Argentina, the second-largest country in Latin America, occupies most of the southern part of the South American continent.
There is much of Argentina which conjures images of Europe. The dynamic and sophisticated capital of Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of the South” while the snow- capped peaks of Tierra del Fuego are also known as the “Switzerland of the South”. Argentina has many wonderful gardens and landscapes to see and visit, including historic public parks, contemporary gardens, garden-filled suburbs, ecological reserves and vibrant street art.
Garden Travel Guide to Argentina
Geography and population
The terrain is made up mostly of low or flatlands, although it also features some major mountain ranges and tablelands situated at a high altitude above sea level, including the Western hemisphere’s highest peak, Aconcagua at 6,959m. Argentina is a federal country, divided into 23 provinces which have similar political status as the states of USA or Australia.
The country is divided geographically into five regions (plus the Atlantic Islands):
• the Pampas an area of vast plains of agriculture and the main population centres;
• the North-West mountainous region;
• Cuyo, in the centre west area producing mining and irrigated agriculture;
• the North-East, known as Mesopotamia, is a fertile valley between two rivers—the Uruguay and Paraná. The area features plains, jungles, hills and swamps, as well as the spectacular Iguazu falls, and
• Patagonia on an arid windy plateau covering most of the southern part of Argentina. It has a cool climate but little rainfall.
Argentina’s population is about 42 million, over a quarter living in the capital Buenos Aries, a chaotic, hypnotic and addictive city with its all night fiestas and, of course, home of the tango.
The country is bordered by the tropics in the north, the Atlantic to the east, the Andes to the west and Antarctica to its south so will offer many climatic regions. Climate Ranges from subtropical conditions in the north to subarctic in the south.
The mighty Andes range acts as a rain barrier from the rainfall of the Pacific and so on the whole, much of the Argentine side of the Andes is dry but the north is more hot and wet and the far south cold and wet.
The bulk of central Argentina is temperate with very warm humid summers and cool dry winters. Buenos Aries has a winter daily temperatures range of about 8 to 14 and a summer daily temperature range of 21 to 28 average but days can be much hotter. The rainfall in Buenos Aries is fairly evenly distributed through the year
The north west is dry and Salta has a summer maximum of 22 but a winter maximum of only 10. To the north east in the area known as Mesopotamia the climate is sub tropical and remains humid and warm year round with a high annual rainfall occurring in any month.
Patagonia is mild most of the year. The central part of the country is generally temperate, with dry, chilly winters and summers that can be brutally hot and humid. The higher elevations of the Andes are much colder with frequent snow.
When to visit Argentina and its gardens
While the warmth in the north might be attractive to visitors from Europe, the humidity is high all year round. The slightly cooler months of April to October are more comfortable.
In the temperate areas of the Pampas and northern Patagonia and for much of Argentina the climate is easy to travel in for most of the year but most favour spring through to autumn. Buenos Aires can be visited at any time of the year but the summer months between December and March can be stifling on hotter days and most visitors will find spring or autumn more pleasant.
The Iguazu Falls are at their most spectacular in May and June when rainfall is at its highest, but September and October are considered to be the best months to visit when the skies are clear.
Late spring, when the jacarandas, coral (ceibo) trees and pink lapacho are in full bloom makes many of Argentina’s cities and arresting sight.
Southern Patagonia is best visited during the Southern Hemisphere summer months between October and March. The Patagonian wind change around spring and autumn time can make life a little more comfortable, and the best time of year for walking is when the temperatures are a little cooler in the autumn or spring as well. This area can be very, very cold in winter and visitors will usually want to avoid June to September.
The northwest of Argentina is a fairly dry and desert-like region. Part of this is due to its altitude, high up in the Andean foothills, but it’s also due to the dryness of the soil, which is predominantly red sandstone.
With this climate and location comes plant species that thrive in this dry climate. Many types of cacti are found at the higher altitudes where rainfall is rare, in particular the famous candelabra cactus known locally as the Cardon. (With a lack of trees at these altitudes, this cactus has provided for much of the building material for the roofs of northern Argentina). However, in between the Andes and the Chaco lies one of the country’s most diverse areas of vegetation known as the ‘Yungas’. With plenty of summer rainfall, this subtropical region hosts a wide variety of species ranging from grasslands to gallery forests.
Misiones Province (along with the other ‘between rivers’ provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes) is part of “La Mesopotamia”, with verdant and diverse vegetation. The finger of Argentinian territory that pushes northwards into Brazil is a region of almost constant rainfall and it supports dense, subtropical forest. The climate is humid all year round, although the temperature does drop in the winter months and it can be quite chilly. Many types of indigenous hardwoods and softwoods grow in the forests, including giant mahoganies, palms, rosewoods and jacarandas.
The ‘Mesopotamia’ region also has swampy lowland and open savannah, a product of the abundant rainfall. Similar to other major wetland areas in the world, this vast body of freshwater sustains a great variety of vegetation, including a myriad of small floating islands that have formed out of tangles of water plants pushed together by the wind-created currents. Although most of the wetlands plants are low growing such as the lily or reeds, their density makes it difficult to navigate a path, so the interior of the wetlands is rarely visited.
The lowland regions feature grasslands surrounding the river Plate and its tributaries as they meander their way inland. This area has been heavily grazed and farmed over the centuries. The ‘pampas’ grasses that stretch to the horizon are punctuated by the occasional poplar that has been introduced into the area for wind protection.
The area that surrounds Mendoza is a fascinating mix of desert and poplars but mostly one of introduced and cultivated rather than naturally occurring plants, due to the nature of the climate here.
As you move further up into the mountains the vegetation becomes sparser with only the small, and hardy grasses and occasional cactus. Down in the valleys, the rolling landscape is dominated by irrigated vineyards.
Similar to Mendoza to the north of Argentina, the region around Bariloche, while still being flanked by the Patagonian steppe, has unique vegetation. Here, in the small valleys and hills of the Lake District, pine, fir and cedars flourish, making it look rather like the Alps in Europe. The area has superb for wildflower displays during spring.
The vast, windswept plains of Patagonia do not support much vegetation, although there are quite a few hardy scrub and bush species that battle on. Part of the reason for this lack of real vegetation, apart from the wind conditions, is also due to the soft, sandy soil that is characteristic of the area. It is still possible to see forests of beech and coniferous woodland in patches.
Right at the foot of Argentina, the Tierra del Fuego, while cold, is actually quite a good growing location and where the famous ‘Lenga’, Nothofagus pumilio, is found in abundance. The fruits from this small tree are often used to make a type of jam. The trees themselves can be found as far north as El Chalten in Patagonia). This region has many evergreens forests.
Argentine Garden Style
There are several well-known Argentinian native plants that have found their way in to gardens around the world. The national flower of Argentina is ceibo or coral tree, Erythrina crista-galli and it is widely cultivated in parks and larger gardens. Lemon verbena (Aloysia) was first collected in Buenos Aires in the 1760s and the wonderful starry white rain lily, Zephryanthes candida also comes from Argentina.
Often used to create a tropical island resort ambience, the queen or cocos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) actually hails from northern Argentina. Monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana, represents remnant Gondwanan vegetation in the south-west forests. Pampas grass, from the Andes foothills, (Cortaderia selloana) has long been valued for its creamy, distinctive feathery plumes. Fuchsia magellanica, a popular garden shrub throughout warm temperate and subtropical zones with its delicate hanging flower bells of coral pink and purple.
Many of the larger public gardens are European in style, with French designer Carlos Thays responsible for both securing the land and then planting many of Buenos Aires larger parks and the botanical garden. Thays particularly loved trees with colourful flowers, leaving a legacy of parks and city streets filled with avenue plantings of purple-blue jacarandas, yellow tipuanas, pink lapacho trees (Handroanthus impetiginosus) and vibrant red coral trees.
Garden tours to, and in, Argentina
Garden tours to Argentina typically include:
• the spectacular Iguazu Falls
• stately estancia winery gardens
• the formal gardens of Buenos Aires, many of them designed by Carlos Thays plus the extensive rose garden of Paseo del Rosedal and the metal flower sculpture, Floralis Genérica
• the colder climate steppe vegetation of northern Patagonia in the south of Argentina
Companies that regularly take garden tours to Argentina include Holbrook Travel in Florida and ALC Tours in Melbourne. You can download a walking tour app for Palermo, the most famous part of Buenos Aires, called Buenos Aires Map and Walks, that includes the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, parts of the botanical garden and several beautiful tree-lined boulevards.
Best open gardens to visit in Argentina
Best open gardens to visit in Buenos Aires
• Buenos Aires Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires) 7 hectares, beautiful mature trees including stunning jacarandas and coral trees, Roman, French and oriental gardens, butterfly garden, Argentina indigenous flora walk, plus large ornate glasshouses. Designed by Frenchman Carlos Thays in 1892.
• Tres de Febrero Park (also called Palermo Woods or Bosques de Palermo) including Paseo del Rosedal (Rose Garden), and the Japanese Garden. Designed by Carlos Thays in 1914. Andalusian Patio, the climbing rose arbor, the magnificent wooden White Bridge, the Poet’s Garden, lake and Rose Garden with over 14,000 rose bushes. near Ave. del Libertador and Ave. Sarmiento.
• Parque Micaela Bastidas Puerto Madero are – a modern park with gabion walls, trees and grassland plantings
• Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden) – dating from 1967, former garden of the Japanese Embassy donated to the city, pond, Japanese bridge, tea house, irises. Designed by Yasuo Onomata.
• Plaza de las Naciones Unidas – large lake with a huge metal flower sculpture (Floralis Genérica) by Eduardo Catalano that reflects the surrounding buildings. The flower opens and closes each day.
• Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve – a 350 hectare wilderness close to the city, with a great variety of trees, herbs, plants and shrubs typical of the delta and the shoreline of the Río de la Plata. Its lagoons are inhabited by birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
• La Recoleta – stroll the streets of Buenos Aires’ most beautiful suburb with its Belle Epoch buildings, avenues and many fine parks and monuments. Evita Peron is buried in the Recoleta Cemetery.
• Buenos Aires Street Art – Buenos Aires is famous for its colourful street art and murals, where artists from around the world come to display their talent.
• Caminito, La Boca – walk along the ‘little walkway’, a colourful traditional alley and street museum, often filled with tango dancers
Best open gardens to visit South of Buenos Aires
• Dos Tala Estancia Argentina (garden stay)
Best open gardens to visit North of Buenos Aires
• Museo Botanico Chirau Mita, La Puntilo in Chilecito – terraced cactus garden with Incan-style stone walls and over 1200 species.
Getting to/from/around Argentina
Due to the enormous size of the country, it is best if you combine air and overland transport. There is a intercity rail service between many cities and the government is intent on re-establishing long distance rail as a viable alternative. Several rail companies operate the services. There is also an extensive network of comfortable long distance coaches, some providing levels of service up to a level similar to business class flying.
There are Colectivos (local buses) operate on main thoroughfares in all large towns and cities.
Conveniences/water/power/public amenities in Argentina
Normal business hours are Mon-Fri 0900-1900, or even later, and a siesta doesn’t usually feature in the country’s business community.
Breakfast is approximately between 9 and 10 am. Lunch is from 12.30 to 2.30 pm, whilst dinner is from 9 PM until midnight.
The electric supply in Argentina is 220-240v, 50Hz, AC. You may use either the typical European rounded 2 prong plug or a 3 prong plug used in Australia
Fun Facts about Argentina
The name Argentina comes from the Latin ‘argentum’ which means silver. The origin of the name goes back to the voyages made by the first Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) to the Rio de la Plata. The shipwrecked survivors of the first expedition discovered Indians in the region who presented them with silver objects.
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