Every person who has visited Argentina will be able to give you a different, but equally enticing reason to visit. It is the epitome of diversity; from deserts to glaciers, mountain ranges to dense jungle, its landscapes alone offer something for almost every interest. It is the eighth-largest country in the world, but most of the population is concentrated within its cities, meaning there are vast corners of Argentina that are completely untouched. If you need an excuse to book a luxury cruise to South America, here are 10 reasons to visit:
1. The incredible landscapes
South America is a continent blessed with wonderful natural landscapes, but standing out above the rest is Argentina. The scenery mystifies visitors, even well-travelled individuals will be blown away by some of the sights the country offers. How are we so sure? Anyone who has spent time in Argentina will tell you that even the locals ask what they have done to deserve such a beautiful place to live.
You’ll see vast expanses where wild horses roam free, arguably the most incredible waterfalls in the world and even a UNESCO Heritage canyon in Talampaya National Park. In the north of the country, you will find the more barren, otherworldly settings, while in the south you’ll discover glaciers and the incredible mountains of Patagonia.
El Chaltén - A hiker’s paradise, El Chaltén is made up of the world-renowned Cerro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy mountains, as well as glaciers and deep blue lakes.
Bariloche - Bariloche is a land of unspoilt nature. Here you can explore the landscape in peace, or partake in the activities like horse riding and kayaking.
Valle de la Luna - Otherwise known as the Valley of the Moon, this landscape is one of the most exciting fossil hunting locations on the planet. Scientists and palaeontologists have been coming here since the 1930s unearthing some of the most well-preserved dinosaurs on record.
2. National parks
Argentina is vast. It has an area of approximately 2,780,400 square kilometres, meaning it is roughly 11 times the size of the United Kingdom. And still, despite its vast size, its population is well below that of the UK at roughly 44 million, meaning there’s plenty of wilderness to enjoy. Out of its 23 provinces, just four do not contain a designated national park. Four of the national parks in Argentina have also been named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, they are: Iguazu National Park, Los Glaciares National Park, Ischigualasto / Talampaya Natural Parks and Los Alerces National Park.
If you are in need of a travel guide or a canny travel hack, head to The Globetrotting Teacher. Jackie, the brains behind the blog, covers everything from budget travel to practical guides, like her piece on planning a trip to Patagonia. Jackie spoke to us about Argentina’s national parks:
“Plan a trip to Argentina to experience the incredible Los Glaciares National Park! Take in the vast beauty of Perito Moreno Glacier before trekking out onto the blue ice. If you time your visit for the fall, the contrast between the glacier and the colourful fall foliage will take your breath away. Then, base yourself for a few nights in El Chaltén to hike the park's trails, the most famous of course the Laguna de Los Tres hike to the Mount Fitz-Roy viewpoint. Seeing the jagged peaks up close is simply spectacular!”
In total, there are 33 national parks across the country. Much of this is down to how urbanised the population is; more than 92 per cent of people in Argentina live in urban areas.
3. Argentinian wine
Thousands visit the vineyards of France, Italy, California or Australia each year to see where their favourite bottle comes from or to discover a new favourite. But you might wish to spend your time in Argentina discovering its renowned wineries. The wine produced in Argentina, like their popular Malbec, can certainly rival that of Europe, North America and Australia. Wine is a common feature of many meals and holds a significant place in the country’s culture.
Much of the credit for such fine wine comes down the varied climates, or specifically, terroir. This is a combination of environmental factors that affects a crop’s characteristics. As we’ve previously mentioned, you will find many imposing mountain ranges and barren expanses of land in Argentina, meaning these climates produce distinctive tastes and qualities unique to the country.
4. Argentinian food
Argentinians are extremely passionate about food. The country is revered the world around for the quality of its beef, something you should not miss when on your luxury cruise holiday. Locals will tell you that their nation’s beef is the best on the planet.
Asado is the national dish, but this is so much more than your usual barbecue food. It is a South American way of preparing food, typically served at events and special occasions. The best cuts of beef, sausages and other meats are prepared and are either cooked on a large parilla (grill) or over an open fire.
Another dish to try is Locro, a stew commonly served on 25th May to celebrate Argentina’s May Revolution. Along with a few vegetables, Locro is made up of corn, red chorizo, beef and tripe. Alternatively, if you have more of a sweet tooth, try Alfajores. Similar to shortbread, these are a crumbly delight, filled with jam, mousse or a dulce de leche filling.
If you need some fuel to keep you going as you explore the towns and cities, pick up Argentina’s favourite street food. Empanadas will probably remind you of a Cornish pasty and like that classic British dish, they come with a variety of fillings for meat eaters and vegetarians. Empanadas do vary depending on the region. In some areas you may find some stuffed with quinoa and goat’s cheese, or beef, spring onion, egg and potato in another.
5. The art and culture in Buenos Aires
The capital city, Buenos Aires, is the birthplace of the Tango, one of the most popular and recognised forms of dance. It is also one of the cultural hubs of South America. You will be able to identify with the architecture, the design of which has been significantly influenced by Europe, before diving into Argentinian culture. Buenos Aires is certainly not for shy and retiring travellers. The locals are extremely friendly and inquisitive and want you to experience everything the city has to offer. Buenos Aires has also been battling against capitalist materialism for years, meaning that there are far more independent stores and stalls than in other major cities around the world.
6. The adventure
For lovers of the great outdoors, Argentina is a dream destination. With such a dynamic landscape, opportunities for rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, rafting, horse riding, biking, hiking and so much more.
Horses are a big part of Argentinian culture, so for something a little different, try riding with gauchos. Considered nomads, or outlaws, gauchos became known as freedom fighters, but you might liken them to cowboys. Throughout the country you can spend some time with them wrestling cattle, riding through the remote countryside and enjoying folk songs over some authentic asado. If you are the kind of person who just cannot stay indoors for long, then you simply will not be able to find another destination that satisfies your hunger for action quite like Argentina.
7. Iguazu Falls
No amount of words or pictures can do one of Argentina’s most famous natural wonders justice. The late first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, was reported to have exclaimed “Poor Niagara”, referring to Niagara Falls in New York, when she first came across Iguazu Falls. Meaning ‘big water’, the falls were formed some 120 million years ago and can be found in the Iguazu National Park, near the Province of Misiones.
One quarter of a million gallons of water cascade down these cliffs - some of which taller than the Statue of Liberty - every second. This is where you will find the greatest annual flow of any waterfall in the world. Designated a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, more than one million people visit the falls each year. You will run out of words to describe just how staggering this place is and nothing will be able to describe the sound and feel of the water crashing into the plunge pools below.
Angela is a well-travelled writer, photographer and blogger, documenting her experiences on her site Chasing the Unexpected. When asked why someone should visit Argentina, Angela was quick to recommend the falls:
"I absolutely adored the Iguazu Falls, to the point that they make for a reason for me to go back to Argentina. It was a beautiful sunny day, and even though our guide told us that the water was not at its highest level, our eyes couldn't get enough of the power of its flow. As part of the adventure, we went on a little boat tour to admire the rich vegetation and colourful wildlife, and before leaving, we obviously ventured to the Devil's Throat, the tallest among the hundreds of waterfalls forming this natural wonder. Any word or superlative I could use to describe it wouldn't be enough to give an honest idea of such natural power, the best and only thing you can do is to visit it yourself. For sure, I will always remember this as one of the highlights of my South American trip."
8. The wildlife
Looking at pictures of Argentina you may be forgiven for thinking that most of its landscapes look inhospitable and void of life. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a vast country and as such, has an incredible variety of animals to entice nature lovers to book their luxury cruise holiday to Argentina.
Endearing and loveable, capybara are the world’s largest rodent. They can be found along Argentina’s waterways, marshes, swamps and lakes, particularly the Ibera Wetlands. A close relative to the guinea pig, these animals can weigh up to 66kg, but thanks to their webbed feet they are proficient swimmers.
An extremely rare sight, these big cats have been known to prowl parts of northern Argentina. These are the largest cats in South America and are held in high regard by indigenous cultures. Sadly though their numbers have depleted dramatically due to poaching and a loss of habitat. Any sighting is a real treasure and should be savoured.
Across South America, there are three species of flamingo: The Andean, Chilean and James’s. You can find all three in Argentina in their large colonies on salt flats and their lakes. Living of off algae and plankton, one of the best places to spot the vibrant flamingo is the Salinas Grandes in the Jujuy and Salta provinces.
More intriguing animals include the bizarre pink fairy armadillo, measuring just six inches long and featuring a distinctive rose shell. These unusual animals can be found in central Argentina. There is also the Patagonian hare, a rabbit that can grow to the size of a small deer and the guanaco, which resembles a mix between a camel and a llama.
9. The sport
Argentinians take sport very seriously. The country’s national sport is football and has been since it was introduced by British soldiers in the 1860s, with its international side becoming one of the most successful teams in the world. Similarly, Argentinians continue to dominate the world of polo after winning Olympic gold in 1924. Elsewhere the likes of volleyball, boxing, basketball, hockey, tennis and rugby are all very popular.
There are some dates in particular that are ringed in red each year though. Widely considered to be football’s biggest and most fiercely contested rivalry belongs to River Plate and Boca Juniors. On average the match between the two sides generates at least two red cards. It may to some people boil down to just 90 minutes of football, but the build-up and the post-match reverberations can be felt for weeks after the final whistle. If you are a football fan, or have never been to a match before, this spectacle ranks among the very best in sport.
10. Reach the end of the world
One stop on your luxury cruise holiday to Argentina will be Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. Ushuaia is in fact closer to the South Pole than it is Argentina’s border with Bolivia in the north. If you weren’t travelling by water you would have to navigate dense scrublands, crumbling mountain roads and desolate forests. If visiting the end of the world and the most southerly city isn’t enough for you, the area is actually incredibly beautiful. The backdrops are made up of dramatic mountain ranges, interspersed with dense woodland.
Image credits: Jorge Láscar, Nico Kaiser, Daniel Perez Sutil, Harsh Tank