The world’s eighth-largest country, Argentina exerts a peculiar fascination. The birthplace of tango and Evita, the sheer diversity of its landscapes and cultures could fill many holidays. The capital city, Buenos Aires, is so effortlessly stylish that you’ll almost feel under-dressed, whatever you wear. Hang out in classic cafés or theatrical bookshops, and stroll along cobbled streets as you seek out the spirit of the world’s sexiest dance.

The hotter, drier north of the country boasts vibrantly colored rock formations and the impressive Iguassu Falls; a long, long way to the south lie the vast, empty stretches of Patagonia, overshadowed by the peaks of the Andes. Walk on desolate beaches where orcas pursue seals, witness glaciers collapsing, and enjoy a true nose-to-tail eating experience at an asado.

Ride with gauchos (South America’s cowboys) or take a trip on the oldest subway on the continent. Argentina is a superb country for a road trip, and features several iconic routes. Patagonia’s windswept spaces provided a hiding place for Robert Redford and Paul Newman (or rather, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and inspired Bruce Chatwin’s finest travel writing.

From Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city, the next stop is Antarctica. Ushuaia is situated on Tierra del Fuego, the land of fires, although the snow-capped mountains which surround it tell a tale of a different temperature.

Argentinians are a justifiably proud people, and punch above their weight when it comes to polo and rugby. The national character is shaped equally by the urban sophistication of the capital, and the call of the wild that echoes through Patagonia.

These are people with a real lust for life, and an apparent disdain for sleep. An afternoon snack sustains them until a late, late dinner – you’ll do well to find any restaurant that opens its doors before 9pm.

It’s a place that inspires passion in everyone who visits – whether you experience it in the throb of the tango, or the thunder of thousands of soccer fans roaring on their team. In quieter moments, you’ll hear sounds that may surprise you: lilting Welsh and Irish accents in isolated villages, where the descendants of European settlers have kept languages and customs alive for generations.

Towering over everything, the ghost of Evita, and South America’s tallest mountain, the 23 000-foot Aconcagua.

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