The second biggest wetland in South America and one of the main fresh water reserves on the planet can be found in the north east of Argentina, more precisely, in the province of Corrientes. In this article, you’ll find top tips for how to make the most of your visit to this heavenly corner of untouched wilderness, known more commonly as ‘Mesopotamia’ in Argentina.
L ong before the Spanish colonization, the Iberá Wetlands were inhabited by the Guaraní. It was these very people who gave this 13,000-hectare wetland its name, which can be translated as meaning “bright water” in the Guaraní language. Today, this haven of wildlife, honored as a Wetland of International Importance in 2001 by the Ramsar Convention and declared a National Park in 2018, has become a habitat for some of the most diverse species that, very often, are in danger of extinction.
It’s no wonder that an estimated 30% of Argentina’s total biodiversity is concentrated in this area. Yacaré caimans, capybaras, marsh deer, caraya monkeys and hundreds of birds are just a few of the specimens that can be admired when stopping by this natural oasis. Below, a snapshot of the best activities and hotels, so you can start to plan your extraordinary trip through lagoons, swamps and streams.
From the moment you step foot in the Iberá Wetlands, the landscapes that the channels of water and swamps offer, with a backdrop of dense vegetation, will astound visitors. You’ll immediately feel the palpable sense of calm in these tranquil lands crisscrossed by water. Speed boat rides, which can be taken during the day as well as at night, and outings in kayaks are two of the best options for your first taste of the fascinating indigenous flora and fauna.
It has to be said that in the wetlands, animals are used to a human presence, and so grabbing a photo of them as they move between the islets and river banks is easily achievable. The black yacare caiman and the broad-snouted caiman – two of the area’s most common animals – taking their siestas in the sun on the islets, as well as the irupé flowers surrounded by birds are just a few of the postcard-worthy shots that visitors will be able to take away with them.
The immensity of these wetlands can also be covered on horse or by foot. Trying a horse ride or hike – which are always made in the company of expert guides – is a novel way of reaching the most pristine and difficult-to-access corners that the coasts and palm groves have to offer.
In these tailor-made outings, plant lovers will have a unique opportunity to admire the beauty of the main specimens of the local vegetation: jacaranda trees, pink lapacho trees, the cockspur coral tree (known as the ceibo), willows, the acacia caven tree and curupí trees. As for bird watching fans, they’ll find a true paradise of some of the most diverse species soaring through the sky in absolute freedom. Just before visitors leave the reserve, the Iberá Wetlands transform with the setting of the sun, offering visitors a sublime natural spectacle. A truly unforgettable way to end a thrilling day.
How to Get Here and Where to Sleep
There are a few different entry points from where you can begin your visit to the Iberá Wetlands; a destination that owes part of its popularity to how difficult it is to reach.
By land. One option is to come via bus from the town of Mercedes – 800 km from Buenos Aires – and from Mercedes, take the bus to the Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, which is in the middle of the Iberá Wetlands. It’s important to take into account that the way to this picturesque rural town is a gravel road, meaning that, when there are heavy rains, the journey back may have to be postponed. If this happens, it’s easy to find a wide range of high-end establishments to make your base. For example, Irupe Lodge and Hostería Rincón del Socorro – part of the conversation project of the North American philanthropist Douglas Tompkins – are two of the all-inclusive options that also offer a transfer service to the Wetlands.
By plane. Another possibility is flying from Posadas, the capital of Misiones, and staying in Puerto Valle Lodge, a sophisticated boutique hotel with an extraordinary location, from where you’ll be able to go out and explore the north-western tip of the Wetlands.
Tips for Planning Your Trip
– Although the Wetlands can be visited throughout the year, the optimal time to come is outside of the summer months, so as to avoid the rainy season and extreme temperatures.
– It’s advisable to stay at least two or three nights to have enough time to go on all the principal excursions.
– Take cash as there aren’t any ATMs on the reserve.
– Don’t forget repellent, sun block and a basic first aid kit.
– Take binoculars and cameras.