Vast, magnificent and versatile – Argentina has something for everyone. This Latin American nation is addictive and the longer you stay and explore the variety of food, wine, deserts, plains, mountains, lakes and glaciers the more you won’t want to leave. Argentina’s delights were seductively revealed in the film ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ as the youthful Che Guevara and his mate careered through the country’s splendid hinterland.
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In regards to geography, Argentina has the 9th largest landmass in the world, spanning over 2.7 million square kilometres. The South American nation has a massive coastline kissing the South Atlantic ocean, along with five land boarders shared with Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. Southern Argentina is one of the closest nations to Antarctica and is the bases for many tours to the South pole. As of 2015, Argentina had a population of 42.2 million people
With a recent history of oppression and military dictatorship, Argentina has now returned to democracy (and you can politely mention the Falklands/Malvinas). Buenos Aires is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city of boulevards and green spaces. You will find a fantastic blend of Latin American tango dancing along with many European influences – especially Italian – hence the spectacular ice cream. However, this is not a great place for vegetarians, Argentina is a feast in waiting for meat eaters. Maté, a bitter herbal tea, is a great ritual drink for social occasions.
In 2013, Argentina welcomed 5.6 million international visitors. Getting to grips with this giant country takes time and some organization – the distances are so large and it’s near impossible to cover everything. The capital, Buenos Aires, is a stunning city with a wild nightlife, a great place to start your trip. Other spots to check out include the pampas (the gaucho cliché lives on), the Andean mountain region bordering on Chile, and the expansive wildernesses of Patagonia full of spectacle and adventure – and fascinating wildlife. For wine lovers, don’t miss the chance to explore the local Malbec wineries.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Displacement of local peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Trekking – Porters Rights:
Mountain trekking – it’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging. But how many of us could do it without the porters who carry our luggage and equipment? Porters are an essential part of treks. However, they often suffer appalling working conditions.
Porters work in some of the harshest tourism conditions in the world, carrying tourists’ backpacks. Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the porters carrying trekkers’ equipment in the Himalayas, on the Inca Trail in Peru and at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Lack of shelter, inadequate food and clothing, and minimal pay are commonly faced problems. Morocco is home to the Atlas mountains & Mt Toubkal – Tourism Concern has carried out numerous treks to Mt Toubkal, supporting ethical trekking & supporting porters rights.
The majority of UK operators now have policies on porters, paving the way for improved pay and working conditions for hundreds of porters. Look out for the Ethical Trekking logo or use one of our Ethical Tour Operators. Tourism Concern have carried out a very successful campaign on Porters Rights, to learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Porters Rights:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly people of Argentina can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Loss and Indigenous Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. To learn more, check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism:
El Toreo de la Vincha (Bullfighting):
According to Right-Tourism.com, bullfighting is banned in Argentina but there are still some festivals that involve ‘mock bullfighting’. Each August, thousands of tourists and locals head to the town of Casabindo to witness the spectacle of ‘El Toreo de la Vincha’. The bull is not killed in this festival, instead ‘matadors’ have to grab a headband from the bull’s horns. Although the bull is not killed, the event invariably does cause a lot of stress to the bulls involved.
According to Right-Tourism.com, some agencies are offering hunting trips to Argentina to shoot doves and advertising them by saying that you can shoot over 1000 cartridges per day. There is no close season for the eared dove in the country, so countless numbers of these birds of peace are killed in the name of sport each year.
Campers, hikers, and climbers should all follow a “Leave No Trace” approach when exploring the great outdoors. In many popular trekking locations around the world, a lack of this ethic has resulted in highlands and peaks being littered with garbage. Here are some suggestions for keeping the trekking regions beautiful for everyone to enjoy:
- Carry out all your rubbish or dispose of your trash responsibly. Don’t overlook easily forgotten items, such as foil, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers. Take into account how long items take to degrade. For example, aluminium cans take 80 to 100 years and plastic bottles take up to 450 years. Besides, while degrading harmful chemicals end up in the ground water.
- Collect rubbish where you see it on walking trails. If you cannot carry it out of the area, take the litter to a local rubbish collection depot or incineration centre.
- When buying things from shops, do not accept plastic bags.
- Never bury your rubbish. Digging disturbs soil and ground cover and encourages erosion, and buried rubbish may be dug up by animals, which may be injured or poisoned by it.
- Minimize waste by taking minimal packaging and no more food than you will need. Take reusable containers or stuff sacks.
- Take your used batteries home to your country.
- Where there is a toilet, please use it. Where there is none, bury your waste. Dig a small hole 15cm (6in) deep and at least 100m (320ft) from any watercourse. Cover the waste with soil and a rock. In snow, dig down to the soil. Ensure that these guidelines are also applied to portable toilet tents.
- Please encourage your porters to use toilet facilities as well.
Argentina’s climate experiences great variations depending on where you are travelling – you will find extreme heat (49c) in the northern Chaco region, pleasant and mild temperatures of the central pampas, to the subantarctic cold (-16c) in glacial Patagonia.
In general, January is the warmest month and June and July are the coldest. In regards to the capital, Buenos Aires averages 94cm of rainfall annually, and the mean annual temperature is 16° C. Snowfalls can occur occasionally in Buenos Aires.
Common landscapes in Argentina are vast grasslands, thick pine forests, dense jungle forests and the glorious ‘ombú’ tree. Argentina is home to a massive array of local fauna. You can find many tropical animals in the northern forests of northern Argentina; including various wildcats such as the Puma. In the grasslands and deserts you can spot various types of rodents along with armadillos, otters, weasels, foxes, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles and the hog-nosed skunk. Birdlife is also diverse so keep an eye out for an ostrich, tinamou, and ovenbird. There are many threatened and endangered species in Argentinua. Endangered species include the Argentinean pampas deer, tundra peregrine falcon, glaucous macaw, spectacled caiman, and the American crocodile to name a few.
In regards to national parks and green belts, in 1977 a 150-km greenbelt around Buenos Aires with controls on emission, effluents and building density established. Argentina has four natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Los Glaciares, Iguazu National Park, Peninsula Valdes, and Ischigualasto/Talampaya National Parks. Around 13% of the country is covered by forest and woodland; 7% of that wooded area is protected.
Argentina’s major environmental challenges are air and water pollution, and the loss of agricultural lands (due to erosion and salinity). Air pollution is mostly caused from industrial emissions and water supply is threatened by uncontrolled dumping of pesticides, hydrocarbons, and heavy metals.
Open, blunt, honest and direct; terms used to describe Argentines. Yet people from this Latin American nation are able to remain tactful and diplomatic. Argentines are warm and friendly people and it is their unreservedness that emphasises their passion and sentimentality.
It surprises many that the majority of Argentines are primarily of European descent. In many respects, both culturally and emotionally, Argentines often seem more European than Latin American. This can especially seen in Buenos Aires with its cosmopolitan and European influences.
The family is the centre of Argentine life. Extended families still having prominence and powerful families command widespread respect. Honour is the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ and it routinely affects day-to-day life at home, in the community and in business.
In regards to meeting and greeting locals, initial greetings are formal where you should greet the eldest, or most important person first. A handshake, with direct eye contact, is a standard way of meeting. Typically Argentines are physically close communicators – locals will often touch each other when speaking and maintain little physical distance when in conversation.
If you are invited to a local’s house to share a meal, ensure you dress well and do not arrive early – arriving 30 minutes late is considered punctual! Wait for the host to tell you where to sit and do not begin eating until the hostess invites you to do so. Toastes are common, wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink.
The vast grasslands of Argentina have played a key role in the development of Argentina’s world-famous cattle industry – Argentina is home to arguably the best steak you will ever eat. It is no surprise that beef is the national dish of Argentina. Many dishes contain meat. Make sure you try some of these famous main courses:
- parrillada (a mixed grill of steak and various other cuts of beef)
- asado (a beef roast cooked over an open fire)
- milanesa (beef that is dipped in eggs, crumbs, and then fried)
- Carbonada (a stew that contains meat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and chunks of corn on the cob.)
- Empanadas (meat or cheese filled packages of deliciousness)
In regards to beverages, be sure to try ‘yerba mate’; the national drink which is a herbal drink similar to tea. Mendoza in western Argentina is a famous red wine region, try a glass of Melbec with your steak!
Argentina’s official language is Spanish, however Argentinian Spanish is different from the Spanish spoken in Spain. Some believe that the local tounge sounds more like Italian than Spanish. There are also many other languages spoken in Argentina including Italian, German, English and French. Indigenous languages include Tehuelche, Guarani and Quechua.