Northern Argentina - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Northern Argentina

Northern Argentina

The northern regions of Argentina are an interesting mix of colonial heritage, incredible natural beauty, agriculture and an indigenous flavour. Two major Argentinean rivers, the Paraná and the Uruguay, flow together in the northeast of the country, creating the Rio de la Plata estuary. The land in between the rivers is known as Mesopotamia, a swampy, wet and very hot region covered with yatay palms, orchids and tree ferns.

Perhaps one of the principal attractions in this region are the spectacular Iguazú Falls in the Iguazú National Park, tucked away in the extreme northeast, surrounded by Brazil. Lush forests bursting with wildlife and impressive, rugged mountains lie in contrast to the vast, fertile plains of the Pampas below. Spread over a large portion of the country, the Pampas are known as the Gran Chaco in the North, and these plains form the agricultural heartland of Argentina, where gauchos(cowboys) roam and where the country's famous beef comes from. The Gran Chaco is much drier than the central part of the Pampas and is a rich source of tannins and timber.

Closer to the Chilean border in the west is the impressive Andes Mountain Range, and its highest peak, Cerro Aconcagua, situated in the famed wine region of Mendoza. The bustling city and industrial hub of Córdoba is also to be found in the north and here, Jesuit traditions, colonial architecture and traditional guachoculture combine, with plenty of traditional festivals and local arts and crafts to be discovered. There are many treasures to be found by travellers willing to move beyond Buenos Aires, and the northern region is not to be missed.

Information & Facts

Spanish is the official language of Argentina but English is understood in the tourist areas.

The Argentinean Peso (ARS) is divided into 100 centavos. The recent devaluation of the Peso has made Argentina more affordable for travellers but there is still much economic uncertainty and travellers are advised to keep an eye on the exchange rate. Currency can be exchanged at banks and cambios(bureaux de change) but it is easier to use ATMs, available in most urban towns, which reflect the current exchange rate. Credit and debit cards are generally accepted, and US Dollars and Euros are normally taken everywhere, but some international cards place limits on transactions. Cirrus cards sometimes aren't accepted. There can be problems using travellers cheques in rural areas, although most banks in major cities should accept them. It's best to take travellers cheques in US Dollars to avoid additional exchange rate charges.

Local time in Argentina is GMT -3.

Founded in 1573, Córdoba is Argentina's second largest city and although there has been massive development in recent years, much of the old colonial vestiges remain. A fine collection of churches and colonial buildings survive from this period including the 17th century Town Hall (El Cabildo), the Romanesque Iglesia Cathedral and the Jesuit Iglesia de la Compañía, the oldest surviving church in Argentina, dating from 1622. The Museo Histórico Provincial Marqués de Sobremonte is one of the most important historical museums in the country. The Jesuit influence is clear within the scenic mountain interior, which is scattered with colonial churches, hermitages and interesting towns. Many are well-prepared for tourists, with hotels, restaurants and festivals keeping alive the Jesuit and gaucho traditions.

Iguazú National Park is a sub-tropical rainforest which covers 135,000 acres and is home to Iguazú Falls – Cataratas de Iguazú. Iguazú Falls is one of the great natural highlights of the world and an experience that will stay with you forever. Situated on the borders of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazú Falls are formed by rapids from the Iguazú river. The main falls are 20m higher than Niagara Falls and about half as wide again. Above the impact of the fall of the water on the basalt rocks below there is usually a 30m high cloud of spray. The falls are part of a natural reserve that has been declared a National Park, and the whole area has been designated a UNESCO Heritage site. The lush, wild tropical vegetation supports an abundance of extraordinarily colourful fauna, including parrots, toucans, jaguars, capybara and tapirs, all sharing this stunningly beautiful, orchid rich park. The town on the Argentinean side of the falls is called Puerto Iguazú.

The Mendoza Province rests at the foot of the Andes and is Argentina's main wine-producing region, peppered here and there with wine farms offering tours and tastings. The city of Mendoza, a low-rise city since 1861 when it was almost destroyed by an earthquake, is characterised by wide, leafy boulevards and a massive network of canals. Well worth seeing is the Enoteca Giol wine museum and if one is visiting in late February, one must not miss the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, an annual grape-harvest festival accompanied by concerts and local celebrations. Near the border with Chile lies Mount Aconcagua. At 23,000 feet (6,900m) it is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere.

The vast flat plains of the Pampas are Argentina's agricultural heartland and the birthplace of the gaucho(cowboy). Lying southwest of Buenos Aires is the location of Argentina's famous beef and grain industry, the source of the country's wealth. The area is festooned with small agricultural towns, which are home to the majority of Argentina's population, but hold little to interest the tourist. There are however excursions available to different ranches during which one can enjoy a day's horseriding and feasting on asado.

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