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Argentina is rich in environmental beauty, natural resources, a highly literate and skilled population, and sophisticated cities that exhibit a hybrid of European and Latin cultures. The country’s lucrative mineral resources and its production of cereals and livestock made it one of the world’s wealthiest nations a century ago, however, the country was plagued with numerous economic crises during the 20th century.
Argentina’s history is coloured with struggles for power, revolutionary uprisings and military takeovers. Argentina was central to both the success of the Spanish colonies of South America, and the fight for independence that brought about their collapse. The struggle for South American independence from the Spanish was, largely, an Argentine revolution. Argentine history is full of drama, bloodshed and passion: start digging and you’ll get a sense for how the working class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires gave birth to the artistic tradition of the nation, the dramatic and sensual tango.
Ancestors to the indigenous Amerindian peoples of the Americas migrated southward from North America to arrive in modern day Argentina around 10,000 years ago. Cueva de las Manos (Cave of The Hands) in Argentine Patagonia is one of Argentina’s most important archaeological sites, a remarkable collection of prehistoric human artworks that places human settlement in the area as far back as 7,370 BCE.
Argentina’s indigenous population is thought to have been around 300,000 prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. The country’s original peoples included the Tehuelche (Patagonia), the Querandi and Puelche (the Pampas) and the Diaguita (northwest). Between 1438 and 1532, the vast Inca empire of Peru had extended its control down through Bolivia into the highlands of what is now northwest Argentina. At this time, Spaniards arrived on the northwest coast of Peru and cut short the expansion of the Inca empire.
Argentina’s Atlantic coastline was first discovered by European explorers in the early 16th century. In 1516, the Spanish explorer Juan Díaz de Solís led an ill-fated expedition into the Río de la Plata estuary between modern-day Argentina and Uruguay. After landing on the east bank of the Uruguay River, Solís and nearly his entire crew were killed by local Charrúa Indians, with one survivor, Francisco del Puerto, taken prisoner and later providing valuable information about the area to Italian explorer Sebastian Cabot, who arrived a decade later. In 1520, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan had become the first European to sail through the strait separating southern mainland South America and the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, now known as the Strait of Magellan. Although the purpose of Magellan’s expedition was to establish a secure sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the overall expedition was to become the first circumnavigation of the globe. Upon his arrival in the area of modern Argentina in 1526, Sebastian Cabot discovered the Paraná and Paraguay rivers and established the first Spanish settlement in the Río de la Plata basin, Sancti Spíritus, which was wiped out by Indians in a sneak attack a few years later.
In 1535, encouraged by the successful conquest of Peru, Spain sent Pedro de Mendoza on an expedition to colonise the Río de la Plata area. Mendoza was successful in establishing Buenos Aires on the western bank of the Río de la Plata basin in 1536, but the new settlement was plagued by Indian attacks, food shortages and illness, and Mendoza set sail for Spain the following year, dying at sea. Soon after, two of Mendoza’s lieutenants, Ayolas and Irala, set out from Buenos Aires on an exploratory mission up the Plata and Paraguay rivers, with Irala establishing the settlement of Asunción (now modern day Paraguay). Asunción was the first permanent settlement in the region and played an important part in the settlement of northern Argentina, and in 1541, Buenos Aires’ remaining few inhabitants abandoned it for Asunción. While new migrants arriving from Spain were mostly attracted to the more resource-rich and developed Peru and Mexico, Argentina’s population was comprised mostly of overflow of existing settlers from the neighbouring colonies of Paraguay, Chile and Peru.
Settlers from Asunción reestablished Buenos Aires in 1580, however, Asunción provided home to the bulk of Argentina’s settler population until the late 18th century. The Roman Catholic Church and Jesuits built missions that were instrumental in the process of colonising the region, assimilating the indigenous population into European ways of thinking and living. There were few Spanish women among the settlers and thus began the intermarriage of Indian women and European men. The Spanish imported horses, cattle and sheep, and with the use of indigenous Indians as its labour force, developed early farming communities based around livestock and agriculture, predominantly corn (maize) and potatoes. The vast Pampas grasslands had begun to be fenced off into enormous privately-held farming estancias (estates), with nomadic gauchos (cowboys) running livestock.
Although Argentina was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1776, three of its cities attained power over the country at different times during that period: San Miguel de Tucumán, Córdoba and Buenos Aires. Firstly, the city of San Miguel de Tucumán held power over most of the north of the country, including the city of Córdoba, from the late 16th and into the 17th century. The city’s proximity to the silver mining communities of ‘Upper Peru’ (modern day Bolivia) enabled the lucrative trade of Argentine livestock and foodstuffs in exchange for European goods brought over from Spain. The southward expansion of Argentine settlement—along with the foundation of the University of Córdoba—then transferred power to the city of Córdoba for the 17th and 18th centuries. By the late 18th century, a number of factors had contributed to the rise of Buenos Aires as the new economic, cultural and political heart of Argentina.
Economically, the decline of silver mining in Peru called for a new focus on transatlantic trade with Europe. Culturally, the increasingly cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires provided the perfect breeding ground for the radical new ideas of the Age of Enlightenment that were being brought back across the Atlantic from Europe. Buenos Aires’ wealthy bohemians gathered in the city’s many salons and discussed arts, sciences and revolutionary ideas. And politically, Buenos Aires was in 1776 named the capital of the newly created Spanish Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a region encompassing modern-day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Bolivia, cementing Buenos Aires as an important outpost of the Spanish colonies in South America.
With the rise of each of these three cities, seeds of a national ‘Argentine’ identity had begun to be sown. Ideas trickling back from Europe began to take hold among the people of Buenos Aires and the campaign for Argentine independence had started developing by the turn of the 19th century. There was a growing divide among Buenos Aires’ elite, between the city’s criollos (Creoles, Argentine born people of pure Spanish ancestry) and its wealthy Spanish immigrants. Alliances were still being held together by shared allegiance to the Spanish Crown, mutually beneficial commercial arrangements and a shared fear of domination by non-whites, but arrival of the news in 1808 that the Spanish King Ferdinand VII had been overthrown by Napoleon’s troops changed everything.
Spanish civilians were furious at Napoleon’s installment of his brother Joseph Bonaparte as their new leader and protested angrily in uprisings throughout Spain. A Spanish civil war erupted between the new self-imposed French government and a network of provincial oppositional governments (‘juntas’) of Ferdinand-loyalists who were supported by the British. The Peninsular War overlapped with the Spanish War for Independence, and these two wars weakened the Spanish colonial armies and strengthened the resolve of the growing number of revolutionists in South America who were involved in the campaign for independence from the Spanish.
While aristocratic Spanish immigrants from the Iberian Peninsula dominated positions of political power in Buenos Aires, the city’s criollos were permitted to hold positions in cabildos (local government councils). The cabildo abierto (open town meeting) became an integral part of the Argentine push for independence, and it was at one such meeting on 25 May, 1810 (now celebrated as Venticinco de Mayo, the day of the revolution) that Buenos Aires established its own autonomous government to control the Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata until King Ferdinand’s reinstatement. However, by 1814 when the king was finally restored to power, Spain was still controlled by France and Ferdinand was virtually powerless. On 9 July, 1816 (Nueve de Julio), the viceroyalty assembled and declared the country to be independent under the new name of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Spanish royalists fought against the new independent government for years afterward, until the Spanish outpost in Peru was defeated by Argentine revolutionaries José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar in the early 1820s.
The new government failed to effectively control its full territory and the outer regions were soon lost: first Paraguay in 1814, then Bolivia in 1825 and finally Uruguay in 1828. Power struggles between Buenos Aires and the rest of modern day Argentina continued into the late 19th century, however Buenos Aires was consistently proving to be the province best suited to lead the country. The port city continued to focus on export trade (especially cattle) via the Atlantic, and the interior provinces shifted their focus from trade with the now-dwindling mining industry in Upper Peru to expanding markets in Chile.
From 1880, the country was unified under the leadership of the powerful new capital city of Buenos Aires. Significant foreign investment meant that roads and railways were built and new commercial crops were introduced, along with new breeds of cattle. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, great waves of European immigrants arrived in Argentina via the port city, with the country’s population quadrupling between 1880 and 1915. Of the new arrivals, half were Italian, a third Spanish, and the remainder from France, Poland, Russia, Germany and Britain. The population of Buenos Aires was exploding and the distinct European culture of its porteños was developing. In contrast, rural Argentina (and especially the northwest) received far fewer immigrants and was home to more criollos, mestizos (mixed Spanish and Indian ethnicity) and indigenous communities.
1916 saw the shift of power from the conservative regime of the ruling oligarchy to a new radical coalition of social groups demanding change, however the years between 1930-1943 saw the armed forced restoring the conservative regime to power. From the early 1940s, Colonel Juan Perón had begun gathering political support from unionists through his work helping to secure favourable work conditions for employees such as severance pay, retirement benefits and holidays. By 1945, Perón had taken office as Vice President and Minister for War, and he ended Argentina’s years of neutrality over World War II by declaring war against Germany, thus enabling Argentina’s admittance into the United Nations. Perón was elected President in 1946, in a narrow victory giving him power over both houses of congress and all of the country’s provincial governments. Perón used his presidency to develop the country’s social welfare system: nationalising public services, reforming labour rights in favour of workers, and redistributing revenue, jobs and accommodation to the country’s working class. Perón was charismatic and spoke to the Argentine people in plain language, and won the support of the country along with his wife Eva (Evita), who unofficially led the Department of Social Welfare and was the face of social reform in Argentina.
Evita’s death in 1952, along with the economic slump that followed the war, resulted in a more conservative government. Following tensions with the Church and armed forces, Perón was overthrown in 1955. A new anti-Peronist military dictatorship took power, and the following decades were marked by struggles between various military dictatorships and an underground Peronist movement. In October 1973, Perón was elected President once more, with his third wife, Isabel Perón, as his Vice President. Upon Perón’s death in 1974, Isabel Perón succeeded her husband to become the world’s first female president, an office she held until being overthrown by a military coup d'état in 1976, led by army General Commander Jorge Rafael Videla.
Following Videla’s takeover, the 1970s was an era of repressive military dictatorship known as the Dirty War, during which thousands of dissidents were detained, tortured, murdered or “disappeared”, and Videla was later convicted of war crimes and human rights abuses. The military dictatorship finally came to an end following the Falklands Islands War of 1982, in which Argentina tried unsuccessfully to claim the Falklands but was defeated by the British in a short and bloody war. The defeat by the British unseated the military government and enabled the reestablishment of democracy under President Raúl Alfonsín. Alfonsín received mass support from both the Argentine people and the international community for his reinstatement of democracy and his government’s pursuit of criminal trials against Videla and other members of the military involved in the Dirty War. Plagued by economic problems and constitutionally ineligible to continue as president, Alfonsín stepped down five months early in July 1989, with Carlos Menem replacing him as president until 1999. Together with his Finance Minister Domingo Cavallo, Menem successfully stablised the troubled Argentine economy. Menem also regained military support by pardoning some military officials charged with Dirty War crimes—even though Menem himself had been detained (and tortured) for five years by the military junta—and reestablished full diplomatic relations with Great Britain following the Falkland Islands War.
Assuming office in December 2007, Argentina’s current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became the country’s first directly elected female president, significant outcomes under whom have included the successful debt swap of 2010, reform of social policies, the legalising of same sex marriage and the strengthening of Argentina’s national economy.
Argentina is a predominantly Roman Catholic country (92%), however less than 20% identify as “practicing”; followed by Protestant (2%); Jewish (2%); and Other (4%)
Although the majority of Argentina’s Catholic population is considered non-practicing, Catholic faith and custom is still integrated in much of the official and social life of the country. Argentina is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community
The overwhelming majority of Argentines are of European ancestry due to heavy immigration, mostly from Spain and Italy. European culture greatly influences daily life for Argentines, and many would think of Argentina as a European country with Latin influences. Food, language, social habits and culture are all heavily influenced by Italian, Spanish and French ways of living. Breakfast is usually coffee and sweet pastries, meal times are long and leisurely affairs, shops and businesses close for the obligatory ‘siesta’ hours in the afternoon and dinner is served late as in many European countries. At nighttime, streets are lively with people filling bars, restaurants and clubs
Argentine national identity is a combination of the sensuality of the tango and the self-reliance of the gaucho. The vast grassy plains of the Pampas gave rise to the culture of the gaucho (akin to the 19th century cowboy/ranch hand of North America) that is deeply ingrained in Argentina’s national psyche. The gauchos (18th and 19th century mestizo ranch hands) were initially scorned as drunken vagabonds, but their qualities of courage, self-reliance, horsemanship and a love of the open country have made the gaucho the romantic symbol of Argentine national identity
Despite the country’s vast Pampas, remote wilds of Patagonia and extensive coastline, Argentina is predominantly urban, with the bulk of Argentines living in cities and large towns. Around a third of Argentines live in the Greater Buenos Aires area
If you want to take photographs of people you should always seek permission first (a simple "por favor" and camera actions indicating your intent, will usually suffice)
It’s considered good manners to take a small gift (e.g., flowers or candy) if you are invited to a Argentine home
It’s best to be modest with your clothing. If your clothing is brief or skintight you will miss opportunities to mix with local people and possibly will be the butt of their jokes
New Year’s Eve (31 Dec) sees fireworks, feasting and celebrations throughout the country
The last days before the start of Lent (the 40 days of fasting/sacrifice leading up to Easter Sunday) see Catholic countries around the world party like crazy in the name of Carnival, with cities and towns swelling in size as revelers dance, drink and party. Gualeguaychú is home to Argentina’s most extravagant Carnival celebrations
Buenos Aires hosts the Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (Independent Film Festival) each April
In May, the capital hosts arteBA, an enormous contemporary art fair that attracts artists and visitors from Latin American and abroad
La Rural, Argentina’s biggest agricultural and livestock show, is held every July in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Palermo
The first of August marks the start of the week long annual Pachamama Festival, celebrating the sacred Mother Earth of the indigenous Andean peoples of South America, Pachamama
Argentina’s national dance, the sensual tango, is celebrated at the World Tango Festival, held in the capital in August
Argentina is one of most prolific winemaking countries in the world, and its biggest wine fair, Feria de Vinos y Bodegas, hits Buenos Aires in early September
The Fiesta Nacional de la Cerveza (National Beer Festival) in the town of Villa General Belgrano is the world’s 3rd largest Oktoberfest celebration, after Munich (Germany) and Blumenau (Brazil), held over two weekends every October
November sees the annual gaucho (cowboy) culture day, Día de la Tradición, with food, music and horse riding displays
Argentina is home to many large music festivals. The country’s biggest music festival, the Cosquín Folk Festival, hits the town of the same name in January each year. The festival also has a spin off rock festival, Cosquín Rock, a couple of weeks later in February. Also in Feb, Buenos Aires hosts the Argentine branch of popular Miami, Florida electronic dance music festival, Ultra Music Festival. In April, the capital hosts both the Pepsi Music Festival and the Argentine branch of the famous American music festival, Lollapalooza, both of which are multi-day behemoth events which bring huge international names in alternative rock, metal, punk, hip hop and electronic music. International acts of similar fame come to Buenos Aires in October for the huge Personal Fest. Big international electronic dance music acts descend upon the capital in November for Creamfields
Major sporting events include Abierto Argentino de Polo (Polo Open, November/December), Abierto de Tenis de Buenos Aires (Tennis Open, February), Maratón de Buenos Aires (the Buenos Aires Marathon, September/October) and Gran Premio Nacional (horse race, aka The Argentine Derby, November)
In addition to smaller regional religious festivals and holidays, the predominately Roman Catholic population observes services for the many Catholic holidays, including Easter and Christmas
Secular public holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January); Labour Day (1 May); Venticinco de Mayo (25 May, the anniversary of the 1810 revolution); Nueve de Julio (9 July, Independence Day) and San Martin Day (17 August)
Total population is 43,024,374; Argentina being the 33rd most populous country in the world, growing at a rate of 0.95%
The median age is 31.2 years; with 24.9% aged 0-14 and 11.3% aged 65+
Sex ratio is 0.97 males to 1 female
The urban population is 92% (2011), with average annual rate of urbanization at 1.1%
White European (97% - mostly Spanish and Italian ancestry); mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian ancestry), Amerindian or other non-white groups (3%)
The climate in the north of Argentina is hot (tropical and sub tropical); in the centre the weather is temperate; in the northern highlands, it's dry while the coldest conditions are experienced in the south, in the mountains of Tierra del Fuego.
The trekking season lasts all year round. During winter it's possible to trek in the north, in the jungle and desert areas, and during summer in the south – Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
The best time for climbing in the Aconcagua region is from December to March. The weather then is relatively stable, but be warned the weather can still change completely in a matter of hours. The winds can be very strong. Needless to say, on days like that, we stay put. It can also get extremely cold on the upper slopes of the mountain; temperatures can drop to -20°C or lower with the wind chill factor. Warm clothes and a good down jacket are essentials items for the climb.
Mendoza, at 760m, enjoys a Mediterranean style climate in summer, as a result of a rain shadow effect from Aconcagua and other Andean peaks that separate it from the Pacific Ocean and prevailing weather. The region has a consistent supply of water, however, from rivers that are fed by nearby glaciers, and make it well suited to irrigation style farming such as vineyards and olives.
Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast; South Atlantic Ocean to the east and south; Chile to the west
2,780,400 sq km (1,073,518 sq miles) / (8th largest country in the world), divided into 23 administrative provinces
Argentina is ranked at 93 out of 178 countries with an improving trend, on the Environmental Performance Index (2014), which quantifies and benchmarks performance of government environmental policies and outcomes
Environmental issues include deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, air pollution and water pollution
Natural hazards include earthquakes in the San Miguel de Tucuman and Mendoza areas of the Andes; violent cold windstorms (called pamperos) in the pampas and northeast; heavy flooding in some areas; and volcanic activity in the Andes
Argentina is a signatory to various international environmental and conservation agreements, and is a world leader in setting voluntary greenhouse gas targets
Flora and fauna in Argentina’s heavily populated areas have long been profoundly altered, however, vast tracts of the country are pristine wilderness. Argentina’s large mass and varied geography provide the country with a great diversity of plant and animal life which, like its geography and climate, can be discussed based on distinct regions
The Northwest is characterised by the dwarf shrubs and hardy grasslands of the high altitude puna desert; the monte (subtropical scrub) forests, grasslands and cacti of the Pampean Sierras; and to the south of the puna region, the forested slopes of the Andes. Different elevations of the Andean slopes receive giant cedars, laurels, acacias, myrtles and the short queñoa shrub trees. The Northwest is home to the wild camelid guanaco; its domesticated relatives, the llama, alpaca and vicuña; as well as many deer, skunks and hares
The humid lowlands of Gran Chaco are home to subtropical forests containing palms, white carob trees (algarrobo blanco) and the commercially important hardwood species quebracho. Coarse bunchgrass, prickly pear, dense scrub forest and various cacti are common in the drier western steppe areas. The Chaco supports a rich variety of wildlife including pumas, jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, monkeys, deer, capybaras, armadillos, snakes, reptiles, fish and birds
The lush, humid Mesopotamia region is known for its beautiful verdant landscapes. The region’s rolling grasslands and dense stands of wax palm, quebracho, urunday, guayacán and Paraná pine trees provide sanctuary to jaguars, tapirs, monkeys, deer, peccaries, snakes and birds, including hummingbirds and toucans
The Pampas is characterised by vast prairie grasslands in the Humid Pampa to the east and dense monte scrub forest in the Dry Pampa to the west. The flora, fauna and soils of the Pampas are under threat from human settlement, overcultivation of commercial crops such as wheat and corn, and overgrazing of livestock. Small deer, hares, rodents and birds still inhabit the area, but original wildlife has largely been replaced with horses and huge herds of cattle
The Patagonia region contains both dense Andean forests, and steppe and desert east of the Andes. In the northeast, the monte forest of southeast Humid Pampas gives way to a vast steppe characterised by drought-tolerant shrubs and wiry grasses. The slopes of Argentina’s Patagonian Andes are covered in dense deciduous and conifer forests. The southern quarter of the country is marked by alternating grass steppe and low scrub. The valleys of the Tierra del Fuego islands are covered in Antarctic beech, also growing along with cypress on the islands’ steep slopes
Patagonia is home to guanacos, pumas, mountain cats, the huemul (south Andean deer), the pudu (world’s smallest deer), the Patagonian mara (cavy) and other rodents, wild horses, poisonous snakes and various birds including eagles, herons and the flightless rhea. The Patagonian coast is home to a huge array of marine wildlife including southern right whales, orcas, elephant seals, sea lions, Magellanic penguins, birds, fish and crustaceans
Argentina is country of great natural beauty, with a stunning variety of environments including the rugged Andes mountains, the vast fertile plains of the Pampas, deserts, tundra, forests, rivers, lakes, glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, islands and more than 4,700 km (2,920 mi) of South Atlantic coastline
The second largest country in South America and eighth largest country in the world, Argentina occupies most of southern South America with a landmass stretching 3,800 km (2,360 mi) from north to south, and 1,420 km (880 mi) east to west at its widest point. The country’s landmass can be grouped into five distinct geographic regions: the Northwest, Gran Chaco, Mesopotamia, the Pampas and Patagonia
The Andes is the longest continental mountain range on earth, and the highest range outside of Asia. The Central Andes runs the length of the western spine of Argentina, providing most of the Argentine-Chilean border, and the Patagonian Andes occupies southern Argentina and neighbouring Chile. At 6,960 m (22,837 ft), Aconcagua near the Chilean border is the highest peak in the country, the continent and both the Southern and Western Hemispheres
The Pampas are vast fertile lowlands that extend across the entire central region of the country, from the Atlantic coast to the foothills of the Andes, bound by the Gran Chaco region to the north and Patagonia to the south. With the exception of a few hills, the extensive grass covered plains of the Pampas appear almost perfectly flat
In addition to the Patagonia region, the Tierra del Fuego archipelago is shared by Argentina and Chile. Separated from the southern extremity of the South American mainland by the Strait of Magellan, the eastern part of the main island and a few small islands in the Beagle Channel belong to Argentina, with the remainder belonging to Chile
The adjacent World Heritage listed national parks of Iguazu National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park (Brazil) share one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls, the thundering Iguazu Falls, which extend 2,700 m (8,858 ft)
The neighbouring national parks of Ischigualasto and Talampaya contain an enormous sedimentary basin that was gradually formed in over the entire Triassic period (between 250-200 million years ago). The layers of the basin constitute the world’s most complete record of the Triassic period, containing fossils of various plants, dinosaurs and other animals
Ojos del Salado on the Argentine-Chilean border is the world’s highest active volcano (at 6,893 m / 22,615 ft), however, the most recent eruption was 1,300 years ago. Ojos del Salado gets its name (“eyes of salt”) from the huge deposits of salt that pool in its glaciers. The volcano’s crater lake is the world’s highest lake, at an elevation of 6,390 m / 20,964 ft
Argentina’s largest lake is shared with Chile in the Los Lagos Region (Lake District) of Patagonia. The lake is known as both Lake Buenos Aires (Argentine side) and General Carrera Lake (Chilean side). The Iberá Wetlands in the country’s northeast is the world’s second largest wetland and one of the continent’s most important fresh water reserves. The Río de la Plata basin is an enormous drainage estuary that sits between Argentina and Uruguay, fed by the Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers and flowing to the Atlantic Ocean. The countries’ respective capital cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo sit on the western and northern shores of the basin
Los Glaciares National Park (1981) - A park of staggering beauty, Los Glaciares in Argentine Patagonia is—as the name may suggest—the very best place in South America to view glacial activity. A visit to this otherworldly environment puts you among towering mountains, gigantic blue glaciers, numerous glacial lakes and the vast Patagonian ice field; the second largest ice mass outside of Antarctica. The park’s two main glacial lakes, Argentino and Viedma, are fed by the park’s 200+ glaciers, with Lake Argentino being particularly impressive with giant blue icebergs being launched dramatically into its waters from three major glaciers. Not only is the park of outstanding beauty and environmental value, but contains at least 14 sites of archaeological importance pertaining to the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who occupied the park, and later the Tehuelche Indians who were all but wiped out by European colonisation.
Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor (1983) During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Jesuits and the indigenous Guaraní people built five impressive missions in the Guaraní lands of Argentina and Brazil. Set deep within tropical forest, the remains of the four Argentine sites of San Ignacio Miní, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa María, together with the ruins of Sao Miguel das Missoes in Brazil, capture a significant period in the history of the region. The ruins of these reducciones (settlements), each of which has a distinct layout and state of preservation, are comprised of stone and brick churches, schools, houses, arches and stairways, showcasing a successful fusion of local materials and craftsmanship with Spanish baroque architecture, now known as ‘Guaraní baroque’ style. With many structures now being partly taken over by vegetation, a trip to the missions is a fascinating and photogenic excursion into South American history.
Iguazu National Park (1984) When combined with the adjacent Iguaçu National Park in Brazil (also a World Heritage site), these neighbouring sites cover more than 2,400 sq km (927 sq mi) of protected wilderness containing remnant subtropical rainforest, archaeological sites, many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, and one of the world’s largest waterfalls. With a height of 80 m (262 ft) and width of 2,700 m (8,858 ft), the park’s Iguazú Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. Sitting atop the Iguazú River, and forming the border between Argentina and Brazil, the spectacular sight (and sound!) of the falls makes this national park one of the most popular destinations in the country.
Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas (1999) Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos is one of the most important collections of early cave art in the world. Set in rock shelters and a cave along the Río Pinturas (Pinturas River), in the Pinturas River Canyon in Argentine Patagonia, the site takes its names from its most famous artwork, known as the “Cave of the Hands”. This remarkable cave painting featuring the stenciled outlines of dozens of human hands—thought to have been created some 10,000 years ago by South America’s earliest hunter-gatherers—the “Cave of the Hands” is one of the many outstanding examples of cave art that together form the Cueva de las Manos site. Along with human hands, the collection of artworks includes depictions of hunting scenes and animals, including the wild guanacos that are still common in the area today. Included in the heritage listing of this site are the extraordinary natural environs that the artworks are housed in, including the Río Pinturas and Pinturas River Canyon.
Península Valdés (1999) Península Valdés, on Argentine Patagonia’s South Atlantic coast, is an important breeding ground for southern elephant seals, southern sea lions and most especially, the endangered southern right whale. The islands, beaches, dunes, cliffs, gulfs, bays and lagoons of this treeless promontory offer sanctuary to a huge variety of mammals, seabirds and marine life. Both southern right whales and orcas (killer whales), who have been observed to display unique hunting behaviours adapted to the area’s coastal conditions, are frequently sighted in the area, especially during the whale watching season of June to December.
Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba (2000) The Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba is a multi-site heritage area comprising some of the most exceptional examples of the religious, political, economic and architectural legacy of the 17th and 18th century Jesuit missionaries in South America. The main Jesuit Block in the city centre of Córdoba, together with the five estancias (farming estates) of surrounding rural areas show the successful fusion of local materials, craftsmanship and culture with the European design influence, western administrative systems and Catholic faith brought by the Jesuits. The sites contain well-preserved stone and brick buildings including universities, colleges, churches and Priests’ residences, as well as farming infrastructure, stables and functional farm buildings.
Ischigualasto / Talampaya Natural Parks (2000) Covering an area of 2,753 sq km (1,063 sq mi), the adjacent national parks of Ischigualasto and Talampaya form the western border of the Sierras Pampeanas mountain chain in the desert of central Argentina. In addition to being an area of stark desert beauty, the site includes an enormous sedimentary basin (the Ischigualasto-Villa Union Triassic basin) that was gradually formed in over the entire Triassic period (between 250-200 million years ago). A site of outstanding environmental importance, the sedimentary layers of the basin constitute the world’s most complete fossil record of the Triassic period, with its fossils of various plants and animals—including dinosaurs—revealing the evolution of species in the region over a period of 50 million years.
Quebrada de Humahuaca (2003) Quebrada de Humahuaca is a 155 km (96 mi) long natural corridor beginning high in the desert plateau of the High Andes of northwest Argentina, and following the path of the stunning Rio Grande (Grande River) southward to its convergence with the Rio Leone. This spectacular valley follows the path of the Camino Inca (Inca Road), a major cultural route used for trade and transport for the past 10,000 years. The narrow valley is dotted with towns, villages, ruins, and prehistoric rock and cave art sites which offer substantial evidence of human settlement and activity, with sites including prehistoric hunter-gatherers and early farming communities; large agricultural societies; pre-Hispanic towns and villages; the Inca empire; Spanish colonial towns and churches; and battles for independence during the 19th and 20th centuries. A trip along the valley offers access to significant archaeological sites, interesting towns and villages and some otherworldly desert landscapes. This is serious Wild West country: the undulating strata of the high sedimentary mountains flanking the valley are a striking palette of vibrant warm hues that changes throughout the day with the movement of the sun, punctuated green by the cacti and the riverbanks of the Rio Grande.
Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System (2014) Constructed over several centuries, this incredible communication, trade and defense network of more than more than 30,000 km (18,640 mi) worth of roads was built by the sophisticated Inca empire, building on some existing pre-Inca infrastructure to cover a huge area extending into Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The roads linked the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains to the coast, crisscrossing through deserts, valleys and rainforests, reaching altitudes of more than 6,000 m (19,685 ft), and link many important sites of environmental, archaeological and religious significance.
World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to Argentina to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.
Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.