Argentina, home of the Tango, and famous for its beef and wine is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil and the most prosperous. Waves of immigrants and foreign investment down the centuries have given Argentina - and Buenos Aires in particular - a European flavour in culture and city architecture. European explorers arrived in 1516 and the Spanish settled in Buenos Aires, which only became the capital city in 1880. The country's history is chequered with alternating periods of wealth and economic crisis, various political leadership difficulties, and conflict with Great Britain over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. Modern Argentina is an important world trading nation. Fertile plains in the northern half of the country are the source of Argentina's agricultural wealth and the plateau of Patagonia in the south is rich in oil and natural gas.
Bound by the Andes mountains in the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, Argentina has over 5,000 miles of navigable waterways. The most significant rivers are Rio de la Plata (River Plate), Rio Negro, the Paraguay, Paraná and Uruguay Rivers. The last two join together in an estuary as they flow out to the Atlantic Ocean. There is also an extensive network of canals built originally as commercial routes for cargo, and several large lakes including Mar Chiquita, a salt water lake, and Lake Buenos Aires and San Martin Lake which are shared with Chile. The Iguazu Waterfall is a must-see.
Buenos Aires is sophisticated and elegant with a vibrant nightlife and huge potential for sightseeing and shopping. The Theater Colon is a cultural institution, and all around the city in restaurants and on the streets you will see - and possibly join in - Tango dancing.
West of Buenos Aires, the lowland irrigated by river water from the high Andes mountains is a productive wine region, centered on the city of Mendoza. Tourism is an important sector of the national economy.
The main cities of Argentina's Lake District are San Carlos de Bariloche, on the edge of the stunning Nahuel Huapi Lake, and San Martin de Los Andes, encircled by majestic snow-capped mountain peaks. The towns of Calafate and Chalten in Patagonia are the best points from which to visit the Glacier National Park. The park is most famous for the Perito Moreno Glacier, a colossus of turquoise ice with a front 30 feet high and two miles wide on the edge of Lago Argentino. From a boat on the lake you can sometimes hear a haunting moan from the depths of the slow-moving ice, warning you that a huge chunk of ice is about to break off and crash into the water.
Cordoba is Argentina's second city and is surrounded by scenic countryside and lush river valleys. Because of immigration in the early 1900s there is a German influence on the architecture, food and drink in the Sierras de Cordoba. There's even an October beer festival here, but, of course, the local brew is fine any time of year.
Ushuaia is South America's most southern city and the gateway to Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of the continent where the Andes mountains meet the ocean. It's from here that cruise ships depart for tours of the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic.