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Argentina is one of the most fascinating countries in the western hemisphere. It was first settled by Spaniards in the 16th century but had a large influx of immigrants from other parts of Europe in the 19th century, after it obtained its independence from Spain. While Italians were the largest single group, English, Irish, German and Jewish and other European immigrants also arrived in significant numbers during that period. As a result, 90% of the population of Argentina is of European descent, the highest for any country in the western hemisphere. This multicultural background is particularly reflected in its elegant capital, Buenos Aires.
A complex and energetic port city stretching along the Rio de la Plate River, Buenos Aires has always been the gateway to Argentina. Portenos, as the people of Buenos Aires are known, value their European heritage highly. Italian and British names outnumber Spanish and the broad boulevards and elegant buildings are markedly more European than South American. In the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires boasts one of the great opera houses of the world and also has world-class theater and music. While the greater metropolitan area has a population of just over 13 million, approximately one third of the country's population, the city's neighborhoods are highly individualized, each with its own characteristic colors and forms. Old time cafes intermingle with stylish restaurants and the uniquely Argentinean dance, the tango, is ubiquitous in all areas.
Outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina has much to offer its visitors. Three areas particularly suggested for visitor consideration. They are the Iguacú Falls in the north; the wine country in Mendoza province; and the resort area of San Carlos de Bariloche in the foothills of the Andes. In addition, serious outdoor people should consider visiting Patagonia; the area which covers the southern portion of the country down to the Terra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip on the Americas. Patagonia is relatively sparsely populated and has wide diversity of topography, flora and fauna. It also offers superb skiing, fly fishing and pony trekking.
The Iguacú Falls are located in Misiones province, a strip of land in northern Argentina, squeezed in between Brazil and Paraguay. They are second only to the Victoria Falls in southern Africa, in terms of the volume of water that flows over them.
The province on Mendoza is located some 650 miles northwest of Buenos Aires in the foothills of the Andes. As some 70% of the country's output is produced in the area, it is the center of Argentina's wine industry. The area is known for its scenic beauty and it has become popular with visitors particularly those who are also wine aficionados. Mountain climbers are also attracted to the area because of its Andes location and because Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak in the western hemisphere (22,841 feet) is located in the province. It is also a major skiing center during the southern winter.
Located approximately 1,000 miles southwest of Buenos Aires and 600 south of Mendoza, San Carlos de Bariloche, generally known just as Bariloche, is an Alpine playground located in Nahual Haupi National Park in the foothills of the Andes. Famous for skiing in the winter, it offers a myriad of outdoor activities in the summer including golf, fly fishing, mountain climbing and sailing. Bariloche teems with shops, restaurants and nightclubs and is extremely popular with affluent Argentineans.