Argentina //

The Litoral and the Gran Chaco

The defining feature of northeastern Argentina is water. Dominated by two of the continent’s longest rivers, plus several of the country’s other major waterways, it’s a land of powerful cascades and blue-mirrored lagoons, vast marshes and fertile wetlands. The riverine landscapes of the Litoral (meaning “Shore” or “Coastline”) – a term generally used to refer to the four provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Misiones and Santa Fe – range from the caramel-coloured maze of the Paraná Delta, just north of Buenos Aires, via the gentle sandy banks of the Río Uruguay and the jungle-edged Río Iguazú to the wide translucent curves of the upper Río Paraná. All of them exude a seductive subtropical beauty enhanced by the unhurried lifestyle of the locals and a warm, humid climate. The Northeast is also famed for mate and chamamé. Litoraleños, as the inhabitants are called, are fanatical consumers of Argentina’s national drink, while the infectiously lively chamamé music can be heard in the highly traditional province of Corrientes.

The Iguazú Falls, shared with Brazil, in the far north of Misiones Province, are the region’s major attraction by a long chalk: Iguazú’s claim to the title of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls has few serious contenders. Running a remote second, in terms of the number of visitors, San Ignacio Miní is one of the best-preserved ruins in the huge Jesuit Mission region – though some may find picking their way through nearby gothically overgrown Loreto and Santa Ana a more magical experience. Less well known than Iguazú and San Ignacio, but increasingly visited as the infrastructure improves, are two of Argentina’s most unusual attractions: the strange and wonderful – but capricious – Saltos del Moconá, the world’s most extensive longitudinal waterfalls; and the Esteros del Iberá, a vast bird-filled wetland reserve at the heart of Corrientes Province.

Further south, the region’s biggest city, and Argentina’s third largest, is Rosario. It is home to a vibrant cultural life, including its own laidback version of tango, fabulous restaurants and some exquisite late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century architecture.

Bordering the Litoral to the northwest, the Gran Chaco is a vast, little-visited area of flatlands forming the central watershed of South America and lying predominantly in western Paraguay and the far north of Argentina. With landscapes varying from brutally desiccated scrub to saturated marshes and boggy lagoons, the main attraction of the Chaco is its wildlife, including hundreds of bird species and all manner of native animals.

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