Welcome to Argentina! If you’re about to jump on your plane to Buenos Aires, or on your bus to cross the border, you’re still in time to learn a thing or two about the country. What’s the capital city? Not bad. What does the flag look like? Almost. Well, all that’s down here to help you prep your arrival. You’ll discover also a couple of things about Argentina landscapes, the weather, altitude and the country flag. And the coolest part: at the bottom, you’ll find all Green Mochila posts about travelling in Argentina.
Why visit Argentina
Argentina is a good place to start your South American trip from; there’s a lot of different things to see and do and the locals are among the friendliest on the continent.
Due to a huge immigration, the lifestyle is similar to the Western world, especially in big cities. So if you are visiting from Europe or the US, you won’t feel out of space. However, if you’d like to see a bit more of the indigenous life, head to the north, for example to the Jujuy region.
It’s a vast country, so a great choice for long trips; but some of the best places can be seen even on a work holiday. It has beautiful and diverse landscapes all around; and Buenos Aires offers everything we expect from a pretty and vibrant capital: impressive architecture, many free events, cool nightlife and some of the best museums on the continent.
Already set on visiting Argentina? Find more travel tips in our backpacking guide.
Weather & Climate in Argentina
The weather is obviously as diverse as the landscape in Argentina.
Remember that, in the Southern hemisphere, the 4 seasons are the opposite to the ones up north. Summer runs in Argentina from December to March, and winter from June to September.
The central regions of Mendoza and San Juan are very hot in the summer and cool in the winter. The northwest is generally hot and dry all year; although it can be chilly there too, when in altitude. The south from Bariloche down remains fairly cold all year round, and gets bloody freezing in winter.
The rest of Argentina is mild and temperate, with chilly winters and summers that can turn hot and humid in the pampas, the northeast and the region of Buenos Aires.
Discover Argentina landscapes
As you might guess, Argentina is not one but many landscapes.
Taking the Southern half of the country, Patagonia is among the world’s most pristine and beautiful nature. A jewel of glaciers, crystal-clear lakes and snow-capped mountains, it’s rough, it’s wild and it’s vast. Explore the Lake District, in the northern part, for a tad more comfort and outdoor activities.
All along the western frontier runs the dorsal spine of the Andes mountains range. That’s real mountaineer paradise, including Mount Aconcagua, America’s highest summit. To the north, it turns into arid, cacti-charged “puna“, or high plateaus. That’s the northwest of Argentina, red desert landscapes with colourful rock formations.
The north-east offers some rainforest and the Iguazú Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the world.
Argentina is also vast expenses of “pampa“, those wide flat plains where the cattle run free. But it’s also the low mountains of Córdoba, the marine life of the Atlantic coast and the beaches of the Buenos Aires province.
Altitude in Argentina
Most of Argentina is at low altitude, but it gets suddenly dizzying atop the Andes, at the border with Chile. There are no towns in altitude though (except Uspallata, at 2,039 m / 6,690 ft); so you’ll need to acclimatise only if you attempt an ascent.
The only part of the country where you could feel the effects of altitude on a long period is the northwest. It’s important that you control your efforts on the first days of your visit to Humahuaca (3,012 m / 9,882 ft), Iruya (2,780 meters / 9,120 feet), Cachi (2,531 m / 8,304 ft) and Tilcara (2,465 m / 8,087 ft).
Name & capital of Argentina
The Argentine Republic takes its name from the Italian Terra argentina, meaning “land of silver”. The Spaniards probably took up the Italian name after explorers such as Giovanni Caboto (known in some milieus as John Cabot). Note that the Spanish for “silver” is plata, name given to the estuary of Buenos Aires: Río de la Plata. Let’s add that the English name for that estuary is River Plate, which is also the name of one of the main football teams in Buenos Aires, and now we’ve probably lost you.
Where’s all that silver, then? Well, nowhere in sight. There were many legends among the Conquistadors about silver mountains spitting out their precious minerals like a fed baby. (The metaphor of the fed baby is mine, but I allow any Conquistador to use it from now on.) Such a mountain was found near Potosí, in present-day Bolivia.
The capital of Argentina is Buenos Aires, formerly “Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre“. The name literally means “good airs”, that is “fair winds”, named after the Virgin of Bonaira in Sardinia. That lady was commonly invoked and worshipped by the sailors who made the journey to the New World. So when they got to the River Plate, they were so grateful they had survived the rough ocean that they gave her name to the new city. It’s as easy as that.
Flag of Argentina
The flag of Argentina is a horizontal tricolour of light blue and white, with a golden sun in the middle. It was created by General Belgrano –a name you will discover often on your travel in Argentina.
That Sun is the Sun of May, representing the May Revolution of 1810, which eventually led to the liberation of both Uruguay and Argentina from the Spanish rule. That’s why you find this sun on the flag of Uruguay too.
The colours are poetically said to represent the clouds parting to reveal the blue sky; in its very first prototype –which you can see in the town of Jujuy– the blue and white stripes were reversed.
The Argentine flag inspired those of Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and to some extent the one of Paraguay.
Languages in Argentina
Spanish is the only official language in Argentina, in a coloured version called “Rioplatense“. The slang that Italian immigrants developed in Buenos Aires and then spread to Montevideo and Rosario is called “Lunfardo“.
It would be unfair not to mention the incredible diversity in origins and dialects among the Argentine population. Some native peoples resist to exist and speak their own language. Let’s mention for example the Mapuches in Patagonia, the Tupi-Guaraní in the north-east, Aymara and Quechua in the northwest.
Argentina attracted thousands of European immigrants in the XXth century, destitute people coming from all countries. Many communities settled in the vast land and built their home there. Nowadays, towns and villages still bear the original name that denotes their foreign origins. Think about Trelew, Puerto Madryn, Grand Bourg, Boulogne Sur Mer, Cipolletti, Wilde…
Therefore even to these days, some communities speak dialects that are deformed variations of German, Welsh, Italian, etc.
Ready to rumble? Follow our handcrafted Argentina itinerary for 2 & 3 weeks.