Argentina stretches 4,000 km from its sub-tropical north to the sub-antarctic south. Its terrain includes part of the Andes mountain range, swamps, the plains of the Pampas and a long coastline. Its people have had to struggle with military dictatorship, a lost war over the Falkland Islands, and severe economic difficulties.
Argentina Tourist Attractions
Argentina is rich in resources, has a well-educated workforce and is one of South America's largest economies. But it has also fallen prey to a boom and bust cycle.
A deep recession foreshadowed economic collapse in 2001. This left more than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest. The country struggled with record debt defaults and currency devaluation. By 2003 a recovery was under way, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a vital new loan. Since then, Argentina has restructured its massive debt, offering creditors new bonds for the defaulted ones, and has repaid its debt to the IMF.
But with poverty rife and unemployment high, many Argentines still await the benefits of the economic upturn. The legacy of military rule from 1976-1983 is an open wound. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the seven-year "dirty war". The bodies of many abductees - known as the "disappeared" - have never been found. Fiordland National Park
Amnesties which protected former junta members from prosecution have been repealed and the legality of pardons granted to military leaders in the 1980s and 1990s is being questioned. Argentines gave the world the tango. They are mad about soccer, and are reckoned to be the best polo players. Their love of horses is best personified by the figure of the Argentine 'gaucho', the solitary, independent ranch-hand.
Full name: Argentine Republic
Population: 39.5 million (UN, 2007)
Capital: Buenos Aires
Area: 2.8 million sq km (1.1 million sq miles)
Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 peso = 100 centavos
Main exports: Food and live animals, mineral fuels, cereals, machinery
GNI per capita: US $4,470 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ar
International dialling code: +54
President: Cristina Fernandez Cristina Fernandez swept to victory in the first round of Argentina's presidential election in October 2007 - a victory that many attributed to the popularity of her husband, President Nestor Kirchner.
Ms Fernandez is the first woman to be elected president of Argentina
She fought the election campaign largely on Mr Kirchner's record of reducing poverty and unemployment in the wake of the 2001-2002 economic crisis - one of the worst crises the country had ever experienced. She is expected to continue her husband's domestic policies of striving for high growth rates while containing inflation.
However, she is also expected to devote more attention to foreign policy, continuing to maintain close ties with other Latin American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela while at the same time seeking to ease the at times strained ties with Washington.
The main challenge Ms Fernandez will have to face is the renewed threat of high inflation. A quarter of the Argentine population still lives in poverty, and any rise in the prices of basic commodities is likely to have a devastating impact.
She has a long track-record as a politician. As a law student in the 1970s she was active in a leftist Peronist movement, later becoming first a provincial and then a national deputy. She supported her husband - whom she met at university in 1975 - as he rose through the Peronist ranks, and in 1995 became a senator herself.
After Mr Kirchner was elected president in 2003, she was his chief adviser, and he also plays an important role in her leadership. One of his first jobs was to help with negotiations to release hostages held by the guerrillas in the Colombian jungle.
The couple have been dubbed "the Clintons of the South", and Ms Fernandez encouraged the comparison by alluding to the similiarities between herself and Hillary Clinton during her election campaign