Steve and I flew from Santiago and rented a car to head North – ultimately to Iguazu Falls. We decided to make one additional stop on the road trip – Iberá Reserve. The Iberá Reserve is located in Northern Argentina, and made up of swamps and lakes. We had read positive reviews, and even saw petitions to make this a National Park, so we decided to head there to check it out. We wanted originally to go to Salto on our road trip, but, we learned a little too late that a 4×4 vehicle would be required, and many people didn’t recommend driving there.
How We Got There
We picked up our car at the Buenos Aires international airport, and took off that evening heading North. We had booked the smallest economy car possible, but as has been the case most times, that car was unavailable. We were “upgraded” to a Chevy Classic (sort of like a 4 door Geo Metro from the States). We weren’t really happy about this but it ended up probably being a good thing to have a slightly larger car, considering the roads we faced later on and it had AC unlike our van so we didn’t complain too much. We had originally decided to get the vehicle and do the drive since a bus ticket would cost us around $500 USD each, and flights weren’t much cheaper. We assumed that getting to Iguazu would be easy, with plenty of hotel options. We were wrong… more on that in the next section.
We took Ruta 12 towards Rosario, driving through Mercedes and eventually arriving in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini (a small village in the Iberá Reserve), 3 days later. The road leading there was a bit sketch, but nothing as we worse than what we experienced in the Patagonia.
The town itself is really small, and we got around on foot. We drove to the park when we wanted to hike, as the town offered very limited public transportation.
Similar to driving in Southern Argentina, we still experienced toll roads, and police check points.
Where We Stayed
On the drive to Iberá, we stayed in small towns and usually at the cheapest hotel we could find. This proved to be challenging. It is peak travel time in Argentina, as children are out of school, and road trips are the thing to do. We would pull into a hotel parking lot at 8PM, to learn they didn’t have any rooms, and we soon learned an entire town might be sold out. We would hop back in the car, and head to the next town. Most of the hotels were also in cahoots with other hotels in town – generally all charging the same exact price for a really tiny room with no amenities. This was a shock to Steve and I, and we quickly missed our camper van.
When we arrived in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, we rented a room with private bathroom from a local. In fact, all of the “hotels” here, weren’t actually hotels, but guest houses in someone’s backyard – and after shopping around, we learned that all charge the same price, plus or minus a few dollars. Our place was nice, it had hammocks, a kitchen and decent bed. It was nothing fancy, and didn’t have a cute dog in the yard, but it was fine for our needs.
We did only have one issue here. We spent about 30 minutes in the town’s visitor center talking about restaurants, animals and more. When we returned to our car, a woman pointed out that we had a flat tire – and sure enough, it was flat. Steve is an expert at changing tires and changed it within 10 minutes. Our spare wasn’t a donut tire, but in fact, a real tire. We looked at the flat tire and didn’t see any holes or slashes. We later got it fixed in Buenos Aires, and sure enough, there was a small hole.
Our Favorite Eats
We ate at a nearby “restaurant”, which isn’t an actual restaurant, but eating on someone’s porch. All of the restaurants were like this, or perhaps, eating in someone’s living room. During the drive to Iberá, we had mostly survived off of gas station fast food, so eating someone’s home cooked meal was a welcomed change.
What We Did
Iberá Reserve has 2 trails and a boardwalk, with some viewpoints. I wouldn’t call them hardcore trails, but nice walking trails to observe nature. There are plenty of other ways to sightsee the reserve, including boat tours and horse trail tours – we chose the cheapest (free) option of visiting the visitor center and walking trails.
Before even arriving to the reserve, Steve and I were able to spot wildlife from the road – the Maned Wolf (no photo), Marsh Deer and plenty of birds. When we pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center, we were greeted by a Geoffroy’s cat – and fell in love with him.
Our first trail was the boardwalk, and it went through the swamp. We actually saw quite a few of animals on this walk, first seeing a Capybara, taking a nap. If you have never seen one, they basically look like a really, really large hamster. In fact, they are the largest rodent in the world! We also saw Marsh Deer again.
Our next trail was a bit longer, and we were able to see more birds, and alligators. There are two different breeds of alligators in the reserve, but we were not able to see what kind we saw. We had kept our eyes open for Yurumí (giant anteater), who are in danger of becoming extinct due to being overhunted. They are being reintroduced in the area in the last few years – but we were not lucky enough to find one. We also kept our eyes open for Jaguars – again, no luck there (although I guess maybe that was for the best).
The last trail was considered the “monkey” trail. The guide told us there is a colony of Howler monkeys living there. We did the trail, and no luck… no monkeys. We decided to walk the boardwalk again, and come back to the monkey trail. Once again… no monkeys.
There are tons of animals we didn’t see – river otters, piranhas, monkeys and more. We still felt happy we made the stop and were excited to see everything we did see.