Baking hot, energetic and brash, (San Miguel de) Tucumán, the cradle of Argentine independence, is the nation’s fifth-largest city and feels like it; the metropolitan bustle can come as quite a shock after visiting other more genteel northwestern capitals. You may prefer it at night, when the fumes and heat of the day have lulled, and cafes and bars come to life.

Tucumán’s blue-collar feel and down-to-earth vibe around the main plaza is complemented by a lively cultural scene fueled by young professionals who have resettled here. The result is a range of comfortable rooms, tasty food, buzzy bars and a splashy shopping district. There's also world-class paragliding and hang gliding in the hills west of town.