Driving Directions Argentina

ARGENTINA, the world’s eighth-largest country, stretches from the Tropic of Capricorn to Cape Horn on the southern tip of the South American continent. It is 3,331 kilometers or 2,070 miles long and nowhere exceeds 1,384 kilometers or 860 miles in width, and it also includes the eastern part of Tierra del Fuego.

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To the west, the massive mountain chain of the Andes forms the border with Chile. The country’s highest peak is Aconcagua in the northern Andes (6,960 meters or 22,834 feet), which lies just north and east of the Chilean capital, Santiago. Several other peaks also reach elevations more than 6,705 meters or 22,000 feet, but, farther south, the Patagonian Andes are lower and do not usually exceed 3,658 meters or 12,000 feet in height. In the north, the plains form part of the subtropical region known as the Gran Chaco. South of the Chaco and extending for about 1,609 kilometers or 1,000 miles are the grassy plains known as the Pampas.

The Pampas’ soils are alluvial clays, silts, and sands washed from the Andes by rivers and streams and deposited on the flatter land in a fertile layer. The climate ranges from warm temperate over the Pampas in the central region to a more arid climate in the north and west, while in the extreme south, conditions, although also dry, are much more relaxed. The Pampas’ vast fertile plains are the main agricultural area and produce cereals and wheat, while in other irrigated areas, sugar cane, fruit, and grapes for wine raised. Meat processing, animal products, and livestock production are significant industries and feature prominently in its export trade. A series of military regimes has resulted in an unstable economy that fails to provide reasonable living standards for the population. However, more recently, a trade agreement with other South American countries has aided economic recovery.

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The terrain of Argentina varies dramatically across the country’s different regions since both elevation and latitude play a major role in Argentina’s geography. The country’s four major geographic regions are the Andes Mountains, the lowland north, central Pampas, and the south’s Patagonia region. Patagonia includes Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of the South American continent, shared by Argentina and Chile.

Argentina has an eastern coast on the Atlantic Ocean.

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In the southern region of Argentina, Patagonia has a geography that ranges from a vast, windy, and treeless plateau to several glacial regions in the southern area of Tierra del Fuego. Patagonia extends more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Rio Colorado in the north to Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of the continent. Patagonia’s region takes its name from the Patagon, the native inhabitants believed by travelers in the 17th and 18th century to be the tallest people in the world.

The Strait of Magellan was named for Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521), the Portuguese navigator who traveled the strait in 1520 while trying to find a western route to the Spice Islands. He spent the winter of that year in the area of Patagonia. When he continued his trip, Magellan became the first European traveler to cross the Pacific Ocean, which he named because of the calm, peaceful weather he experienced on his journey. Unfortunately, he was killed in a skirmish between native people that he encountered when he reached the Philippines.

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