This TWO WEEK itinerary that takes you across the northern Pampas, Sabana and Jungle all the way from Buenos Aires to the northeast border of Argentina with Brazil and Paraguay. Gauchos, Wildlife and more waterfalls than you might imagine, await for this, one of the best road trips in South America.
Our set itinerary is meant to give you a deep cultural immersion in a linear itinerary so you don’t drive twice thru the same town, road or even airport. Of course, picking up and dropping off a vehicle in different places has its value but at ASD we are true believers that overall the quality of the experience is the most important.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Buenos Aires Airport / Iguazú Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.|
|PRICING||Prices shown for a double room per person. If you are a group or need something different please consult.|
Today we leave the busy cosmopolitan Buenos Aires and drive towards the Pampas, to the north of the City. As getting out of the city may take an hour or more, be patient and just think that by tonight, the sky will be clear of buildings and the background will be free of city noise.
We will pick up our car, load up and begin our first leg of the itinerary, going north on route 9, and as we leave the city towards the northeast, understand more about the suburbs’ way of life. If in the mood and have not done beforehand, a half day stop at Tigre is a good idea to see how this northern neighborhood of Buenos Aires, just 45 minutes away from downtown, lives in a delta environment, where everything happens thru or on the water. Schools, buses, markets, everything on or across water.
If not through a delta another plan is to take a detour and visit Ciervo de los Pantanos National Park, 75km from Buenos Aires. A two year old Park, with very little promotion, so be ready to maybe be among just a dozen visitors while you are there. Home to one of the few amphibius deer in the world, the Marsh Deer, (in Spanish, Ciervo de los Pantanos), this park displays the native flora and fauna of the area, being the most protected and most difficult specimen to be spotted, the deer.
After these stops along the way, we are already halfway to our final destination of the day, San Antonio de Areco, the heart of Argentinian’s traditional pampa’s festival. Only 120km from Buenos Aires (with our suggested detours add +- 50km), this cozy, simple authentic town will help you time travel to the origin of the Gaucho’s era, although not yet extinct, very much overshadowed by cosmopolitan introduced modern western culture.
San Antonio de Areco, is the best destination for gaucho culture in the Pampa’s, authentic, surrounded by museums, historical buildings and even some ranches, it’s the perfect spot to lay back, take a lot of photos, and go for a walk in town.
At dusk, a glass of red argentinian wine or try a local drink with the traditional tapas or even some “empanadas” that argentinians like to have with friends, while sharing a drink. Even more, if you wish to listen to some local folk music, just walk into a bar and you will most likely hear some classic folk music performed with a crioll guitar and most of the clients will sing along.
Today we get back on the road and continue to drive northeast. Our goal today is to reach the El Palmar National Park, 330km away from San Antonio de Areco. After crossing the Parana River, second longest of South America (After only the Amazon), over an impressive suspended bridge, 50meters above the river and 600 meters long you will have entered the Argentinian Mesopotamia, the most fertile area of Argentina and where much of the agricultural and cattle products are raised.
We will get on National Highway Number 14, that drives next to the Uruguay River, international border with our eastern neighbor, Uruguay. After a couple of hours on the road, we will have reached El Palmar National Park, home to the Yatay Palm Tree, of which you will see many as you enter the protected area. Among the native, also protected fauna you will encounter capybaras and rheas.
Among the activities to do this afternoon, canoeing on the Palmar River or going for a night safari are the most recommended.
To reach Ibera Wetlands, it will require us to drive 400km today, crossing Corrientes province, most of the way on a highway and then a paved road, always going north, upstream the Uruguay River. We will stay at a ranch, an “Estancia”, where gauchos dealt daily with the flooding and droughts of the different seasons of the wetlands on the southern border of the 18000 hectare wetland reserve, home to an abundance of animal life, among birds, mammals and amphibious species. Not many places in our continent, o r even in the world have the biodiversity found here. And even though tourism has increased, Los Esteros del Iberá is still comparatively unspoiled.
Those that follow conservation efforts of deceased Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine, might also have read or heard about the Jaguar (largest felid in the continent and top third in the world) and it’s struggle to survive extinction… here at Iberá is home to those survivors.
Recently, after the mentioned work of the Rewilding Foundation, many protected species have had specific work done for them, but more important, the Ibera National Park has become larger since 2018 and with that growth, it became one of Argentina’s largest National Parks, and for that, now there are more places to visit, the only question you should ask yourself is where to start. The different gates, or entrances form a ring around the wetlands, each a few hours away from each other, for which having your own means of transportation will be very useful to go from one to the other.
Fauna sightings and safaris both during the day and night, searching for ostriches, foxes, capybaras, brocket deer, marsh deer, monkeys, anteaters (including the largest of them all, the Giant Anteater) and viscachas are some of the species that can be spotted, besides the over 350 bird species like the strange-tailed tyrant, the yellow cardinal, the crowned eagle, the southern screamer or the jabiru storch.
Also horse-back riding, bicycle rides, boat trips, kayaking, getting up close to the unique water vegetation and caimans, spotting caybaras swimming or just enjoying a sunset from the water level are some of the many activities that the Park offers to its visitors.
Today we departure Iberá Wetlands and continue our journey north. The flat pampas have turned into a hill like landscape with more and more vegetation in our background. We will drive back to national road 14 and drive alongside Uruguay River, but now to our east the river becomes the natural border with Brazil, since Uruguay was left to the south.
The north of Corrientes province and the whole of Misiones province (it’s northern neighbor) is where there are the most important “mate” and tea plantations in Argentina. We will drive for 380km today, all paved, much of if on highway and along the way you will probably see hundreds of trucks going north and south, since this is the most important commercial corridor between Argentina and Brazil, two long standing very important commercial partners. You might even try brazilian cuisine on the road small restaurants made for truck drivers, if you dare!
We have entered the Yerba Mate land for sure and you will have the opportunity to visit large historic companies, like Las Marias or Playadito, but also new small family owned artisan yerba mate establishments like La Gran Comision or Chamarra. We will arrive at Apóstoles, the National Capital of Yerba Mate and although you might not see many tourists around, during the first week of november, this event will host thousands of visitors at the same time for over 60 years now.
Visiting the Mate House, a plantation and understanding the value of this drink for the argentinian culture, will be a unique invaluable experience.
Today we have 180km to drive with much to see on the way, but if the arrival to Apóstoles was late, this morning can be used to catch your breath and also make some local visits like the ones mentioned before. We will leave Apóstoles with a northwest orientation, actually opposite of our final destination of the day (which could be accessed by a shorter 150km drive if necessary). We will go towards Posadas, capital city of Misiones province which has a nice riverside drive and walk, just across from Paraguay, yes… Misiones is very narrow and compressed between Paraguay and Brazil, so you can understand the cultural melting pot this area is. Posadas can be visited but as any larger city, a visitor must consider time and also safety precautions.
Posadas can also be avoided easily just continuing driving north on national road number 12 and after one hour or so, on the left side the town of Santa Ana will come up and the ruins of the mission to the right hand side of the road. As UNESCO World Heritage site quotes: “The ruins of San Ignacio Miní, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria la Mayor, are the impressive remains of Jesuit missions, built in the land of the Guaranis during the 17th and 18th centuries. Each is characterized by a specific layout and a different state of conservation.”
Protected since 1983, these missions are the standing proof of the Jesuit evangelization in South America, and religious or not, they are an impressive piece of history worth a stop, a walk, a tour and a read. A few kilómeters separate Santa Ana from San Ignacio (the largest standing) and Loreto, and from here to Aristobulo del Valle, our final destination of the day rests only 80km.
Upon arrival we change the page of our fantastic argentina road trip and we enter the chapter of the waterfalls. As you arrive to the town you will have a fantastic perspective of the small surviving Parana Atlantic Forest biome, since much of the native forest has been overtaken by soya plantations, mate plantations and cattle farming.
At Aristobulo del Valle we will have the opportunity to visit Salto Encantado, a Protected Provincial Park where the Cuña Pirú river falls 64 meters and has trails, balconies and resting areas to spot some of the 214 species of birds that visit this place or the 34 mammals, like coati mundi or capuchin monkeys.
Also available, some of the native reservations of the area open their doors for cultural visits, handicrafts exposition (and sale) and more trails to enter with horses or by walking. This local gem, off the beaten path is highly recommended and an overnight allows the visitor to truly experience the Atlantic Forest sounds of the night.
After a good rest, we will get a bit deeper into the forest and head to El Soberbio, home to the Yaboti Biosphere Reserve and where you will find the not so popular, yet astonishing Mocona Falls. The best time to visit these falls is during the summer, the driest season, although sometimes even then the park closes due to the high level of water. Trails, boat trips and kayaking are available at the park and if being inside this pristine jungle is not enough, the waterfalls are unique around the world because of the geological origin given by a fall and which makes them run sideways, or longitudinal.
From El Soberbio is time to hit the road again, 260km separate us from Puerto Iguazu, our final destination of this, one of the best road trips in Argentina. Approximately 5 hours drive going north to the northeastern corner of Argentina, bordering at the same time Brazil and Paraguay, so much that could stand in one of the three and watch over the other two countries from a lookout point. But of course that lookout is not the reason for the trip, it’s one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Iguazu Falls.
On the way to Iguazu, Wanda is a small town with semiprecious mining that has small yet interesting mines to be visited if you are keen on it. At Puerto Iguazu, the town near our hotel, you will have the unique opportunity to try different dishes of Argentina, of course, but also Paraguay and Brazil, don’t miss the opportunity!
The Iguazu Falls are inside a bi-national protected area of two adjacent national parks, one in Argentina and one in Brazil. To get to the entrance of the park we will have to drive for about 40 minutes from our hotel and from the parking lot of the Argentinian Parque Nacional Iguazu you will have trails and also an electric train to reach the furthest part of the park, the Devil’s Gorge. The reason why this falls are so famous is one because of the accessibility that allows millions of visitors to arrive each year, another the fantastic natural background where it’s located, the Paranaense Jungle and third it’s because of the width of the falls, that stretches across 2.7km and along has 275 falls that come down at different altitudes and that can be seen from different perspectives.
Taking a full day to see the park is recommended (Some people even take two days) since there are many trails and no rush… the falls keep providing it’s magic as the light changes. Also recommended to arrive early so at least get one hour of peacefulness (keep in mind during high season this park can be visited by 10 thousand people at a time), and also might have a better chance to spot wildlife, like the Toco Toucan or the smaller Araçari Toucans.
Reaching the Brazilian side of the falls requires you to go to the border and leave the country which is in no way an issue, just takes some extra time. From the border to the Brazilian park, 30 minutes drive and similar to the argentinian park, a parking lot and trails plus a bus tour the visitors around the smaller area yet different from the argentinian park since the perspective is completely the opposite, more panoramic.
Also, helicopter flights are available at this park and just as well as in Argentina, you can also go on a boat tour to reach the falls from underneath. Next to the National Park in Brazil, there is Bird Park where many of the protected species of the continent can be seen, since they have been sheltered from illegal trafficking or else.
After returning your vehicle, you will ready to fly either to a Brazilian city (Sao Paulo, Rio, Brasiliat, etc) or to Buenos Aires to continue your journey somewhere else or simply head back home.