ARGENTINA CITY STOP OVERS
- Andean Traverse, 5 days
- Argentina and Brazil - Nature and Nightlife, 8 days
- Bariloche Dreams, 3 days
- Calafate & Moreno Glacier, 3 days
- Chile & Argentinean Classic , 8 days
- Clasico Latino, 8 days
- Club Tapiz Lodge
- Cristina Hacienda, 5 days
- Eolo Hacienda, 5 days
- Finca Adalgisa Wine Lodge
- Iguassu Falls - Argentinean Side, 2 days
- Iguassu Falls Complete (from Rio), 3 days
- Iguassu Falls Complete Brazil to Brazil, 3 days
- Mendoza Delights, 3 days
- Patagonia Complete, 8 days
- River Plate Triangle - Montevideo & Colonia, 6 days
- Santiago - Mendoza Transfer, 1 day
- Southern Patagonia Cruise, 5 days
- Tango & Ice, 8 days
- Unique Dining - Buenos Aires, 1 day
- Ushuaia - The True Land Down Under., 3 days
- Ranch Stay & Gaucho Adventure
ARGENTINA VALUE GROUP TOURING
- Argentina & Chile Patagonia Explorer, 14 days
- Atacama to Sugarloaf Explorer, 16 days
- Buenos Aires and Rio Explorer, 11 days
- Santiago to Rio Explorer, 12 days
- South American Explorer, 22 days
ARGENTINA STAYS OF DISTINCTION
- Estancia VIK
- Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, Golf-Spa
- Los Notros, Perito Moreno Glacier
- Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
- Park Hyatt Mendoza
- Playa VIK
LATIN AMERICAN DESTINATIONS
- Antarctica (12 trips)
- Argentina (28 trips)
- Belize (6 trips)
- Bolivia (10 trips)
- Brazil (28 trips)
- Chile (30 trips)
- Colombia (9 trips)
- Costa Rica (7 trips)
- Ecuador (14 trips)
- El Salvador (4 trips)
- Falkland Islands (2 trips)
- Galapagos (14 trips)
- Guatemala (7 trips)
- Honduras (2 trips)
- Panama (6 trips)
- Peru (36 trips)
- Uruguay (3 trips)
- Venezuela (2 trips)
HOLIDAYS OF A LIFETIME
- Splendours of South America (2012), 17 days
- Splendours of South America (2013), 15 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru (2012), 20 days
- Magical Ecuador and Peru plus Bolivia (2013/2014), 23 days
- Best of Ecuador, 11 days
- Cradle of the Incas, 13 days
Trekking, walking, wildlife encounters, cycling, rafting, sailing, cruising, camping, safaris, overland journeys and more.
Country General Information
Deep in the south of South America is this land of infinitely enchanting landscapes -from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes and the dusty plains of Patagonia to the 'Land of Fire' - Tierra del Fuego. Whether exploring the lush rainforest of Missiones, horse riding in the scorched red mountains of Salta, trekking the turquoise lakes and evergreen forests of the Lake District or playing the gaucho in the fertile Pampas, the country provides wonderful, boundless adventures.
At the heart of all this is the capital city, Buenos Aires. Somewhat unfairly described as a grimy Paris, Buenos Aires is a smart, contemporary city that is full of life and bursting with energy. While the spirit of the tango is alive and well and the gaucho heritage is celebrated, modern Argentina is more cosmopolitan in its outlook than many South American countries.
The people of Argentina are warm, friendly and open to visitors. Despite a dark period of military dictatorship and a series of economic crises, the Argentines have a tenacious spirit and lust for life that is infectious. This passion shines through in the nation's great loves of football, food and partying. Visitors to this country will find it easy to get into the swing of things, bringing back long-lasting memories of fine local wines and enormous steaks, along with those of the unforgettable and extraordinary landscapes.
- Country Facts
- Food & Drinks
- Travel Info
- Passport & Visas
South-eastern South America
2,780,400 km² (1,073,518 sq miles)
41,769,726 (July 2011 est.)
14.6 per km²
Buenos Aires. Population: 3 million (2006 estimate)
Federal and Democratic Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1816.
Argentina is situated in South America, separated from Chile to the west by the long spine of the Andes. Its eastern border is the Atlantic Ocean, with Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil to the north and northeast.
It can roughly be divided into four main geographical areas: the spectacular Andes mountain range, the dry North along with the more verdant Mesopotamia, the lush plains of the Pampas and the windswept wastes of Patagonia.
Mount Aconcagua soars almost 7,000m (23,000ft) and waterfalls at Iguazú stretch around a massive semi-circle, thundering 70m (230ft) to the bed of the Paraná River. In the southwest is the Argentine Lake District with a string of beautiful glacial lakes framed by snow-covered mountains.
Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken with some French and German.
More than 90% Roman Catholic, 2% Protestant with small Muslim and Jewish communities.
GMT - 3 (GMT - 2 from third Saturday in March to first Saturday in October)
The most common form of greeting between friends is kissing cheeks. Dinner is usually eaten late - from around 2100. Dress is not usually formal, though clothes should be conservative away from the beach. Formal wear is worn for official functions and dinners, particularly in exclusive restaurants. Smoking is prohibited on public transport, in cinemas and theatres. Casual discussion of the Falklands/Malvinas war can seem insensitive and is best avoided.
220 volts AC, 60Hz. Plug fittings in older buildings are of the two-pin round type, but most new buildings use the v-shaped twin with earth ping. Travellers should bring a world travel adaptor.
Head of State
Like all Latin American countries, Argentina has a tumultuous history, one tainted by periods of despotic rule, corruption and hard times. But it's also an illustrious history, a story of a country that was once one of the world's economic powerhouses, a country that gave birth to the tango, to international icons like Evita Perón and Che Guevara, and to some of the world's most important inventions (the public bus, the coronary bypass and the ballpoint pen all come to mind). Understanding Argentina's past is paramount to understanding its present and, most importantly, to understanding Argentines themselves.
Human migration to the Americas began nearly 30, 000 years ago, when the ancestors of Amerindians, taking advantage of lowered sea levels during the Pleistocene epoch, walked from Siberia to Alaska via a land bridge across the Bering Strait. Not exactly speedy about moving south, they reached what's now Argentina around 10, 000 BC. One of Argentina's oldest and impressive archaeological sites is Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) in Patagonia, where mysterious cave paintings, mostly of left hands, date from 7370 BC.
By the time the Spanish arrived, much of present-day Argentina was inhabited by highly mobile peoples who hunted the guanaco (a wild relative of the llama) and the rhea (a large bird resembling an emu) with bow and arrow or boleadoras - heavily weighted thongs that could be thrown up to 90m to ensnare the hunted animal. (Today, replica boleadoras are sold at artisan shops throughout the country – pick up a set and give them a hurl at a stationary object for an idea of the skill required to take down a guanaco!)
The Argentine pampas was inhabited by the Querandí, hunters and gatherers who are legendary for their spirited resistance to the Spanish. The Guaraní, indigenous to the area from northern Entre Ríos through Corrientes and into Paraguay and Brazil, were semisedentary agriculturalists, raising sweet potatoes, maize, manioc and beans, and fishing the Río Paraná.
Of all of Argentina, the northwest was the most developed. Several indigenous groups, most notably the Diaguita, practiced irrigated agriculture in the valleys of the eastern Andean foothills. The region's inhabitants were influenced heavily by the Tiahanaco empire of Bolivia and by the great Inca empire, which expanded south from Peru into Argentina from the early 1480s. In Salta province the ruined stone city of Quilmes is one of the best-preserved pre-Incan indigenous sites, where some 5000 Quilmes, part of the Diaguita civilization, lived and withstood the Inca invasion. Further north in Tilcara you can see a completely restored pucará (walled city), about which little is known.
In the Lake District and Patagonia, the Pehuenches and Puelches were hunter-gatherers, and the pine nuts of the araucaria, or pehuén tree, formed a staple of their diet. The names Pehuenches and Puelches were given to them by the Mapuche, who entered the region from the west as the Spanish pushed south. Today there are many Mapuche reservations, especially in the area around Junín de los Andes, where you can still sample foods made from pine nuts.
Until they were wiped out by Europeans, there were indigenous inhabitants as far south as Tierra del Fuego, where the Selk'nam, Haush, Yaghan and Alacaluf peoples lived as mobile hunters and gatherers. Despite frequently inclement weather they wore little or no clothing, but constant fires (even in their bark canoes) kept them warm and gave the region its Spanish name, Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).
Enter the Spanish
Just over a decade after Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) accidentally encountered the Americas, other Spanish explorers began probing the Río de la Plata estuary. (Columbus was actually Italian, but he was sailing under the Spanish flag). Most early explorations of the area were motivated by rumors of vast quantities of silver. Spaniard Sebastian Cabot optimistically named the river the Río de la Plata (River of Silver), and to drive the rumors home, part of the new territory was even given the Latin name for silver (argentum). But the mineral riches that the Spanish found in the Inca empire of Peru never panned out in this misnamed land.
The first real attempt at establishing a permanent settlement on the estuary was made by Spanish aristocrat Pedro de Mendoza in 1536. He landed at present-day Buenos Aires and, not one to mince words, named the outpost Puerto Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire (Port Our Lady St Mary of the Good Wind). After the colonists tried pilfering food from the indigenous Querandí, the natives turned on them violently. Within four years Mendoza fled back to Spain without a lick of silver, and the detachment of troops he left behind beat it up river to the gentler environs of Asunción, present-day capital of Paraguay.
Although Spanish forces reestablished Buenos Aires by 1580, it remained a backwater in comparison to Andean settlements founded by a separate and more successful Spanish contingency moving south from Alto Perú (now Bolivia). With ties to the colonial stronghold of Lima, capital of the viceroyalty of Peru, and financed by the bonanza silver mine at Potosí, the Spanish founded some two dozen cities as far south as Mendoza (1561), all during the latter half of the 16th century. Santiago del Estero, founded in 1553, is the country's oldest permanent settlement. The main force in this northward orientation was the protectionist King of Spain, whose mercantile policy decreed that commerce between Spain and the colonies had to be routed through Lima.
The two most important population centers at the time were Tucumán (founded in 1565) and Córdoba (1573). Tucumán lay in the heart of a rich agricultural region and supplied Alto Perú with grains, cotton and livestock. Córdoba became an important educational center, and Jesuit missionaries established estancias (ranches) in the surrounding sierras to supply Alto Perú with mules, foodstuffs and wine. Córdoba's Manzana Jesuítica (Jesuit Block) is now the finest preserved group of colonial buildings in the country, and several Jesuit estancias in the Central Sierras are also exquisitely preserved. These sites, along with the central plazas of Salta (founded in 1582) and Tucumán, boast the country’s finest colonial architecture.
Northeast Argentina, along the upper regions of the Río Uruguay and Río Paraná, was colonized later with the help of Jesuit missionaries, who concentrated the indigenous Guaraní in settlements. Starting around 1607, the Jesuits established 30 missions, including the marvelously preserved San Ignacio Miní, which should be on every architecture-lover's hit list.
Perhaps as many as 100, 000 indigenous people lived in the Jesuit settlements, which resembled other Spanish municipalities but operated with a political and economic autonomy that did not apply to other Iberian settlers. Wary of the Jesuits' accumulating wealth and power, the Spanish crown expelled them in 1767, and the mission communities disintegrated rapidly, almost fading into the wilderness.
Buenos Aires: bootlegger to boomtown
As the northwest prospered, Buenos Aires suffered the Crown's harsh restrictions on trade for nearly two centuries. But because the port was ideal for trade, frustrated merchants turned to smuggling, and contraband trade with Portuguese Brazil and nonpeninsular European powers flourished. The increasing amount of wealth passing through the city fueled much of its initial growth.
With the decline of silver mining at Potosí in the late 18th century, the Spanish crown was forced to recognize Buenos Aires' importance for direct transatlantic trade. Relaxing its restrictions, Spain made Buenos Aires the capital of the new viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata - which included Paraguay, Uruguay and the mines at Potosí - in 1776.
Although the new viceroyalty had internal squabbles over trade and control issues, when the British raided the city in 1806 and again in 1807, the response was unified. Locals rallied against the invaders without Spanish help and chased them out of town.
The late 18th century also saw the emergence of the legendary gauchos of the pampas. The South American counterpart to North America’s cowboys, they hunted wild cattle and broke in wild horses that had multiplied after being left behind by previous expeditions on the Río de la Plata.
Independence & infighting
Toward the end of the 18th century, criollos (Argentine-born colonists) became increasingly dissatisfied and impatient with Spanish authority. The expulsion of British troops from Buenos Aires gave the people of the Río de la Plata new confidence in their ability to stand alone. After Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808, Buenos Aires finally declared its independence on May 25, 1810. To commemorate the occasion, the city's main square was renamed Plaza de Mayo.
Independence movements throughout South America soon united to expel Spain from the continent by the 1820s. Under the leadership of General José de San Martín and others, the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (the direct forerunner of the Argentine Republic) declared formal independence at Tucumán on July 9, 1816.
Despite achieving independence, the provinces were united in name only. With a lack of any effective central authority, regional disparities within Argentina - formerly obscured by Spanish rule – became more obvious. This resulted in the rise of the caudillos (local strongmen), who resisted Buenos Aires as strongly as Buenos Aires had resisted Spain.
Argentine politics was thus divided between the Federalists of the interior, who advocated provincial autonomy, and the Unitarists of Buenos Aires, who upheld the city's central authority. For nearly two decades bloody and vindictive conflicts between the two factions left the country nearly exhausted.
The reign of Rosas
In the first half of the 19th century Juan Manuel de Rosas came to prominence as a caudillo in Buenos Aires province, representing the interests of rural elites and landowners. He became governor of the province in 1829 and, while he championed the Federalist cause, he also helped centralize political power in Buenos Aires and required that all international trade be funneled through the capital. His reign lasted more than 20 years (from 1829 to 1852), and he set ominous precedents in Argentine political life, creating the infamous mazorca (his ruthless political police force) and institutionalizing torture.
Under Rosas, Buenos Aires continued to dominate the new country, but his extremism turned many against him, including some of his strongest allies. Finally, in 1852, a rival caudillo named Justo José de Urquiza (once a staunch supporter of Rosas) organized a powerful army and forced Rosas from power. Urquiza's first task was to draw up a constitution, which was formalized by a convention in Santa Fe on May 1, 1853. Urquiza became the country's first president. The Constitution (still in force today despite its frequent suspension) pointed to the triumph of Unitarism, and subsequent economic developments confirmed Buenos Aires’ power in the coming decades. In 1862 Buenos Aires was declared the capital of the Argentine Republic.
The fleeting Golden Age
Argentina's second president, Bartolomé Mitre, was concerned with building the nation and establishing infrastructure, but his goals were subsumed by the War of the Triple Alliance (or Paraguayan War), which lasted from 1865 to 1870. Not until Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, an educator and journalist from San Juan, became president did progress in Argentina really kick in. Sarmiento is still revered for his promotion of education, and his childhood home in San Juan is now a lovely museum, honoring the man and displaying his colonial-style home.
Buenos Aires' economy boomed and immigrants poured in from Spain, Italy, Germany and Eastern Europe. The city’s population grew more than sevenfold from 1869 to 1895. The new residents worked in the port, lived tightly in the tenement buildings and developed Buenos Aires' famous dance - the tango - in the brothels and smoky nightclubs of the port. Basque and Irish refugees became the first shepherds, as both sheep numbers and wool exports increased nearly tenfold between 1850 and 1880.
Still, much of the southern pampas and Patagonia were inaccessible for settlers because of fierce resistance from indigenous Mapuche and Tehuelche. Argentina's next president, Nicolás Avellaneda, took care of that. In 1879 Avellaneda’s Minister of War, General Julio Argentino Roca, carried out a ruthless campaign of extermination against the indigenous people in what is known as the Conquista del Desierto (Conquest of the Desert). The campaign doubled the area under state control and opened up Patagonia to settlement and sheep. Junín de los Andes' Vía Cristi memorial is likely the region's most impressive and moving tribute to the Mapuche lives lost in this 'war.'
By the turn of the 20th century Argentina had a highly developed rail network (financed largely by British capital), fanning out from Buenos Aires in all directions. Still, the dark cloud of a vulnerable economy loomed. Because of inequities in land distribution, the prosperity of the late 19th century was far from broad. Industry could not absorb all the immigration. Labor unrest grew. As imports surpassed exports, the economy showed signs of stress. Finally, with the onset of the Great Depression (Great Slump), the military took power under conditions of considerable social unrest. An obscure but oddly visionary colonel, Juan Domingo Perón, was the first leader to try to come to grips with the country's economic crisis.
The Perón decade
Juan Perón emerged in the 1940s to become Argentina's most revered, as well as most despised, political figure. He first came to national prominence as head of the National Department of Labor, after a 1943 military coup toppled civilian rule. In this post he organized relief efforts after a major earthquake in San Juan, which earned praise throughout the country. In the process he also met Eva (Evita) Duarte, the radio actor who would become his second wife and make her own major contribution to Argentine history. With the help of Evita, Perón ran for and won the presidency in 1946.
During previous sojourns in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Perón had grasped the importance of spectacle in public life and also developed his own brand of watered-down Mussolini-style fascism. He held massive rallies from the balcony of the Casa Rosada, with the equally charismatic Evita at his side. Although they ruled by decree rather than consent, the Peróns legitimized the trade-union movement, extended political rights to working-class people, secured voting rights for women and made university education available to any capable individual.
Economic difficulties and rising inflation undermined Juan Perón's second presidency in 1952, and Evita's death the same year dealt a blow to both the country and the president's popularity. In late 1955 a military coup sent him into exile in Spain and initiated nearly three decades of catastrophic military rule.
Perón's exile & return
During their exile, Perón and his associates constantly plotted their return to Argentina. In the late 1960s increasing economic problems, strikes, political kidnappings and guerrilla warfare marked Argentine political life. In the midst of these events, Perón's opportunity to return finally arrived in 1973, when the beleaguered military relaxed their objections to Perón's Justicialist party (popularly known as the Peronistas) and loyal Peronista Hector Cámpora was elected president. Cámpora resigned upon Perón's return, paving the way for new elections easily won by Perón.
After an 18-year exile, Perón once again symbolized Argentine unity, but there was no substance to his rule. Chronically ill, Perón died in mid-1974, leaving a fragmented country to his ill-qualified third wife - and vice president - Isabel.
The Dirty War & the disappeared
In the late 1960s and early '70s, antigovernment feeling was rife, and street protests often exploded into all-out riots. Armed guerrilla organizations like the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP; People's Revolutionary Army) and the Montoneros emerged as radical opponents of the military, the oligarchies and US influence in Latin America. Perón's bumbling widow, Isabel, along with her adviser, José López Rega, created the Triple A (Alianza Argentina Anticomunista), a death squad to take on the revolutionary groups. With increasing official corruption exacerbating Isabel's incompetence, Argentina found itself plunged into chaos.
On March 24, 1976, a bloodless military coup led by army general Jorge Rafael Videla took control of the Argentine state apparatus and ushered in a period of terror and brutality. Videla's sworn aim was to crush the guerrilla movements and restore social order, and much of the Argentine press and public gave their support. During what the regime euphemistically labeled the Process of National Reorganization (known as El Proceso), security forces went about the country arresting, torturing, raping and killing anyone on their hit list of suspected leftists.
During the period between 1976 and 1983, often referred to as the Guerra Sucia or Dirty War, human-rights groups estimate that some 30, 000 people 'disappeared.' To disappear meant to be abducted, detained, tortured and probably killed, with no hope of legal process. Ironically, the Dirty War ended only when the Argentine military attempted a real military operation: liberating the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) from British rule.
The Falklands/Malvinas war
Under military rule, Argentina's economy continued to decline and eventually collapsed in chaos. El Proceso was coming undone.
In late 1981 General Leopoldo Galtieri assumed the role of president. To stay in power amid a faltering economy and mass social unrest, Galtieri played the nationalist card and launched an invasion in April 1982 to dislodge the British from the Falkland Islands, which had been claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas for nearly a century and a half.
Overnight, the move unleashed a wave of nationalist euphoria that then subsided almost as fast. Galtieri underestimated the determined response of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and after only 74 days Argentina's ill-trained, poorly motivated and mostly teenaged forces surrendered ignominiously. In 1983 Argentines elected civilian Raúl Alfonsín to the presidency.
Aftermath of the Dirty War
In his successful 1983 presidential campaign, Alfonsín pledged to prosecute military officers responsible for human-rights violations during the Dirty War. He convicted high-ranking junta officials for kidnapping, torture and homicide, but when the government attempted to also try junior officers, these officers responded with uprisings in several different parts of the country. The timid administration succumbed to military demands and produced a Ley de la Obediencia Debida (Law of Due Obedience), allowing lower-ranking officers to use the defense that they were following orders, as well as a Punto Final (Stopping Point), beyond which no criminal or civil prosecutions could take place. These measures eliminated prosecutions of notorious individuals such as Navy Captain Alfredo Astiz (the Angel of Death), who was implicated in the disappearance of a Swedish-Argentine teenager and the highly publicized deaths of two French nuns.
In December 1990 president Carlos Menem pardoned Videla and his cohorts even though the Argentine public overwhelmingly opposed it. During the 1995 presidential campaign, Dirty War issues resurfaced spectacularly when journalist Horacio Verbitsky wrote The Flight: Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior (1996), a book based on interviews with former Navy Captain Adolfo Scilingo, in which Scilingo acknowledges throwing political prisoners, alive but drugged, into the Atlantic. In January 2005 Scilingo went to trial in Spain, facing numerous counts of human-rights abuses and becoming the first official associated with El Proceso to be tried abroad. He was convicted of crimes against humanity by the Spanish Supreme Court and is currently serving 30 years in prison (although he was sentenced to 640 years, 30 is the legally applied limit in Spain). In 2007 the Spanish upped his sentence to 1084 years.
Other than Scilingo, few have been convicted for crimes perpetrated during the Dirty War. One exception was the conviction of Héctor Febres, who worked at Buenos Aires' Naval Mechanics School, the country's most notorious detention center. In December 2007, days before he was to be sentenced in Argentina for human-rights violations, Febres was found dead from cyanide poisoning in his prison cell. Most of the criminals of El Proceso, however, still walk the streets, either in Argentina or abroad.
As frightening and as recent as this chapter in Argentine history is, most Argentines feel an atrocity such as the Dirty War could never happen again. Today, after more than 20 years of civilian rule, many visitors to the country find themselves amazed that it did happen.
The Menem years
Carlos Menem, whose Syrian ethnicity earned him the nickname 'El Turco' (The Turk), was elected president in 1989. Menem quickly embarked on a period of radical free-market reform. In pegging the peso to the US dollar, he effectively created a period of false economic stability, one that would create a great deal of upward mobility among Argentina's middle class. Despite the sense of stability, his policies are widely blamed for Argentina's economic collapse in 2002.
Menem's presidency was characterized by rampant government corruption and the privatization of state-owned companies. He sold off YPF (the national oil company), the national telephone company, the postal service and Aerolíneas Argentinas, all to foreign companies, and much of the profit was never accounted for.
Menem changed the constitution to allow himself to run for a second term (which he won), and unsuccessfully tried again so he could run for a third term in 1999. Amid accusations of corruption, Menem finally stepped down.
Adding to his scandals, Menem married Chilean Cecilia Bolocco, a former Miss Universe and 35 years his junior. In 2001 he was charged with illegally dealing arms to Croatia and Ecuador and placed under house arrest. After five months of judicial investigation, the charges were dropped and Menem was released from house arrest; the following day he announced he would run again for president. In 2003 he did, only to withdraw after the first round.
The climate of Argentina ranges from the great heat and extensive rains of the subtropical Chaco in the north, through to the pleasant climate of the central Pampas and the sub-Antarctic cold of the Patagonian Sea in the south. The main central area is temperate, but can be hot and humid during summer (December to February) and cool in winter.
Lightweight clothing in the north. Warm clothes are necessary in the south, in the mountains and during winter months in the central area. It is sensible to carry waterproofs in all areas.
Peso (ARS; symbol AR$) = 100 centavos. Peso notes are in denominations of AR$100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of AR$5, 2 and 1, and in 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos. US Dollars are accepted in some hotels and tourist centres. Confusingly, both peso and dollar prices are often preceded by just '$', so check if you are uncertain.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged in banks and authorised cambios (bureaux de change), which are available in all major cities.
Credit / Debit Cars
Most major credit cards are accepted, but not as widely as in the US or Europe, and even some large hotels do not have credit card facilities. ATMs are available in most cities but it is still best to carry alternative forms of payment as daily withdrawal limits are low and machines don't always work.
These can be exchanged at banks, cambios and some hotels. It is often difficult to exchange these in the smaller towns. Travellers are advised to use ATMs and credit cards, but if they do take traveller's cheques to bring them in US Dollars.
Food and Drink
Argentina boasts an exceptional standard of food and drink, although choices are often restricted to meat, pasta and pizza. Argentines tend to dine very late (2100 is considered early). Famed for the quality of its steaks, Argentina is a meat eater's dream and a visit to a parrilla (grill) restaurant should be on a visitor's must-do list. Conversely, pure vegetarian food is hard to find but most restaurants have vegetable options and salads are widely available.
Traditional confiterías (cafes) as well as more fashionable resto-bars (restaurant-bars) are popular in big cities. Japanese, Thai and Asian fusion food is increasingly popular in Buenos Aires. Argentine wines have flooded the international market in recent years and are famed for their quality and value. All the big brand spirits are found in Argentina - although at heavily inflated prices, but there are many fine local varieties.
Bife de chorizo (rump or sirloin steak)
Bife de lomo (tenderloin or filet mignon)
Empanadas (little pastry pies stuffed with beef, chicken, vegetable or cheese)
Parrillada (mixed grill) which might include morcilla (blood sausage)
Alfajores (shortbread-type biscuits sandwiched with dulce de leche - caramelised milk sauce)
Yerba mate (tea-like drink)
Quilmes is the national brand of lager
Around 15% is acceptable in restaurants as well as bars (unless you were dissatisfied) which waiting staff rely on to survive.
Argentines like to party and even the smallest of towns in rural areas have late night bars and discos. Nightlife in Buenos Aires is particularly vibrant and the city has become a centre for South American clubbing, boasting line-ups of world famous visiting and home-grown DJs. Things rarely get going until midnight and the music keeps pumping until well after daylight.
Tango is the traditional music and dance of Argentina and each night performers showcase this heartfelt art form in clubs in most major cities. People who want to dance themselves can learn and practise the tango at lively milongas(tango nightclubs). There are many theatres and concert halls in Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Mendoza, which put on plays and performances by Argentine and international groups and orchestras.
1 Jan New Year's Day; 24 Mar Truth and Justice Day; 2 Apr Good Friday; 2 Apr Veterans' Day (Malvinas); 1 May Labour Day; 25 May National Day (Anniversary of the 1810 Revolution); 14 Jun National Flag Day (Belgrano Day); 9 Jul National Independence Day; 16 Aug San Martín Day (Anniversary of the Death of General José de San Martín); 11 Oct Race Recognition Day; 8 Dec Immaculate Conception Day; 25 Dec Christmas Day.
Things to Do
Trek Argentina's vast landscapes, mountains and deserts; stunning scenery is guaranteed in the Lake District around Bariloche and San Martín, the Sierras de Córdoba and around Mount Fitzroy in Los Glaciares National Park(website: www.losglaciares.com).
Dine at a parrilla, or grill restaurant, where a large variety of barbecue-style dishes can be sampled in authentic Argentine fashion.
Ski down the eastern slopes of the Andes (best May to September). Bariloche is the oldest and best-equipped ski resort, although purpose-built Las Leñas (website: www.laslenas.com) is gaining popularity.
Get into the rhythm of the city and learn how to tango at lively milongas (tango clubs) or watch a tango show at venues throughout Buenos Aires.
Raft down wild rapids on the River Manso near Bariloche, the River Atuel near San Rafael or the Juramento Rapids near Salta.
Shop until you drop in Buenos Aires, a city with a well-earned reputation as a shopper's paradise. The elegant and cosmopolitan microcentro (north of Avenida de Mayo) includes the Florida and Lavalle pedestrian malls and the Plaza San Martín.
Head for the hills from Salta on the dizzying Tren a Las Nubes (website: www.trenalasnubes.com.ar). It winds its way over bridges and viaducts, through gorges and deserts, and across shimmering salt flats to over 4,000m (13,000ft).
Visit an estancia to witness the workings of an Argentine farm. Some offer the chance to ride horses like an Argentine cowboy. Others provide unadulterated luxury.
Saddle up on a horse trek amid the arid, rose-tinted mountains around Salta in Argentina's far northwest.
Taste some of the New World's best wines and learn about the region's winemaking heritage at a traditional bodega in Mendoza.
Things to See
Soak up the atmosphere of the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, with its many cafes, antique shops, tango clubs and a Sunday flea market on Plaza Dorrego.
Stroll through the capital's chic Recoleta district, famous for its Cementerio de la Recoleta (where many members of Argentina's elite are buried) and the renowned Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) (website: www.mnba.org.ar).
Marvel at the multi-coloured houses and artistic talent of La Boca, where Italian immigrants settled to work in the shipyards and the tango was supposedly born.
See the top spots of the Pampas and visit the scenic peaks of Sierra de la Ventana (website: www.sierradelaventana.com). Note the traces of colonial past in Santa Fe and glimpse the pink granite rock formations of Lihue Calel National Park.
Be dazzled by the sheer power of Iguazú Falls(website: www.iguazuargentina.com). Experience Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) via a system of catwalks over the thundering water and take an exhilarating boat to the base of the falls.
Visit one of Argentina's oldest cities, Corrientes(website: www.corrientes.gov.ar/turismo), and see Santísima Cruz de los Milagros church and the San Francisco convent. Corrientes is the land of the chamamé, a type of rhythmic music derived from the polka.
Gaze at the Andes topped by Mount Aconcagua (6,995m/22,944ft) (website: www.aconcagua.com.ar), the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere, in Aconcagua National Park. Nearby, the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue offers magnificent views from almost 4,000m (13,120ft) above sea level.
Be awestruck by nature on the Valdes Peninsula. See herds of seals, sea lions and take a whale watching boat trip then visit the penguin colony at Punta Tombo.
Take in the scenery of glacial lakes, mountains and forests in Bariloche's Lake District. Continue on to Lanín National Park, dominated by the extinct, snow-capped Lanín Volcano (3,776m/12,386ft).
Feel the chill in Los Glaciares National Park(website: www.losglaciares.com). The Perito Moreno Glacier is its centrepiece, where huge icebergs calve and topple into Lake Argentino.
Travel to the 'end of the earth' at Tierra del Fuego(website: www.tierradelfuego.org.ar), the gateway to the Antarctic. Explore the marine and bird life of the Beagle Channel by boat and wander through Ushuaia, the world's most southerly city.
Discover the architecture of colonial Salta (website: www.turismosalta.gov.ar). Stop in on the nearby pre-Incan ruins at Santa Rosa de Tastil and travel through the stunning red gorge of the Quebrada de Humahuaca(website: www.quebradadehumahuaca.com), scattered with verdant oases.
Wander around the Ischigualasto National Park(website: www.ischigualasto.org). This desert valley is also called 'the valley of the moon', owing to its distinctive rock formations and fossils dating back 180 million years.
DETAILS - CANADA
DETAILS - US
Canadian tourists must pay a reciprocity fee if they intend to enter Argentina via the Ezeiza (EZE) or Jorge Newbery (AEP) International Airports in Buenos Aires. There are two possible options:
This fee must be paid ON LINE at http://www.provinciapagos.com.ar/dnm/. This fee is valid for the life of the passport. If entering Argentina by land there is no fee nor is a visa required. If you are to arrive in Argentina without showing proof that the fee was paid, be advised that you will not be able to enter Argentina!
The payment of this reciprocity fee is NOT a visa, since Argentina does not require visa to Canadian nationals when travelling for tourism or business purposes. The Argentine Government set this entry free on equal amounts Argentine citizens must pay when requesting a Visa to travel Canada.
US tourists must pay a reciprocity fee if they intend to enter Argentina via the Ezeiza (EZE) or Jorge Newbery (AEP) International Airports in Buenos Aires. There are two possible options:
This fee must be paid ON LINE at http://www.provinciapagos.com.ar/dnm/. This is valid for the life of the passport. If entering Argentina by land there is no fee nor is a visa required. If you are to arrive in Argentina without showing proof that the fee was paid, be advised that you will not be able to enter Argentina!
The payment of this reciprocity fee is NOT a visa, since Argentina does not require visa to American nationals when travelling for tourism or business purposes. The Argentine Government set this entry free on equal amounts Argentine citizens must pay when requesting a Visa to travel to the U.S.
2 city stop over(s) and 21 itineraries are available for Argentina
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