Argentina - Attractions
More European than South American in flavour, Buenos Aires' heart boasts bustling streets, grand avenues, old-time cafes and stylish restaurants. The locals are renowned for their flair and cockiness, even in times of adversity. It's a city of tragedy and elation, a vibrant, cosmopolitan capital.
Argentina's second city, Córdoba long rivaled Buenos Aires for political, economic and cultural supremacy; indeed, while Buenos Aires languished through neglect in the 17th century, Cordoba was the country's architectural treasure house. Today, a fine collection of colonial buildings is concentrated in its compact centre. They include the old market, the Iglesia Catedral (featuring a Romanesque dome) and the Jesuit Iglesia de la Compañía. The Museo Histórico Provincial Marqués de Sobremonte is one of the most important historical museums in the country.
Situated in the Parque Nacional Iguazú near Puerto Iguazú, these spectacular falls lie just east of the confluence of the Iguazú and Paraná rivers. At least 5000 cubic m (176,570 cu ft) of water per second plunge the 70m (230ft) into the abyss below. If they look familiar, it's because they were the supporting actors in the film The Mission; appropriately, the area has historic ruins of Jesuit missions which also draw many visitors. San Ignacio Miní, built in a style of architecture known as 'Guaraní baroque', is especially popular. Above the falls, the waters are suitable for canoeing, kayaking and other water sports. The surrounding park is home to 55,000ha (135,850ac) of pristine subtropical rainforest, with abundant wildlife and plant species.
Mar del Plata
Summer means the beach to the inhabitants of Greater Buenos Aires, and Mar del Plata is most often the beach they have in mind. Situated on the northern Atlantic coast, 400km (228mi) from the capital, beaches in this area sprawl for 8km (5mi). Sophisticated mansions from the area's heyday as an upper-class resort mingle with the newer, more modest resorts catering to middle-class porteños. Sea lions keep an eye on the fishing activities around the wharves, and a replica of the grotto of Lourdes is a kitsch paradise.
The unrelentingly flat Pampas is Argentina's agricultural heartland and the home of that symbol of romantic nationalism, the gaucho. Comprising the provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa and major parts of Santa Fe and Córdoba, its varied environments include forested hills, extensive grasslands and flamingo-flecked salt lakes. The Parque National Lihué Calel is a popular detour, with wildlife including some puma and many guanaco, rhea, native hares and a variety of wild chinchilla called a vizcacha. The cities of La Plata, Luján (whose basilica to La Virgen de Luján receives 4 million pilgrims a year), Rosario and Santa Fe are worth seeing for their many museums, churches and faded colonial buildings.