“As close to Europe as you’re going to get, well at least while you’re in South America.”
EAT! Steak. Argentina’s signature food is without a doubt the steak, called un lomo. Not always the cheapest option it is a must-try dish and is usually served on a wooden or metal block with a side portion of chips. It is every carnivore’s dream. Vegetarians beware in this meat-eating country – you will often be met with perplexed stares when trying to explain your veggie-loving tendencies.
DRINK! Mate (mah-teh). A herbal drink similar to tea that is shared around a group in a pot and drunk through a metal straw. You’ll probably see people carrying these pots on public transport, especially around the cities.
WEAR! The number 10 Maradona football shirt. Maradona, along with Lionel Messi, is probably Argentina’s most famous footballing export, not to mention his infamous ‘hand of God’ against England in the 1986 World Cup. Argentinean markets are full of them (well, mostly cheap knockoffs). An absolute must for any football fan.
BEWARE! The Falkland’s War. It may be over 30 years since it happened but it’s still a sore topic in Argentina. If you do have to mention it remember they call the Falklands the Islas Malvinas and if you’re British it’s probably worth steering clear of the topic altogether.
KEEP! Those coins. Change is gold dust in Argentina; buses will only accept coins and shopkeepers will often refuse some sales if it involves giving you change.
Check out our Travel Guides to Argentina…
An Introduction to Backpacking Argentina!
‘Italians who speak Spanish and think they’re British living in Paris’.
That’s how the saying goes. Basically, Argentina was a former Spanish colony that was flooded by Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. About half of today’s Argentineans have Italian ancestry and this is obvious from anything to the Spanish they speak to the food on offer, especially in the larger cities.
The British thing comes from the fact Argentina was highly influenced by British culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and even today there seems to be some general consensus that Argentina doesn’t belong stuck on its own on the bottom of the world.
It likes to be portrayed as having a cosmopolitan, progressive European society and yes and to be fair, Buenos Aires does have some strong similarities to the French capital, especially in some of the older colonial districts like San Telmo.
A Country of Extremes:
Even if this were completely true cosmopolitan cities don’t even cover half of what Argentina is about. The world’s eighth largest country has so much to offer travellers from the extremes of humid rainforests to world-class glaciers.
Name it and you can probably do it Argentina: in the northwest spend time with indigenous tribes in their secluded rural communities or spend a few days exploring the mighty Iguazu Falls on your way down from Brazil, visit cattle ranches in the vast Pampas plains, wine tasting in the foothills of the Andes… and that’s just in the North!
Moving south you can go from the snowy Andean Peaks to the scorching Monte Desert in just a few hours, spend a day on one Perito Moreno, just one of 48 Patagonian Glaciers.
Finish and chill with some Penguins at the bottom of the Americas: earth’s most southerly city, Ushuaia.
It’s not all about outdoor activities though, Argentina has some of South America’s most exciting cities such as the buzzing university city Córdoba with over 200,000 students, the chilled northern city of Salta with surrounded by the Andes, the sophisticated wine capital of Argentina, Mendoza or the melting pot of the capital, Buenos Aires.
5 Fun Facts about Argentina
1. Argentina’s most famous freedom fighter Che Guevara’s name was actually Ernesto Guevara but earned his name Che because of his frequent use of the expression meaning ‘mate’ or ‘friend’.
2. It wasn’t Disney but Argentina that produced the world’s first animated feature film in 1917. The 70-minute film El Aposol told the story of high levels of corruption and immorality in Argentina at the time.
3. Argentina has always been the world’s top consumer of beef per head (once at 70kg (11 stone!) per person) but in 2010 it lost its crown to small neighbour Uruguay as prices have risen by 70%.
4. Buenos Aires, the capital, literally means the ‘good airs’ or ‘fair winds’ and is named after a 14th Century Spanish settlement on the Italian island of Sardinia.
5. Anglo-Argentinean relations weren’t always bad. Britain helped make Argentina one of the richest countries in the world in the early 20th Century and investors and migrants built the country’s railways, started the first football club and even opened the first and only Harrods department store outside the UK in 1912.
Written by: Harry Van Schaick.