Argentina

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Argentina, (officially Argentine Republic; Spanish "República Argentina") is a large, elongated country in the southern part of South America, neighbouring countries being Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.

Population: 42,610,981 people
Area: 2,780,400 km2
Highest point: 6,960 m
Coastline: 4,989 km
Life expectancy: 77.32 years
GDP per capita: $18,400
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About Argentina

History

Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals. In the first decade of the 20th century, Argentina became the richest nation in Latin America, its wealth symbolized by the opulence of its capital city.

European immigrants flowed into Argentina, particularly from the northern parts of Italy and Spain; by 1914 nearly 6 million people had come to the country.

After World War II, a long period of Peronist rule in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976.

Democracy returned in 1983 after the battle over the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) with the United Kingdom.

A painful economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century devalued the Argentine peso by a factor of three and ushered in a series of weak, short-lived governments along with social and economic instability.

However, later in the decade Argentina seemed to find some new stability, and currently has a much better economic outlook - albeit with the eternal problem of high inflation.

Climate

Buenos Aires and the Pampas are temperate; cold in the winter, hot and humid in the summer.

The deserts of Cuyo, which can reach temperatures of 50°C, are extremely hot and dry in the summer and moderately cold and dry in the winter. Spring and fall often exhibit rapid temperature reversals; several days of extremely hot weather may be followed by several days of cold weather, then back to extremely hot.

The Andes are cool in the summer and very cold in the winter, varying according to altitude.

Patagonia is cool in the summer and cold in the winter. Extreme temperature shifts within a single day are even more common here; pack a variety of clothes and dress in layers.

Don't forget that seasons are reversed from those of the Northern Hemisphere.

Activities

Walking Tours

Buenos Aires has a number of walking tour options. They include the typical tours you may find in any city, as well as interesting options including free walking tours, Downloadable MP3 Walking Tours, and even Running Tours.

Sports

The most popular sport in Argentina is fútbol (soccer). If you come to Argentina, you shouldn't miss the chance to experience a professional match live. Argentina's fans are very passionate.

Football teams

There are five teams called "Los 5 grandes", which are the elite of Argentinian football tournaments:

  • Boca Juniors - famous stadium "La Bombonera" where Diego Maradona played.
  • River Plate - Stadium "El monumental de Nuñez" where Argentina won the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
  • Racing Club - The first Argentine team to win the Club World Championships.
  • Independiente - won the most Copa Libertadores
  • San Lorenzo

Other Teams

  • Rosario Central - Stadium: "El gigante de Arroyito"
  • Velez Sarfield (European SouthAmerican Cup Champion in Tokyo 1994)
  • Estudiantes de La Plata - World Champion '68, Champion of America 1968 - 1969 - 1970 -2009. Club where Juan Sebastián Verón played.
  • Newell's Old Boys - team where Gabriel Batistuta played
  • Colón De Santa Fe - team with the largest number of supporters based on Argentina's coast

Other sports

Rugby and basketball (basquet) are also popular.

Argentine Polo is famous throughout the world, and the country is home to all of the highest ranked players today. First introduced by British settlers in the 1870s, skilful gauchos adopted it and the passion caught like wildfire. The Argentine Polo Open, usually played on early December every year, is a must for polo fans from all over the world. The sport's governing body is the Asociacion Argentina de polo and its webpage lists all the official tournaments held each year. Argentina is also well known for the many polo clinics held on clubs and farms around Buenos Aires.

Tennis has been growing in popularity with the Argentina's steady production of top players over the past three decades.

Field hockey has also became a popular sport, especially among women. The National Women's Field Hockey Team, Las Leonas (The Lionesses), has grown in the past years and developed into a now competes against the best in the world.

Car racing is popular too: The main leagues are Turismo Carretera (Ford vs Chevrolet), TC2000 (Touring Cars) and TopRace. The most important racetrack in Argentina is in Buenos Aires is "Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez.

Golf in Argentina is an increasingly popular sport thanks in part to the success of Argentinian players such as Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero and Eduardo Romero. There are currently around 280 courses in the country, most located around Buenos Aires and including such well-known names as the Jockey Club, Olivos and Hurlingham. On the Atlantic coast in Mar del Plata are a couple of courses that have held international events, and Patagonia has excellent resort courses such as Llao Lloa, Arelauquen and Chapelco (a Nicklaus design) as well as the 9-hole course in Ushaia.

Food

Argentinian breakfasts are somewhat light compared to what travellers from English-speaking countries are accustomed to. Typically, it consists of a hot drink (coffee, tea, milk) with some toasts, medialunas (croissants, literally "halfmoons"), or bread.

Hotels typically provide a free buffet consisting of coffee, tea, drinkable yogurt, assorted pastries and toast, fruit, and perhaps cereal. These kinds of breakfasts are also readily available in the many cafes.

Lunch is a big meal in Argentina, typically taken in the early afternoon. Lunch is so big because dinner is not until late: 20:30 to 21:00 at the earliest, more commonly at 22:00 or even later. Most restaurants do not serve food until then except for pastries or small ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches (tostados), for afternoon tea 18:00-20:00. Tea is the one meal that is rarely skipped. A few cafés do offer heartier fare all day long, but don't expect anything more substantial than pizza or a milanesa (breaded meat fillets) or a lomito (steak sandwiches) outside of normal Argentine mealtimes. Dinner is usually eaten at 22:00 and typically consists of appetizers, a main course, and desserts.

By the way, North Americans should beware that Argentinians use the term "entrée" to refer to appetizers. This is common outside of North America but can surprise some Canadians and most Americans. Only in those parts of North America outside of the province of Quebec) is the "entrée" a "main dish". In Argentina the main dish is a "plato principal".

The entrée in Argentina typically consists of empanadas (baked pastries with a meat filling), chorizo or morcilla (meat or blood sausage), and assortments of achuras (entrails). For a main dish there is usually bife de chorizo (sirloin / New York Strip steak) and various types of salads. Dessert is often a custard with dulce de leche and whipped cream topping.

Beef is a prominent component of the Argentine diet and Argentine beef is world-famous for good reason. Argentina and Uruguay are the top 2 countries in meat per capita consumption in the world. Definitely check out Argentine barbecue: asado, sometimes also called parrillada, because it is made on a parrilla, or grill. There is no way around it - foodwise Argentina is virtually synonymous with beef. The beef is some of the best in the world, and there are many different cuts of meat. Lomo (tenderloin) and bife de chorizo are excellent. "Costillas" (ribs) is considered by locals the real "asado" meat cut and is very tasty. North Americans will see that costillas are different to those at home. Argentinians cut ribs perpendicular to the bone. Having a parrillada dinner is one of the best ways to experience Argentine cuisine; preferably with a bottle of wine and a good amount of salads. In some popular areas, parrilladas are available from small buffets, or sidewalk carts and barbecue trailers. Skewers and steak sandwiches can then be purchased to go.

Given that a large portion of Argentines are of Italian, Spanish and French descent, such fare is very widespread and of high quality; pizzerias and specialized restaurants are very common. Take note that a convention observed in Argentina is to treat the pasta and sauce as separate items; some travellers have found out what they thought was cheap pasta only to find that they were not getting any sauce. You will see the pastas for one price and then the sauces for an additional charge.

Cafés, bakeries, and ice-cream shops (heladerías) are very popular. Inexpensive and high-quality snacks can be found in most commercial areas, and many have outdoor seating areas. Empanadas (turnovers) containing meats, cheeses, or many other fillings can be bought cheaply from restaurants or lunch counters. The Alfajor is a must try snack of a two cookies with a dulce de leche filling and can be purchased at virtually any local kiosco.

Smoking is now prohibited in most of Buenos Aires' restaurants and all of Mendoza's restaurants. In some cities, it's forbidden in all public buildings (cafés, shops, banks, bus stations, etc.), so it's better to ask before smoking anywhere.

Signature/national dishes

  • Asado
  • Empanada (baked pastries with a meat filling)
  • Milanesa (breaded meat fillets)
  • Humita
  • Chorizo (sausage) and Choripan (with bread)
  • Tarta de Jamón y Queso (baked pastry crust with ham and cheese filling)
  • Guiso Criollo - with meat, vegetables and fruit

Desserts and snacks

  • Dulce de leche
  • Alfajores
  • Helado

Drinks

Yerba mate (pronounced in two syllables, 'MAH-tae') is a traditional Argentine herbal drink, prepared in a hollowed-out gourd which is passed around in a social setting and drunk through a metal straw. Although usually drunk hot, mate can also be served cold, usually known as "tereré". Terere is preferred in Paraguay. Mate contains less caffeine than coffee, but contains other vitamins and minerals that give it a stimulating effect, particularly to those who are not used to it. It is naturally rather bitter, so it's not uncommon to add sugar. The drinking of mate with friends is an important social ritual in Argentina. The informal tea ceremony is lead by a "cebador" or server and people arrange themselves in a "rueda" or wheel. Those who like the drink bitter and those who like it sweet are clustered together to aide the server.

Argentina is renowned for its excellent selection of wine. The most popular being Mendoza which is rated among the worlds most popular regions due to its high altitude, volcanic soils and proximity to the Andes Mountains. The terrain seems to complement the European grape varietals with interesting notes not present when produced in other climates, this allows the Argentine wine to be positioned in a league of its own. The best way to experience and understand the selection of Argentine varietals is one of the many tasting events.

Most restaurants serve a broad range of liquors. Beer is offered in draft form in a chopp (small glass) or served in bottles or cans, and is typically a light, easily drinkable lager. The most popular locally made brands of beer are Quilmes, Isenbeck, Schneider and Brahma (although it's Brazilian). Widely-available imports include Warsteiner, Heineken, Budweiser and Corona. There are now many small pubs and bars in Buenos Aires that brew beer on premises, but most of these offer a poor quality product compared to what is widely available in parts of the USA and Europe. In the Buenos Aires area, the Buller Brewing Company in Recoleta and the Antares Brewery in Mar del Plata offer excellent handcrafted English/American style ales.

Ask if there are "cervezas artesanales" to discover if there are locally hand crafted beers.

Fernet is widely consumed by Argentinians, especially in Córdoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. Originally from Italy, it's a bitter drink made from herbs, with 40% alcohol by volume and dark brown in hue. It can be mixed with Coke (served in bars, pubs, clubs) and if you go to an Argentinian house they will have Fernet and Coke to offer you. Also, Fernet is usually served as a digestif after a meal, but may also be enjoyed with coffee and espresso, or mixed into coffee and espresso drinks. It may be enjoyed at room temperature or with ice.

Cafés often have fresh-squeezed fruit juices, which is otherwise hard to find. The legal drinking age is officially 18, although most establishments will serve anyone approximately 16 or older.

Shopping

The official currency of Argentina is the peso (ARS), divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in 5, 10, 25, 50 centavo and 1 and 2 peso denominations. Banknotes are issued in values of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. Be prepared to receive 5 or 10 cent change in the form of golosinas (candies), especially in Chinese supermarkets.

Since 1969 thirteen zeroes have been dropped (a factor of ten trillion) as differing names of peso have been revalued again and again.

In more recent times the exchange rate hovered around ARS3 = USD1 from 2002 to 2008, dipped to about ARS4 = USD1 from 2009 to 2011 and officially reached 6 pesos in Nov 2013. However, due to the National Government's policies and the market's lack of trust in the peso, the free exchange rate (the only one possible, as the government has now banned all access to US dollars) is about 10 pesos per US dollar (although it fluctuates wildly).

Black market

The government pegs the peso at an artificially high level and heavily restricts currency exchange from pesos into dollars, leading to a thriving black market in the "blue dollar" (dólar blue). The market is so huge that the latest rates are published in newspapers and on websites like DolarBlue.net. As of November 2013, the government rate is 5.85 pesos per US$1, while the black market rate fluctuates around ARS9.40 per USD1. This translates to USD100 being worth around 585 pesos if exchanged officially or withdrawn from an ATM, vs. 940 pesos on the black market. Other currencies like the Chilean and Uruguayan peso exhibit similar behavior, although the dollar commands a premium. The best rates will be received for USD100 bills in good conditions when exchanging more than USD1000.

Black market dealers are called arbolitos ("little trees") and they operate from cuevas ("caves"). They can be found everywhere, with Florida St in Buenos Aires being particularly notorious. If you choose to go down this route, remember that this is illegal, so take all possible precautions to avoid getting ripped off and remember that your money may be confiscated if you are busted by the police.

In October 2013 all exchange places at Foz do Iguaçu were officially selling Argentinian pesos for rates closer to the Blue rate than to the official rate. Other options to get a good rate are to transfer money electronically using services such as Xoom (only from the US) or Azimo (only from the UK).

Credit cards

Peso purchases with foreign credit cards get exchanged at the terrible official rate, so this is best avoided. If you want to use a debit or credit card, the checkout operator in places like supermarkets will require you to present both your card and a form of identification such as a drivers' licence. Present both simultaneously at checkout and with confidence. A lack of confidence will lead to a request for your passport as identification. For larger purchases such as long-distance bus tickets you will need to present your passport and your credit card. Although this makes shopping difficult, do try to keep your passport in a location such as a hotel-room safe.

As of 2011, unlike other parts of South America such as Peru, the credit card purchasing systems do not support credit card PINs. So, if you enabled PIN in your home country do not expect the Argentinian restaurant, hotel, or retailer to ask for you to key it in. Instead, they will ask for your signature, which is normal.

Shopping

The fashion and art scenes are booming. Buenos Aires' signature European-South American style overflows with unique art pieces, art deco furniture, and antiques. Creative and independent, local fashion designers - who are becoming a source of inspiration for the U.S. and European high-end markets - compose their collections based on lots of leather, wools, woven fabrics, and delicate laces with a gaucho twist. At times, the exchange rate can present good value for international tourists. For example, in early 2006 the dollar and the euro were strong in comparison with the then-weak Argentina peso.

Fashionable clothing and leather products can be found in most commercial areas; jackets, boots and shoes are easily available. However, Buenos Aires has a relatively mild climate, so truly cold-weather gear is harder to find here. Long coats or heavy gloves may not be in stock; similarly, jeans and other basics have a thin construction compared with those in cooler countries. The Andes regions and Patagonia are considerably colder in the winter, so thick clothing is much easier to find here.

Electronics are not cheap, as they are subject to heavy import tariffs. The price of music, books, and movies lags slightly behind changes in the exchange rate and can offer a bargain if the volatile exchange rates are in your favour.

Most freestanding shops in Buenos Aires are open 10:00-20:00 on weekdays, and some of them also Saturdays and Sundays, depending on what area of the city they are in. Enclosed malls, however, set their own hours, and are also open on the weekends.

Most places outside of the city of Buenos Aires, where most stores remain open during a siesta, still observe a siesta from approximately noon until 16:00; almost all businesses are closed during this time. The precise closing hours vary from store to store, according to the preferences of the owner. Shops and offices generally open again in the evening until 21:00 or 22:00.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Argentina on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Argentina

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Buenos Aires is the capital of the Argentine Republic. The name means fair winds, or literally good air, in Spanish. The official name is Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires/Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, also called Capital Federal/Federal Capital. It is one of the largest cities in Latin America, with a lot ... (read more)

Interesting places:

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Bariloche is in the Río Negro Province, near the Nahuel Huapi National Park in Argentina.

Interesting places:

  • Civic Center Bariloche
  • Llao LLao Golf Course
  • Panuelo Port
  • Cathedral San Carlos de Bariloche
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Mendoza is a province in the Cuyo region of Argentina. It is located at the center-west of the country, bordered in the north with the San Juan province, in the east with San Luis and La Pampa provinces, in the south with Neuquén province and in the west with Chile, the Andes mountain range being the natural ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Independence Square
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Foz do Iguaçu is a major city in the state of Paraná, Brazil. It is a gateway to both Paraguay and Argentina, and home of the famous Iguaçu Falls. Together with the cities of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), it forms part of one the largest cultural tourism poles in South America.

Interesting places:

  • Iguazu National Park
  • Iguazu Falls
  • Iguazu Casino
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El Calafate is a small town that has grown due to the tourist influx into the Patagonia region of Argentina. It is set on the glacial blue Lago Argentina and is full of eager trekkers.

Interesting places:

  • El Calafate Regional Museum
  • Glaciarium
  • Gnome Village
  • Bajo Las Sombras Port
  • Argentinian Museum of Toys
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Salta is a province of Argentina. The western part of the province is in the Andean Northwest region, the eastern part is in the Chaco region.

Interesting places:

  • 9 de Julio Square
  • Salta Cathedral
  • Salta Town Hall
  • Plaza Guemes
  • Palacio Legislativo
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Situated on the Beagle Strait, Ushuaia is the largest city in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, and arguably the southernmost city in the world. In the past, the town has been a missionary base, penal colony and naval base for the Argentine navy. Ushuaia is now a major tourist town, complete with casinos and nice ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Fin del Mundo Museum
  • Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse
  • Estancia Harberton
  • Glaciar Martial
  • Tierra del Fuego National Park
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Córdoba is the second largest city in Argentina, with about 1.4 million inhabitants, and is the capital of the Cordoba province. It is in the heart of the Argentinean territory on the Pampas. The city is surrounded by valleys, formed up by three main mountain groups. It is known for the colonial buildings in ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Carmelite Monastery
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Mar del Plata is located about 400 km south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the summer months, December through March, the beaches are crowded with Porteños on holiday. Outside the summer months, the city is much less crowded. However there are 700,000 residents who live there year round. It is a very large ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Central Casino
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Rosario is a city in Santa Fe province, Argentina.

Interesting places:

  • National Flag Memorial (Monumento Nacional a la Bandera)
  • Palace of the Lions
  • Plaza 25 de Mayo
  • La Bola de Nieve
  • Isla de los Inventos
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Points of Interest in Argentina

For many travellers, Argentina as a country has the same seductive appeal as the tango it's famous for. Just like that iconic partner dance, Argentina embraces you, constantly moving to the rhythm of the streets and improvising every step of the way.

Urban vibes

Its large cities all bustle with life. The famous capital, Buenos Aires, is the most visited city in South America and a place like no other. Of course, there's fancy cosmopolitan boutiques, top of the line nightlife and gourmet cuisine. However, it's the classic, unpolished side of the city that makes it a world wide traveller's magnet. The downtrodden but colourful neighbourhoods where crazy traffic sounds drown out distant accordion tunes, the pleasant street-cafés and parillas (steak houses), busy outdoor markets and the lovely old centre with its European colonial architecture. San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood of the city and a good place to indulge in the city vibe of cafés, street artists, tango parlors and antique markets in a colonial surrounding. The atmosphere is perhaps Buenos Aires' biggest attraction, but some of the main sights include Recoleta’s cemetery and the Plaza de Mayo. Argentina's other big cities share the energetic buzz of BA, but have a distinct character of their own. Mendoza is a lively yet laid-back town, characterized by broad avenues. It's famous as a wine capital far beyond the borders of Argentina and a perfect starting point for the Argentina Wine Route along the hundreds of wineries in the area. As it's close to the Andes, it's also a good base for winter sports and other outdoor activities. The old university city Córdoba is known for its particular musical culture with the cuarteto as its number one music style. The city also boasts some of the best colonial heritage sights in the country. Bariloche, also at the base of the Andes mountains, is a major tourist destination, popular for its skiing opportunities, lovely beaches and chocolate shops.

Natural wonders

Fascinating as Argentina's urban life may be, the country's mighty natural attractions are at least as good a reason to come. The landscapes are incredibly various, from the high peaks of the Andes and the famous Perito Moreno Glacier to cacti filled desserts, sandy Atlantic beaches and biodiverse wetlands. With some 30 national parks in the country, there's always a good place nearby to see some of the country's natural wonders. A highlight in the subtropical north are the spectacular Iguaçu Falls, easily one of the most impressive waterfalls on earth. Argentina's wildlife includes flamingos, penguins, caimans and capybaras, sea lions and -at times- even whales. Especially when you're visiting in autumn, the coastal town of Puerto Madryn is a must. From there you can easily make your way to Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdes to go whale-watching and meet up close and personal with some of the million penguins who come to Patagonia each year to nest and raise their young. Head to El Calafate to organize your tour to the highly popular Los Glaciares National Park and see the famous glaciers and the icy Argentino Lake. Be amazed by the many colours and remarkable rock formations of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a mountain range in the north that extends far over the Bolivian border. Drive through and spot traditional villages and indigenous women and their goat herds. Other great destinations for nature lovers include the Ibera wetlands (with the most divers fauna in the country) and Talampaya National Park, a primary site for archaeological and palaeontological finds.

Some other highlights

The countryside in general is a most pleasant side of Argentina; laid-back and with a taste for life close to nature. Rural villages are a breath of fresh air compared to the country's hectic big cities and a nice way to experience traditional culture. The north is as South-American as Argentina gets. Its wine regions are famous throughout the world and an increasingly popular tourist destination. If the bustle of Buenos Aires is too much for your taste, Mendoza and Salta are an excellent choice. They also make for a good base to explore the scenic regional vineyards and friendly villages with the Andes mountains in the background. Salta is also the starting point for the Train to the Clouds, a heritage railway that seems to be running solely to provide some unforgettable panoramas for travellers. The Traslasierra Valley is a pleasant green valley and one of the many places where you can enjoy a world class spa, as hot springs naturally occur around here. Finally, if you like a day at the beach, Argentina has plenty to offer for you. Mar del Plata is one of the top destinations for beach resorts.

Women\'s Bridge - Buenos Aires

Iguazu National Park - Iguazu

Carmelite Monastery - Cordoba

Moreno Square - La Plata

Central Casino - Mar del Plata

9 de Julio Square - Salta

Parque de la Costa - Tigre

Civic Center Bariloche - Bariloche

National Flag Memorial (Monumento Nacional a la Bandera) - Rosario

Fin del Mundo Museum - Ushuaia

Our Lady of Lujan Cathedral - Lujan

Eduardo Costa Square - Campana

Independence Square - Mendoza

Banco de la Nacion Argentina - Buenos Aires

Casa Rosada - Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral - Buenos Aires

Plaza de Mayo - Buenos Aires

Cabildo - Buenos Aires

Iguazu Falls - Iguazu

Obelisco - Buenos Aires

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