Few countries confront you with their sheer immensity quite like Argentina. It is an intense, dramatic place offering breathtaking contrasts in every corner of the nation. From the arid deserts of the north to the sprawling ice fields of the south, Argentina has something for any intrepid traveller itching for things remote, and every ‘blighted wanderer’ looking for an escape.
The capital, Buenos Aires, is a star on the global stage, a potent blend of modern European metropolis and throwback Latin American port city. Its residents tolerate the day only to come alive at night, and life races past the grand baroque buildings at a dizzying speed. However, step into a milonga and the pace slows as the unmistakable strings and accordion notes of the tango transport you to a previous century, where poor men killed each other with knives and prostitutes died of broken hearts.
In the north of the country the muscular Iguazú Falls thunder through impenetrable jungle filled with electric-blue butterflies and rainbow-billed toucans. Greedy capuchin monkeys snatch berries over the heads of tourists while crumbling mission ruins lie undisturbed among the trees. In the south, world-class ski resorts overlook lakes of cobalt blue fading in colour from the centre until crystalline waters lap at the shores. Further towards the end of the world, silent glaciers stretch endlessly until they shatter with a roar into a milky turquoise lagoon.
And in between? Infinite space. Drive the desolate Ruta 40 through the lonely expanse of Patagonia and the only sign of life will be a couple of condors and a thousand prehistoric handprints on a cave wall; wander the pampas and you’ll find nothing other than cattle and the occasional solitary ombu tree. Yet throughout the country, from colonial Salta to wild Ushuaia, you’ll find that the Argentine people are welcoming, boisterous and always at the ready with mate and conversation.