As Seen in…
Places to visit in Argentina and on our South American tours
Why visit Argentina?
To step into the extremities of Argentina is to truly experience the unexpected. Few outsiders tread the paths that traders with llama caravans once forged through the Andes en route to Bolivia, Peru and Chile; fewer still gaze across the Patagonia icefield – third largest in the world – or cross the circumnavigator’s mecca, the Magellan Straits, to stand in Tiego Del Fuego, ‘Land of the Fire’.
The isolation of this landscape cannot be understated: until recent discoveries of earlier remains in the Chilean Andes, it was assumed that South American indigenous peoples migrated south from the crossing of the Bering Straits, making for a sparsely populated string of small tribal kingdoms. The success of some of these is evident at Quilmes, where pre-Columbian peoples built a complex city amidst the Andean plateau’s scrub and cacti, its curious complex of enclosures, foundations and fortifications spread in tumbling terraces across the slopes. The impact on these cultures from the arrival in the north-west of the Inca Empire seems minimal and so when Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis arrived in Argentina, he and subsequent adventurers were met with violence and death.
Whilst cities like Cordoba and Buenos Aries cemented the colonial hold of Spain on the region, earning the nation the title ‘Land of Silver’, the Andean settlement by Europeans was far less significant and so it has continued into Independence from 1816 and through wars with the British and their neighbours. Impassively, the incredible landscapes have waited for visitors and it is not until you head away from Salta – ‘La Linda’ or ‘the pretty’ – and its colonial comeliness into the higher altitudes that you can grasp the wonders of what remains a secretive world: the red peaks, gorges and snowy caps of Quebrada of Humahuaca lead over vertiginous passes and past salt mirror lakes, heady routes thread through fossilised dunes and labyrinthine desert, Tolar Grande’s tiny sequestered village opens up upon the dazzling white salt lakes with its idiosyncratic blue holes and is perfect for hiking up the sacred Macon mountain to gape at panoramas that defy description.
The sense of space is second only to a tremulous humility at your insignificance amidst such magnificence: the ‘Vultures’ Cemetery’ across the dried salt lake at Arizaro and quartz ash desert at Quebrada de la Flechas, dating back 500 million years ally beauty and crushing timeless power in perfect measure, making a descent beneath the spiralling range of the majestic condor to the benign terrain of the vineyards of Cafayate a step back into a world of comforting familiarity! Patagonia equally offers a glimpse of nature’s graceful savagery, as giant bergs breach away from the Perito Moreno Glacier across meltwater lakes of alluring crystal-blue; trekking and camping under the potent gaze of Fitz Roy’s massive spires of rock and corniced ice and Cerro Torre’s slender pinnacles allows you to truly step away from every vestige of normal living and imbibe the loveliness of such loneliness.
For the nature lover, this is a land without parallel – condor roam here too, whilst lesser rhea and a bounty of wildfowl and waders strew the shores. As you penetrate to the Beagle channel and beyond, marvelling at magellan and gentoo penguins, the rewards of Argentina’s wilderness regions cannot be understated.