Spirited Argentina, with its frantic capital, vast pampas, rolling wine regions and snowy peaks, is a land bursting with adventure. Down south in Patagonia find an astonishing backdrop of expansive lakes, jagged peaks and mile upon empty mile of space. From its sub-tropical top to its icy tip, it is impossible to sum up Argentina as a whole. It is a mesmerising and impactful jigsaw puzzle of extremes, ready to captivate and enthral all those who allow it. Argentina is situated in South America, separated from Chile to the west by the long spine of the Andes.
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Its landscape is extremely varied, with the top sub-tropical and sun-baked, and its sub-Antarctic bottom tip glistening with icy waters and glaciers. It has 3, miles 4,km of coastline. Argentina can roughly be divided into four main geographical areas: the spectacular Andes mountain range, the dry North along with the more verdant Mesopotamia, the lush plains of the Pampas and the windswept wastes of Patagonia. In the southwest is the Argentine Lake District with a string of beautiful glacial lakes framed by snow-covered mountains.
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Travellers should bring a world travel adaptor. Volcanoes, glaciers, endless plains: The name Patagonia evokes freedom, wilderness, adventure — but does this rugged land live up to its name? Lufthansa flies daily nonstop from Frankfurt to Buenos Aires, and is the only airline to operate a nonstop service between Germany and Argentina lufthansa. Domestic airlines offer a daily choice of onward connections from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. Download now on miles-and-more. This is the place that the wind calls home.
Rushing in from the icy wastes of Antarctica, it piles up seething waves in the Beagle Channel and charges on over the Andean foothills until there is nothing left to hold it back. It races through the mountains and on to the plains, where it sweeps through the pampas grass, shakes the trees and ruffles the wooly fleeces of the grazing guanacos.
Finally, it swoops up into the clouds above the Cuernos del Paine, the horn-like peaks of Torres del Paine National Park, until a moment ago still obscured by what appeared to be a wall of cotton batting. Finding a gap, the wind penetrates the white swathes, nudging, pushing, and within the space of five minutes totally dispersing them. And now? After all the days and kilometers you have traveled through Patagonia, you find yourself sitting quite lost for words, yet again, as you gaze across at the mountaintops.
Instead, you hear the rustling of tin foil. It can be icy cold when trekkers sit down for a break, and boiling hot when they set off again a short while later. Patagonia is a land of extremes, of totally unpredictable weather, barely fathomable dimensions. Surveying the vast panorama stretching away toward the horizon on all sides, your knees almost buckle beneath you.
He can say this in Spanish and English, and also in Italian and German. To Maradona! To Diego! Twenty years ago, only a few passing trekkers would raise their glasses here, but since then business has been booming. Now tourists from Antarctic cruise ships stand three and four deep at the bar, straining for a glimpse of this piece of Argentine soccer memorabilia.
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If any town can truly be said to be at the very end of the world, then that town is Ushuaia. So Maradona actually came here? Not exactly, says the barkeeper. But he the barman did go to see an international match in Buenos Aires once, when Maradona was still coach of the Argentine squad — hence the jersey.
So before the last World Cup; before the German team blasted the Argentines off the field , right? Our host falls silent, but the next round is on the house. When it comes to getting around in this part of the world, buses are definitely your best option. They will take you just about anywhere: over mountains and across borders, even across the sounds, riding pickaback on local ferries.
But at the very least, they will take you over the rough roads that in western Europe would be deemed fit only for farm vehicles. The landscape slides by like a highly elitist experimental movie. No wildlife, no plants, and least of all humans to be seen far and wide. With the whinny of horses and the shadow of a condor soaring high overhead. With the glittering blue of a glacier face, the dull thud of hooves on the grassy steppe, and the molten crimson corridor conjured onto a mountain lake by the sun as it hangs low in the sky.
Patagonia has dual nationality. Everywhere here is desolate. Maybe this all-embracing emptiness gives us an inkling of our own mortality — and of how tiny we are, how insignificant in the great scheme of things.
Could be. It could also be that these landscapes attract a very special type of person. Hour after bumpy hour, this motley crew is making its way across the countryside on board a bus. Many other dream destinations fail to stand up to scrutiny, and expectations frequently dissolve into disappointment on arrival, or soon after. The people on the observation platform look bewildered: Why their speed? The ranger lifts his thumb and index finger to his forehead.
But they find it harder to imagine how entire sheets of ice the size of an apartment block can break off a glacier at any moment and hit the water, sending a hundred thousand splinters of ice flying in all directions. Normally, when people think of a glacier, they picture one of those dismal expanses of ice in the Alps, but they are laughable compared with Perito Moreno. When the next ice wall breaks off, the world is plunged, for a moment, into absolute stillness.
Then the ice crashes to the water below and seconds later, the sound wave reaches your eardrums. If you are close enough, it will even continue to echo somewhere inside you for a few seconds longer.
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Perfectly still, you listen for the next rumble. On the final day of the journey, the weather behaves as though the four seasons had got together for a party, boozed for days on end and were still pretty much the worse for wear. At the Seno Otwas penguin colony, at least, you can expect to see hail, snow, and pouring rain all within the space of an hour — and in between, the sun will blaze hot enough to give you your first sun burn.
Then suddenly the wind will get up again and the rain will begin to pelt down in big, heavy drops that gradually turn into tiny blades of ice and, luckily, fall very slowly. And maybe just because it looks so good against a sky of violet cloud, a rainbow will arch above the ocean. To others, it starts thousands of kilometers further south.
But if you ask the people in Patagonia to define where Patagonia lies, they will tell you that Patagonia is where they live. All it takes is the landscape stretching as far as the horizon. Buenos Aires is a town that knows how to party and party late. Succulent cuts and Malbec to die for. French colonial cuisine might seem odd in Buenos Aires, but be sure to try this spot. Vietnamese and Moroccan food that seriously impresses.
A cosy neighbourhood bar in Retiro, this place serves up superb ojo de bife ribeye , with an impressive wine list to match.