By Matt McMillan
Argentina’s Ibera wetlands known as ‘Esteros del Ibera’ offer one of the finest places to see wildlife in South America. Made up of a series of lakes, lagoons and marshland they are the second largest freshwater wetland on the planet after Brazil’s Pantanal.
Although still relatively uncrowded when compared to the Pantanal these stunning wetlands are fast becoming a popular detour for visitors wanting to combine exceptional wildlife with a real Argentinean experience. Whilst many people choose a day or overnight trip to one of the many excellent estancia’s close to Buenos Aires these don’t quite provide the authentic Argentine experience which I’d encourage anyone to consider.
Best of all they make a nice stopover between Buenos Aires and Iguazu falls so you can easily combine Argentina’s much loved treasures with those less well known. Find below my guide on this area;
Esteros del Ibera cover an area close to the size of Switzerland in the central Argentinean province of Corrientes province between cities of Mercedes and Posadas. The main area to stay is in the small village of Carlos Pelligrini.
How to get there
There are 2 main options. You can either take the overnight bus from Buenos Aires to Mercedes which takes around 9 hours in a comfortable coach with fully reclining business class like seats. Well worth doing this for the experience alone. From Mercedes to Carlos Pelligrini is around 1.5-2 hours transfer on unpaved roads.
The other option is to fly 1.5 hours from Buenos Aires to the town of Posadas and transfer from there. The road from Posadas to Carlos Pelligrini is unpaved and depending on road conditions can take anywhere from 3.5 to 6hrs. Along the way you will have the opportunity to stop and see wildlife.
Where to stay
There are several small guest-houses to stay in Carlos Pelligrini however easily the best alternative is the Irupe Lodge due to its excellent location and facilities. Cabins are very clean and comfortable, food is excellent and guides are friendly and importantly proficient in English. Transfers are offered from Posadas and Mercedes.
Activities on offer
Packages at the Irupe Lodge offer you a choice of activities including nature walks with an expert guide, boat trips through the lakes and canals in search of wildlife, piranha fishing, a visit to a local estancia and horse riding.
Wildlife is the main draw-card of this region in particular the birdlife where you can see up to 400 species of all different sizes from the Emu like Nandu down to the colourful Cardinals.
Broad snouted and spectacled caiman are found throughout the lakes and canals and are easily spotted. Most are around 1-2 metres and length and said to be harmless. Capybara the largest rodent in the world can also be found throughout the wetlands.
In some areas of the reserve you can also observe families of howler monkeys and Marsh and Broket deer are also easily spotted on daily excursions. Unfortunately jaguar no longer inhabit this area so you’ll need to go to the Pantanal to see these.
Esteros del Ibera as part of my Argentinean Holiday
One of the best things about the location of the Esteros del Ibera is that it enables you to explore more of Argentina without spending all day in an airport. My recommendation would be to combine your stay here with the Iguazu Falls which are around 4 hours drive from Posadas. Along the way you can stop at the San Ignacio Jesuit Jesuit Ruins along with a gemstone mine and even a ‘yerba mate’ plantation so you can learn about this traditional Argentine drink and how it is grown.
If you wanted to spend more time in this region then you could consider an overnight stop in a traditional estancia or even a side trip into Paraguay to see its Jesuit ruins (Trinidad and Jesus) which are the most spectacular in South America. Another nice overnight stop between Posadas and Iguazu are the underrated 3km long Mocona Falls that divide the Uruguay River.