Buenos Aires is a huge city, and many tourists only end up seeing the central districts of San Telmo, Palermo, Recoleta and La Boca. Fascinating though these neighbourhoods are, sometimes I feel the need to escape the city and I take the slow train up to Tigre.
Tigre is located 17 miles north of the city centre, but it feels as if it’s on a different planet. The Paraná River forms an enormous delta of streams, inlets and forested islands before it empties itself into the Rio de la Plata (it is the only delta in the world which flows into another river).
Tigre is located on a large central island in the delta and although its antique shops, restaurants and pubs are attractions in their own right, I always see it as the springboard for exploring the delta. If you’re into modern art, however, the Museo de Arte Tigre is an absolute must.
Most people visit the delta on thirty or forty-seater boats, but I prefer a small motorised launch. Not only are these boats small enough to get into the narrowest channels, but they are also much faster than their larger cousins. A typical cruise will take 2 or 3 hours and will take in the colonial rowing clubs and marinas, the elegant mansions of bygone days, and the simple clapboard weekend cabins.
People live on the delta too, and it is their way of life which I find most fascinating. Kids are taken to and from school on school ferries, the mail is delivered by boat, and a floating greengrocer chugs from door to door. It’s like Venice in the jungle, and it’s captivating. If you have the time you can even catch the local ‘bus’ and experience a bit of this lifestyle for yourself.
The delta is enormous, extending inland as far as Rosario and north all the way to Uruguay. The section near Tigre is very shallow; so shallow in fact that you could actually walk all the way to Uruguay if you liked. Keen fishermen spend days and weeks exploring the delta, never encountering so much as a soul, and experiencing some fantastic sport fishing as they go. But even the parts of the delta close to the town of Tigre have a feeling of wild remoteness which reminds me of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: “an empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.”
Tigre can of course be reached by private transfer or by taxi, but I prefer to take the Tren de la Costa on the way there and return to the city by car. The Tren de la Costa is a touristy refurbishment of an old train line which runs through the moneyed north of Buenos Aires on its way to Tigre. The train and carriages are a bit more picturesque than other Argentine trains, and the stations have all been gentrified to include shopping and eating opportunities.
I like to buy a ticket which allows you to hop on and off at as many stations as you like en route to Tigre. Favourite stops of mine include Anchorena (a nice spot for a walk next to the Rio de la Plata) and San Isidro, one of the city’s wealthiest suburbs, with its stone houses and manicured gardens. San Isidro has an impressive cathedral, and I enjoy the rugby museum too. There are also some great outdoor restaurants here, and even the one inside the station itself is pretty good.
It is possible to enjoy Tigre, the Paraná Delta and the Tren de la Costa in one day, but I’d advise choosing two out of these three attractions if you want your day to be a relaxing one. Another option is to overnight on the delta, as some quite luxurious jungle lodges have sprung up in recent times.