Argentina is a country of contrasts. Extending 5121 kilometres long from La Quiaca to Ushuaia, it boasts a huge variety of geography and climates, and is the homeland of many natural wonders of unparalleled beauty (watch this video).
But contradiction in not only evident in its nature, it’s also part of its people’s character: while culture, creativity and humor are the three characteristics that stand out of Argentines’ personality in the eyes of foreigners, an overwhelming majority mentions arrogance as their worst trait… True, stereotypes are not good, but as an Argentinian living abroad for many years I would say that this description is quite accurate 😉
In this post you will find a list of the top 10 things you can experience in Argentina – and nowhere else…
1) Cross the world’s widest avenue
When in Buenos Aires, it is for sure that you won’t miss Avenida 9 de Julio. With its 140 meters (459 ft) width, it’s considered the widest avenue in the world (although some controversy exists). It has seven lanes in each direction and is flanked on either side by parallel streets of two lanes each. This avenue is located in the heart of Buenos Aires, and besides its impressive width -regarded as an urban world wonder– you can admire the emblematic obelisco standing as the most iconic symbol of the city…
2) Dance tango at an authentic milonga
Tango has become a global phenomenon. With its elegance, sensuality and passion, it has even featured in many films… Thus, it is very likely that you have already seen, or danced tango. But only in Buenos Aires you can get the real thing. Choose among Buenos Aires’ best milongas (the places where tango is danced), show off your dance skills, and have the time of your life!
3) Take a ferry across the world’s widest river – and end up in Uruguay
The Rio de la Plata (River Plate) widens at its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean to about 220 kilometres (140 miles), making it the widest river in the world. This particular river separates -or rather unites- Argentina and Uruguay, not only geographically, but also culturally speaking… While in Buenos Aires, take a ferry across the Rio de la Plata and admire Uruguay’s atmospheric, UNESCO world heritage town of Colonia del Sacramento. Alternatively, you can visit charming Montevideo or chic Punta del Este.
4) Eat the best asado of your life
We may argue whether Argentina has the world’s best meat -I may be biased on this one- but there is no doubt the eating an asado in Argentina will be an unforgettable experience. To prepare asado, beef and/or other meats are cooked on a grill called parrilla, or otherwise on open fire, that is asado a la estaca. For Argentinians, though, asado is not only meat, but also the social event that comes with it. Without any doubt, asado is part of the Argentine national identity, a sort of art or ritual…
Unless you are vegetarian, this is definitively a not-to-be-missed while in Argentina. For an even bolder experience, you may try an asado criollo at an estancia (ranch), where you can also get a taste of the gaucho culture.
5) Visit the world’s most beautiful waterfalls – and fly over them
It is said that when USA first lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw Iguazu Falls, she exclaimed: “Poor Niagara”. It is indeed not easy to find words to define this nature’s miracle; no photo or video can capture their almightiness: the feelings, the sound, the smells are indescribable… These monumental falls are located in the border between Argentina and Brazil, in the middle of a dense jungle, and to best explore them you must visit both countries… They consist of 275 waterfalls, the “star” of which is La garganta del diablo (“the Devil’s throat”; you will understand the name when you see it). Fair enough, Iguazu falls are deemed “unlike any other waterfall on earth“, and were chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
6) Drink Argentinean Malbec at one of the world’s trendiest wine regions
Malbec is Argentina’s flagship wine, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. Especially if you are a wine lover, you can’t leave from Argentina without having a glass of Malbec in Mendoza, the largest wine-producing area of Argentina. Framed by the imposing Andes Mountains, boasting an exceptional climate -with over 300 days of sun a year- Mendoza is a perfect escape, deservedly regarded as one of the world’s top wine destinations. Besides wine-tasting in one of the 120 wineries, you can enjoy other activities such as horseback riding or hiking expeditions. As if that wasn’t enough, the great food and the outstanding wine hotels will add up for a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
7) Climb the tallest mountain of the Southern & Western hemisphere
If you are seeking challenge at high altitude surrounded by a spectacular setting, climbing Mount Aconcagua is for you. Located in the Andes Mountain range, near the border with Chile, Mount Aconcagua is the highest summit in both the Western and Southern Hemisphere at 6962 meters (22,841 ft).
Aconcagua is the highest non-technical mountain in the world -no climbing gear is required when ascending by the northern, so-called “normal” route. Although considered and “easy climb” it should not be underestimated. It’s not a good idea to attempt it alone; your best bet is to join an organized climbing expedition and enjoy an unforgettable experience.
8) Admire the Earth’s most stunning glacier – and hike on it
Arguably the world’s most amazing glacier, Glaciar Perito Moreno is the highlight of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, located 80 km (50 mi) from the town of El Calafate.
Due to its accessibility, this impressive ice field, 30km (19 mi) long, 5km wide and 60m high is one of the world’s most visited glaciers. But what makes it truly exceptional is its constant advance, up to 2m per day, which causes frequent glacier breakage: if you are lucky enough, you will witness huge ice chunks detaching from the glacier and plummeting into Lake Argentino.
Just standing there and watching Perito Moreno from one of the three viewing areas on land is a breathtaking spectacle, but if you want a more adventurous experience, you can take a boat ride on Lake Argentino, fly over the National Park, or even hike across the glacier.
9) Drive along the southern stretch of the world’s longest road
If you love road trips, driving along La Panamericana (Pan-American Highway), the world’s longest road, should be definitely in your bucket list. “The mother of all roads”-as is usually called- extends 48,000 kilometres (30,000 miles), starting from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, traversing all North, Central and South America before reaching the bottom of the planet at Ushuaia (see below).
But if you still feel like driving, there is another road trip that you shouldn’t miss in Argentina: the legendary Ruta 40, running in the west along the Andes Mountains, stretching from La Quiaca in the North to Rio Gallegos in the south. This iconic road passes through places of mind-blowing natural beauty, from salt flats and desserts in the north to lakes and glaciers in the south.
10) Travel to “the end of the world” – and embark to Antarctica
In Argentina’s southern end, on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, lies Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. While reaching this picturesque city and exploring the beautiful surroundings is exciting enough, the latest years an increasing number of travellers arrive to Ushuaia as a stopover to one of the globe’s most remote destinations: Antarctica.
Photo Gallery: Futbol clarin.com; Tango dancers José María Pérez Nuñez Flickr.com; Tren de las nubes: Viajá por tu País Flickr.com; Cerro de los 7 colores: Klaus Balzano Flickr.com; Whale: theargentinaspecialists; San Antonio de Areco: Alberto Gonzalez Flickr.com; Esteros del Ibera: woman2womenblog.com; Salinas Grandes: mariusz kluzniak Flickr.com
1) Hubofbest.com; 2) youtube.com; 3) Wikimedia commons; 4) Nico Aguilera Flickr.com; 5) iguazuargentina.com; 6) saperedivino.it; 7) alpineascents.com; 8) photos4travel.com; 9) ripioturismo.com; 10) Wikimedia commons