Getting to know Argentina
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When most people think of traveling to Argentina, the first things that come to their minds are usually soccer, beef, and tango; however, there is a lot more to this eclectic country than just those aspects—though they are surely central to the country’s identity.
Argentina was considered to be one of Spain’s least important colonial possessions throughout most of the colonial period, and suffered the status of backwater for the first couple of centuries since Buenos Aires (the current capital) was founded in 1580. Yet, with technological advancements in agriculture, and political advancements culminating in the revolution of 1810 and eventual independence in 1816, the fertile plains surrounding Buenos Aires, known as the Pampas, were turned into some of the most productive lands on the planet by the middle of the 19th century. Subsequently, Buenos Aires was transformed by massive domestic and foreign investment—the Brits played a significant role in developing Argentina in this period—into the gem of South America, a status which till this day it is reluctant to relinquish.
Not surprisingly, Buenos Aires is a heavily populated, diverse, cosmopolitan city, with a little bit of everything for tourists and locals alike. It is the epicenter of national cultural life, and is a favorite destination for performing artists from the continent and from every corner of the planet. Tango, as mentioned above, and the competitive soccer league, are two mainstays of life in this fabled city. Yet there is more to Argentina than the street performers and hooligans of Buenos Aires.
Argentina’s national ethos is heavily marked by its agricultural traditions: the identity of the gaucho, the rustic farmhand of the days of yore—that also played an important role as soldier in many of Argentina’s early-independence era civil wars—is enshrined at the heart of the national spirit. Any visit to Argentina’s heartland absolutely must include at least a fleeting recreation of the lifestyle of the gaucho and the rural estancieros that were their bosses; a long horse ride on the luscious prairies, with a bonfire session of guitar-playing and mate-drinking, accompanied by a large asado, the Argentine method of preparing grilled meats (second to none!). Do this, and you will have touched the very essence of what it means to be Argentine.
But don’t think that you’re done getting to know this country: there’s always more on the plate in this bountiful land. There are the imposing Andes mountains to be seen, both in their glacier-laden stretches in Patagonia and in their dry, reddish-yellow stretches in the north. There are the subtropical jungles, crawling with jaguars and boars and caymans, with a series of spectacular rivers which all braid together right above Buenos Aires to create the biggest delta system in the world. And there are also the splendid beaches of the Atlantic coast, like Mar del Plata and Pinamar, or the rugged coastline of the Peninsula Valdes, where some of the best whale-sighting excursions you can happen.
All in all, there’s no end to the list of activities awaiting you in this Argentina travel guide, all of which will meld together healthy physical activity, thrilling adventure, and an appreciation of the unique cultural heritage of this incredible country, which has beckoned to so many wayward wanderers over the centuries. Though it’s now far from being the backwater of colonial times, it is a place where you can get a healthy dose of modernity as well as simplicity, with a full array of diverging destinations…and all at great prices, with the company of great people.