Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Covering most of the Southern Cone, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the north east; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south.
The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776.
The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country’s reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on–while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook–Argentina enjoyed an historically almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th centuryit already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.
The generally temperate climate ranges from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the far south. The north is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has a temperate climate, with hot summers with thunderstorms, and cool winters; and higher moisture at the east. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones.
Major wind currents include the cool Pampero Winds blowing on the flat plains of Patagonia and the Pampas; following the cold front, warm currents blow from the north in middle and late winter, creating mild conditions.
The Zonda, a hot dry wind, affects west-central Argentina. Squeezed of all moisture during the 6,000 m (19,685 ft) descent from the Andes, Zonda winds can blow for hours with gusts up to 120 km/h (75 mph), fueling wildfires and causing damage; when the Zonda blows (June–November), snowstorms and blizzard (viento blanco) conditions usually affect higher elevations. The Sudestada usually moderates cold temperatures but brings very heavy rains, rough seas and coastal flooding. It is most common in late autumn and winter along the central coast and in the Río de la Plata estuary.
Tourism in Argentina is characterized by its cultural offerings and its ample and varied natural assets. The country had 5.28 million visitors in 2010, ranking in terms of the international tourist arrivals as the top destination in South America, and second in Latin America after Mexico. Revenues from international tourists reached US$4.93 billion in 2010, up from US$3.96 billion in 2009. The country’s capital city, Buenos Aires, is the most visited city in South America.
Argentina is highly urbanized. The ten largest metropolitan areas account for half of the population, and fewer than one in ten live in rural areas. About 3 million people live in Buenos Aires City and the Greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area totals around 13 million, making it one of the largest urban areas in the world.
The metropolitan areas of Córdoba and Rosario have around 1.3 million inhabitants each and Mendoza, Tucumán, La Plata, Mar del Plata, Salta and Santa Fe have at least half a million people each.
The population is unequally distributed amongst the provinces: about 60% live in the Pampa region (21% of the total area), including 15 million people in Buenos Aires Province; Córdoba Province Santa Fe Province and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires have 3 million each. Seven other provinces have over one million people each: Mendoza, Tucumán, Entre Ríos, Salta, Chaco, Corrientes and Misiones.
Tucumán is the most densely populated with 60 inhabitants/km², the only Argentine province more densely populated than the world average, while the southern province of Santa Cruz has around 1 inhabitant/km².
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 trees.