One of the world’s most beautiful and unusual suburban landscapes, the Paraná Delta lies just a few kilometres north of Avenida General Paz, the ring road that divides the city of Buenos Aires from its namesake province. Constantly shifting as sediment from tropical Brazil is deposited by the mighty Río Paraná, the Delta region is a wonderfully seductive maze of lush, green islands separated by rivers and streams. Lining the banks, traditional houses on stilts peep out from behind screens of subtropical vegetation. The Delta actually begins at the port of Diamante in Entre Ríos Province, some 450km to the northwest of the city, and its one thousand square kilometres are divided into three administrative sections. By far the most visited area is the first section, most of which lies within a ninety-minute boat trip from the picturesque town of Tigre, itself just 25km northwest of Capital Federal. Travel beyond here into the wide Río Paraná de las Palmas, and you may be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled onto a tributary of the Amazon. At this point the Delta widens, inhabitants and amenities are much more dispersed and isleños (as island dwellers are known) rely on electric generators and kerosene lamps. The abundance of water and warm climate mean that mosquitoes are a real problem in and around the Delta, so come prepared.
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Sitting on an island bounded by the ríos Luján, Reconquista and Tigre, TIGRE owes its poetic name to the jaguars – popularly known as tigres in Latin America – that inhabited the Delta region until the beginning of the twentieth century. Primarily seen as a departure point for excursions to the Delta, the town itself is sometimes overlooked by tourists. At first glance, it’s a bit of a hotchpotch but don’t be put off by initial impressions – Tigre offers a vivacious mix of faded glamour and day-trip brashness. The bars and restaurants around the refurbished riverside area provide perfect vantage points for an unhurried contemplation of the comings and goings of Delta life.
El Tigre (as it also known) lies along the western bank of the Río Luján, one of the Delta’s main arteries, and the town is divided in half by the smaller Río Tigre, which runs north–south through its centre. Riverside avenues flank both sides of the Río Tigre, while the broad Paseo Victorica runs along the Río Luján on the western side of town. A good place to begin a tour of the area is around the Estación Fluvial, immediately north of the bridge over the Río Tigre. The point of contact between island and mainland life, the Estación bustles with activity, particularly at weekends.
The town was first documented in 1635 under the name of El Pueblo de las Conchas (“Seashell Village”), a small settlement that functioned as a defensive outpost against Portuguese invasions. The town became a favoured summer retreat of the Porteño elite in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from when its sumptuous mansions and palatial rowing clubs mostly date. Back then social life revolved around events at the Tigre Club, home to Argentina’s first casino, and the grand Tigre Hotel, whose clientele included Enrico Caruso and the Prince of Wales. The town’s decline as a glamorous destination was partly due to the closure of the casino (shut in 1933 through a law which prohibited casinos in the vicinity of the capital) and in part a result of the growing popularity of Mar del Plata, made ever more accessible thanks to the arrival of the railway and improved roads. The Tigre Hotel was demolished in 1940, although the elegant Tigre Club still stands at the apex of the island and has now been reinvented as the excellent Museo de Arte Tigre.