Don’t cry for me Argentina

By | Category: Travel destinations

With South America’s most impressive falls, a rich regional history and exceptional wildlife watching, Northeast Argentina should be on everyone’s list…

Of course there’s the famous Iguazú, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but the rest of this rugged and temperate region will lead you well off the beaten path. Newly minted in 2018, Iberá National Park is poised to become one of Argentina’s greatest attractions. It’s an inspiring success story of how restoring wilderness can have a positive impact on adjacent communities. Rewilding is bringing back the native fauna, from the green-winged macaw to pampas deer and jaguars. Also, the country continues to be great value for travellers.

Population: 3.7 million 
Main towns: Puerto Iguazú, Mercedes, Corrientes 
Language: Spanish 
Unit of currency: Argentine peso 
How to get there: From Buenos Aires, flights go to Puerto Iguazú, Corrientes and Resistencia; comfortable overnight buses link Mercedes to the capital.

TELL ME MORE… With the recent creation of Iberá National Park, one of South America’s principal freshwater wetlands also became Argentina’s largest protected area. Think South American safari: this watery expanse is a haven for wildlife. Camp among docile capybaras, ply through lily-choked waters to spy prehistoric-looking caimans and spot herds of rheas and flocks of reintroduced green-tipped macaws. Native jaguars and giant river otters are coming back, thanks to an innovative rewilding program based in the remote island outpost of San Alonso. Take in the region’s gaucho routes with a horseback-riding tour and admire the barefoot cowboys and banner-blue skies. In between excursions, soak up the slow pace of such colonial towns as Concepción and Colonia Pellegrini. While checking out the larger-than-life landscape of Iguazú Falls, explore the steamy subtropical forest of Misiones, stay at a jungle lodge in Puerto Iguazú, and visit the fascinating ruins of early Jesuit missions.

No trip to Northeast Argentina would be complete without a visit to Iguazu Falls. Credit: Kaye Holland

Outside Concepción, travel via horse-drawn canoe to traditional settlements on tiny islands in the estuary. Canoes ply through shallow waters surrounded by fragrant water lilies and abundant birdlife. Once used for cattle operations, the islands were home to a thousand residents ranching in this watery world; today there are only thirty. A similar program lets you both ride and swim with the horses, which have become well adapted to their aquatic environment. A community partnership with the Conservation Land Trust created these unique tours to preserve this fading way of life. In turn, rural residents are finding new opportunities and reasons to stay. 

Northeast Argentina is teaming with wildlife. Credit: Kaye Holland

Avoid the summer months of December to February when temperatures soar above the comfort zone. Cool and dry, August can be favourable for wildlife watching, as water sources have somewhat dried up. September and October are prime months to visit Iguazú if you want to avoid the crowds. 

One week in Northeast Argentina 
Soak up the spray of Iguazú Falls on the maze of boardwalks leading to jaw-dropping viewpoints. Plan an extra day to explore the Brazilian side. 

Explore the Jesuit Mission ruins of San Ignacio Miní for insight into the clash that colonisation brought to indigenous life here. 

Use the time-forgotten village of Colonia Pellegrini as your base for excursions into Iberá National Park, boating the estuary to see great numbers of caimans, swamp deer and diverse birdlife. 

Explore Rincón del Socorro for a taste of estancia (ranch) life among huge populations of rheas, native deer and capybaras (the world’s largest rodents). 

• By Carolyn McCarthy

Extract taken from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020. Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2019

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