Argentina’s natural attractions are spread geographically across the length of this vast country, from the arid desert of the north to the harsh and unforgiving environment of southern Patagonia. Some of the areas that offer the widest variety in wildlife or natural beauty are in protected parks and recognised World Heritage Sites, such as the Valdes Peninsula where the majority of Argentina’s unique wildlife is found, or Perito Moreno, where entrance fees into the protected zones help to keep these national icons in a safe environment.
As one of the world’s most iconic metropolises, Argentina’s sultry soul, and the birthplace of tango, Buenos Aires needs little introduction. European roots and history give the city a sense of glamour and sophistication alongside what is ultimately a distinctly Latin charm, earning it the title of the ‘Paris of Latin America’, and the different districts or ‘barrios’ are almost like separate towns in themselves, each with their own quirks, colours and characters. Spend time getting to know the city, before exploring some of the working ranchas or ‘estancias’ in the pampas that are reached just an hour outside of the city – another world and dropped pace of gauchos, rolling countryside and Argentine hospitality.
La Boca is the most vibrant of Buenos Aires’s districts, with buildings of bright red, blue and yellow all contrasting heavily in an explosion of colour. Heading back towards the centre, the bohemian district of San Telmo has many antique shops and a brilliant lively Sunday flea market that really pulls the crowds. The newly redeveloped Puerto Madero is also a busy area with an excellent choice of upscale restaurants and bars. Palermo too is one of the city’s best spots for boutique hotels, such as the Legado Mitico which combines character and style with contemporary amenities.
Many would say the Iguazu Falls are the world's most dramatic, overwhelming and majestic waterfalls; describing them as impressive would only be an understatement. A complex network of some 275 separate individual falls that together crash over the jungle-covered cliffs to create a mesmerising spectacle at the point where Argentina and Brazil collide, Iguazu is one of Argentina’s true highlights. Shared with Brazil and with national parks on either side of their border, some choose to combine both sides for an overall experience, as whilst Argentina has 80% of the falls, Brazil enjoys some of the better panoramic views. The Falls are a sanctuary for an abundance of wildlife, including coatis, colourful butterflies, toucans and parrots which can all be spotted on the various nature trails.
The relaxed city of Mendoza is set in the heart of Argentina’s winelands with a mild climate that enjoys year-round sunshine and an average of five days of rain per year. With green vineyards backed by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, this feels like it could almost be somewhere in France, with picturesque scenery and charm by the gallon. Founded in 1561 by Spanish colonialists, Mendoza is filled with tree-lined boulevards and plazas with fountains. The main square of Plaza Independencia is the city’s focal point with concerts, puppet shows and craft fairs that fill the space from Tuesday to Sunday. Four smaller squares of Italia, Espana, Chile and San Martin satellite the main square, each with its own character and style.
As Argentina’s premier wildlife destination this, almost desolate, windblown peninsula is a scenic nature reserve that extends out of Central Patagonia and is loosely connected to the mainland, reaching into the South Atlantic. Marine wildlife lovers in particular will be drawn to the region, which was declared ‘Mankind’s Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 1999. As one of the world’s largest marine wildlife reserves, it offers some of the continent’s best sightings of whales, penguins and elephant seals amongst others.
The peninsula is accessed from the nearest gateway town of Puerto Madryn, which was founded in 1886 by Welsh settlers. Despite its popularity as the access point to the reserve, it has retained its pleasant, small town atmosphere and some of the street names in the town have kept their welsh name, hinting to their heritage, but there is little other evidence of this.