and up to 350 days of sunshine – conditions that keep them free from many insects and grape diseases. This makes it easy to produce delicious, organic wines. 
It’s fascinating that the irrigation method used in Mendoza was developed 3,000 years ago by the indigenous people of the area. This region’s thriving wine industry proves that it’s stood the test of time.  Let’s raise a glass of malbec in appreciation. ¡Salud!

Dining is a Social Experience in Argentina

With so much ranchland, Argentina is famous for high-quality grass-fed beef and asados. Like the English word barbecue, asado refers to both the meat, and the gathering.  Asados are “events” with family and friends that often go all day long and well into the night!  From apartment patios in the city to simple cookouts on the side of a country road or big gatherings at family ranches, asados are EVERYWHERE!

Another way to enjoy an asado is at una parrilla (a restaurant serving this feast of meats).  It’s a unique cooking style that was pioneered by Argentina’s cowboys, the gauchos, hundreds of years ago. You’ll find a huge assortment of beef cuts, along with pork, sausages, provoletas (cheeses) and grilled veggies. This is always accompanied by a zesty herb sauce called chimichurri

For a look at other classic Argentinian foods like empanadas and dulce de leche, check out this link

Speaking of communal eating and drinking… maté is something you can’t miss! This hot, caffeinated drink (pronounced mah-tay) is the national drink of Argentina.  Drinking maté together is a ritual that is part of everyday life, allowing people to slow down and focus on each other. 

This beverage goes back to pre-Colombian times, and is made by soaking dried, ground leaves of the yerba maté plant in hot water.  Maté is traditionally served in a gourd container with a metal straw (called una bombilla). It is typically shared by passing the gourd around in a group, with the server mixing and refilling the beverage between each drinker. There are rules of etiquette involved, so if you want to brush up before your trip, check them out here!

Beyond the Cities and Vineyards

Iguazú Falls

The Iguazú Falls, along Argentina’s border with Brazil, are the country’s top tourist attraction and are one of the most impressive sights in all of South America. They’re a massive group of waterfalls (between 150 and 300, depending on the season). Walkways and viewing platforms get you close to the falls, and you can even get down to the bottom area called the Devil’s Throat. In the Iguazú National Park, keep an eye out for colorful butterflies and toucans, as well as coatis (in the raccoon family). 

The Magic of Patagonia

Patagonia is a region in both Chile and Argentina. This fascinating area has plenty of outdoors activities. There are mountains, lakes, fjords, glaciers, deserts, and ranchlands. Visitors can enjoy ski resorts, beaches, hiking, and kayaking.  You may even see whales, penguins, and fossils! 

Starting near the top, the Neuquén province is known for its many dinosaur fossils. This is where the fossil of the largest dinosaur on earth was discovered – the Argentinosaurus huinculensis.

Care to cross the Andes on horseback?  Guides can give you a taste of the gaucho lifestyle, with horseback riding, fishing, trips and wildlife safaris. Horseback journeys across the Andes allow you to cook your asado on an open fire and sleep under the stars!   

Heading south, Puerto Madryn is one of the most sheltered places on the Patagonian coast. The city is the gateway to some of the coolest attractions in Argentina!  It’s a favorite for whale watching and is the entrance to the penguin colonies on the Valdes Peninsula.  (Fun fact – penguins outnumber people in Patagonia!  It’s home to about 2 million people, and 1.7 pairs of Magellanic penguins!)  Read more about these cute creatures here.  

At the very southern tip of South America is Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego or “Big Island of the Land of Fire.” It’s shared by Chile and Argentina, and is home to the world’s southernmost city, UshuaiaTierra del Fuego National Park is known as “The End of the World.”  For a fun adventure, you can ride a steam engine train around the park looking for native Argentinian animals like guanacos (cousins of llamas), and exotic birds, condors, and more penguins! 

Los Glaciares National Park is another “cool” attraction (literally!).  It’s a glacier that moves up to 6 feet per day and is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing. 

Listos Para Viajar a Argentina?  Ready to Travel to Argentina?

With its breathtaking scenery, lively culture, and hearty meals, Argentina is a feast for the eyes, the spirit, and the tummy!  The friendly sun on the flag is welcoming you, so add Argentina to your travel list!  If you’ve already had the chance to visit, we’d love to hear about your favorite experiences in the comment section below.

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