"The 'Train of the Coast' feels like it has been plucked from the Victorian era, and, in many ways, it has."
One of the great pleasures of Tigre is the journey from Buenos Aires. Although you can catch a commuter train, most travellers opt for the far more atmospheric Tren de la Costa, a toy train that runs from the suburb of Olivos. The “Train of the Coast” feels like it has been plucked from the Victorian era – which, in many ways, it has.
Built by British engineers at the end of the nineteenth century, it briefly flourished, before falling passenger numbers prompted its closure in the 1960s. However, it was revived in the 1990s after being purchased by a private consortium.
En route you can hop on and off at a series of eleven red-brick, British-style stations, each of which has its own theme: Estacíon Borges has an art café and a collection of sculptures, Estacíon Barrancas has a lively weekend antiques market, and Estacíon Anchorena is dedicated to tango, with regular classes and displays.
Estación San Fernando by Julio Costa on Flickr (license)
For much of the 30-minute journey the train hugs the waterfront, chugging through leafy suburbs filled with townhouses and golf courses. The train pulls in at the edge of Tigre, near the Puerto de Frutos – a working port and craft market – and the rather tacky Puerto de la Costa, one of South America’s largest theme parks.
The highlight of any visit to Tigre is a boat, canoe or kayak trip into the Paraná Delta. At first you pass island-hotels, sports clubs, houses raised up on wooden stilts and linked via precarious walkways, and the rusty, semi-submerged skeletons of abandoned boats.
"Viewed from above this labyrinth of waterways, islands and rainforests looks like the veins of a giant heart."
Most people content themselves with a short cruise, but to really get away from it all you need to head deeper into the delta, staying overnight in a remote cabin and hiking or horseriding through the forests. Wildlife-spotting opportunities abound here: the region is awash with hummingbirds, pygmy owls, cormorants, as well as colocolos (small wild cats), marsh deer, and capybaras (large rodents).
Viewed from above this labyrinth of waterways, islands and rainforests – which spans almost 22,000 square kilometres – looks like the veins of a giant heart. Down on the water, as the signs of habitation steadily disappear, the wilderness closes in on you. Birdsong, the electric hum of cicadas, and the dull drone of mosquitoes fill the air.
It seems inconceivable that one of the largest cities in Latin America is only 30 minutes away.
Shafik Meghji co-authors The Rough Guide to Argentina. He blogs at unmappedroutes.com and tweets @ShafikMeghji.