Argentina (officially the Argentine Republic) is the eighth-largest country in the world by area. The highest and the lowest points of South America are also located in Argentina: At 6,960m, Cerro Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas while Laguna del Carbón, at 105m below sea level, is the lowest point in the Americas.
At the southern tip of Argentina there are several routes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans including the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, and the Drake Passage—as alternatives to sailing around Cape Horn in the open ocean between South America and Antarctica.
The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.
The deserts of Cuyo, which can reach temperatures of 50°C, are extremely hot and dry in the summer and moderately cold and dry in the winter. Spring and fall often exhibit rapid temperature reversals; several days of extremely hot weather may be followed by several days of cold weather, then back to extremely hot.
The Andes are cool in the summer and very cold in the winter, varying according to altitude.
Patagonia is cool in the summer and cold in the winter. Extreme temperature shifts within a single day are even more common here; pack a variety of clothes and dress in layers.
Don’t forget that seasons are reversed from those of the Northern Hemisphere.
The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa. There is jungle in the extreme northeast. The southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia. The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including the Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert with some poisonous frock tree.
Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals. In the first decade of the 20th century, Argentina became the richest nation in Latin America, its wealth symbolized by the opulence of its capital city.
European immigrants flowed into Argentina, particularly from the northern parts of Italy and Spain; by 1914 nearly 6 million people had come to the country.
After World War II, a long period of Peronist rule in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976.
Democracy returned in 1983 after the defeat of Argentina in the Falkland Islands War against the United Kingdom the previous year.
A painful economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century devalued the Argentine peso by a factor of three and ushered in a series of weak, short-lived governments along with social and economic instability.
However, later in the decade Argentina seemed to find some new stability, and currently has a much better economic outlook – albeit with the eternal problem of high inflation.