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With a fabulous combination of natural history attractions, Argentina is truly one of the world’s great wildlife destinations

Argentina, second only in South America to Brazil in size and population, encompasses a vast array of habitats and influences affording unique and exhilarating cultural and wildlife encounters.

The original Amerindian tribes were all but wiped out by disease and persecution brought by waves of Spanish, Italian, German, English and Welsh immigration which gave rise to the Argentina we see today. Watch a tango show (the archetypal Argentine art form), admire the elegant architecture of Buenos Aires, sample excellent steaks and fine wines, visit an estancia and ride out with gauchos, ski in Bariloche, trek atop glaciers, marvel at the Iguazu Falls, sip tea and attend an eisteddfod in Welsh Gaiman – and enjoy the wonderful wildlife found in Patagonia and the Ibera wetlands.

Argentina’s varied geography includes a large portion of the Andes range including Aconcagua, at 7000 metres the highest peak in the western hemisphere. Vast rainforests surround Iguazu Falls, the most impressive waterfalls on Earth; the pampas holds historic estancias and huge beef herds; the wetlands of Ibera contain fascinating birdlife; the Chaco grassland has such oddities as giant armadillo; and Tierra del Fuego, with its glaciers and iceberg-filled lakes, is the closest you can get to Antarctica without setting sail. The extensive Patagonian plains provide a home for guanaco, hare, fox, armadillo and feature a wildlife-rich coastline. Southern right whales come close to shore to calve while orcas mount daring beach raids on sea lion colonies. Penguins hide in their burrows and gigantic male elephant seals do fierce, bloody battle for prized harems.

Whatever combination of fabulous attractions you eventually choose, you are sure to discover that Argentina is truly one of the world’s great wildlife and scenic destinations.

Highlights

What To See

Cafayate

Set against the backdrop of the Andes, Cafayate is famous for its Torrontes wine, the product of a perfect combination of temperature and humidity enabling this sweet, deep fruit flavoured vine to flourish. Cafayate also produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah and Chardonnay wines.

Tucuman

One of the oldest cities in Argentina, San Miguel de Tucuman (usually called just Tucuman) is the capital of Tucuman province and the largest city in the north. It was colonised by Spaniards coming south from Peru in 1565 and there is still a great deal of colonial architecture to be seen in the city’s churches, government buildings, mansions and houses. It was in the town’s Casa Historica that Argentina’s Declaration of Independence was drawn up in 1816.

North of the city is the weekend retreat of Tafi del Valle, nestled in a lovely setting surrounded by mountains and a pleasing microclimate. The Tafi pre-Inca culture flourished in this area and one of their most distinctive features was the construction of menhirs. Many have been gathered together and can be found in El Parque de los Menhirs.

Tren A Las Nubes

Dating from 1921 and translated as the Train to the Clouds, this impressive railway journey departs from Salta and runs for 136 miles to the Chilean border. The journey lasts approximately 16 hours reaching heights of up to 4,220 metres and includes 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 29 bridges, two loops and two zig-zags,.

Quebrada de Humahuaca

A narrow mountain valley stretching north from the town of Juyjuy in Argentina’s extreme northwest, the Quebrada de Humahuaca follows a major cultural route for almost 100 miles to the cold desert plateau of the high Andes. The vast gorge shows evidence of use as a major pre-Inca and pre-Hispanic trade route dating back 10,000 years, resulting in a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 2003. The valley is dotted with small towns amidst an unusual landscape characterised by brilliantly coloured bands of rock, such as the picturesque village of Purmamarca which sits at the foot of the spectacular Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Coloured Hill).

To the west of Purmamarca, a zigzag climb to almost 4,200 metres elevation leads to the salt flats of Salinas Grandes.

North of Purmamarca, the town of Tilcara has a restored pre-Hispanic hilltop settlement, Pucara, with panoramic views of the gorge, an excellent archaeological museum and a colourful handicrafts market.

The colonial town of Humahuaca is towards the northern end of the gorge. It dates from 1591 but was almost entirely rebuilt in the mid-19th century.

Cordoba

Founded by the Spaniards in 1573 as a strategic staging post between Peru and the Atlantic, Cordoba blends a rich colonial history with impressive modern economic growth. Cordoba was Argentina’s first capital and is now the second most important city in terms of commerce.

The Jesuits arrived at the end of the 16th century and built six large estancias across the region to fund their projects, which included Cordoba University, opened in 1610. The Manzana Jesuitica (or Jesuit block as it is known) includes the university, church and residence of the Society of Jesus and college: these, together with the estancias, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The 155 mile Camino de las Estancias (Route of the Estancias) runs through the estancias of Jesus Maria, Colonia Caroya, Santa Catalina, La Candelaria, and Alta Gracia.

Salta

Founded in 1582 by the Spaniards, Salta is one of Argentina’s oldest and most attractive cities. Salta has a pleasant subtropical climate and has retained more of its colonial buildings than any other city in Argentina. Its location, surrounded by forested mountains up in the Lerma Valley at 1150 metres, makes for a good base from which to explore both Cachi and the Calchaqui Valleys to the south, and Juyuy and the Quebrada de Humahuaca to the north.

Cachi

Set against a backdrop of the Nevado de Cachi mountains in a valley made fertile by pre-Inca irrigation, Cachi is a beautiful town in Salta Province with white adobe houses and paved streets. There is a very good archaeological museum of 5,000 objects showcasing its rich indigenous history spanning 10,000 years. Cachi also has the world’s highest vineyard, Bodegas Colome.

The Calchaqui Valleys

Found in the northwest of Argentina, the Calchaqui Valleys are characterised by traditional colonial towns and stunning landscapes with many weird and wonderful rock formations in a variety of surprising colours, including The Friar and Devil’s Throat.

Quilmes Ruins

Dating from 850 AD, this impressive citadel, built into the mountainside, was once home to up to 5,000 members of the Quilmes people, one of the Diaguita tribes of Tucuman province. They fiercely resisted conquest by the Incas but, despite early successes against the Spaniards, they eventually capitulated in 1667 and the 2000 survivors were deported to an enclave in Buenos Aires on foot, causing many to die en route. The ruins are all that is left of the largest pre-Columbian settlement in the country.

Mendoza and The Wine Country

The provinces of Mendoza, San Juan, and San Luis reach over the high Andes to the semi-arid steppes. It is a landscape of breathtaking peaks, fertile valleys and irrigated vineyards. There are countless opportunities to enjoy a whole variety of active pursuits including skiing, horse riding, rafting, trekking and hiking, whilst the more sedentary can relax in thermal baths at hot springs, enjoy fine dining and world-class wines at the numerous bodegas.

Set against the mighty Mt Aconcagua – at 6,959 metres the highest mountain in the Americas – the province of Mendoza has been Argentina’s leading wine producing region since the 16th century. Together with San Juan it is responsible for over 80% of the country’s wine as well as olive oil, garlic and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The vineyards of Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu produce some of the best Malbec in the world, and the wines of the Uco Valley, about 50 miles southwest of Mendoza, are increasing in importance. Many wineries open their doors to visitors to taste fine wines, meet the winemaker and enjoy tasty regional and international cuisine.

Atlantic Patagonia

Along the vast Atlantic Patagonian shoreline several ocean currents mix, and thanks to relatively low shipping traffic and fishing activity the sea is still rich in plankton, seaweed, fish and jellyfish. This fecundity in turn attracts large populations of marine mammals and seabirds, including various species of dolphins, elephant seals, sea lions, Magellanic penguins and orcas. One of the major visitors is the southern right whale, so-called because it was the right one to harpoon in the bad old days of extensive whaling due to the fact it floated once dead and so was easily recoverable. The southern right whale is most easily observed off the Valdes Peninsula from mid-May to early December where they go to breed and give birth to their young.

A spectacular wildlife phenomenon which takes place around March and April at certain spots along the coast is the hunting of sea lions by orcas who take great risks to make a kill, almost beaching themselves by coming close to the beach to snatch young sea lions cavorting in the shallows. This remarkable hunting activity was first featured in the BBC’s documentary Planet Earth in 2006 and can be seen first-hand with Reef & Rainforest.

Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia covers all of southern Argentina south of the Rio Colorado. To the west lie the majestic Andes, to the east an Atlantic coastline rich in marine life and to the south, legendary Tierra del Fuego. The vast Patagonian steppes are sparsely populated, largely treeless and governed by a harsh, cold climate with a dry wind blowing continually from the west. Rainfall is only high in the foothills of the Andes which are covered by primeval forests of sub-Antarctic beech trees.

The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the larger of the two remnants of the ancient Patagonian Ice Sheet which covered all of southern Chile and parts of Argentina during the Quaternary glacial period. Among the glaciers found in Argentina are Upsala and Perito Moreno in Los Glacieres National Park, the latter a rare example of an advancing glacier. To visit the area is to get an inkling of what it might be like in Antarctica, especially when visiting the iceberg-filled lakes such as Upsala.

Best Time To Visit Argentina

There are several climatic variations as a result of Argentina’s wide geographical diversity, but generally speaking it ranges from sub-tropical in the north to cold temperate in the south.

Buenos Aires and the central zone are hot, sunny and humid from December to March, with temperatures well into the 30s centigrade, and an average humidity of 70%. The weather is cooler and cloudier from March to May, and September to November.

Subtropical Iguazu Falls and the far northeast can be visited year round. Temperatures and humidity are high in January and February, while May to July and end-September to December are the wettest months.

In the Northwest the weather is typically dry and clear, especially from May to September, though it can be wet in January, February and March.

The weather in Patagonia is unpredictable with rapid and unexpected changes possible in a matter of minutes. In general the best months to visit Patagonia are October to March when daytime temperatures can reach the low 20s centigrade.

Argentina Travel

Getting There

Flight Time

Approximately 13½ hours’ flying time non-stop from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires.

Time Zone

GMT -3

Language

Spanish

Population

41.45 million

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Wildlife Holidays

Accommodation

Featured Places To Stay

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Legado Mitico

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Argentina: -38.416097, -63.616672

Your Very Own

Argentina Specialist

John Melton

Area Specialist

If you have any questions regarding travel to Argentina, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965