Argentina is the second-largest country in South America, surrounded by Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The lightly populated country's human history goes back some 13,000 years. Indigenous peoples thrived until the early 16th century, when the Spanish arrived via Rio de la Plata to explore and conquer. It would take numerous military campaigns, but in 1825, Argentina became an independent nation.
Throughout its turbulent history, the country has managed to build a collective identity that incorporated its mixed heritage and gave way to a fierce national pride. Today, Argentina is known for a variety of industries and for the varied communities that had a hand in its growth and development. Apart from being known for its world-class beef, football, and dancing, the country chooses to preserve its natural beauty as a matter of safeguarding its future.
San Ignacio Miní began as a Jesuit mission in 1610 but moved to its current location in 1696. By the next century, it had become a commercial trade hub specializing in crafts made by the indigenous population. Luso-Brazilian forces destroyed the mission after the Jesuit priests were driven out. This monument is a well-preserved example of what some call Guaraní baroque architecture.
Also known as Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve, Costanera Sur started out as a resort in the 1920s. It declined thirty years later, and when efforts to revive it were abandoned, nature reclaimed the land. The growth of plants attracted more animals, and the expanding natural landscape attracted animal lovers. In June 1986, it was designated a protected area; it is full of trails for hiking and cycling as well as picnic areas on the water banks.
Located in the small town of Purmamarca, the Hill of Seven Colors is a stunning natural combination that's like the rings on a tree, each color representing a layer of rock that dates back one to 400 million years. From sandstones with sulfur to lead and calcium carbonate, the colors are said to be most breathtaking just as dawn is breaking.
No trip to Argentina would be complete without visiting the Las Cataratas del Iguazú or Iguazú Falls. This natural waterfall system that straddles Brazil and Argentina is almost two miles wide and has drop heights between 197 and 269 feet. One of the stars of the Iguazú is Devil’s Throat Canyon, which takes about half of the Iguazú River’s flows. Visitors can access this powerful landmark via the national park that is home to some rare and threatened species.
When it comes to country capitals, seasoned travelers recommend skipping some, but this is one case where you’d be missing out on a major piece of Argentina’s story. From founding to revolution to independence, Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires is home to several important buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, where the current Pope Francis held masses when he was an Archbishop. The most recognizable sight in the plaza is Casa Rosada, the seat of the government that garnered major recognition in the 1940s thanks to first lady Eva “Evita” Perón.
Patagonia, located in the Santa Cruz Province, makes up the southern tip of South America shared by Chile and Argentina and is home to Los Glaciares National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is divided into Lake Argentino, which has three major glaciers flowing into it, and Lake Viedma, home to glaciers that are popular with climbers. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the popular tourist destinations because it is large and easily accessible.
People go on vacation to get away from work, but this is one 100-year-old business building you'll want to visit. The eclectic design of Palácio Barolo in Monserrat, Buenos Aires was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. The 22 floors of this 330-foot building fall into three se
ctions: hell, purgatory, and heaven, and its base conforms to the Golden Ratio to create harmony between height and width.
This town briefly seceded from Argentina in the early 1880s. As the inhabitants were of Genoese origin, they raised the flag of Genoa, which was physically torn down by then-President Julio Roca. These days, La Boca is an emblem of Argentina’s multicultural roots, with the brightly colored houses of the Caminito and its artsy vibe.
Located in Corrientes province, the Iberá wetlands comprise 30 percent of the country’s biodiversity, boasting about 4,000 plant and wildlife inhabitants, including capybaras and anteaters. It’s not a typical tourist location that you would find on a visitor’s map, but agritourism has helped local Guaraní and traditional gaucho people appreciate the growth that can come from tourist attention. Visitors can explore the area by boat, kayak, and horseback.
In the Patagonia region is the Cueva de Los Manos, named for the handprint silhouettes that date back to approximately 7,300 B.C. Apart from stenciled left hands, the site features animal art and geometric pattern drawings depicting the natural world. Scientists discerned that the artists used iron and manganese oxides and other minerals to produce their colors. South America has a few caves with similar paintings, but Cueva de Los Manos is the most recognizable.
Los Alerces National Park is in the Chile-bordering province of Chubut. The park was molded by multiple ice sheets to create spectacular clear-water lakes and dense forests. Alerces are cypresses, so they grow very slowly and can be thousands of years old. The park covers approximately 1,000 square miles of land. Visitors can hike, explore by boat, and even go fishing.
Teatro Colón is the second version of Buenos Aires' main opera house. The first theater opened in 1857 in La Plaza de Mayo and closed for rebuilding in 1888. The new house opened in 1908 and survived the anarchist bombing in 1910, when a French dignitary was taking in a performance. The Colón has exceptional acoustics and lighting, and in 1966, the inside of the cupola was adorned with allegorical frescoes painted by Argentine artist Raúl Soldi.
While it may be counterintuitive to visit the dead, when it comes to La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, it's an exception worth making. Rated one of the world's most beautiful cemeteries, La Recoleta was built in 1732 by the Order of Recoletos, and after they disbanded, the cemetery was expanded. The current site contains over 4,600 vaults, including the Duarte mausoleum holding the remains of Eva Perón. Throughout 14 acres, visitors will experience a wide variety of architectural styles, including Baroque and Neo-Gothic, lending the graveyard an otherworldly beauty.