Following in the footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace
June 15, 2023
Bring to mind Argentina and you think of Buenos Aires, tango, wine, polo ponies, the Iguazú Falls and perhaps even glaciers. But what can you discover away from the main flood of tourists in this wild and wonderful country?
There are vast tracks of land where it’s unlikely any man, woman or child has ever trod, and areas that are only truly accessible on horseback, where pumas pad through the craggy landscape and condors soar on thermals. In the north, salt flats and poisonous lakes create beautiful barren landscapes of dusty peach and icy blue, as alien as the surface of the moon to anyone who’s not seen them before. We’ve sought out some of the places to visit in Argentina that are well and truly off the beaten track…
Discover Argentina’s version of Africa’s Okavango Delta, the Iberá Wetlands, where over 5,000 miles of marsh and over 60 lakes combine to make a fascinating ecosystem. Caiman lurk in pools, capybaras haughtily survey their surroundings before plunging into the waters for a dip, and over 350 species of birds flit through the rushes and grasses.
Numerous conservation efforts are being undertaken within the wetlands, protecting animals made rare by hunting, such as the collared peccary – little, hairy, pig-like creatures completely unique to South America. Plans to bolster the jaguar population in the area are also afoot, as fewer than 250 of the dappled big cats remain in Argentina to this day.
There are many ways to explore the wetlands – on foot, by boat, or even on horseback – and expert guides can point out fascinating snippets about the wildlife as you go that otherwise may have passed you by.
Tolar Grande is a tiny community, deep in the wilds of Argentina’s Salta region and surrounded by incredibly colourful landscapes. If you are interested in geology, a fan of being away from serious habitation, or simply entranced by bizarre contortions of nature, then this is the place for you.
Salt pans stretch from horizon to horizon, crystal clear blue pools mirror the sky, and perfectly conical mounds create utterly surreal surroundings worthy of a Dali painting. It can take quite a while to get there, which puts off the larger hordes of tourists, but it is definitely worth the journey, and you mustn’t forget to pack your camera!
In the not too distant past, the New York Times referred to this area as the “Argentine answer to the Galapagos”. It is indeed a rugged, coastal haven for wildlife, and its unique set-up lends itself to keeping it that way. Bahía Bustamante is in fact a 210,000-acre estate owned by one man, Matias, and the coast is a protected marine reserve. If you are lucky you can occasionally spot orca just off the shore, and conservation efforts will hopefully increase these sightings, though the thriving population of sea lions and penguins are probably perfectly happy without the numbers growing back to their original figures.
Climb aboard a horse, or set off on a hike across the pampas to see the native guanaco (similar to the llama) and speedy maras (terrier-sized rodents). All the while, you will learn how conservation work in the area is restoring the environment, slowly but surely, to its former grandeur.
Make it happen
If you would like to plan a trip to Argentina, then get in touch with our local experts who are always on hand to create your perfect tailor-made trip, be it off the beaten path or to all the bucket-list destinations. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call 0117 325 7898.