It’s springtime in Argentina. Summer is nigh on the horizon, and everyone will be packing up the tents, boarding trains and heading out for vacation. But there is one corner of the country where only the most loco traveler would ever journey during those months when temperatures there soar above 50ºC (120ºF). Even the animals seem to disappear for cooler climes, making the great escape from the Gran Chaco.
Spring is the best time to head into Argentina’s Gran Chaco region. With several great expanses of national parks, indigenous cultures, premier fishing and other delightful wonders, it is incredible to think this Argentine corner has been for so long forgotten. But not any longer. V!VA Travel Guides Argentina takes you there.
Seven marvelous places to put on your itinerary are:
1 – Resistencia
The capital of Chaco Province is Argentina’s Sculpture Capital. The entire city is an open-air gallery, with over 200 works on display. Resistencia is also the jumping off point for day trips to Parque Nacional Chaco, which protects red quebracho forests where nearly 350 species of bird and endangered jaguar and maned wolf (agaurá guazú) reside, and the Reserva Provincial Isla del Cerrito, a former leper colony that is now a birdwatcher’s and angler’s Eden.
2 – Roque Sáenz Peña
Chaco’s second largest city is where you can soak in one of Argentina’s best hot spring resorts and visit the city’s zoo which has a very successful endangered species breeding program. From Sáenz Peña, hop the train to the remote Campo del Cielo, where an asteroid plummeted into earth over 6,000 years ago.
3 – El Impenetrable
Thick thickets of the world’s hardest hardwoods and thorny brush give the northwest corner of the Chaco its name: The Impenetrable. This region has two natural reserves, Reserva Natural Loro Hablador and Reserva Natural Provincial Fuerte Esperanza, both near Fuerte Esperanza. You can learn about the Wichí and Q’om indigenous cultures in villages like Misión Nueva Pompeya and El Sauzalito.
This small village on the banks of the Río Bermejito on the edge of El Impenetrable is one of the best kept secrets in the entire country. Get ready for a whole lot of chillin’ here, with boat cruises on the river, sunning on golden beaches, visiting indigenous hamlets and dropping in the ol’ fishing line for dinner.
5 – Formosa
The capital of Formosa Province, just a skip across the river from Paraguay, is home to Laguna Oca nature reserve, with bird blinds to watch its 176 species of avifauna, camping, boat trips and swimming.
Camp in this national park, taking a morning dip in the lagoon, watching the yacaré sunning on the banks and hearing the howler monkeys at dusk. The nearest village, Laguna Blanca, has the wonderful Museo Regional del Nordeste Formoseño, explaining local history and the mysterious beings that wander the Formosan countryside.
South America’s third largest wetlands has a richly diverse landscape. The indigenous call this, “The River of Birds. Bañado La Estrella is, indeed, a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 300 species present include Jabiru, Black-faced Ibis, Roseate spoonbill and Glittering-bellied Emerald hummingbird. The best months for birdwatching are April to October.