The river-laced corner of Argentina about an hour north of downtown Buenos Aires is known as the Nordelta area. Set in the expansive delta that defines the westernmost reaches of the mighty Río de la Plata river and its tributaries, this exotic river country is driven by the water.
AN AQUATIC OASIS OUTSIDE THE CITY
The region is anchored by Tigre, an idyllic small island city. It has long attracted residents of Buenos Aires to its watery oasis. A journey of less than an hour by rail or car transports visitors to an aquatic oasis accented by blue skies, clean air and vast expanses of forestland. Crisscrossing it all is a puzzle-like network of rivers, large and small. For centuries, it’s been a favored refuge for smugglers and adventurers of all stripes, the perfect place to disappear. It’s also long been a retreat of choice for the well-to-do of nearby Buenos Aires and its tony suburbs, thousands of whom maintain riverside weekend hideaways in the delta surrounding Tigre.
Tigre itself proudly radiates the tradition of British and other European residents of Buenos Aires who populated the area a century-and-a-half ago and spurred its growth. English- and German-style townhouses set the architectural tone of the region, as do extensive, flower-lined promenades.
The city’s principle pedestrian byway, the Paso Victorica, begins at the municipality’s center on the Tigre River (Río Tigre), where boats of all sizes come and go with an endless cycle of competitive energy. It meanders all the way to the region’s most important historic landmark, the century-old monument to Bélle Epoque grandeur, the Tigre Club. Built as a casino to complement the long-since-vanished El Tigre Hotel, the architecturally-imposing structure today houses Tigre’s art museum, the Museo de Arte Tigre. Seeing it is an absolute must.
From this privileged point overlooking the Luján River, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the paseo, taking in the panorama of daily life in Tigre: families relax with kids and dogs in tow, couples idle over cups of steaming mate tea and rowing enthusiasts prepare to take to the water. A profusion of inviting riverside cafes also beckon. One that deserves special consideration is the Villa Julia, a century-old home converted into a small hotel and restaurant.
A true surprise is in store when the trek passes a monument to the Irish-born founding admiral of the Argentine Navy, Guillermo Brown, and the adjacent Argentine National Naval Museum. Founded in 1892, the museum contains a vast collection of naval and maritime oddities. The exhibits include an intriguing assortment of navigational devices, maps, uniforms and other memorabilia, along with replicas of vessels from ancient times to the present — such as two of the World War II-era cruiser Belgrano, which was sunk by the British during the Falklands-Malvinas conflict.
On our trip to Tigre, we stopped for a moment near where the Tigre and Luján rivers merge, observing the arrival of a patrol boat of the Argentine Coast Guard, the Prefectura. The mustachioed commanding officer approached, extended his hand, and asked if I’d like to see the view of the town and its rivers from the six-story-high watchtower of the Coast Guard’s headquarters. It was an unexpected courtesy, and a genuine reflection of the air of civility that seems to pervade every conceivable encounter in the Nordelta-Tigre region.
A visit to Tigre isn’t complete without passing an hour or more in the maze of shops at Puerto de Frutos, the city’s traditional commercial port, which has become the area’s craft market. Of particular interest are a number of stores specializing in locally produced objets d’art and designer
OUT ON THE RIVER
While you’re in this region of rivers, be sure to book a river excursion. A wide range of experiences are available.
The popular restaurant El Gato Blanco, one of the largest and most highly regarded in the delta region, offers passage to its location on the Sarmiento River on its own boats, which depart Tigre every half hour for the 45-minute or so trip.
Other tour providers offer trips that include everything from recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing to simple scenic cruises. One of the most interesting options is to hop on board one of the dozens of vintage wooden passenger boats that serve as river taxis, stopping along their appointed routes whenever someone flags them down. It’s a relaxing way to experience the delta lifestyle as the locals do. These boats depart at the Estación Fluvial (Boat Terminal) in the center of town.
Tigre boasts a strong rowing tradition, which dates back to 1871, when the first regatta was organized in Tigre by British enthusiasts. One can visit many of these clubs. The oldest existing one is the Buenos Aires Rowing Club, which came into being two years later and remains one of the elite organizations of its kind in the delta. The club was soon joined by others, such as the Tigre Boat Club and the Club Canottieri Italiani.
If one is fortunate, a visit to one of the rowing clubs will include an encounter with someone as affable as Daniel Manuel. For more than three decades, he’s tended to the needs of members at the Club Canottieri Italiani. During our visit, he pointed to the facade of the boathouse, noting that it was modeled after a Venetian palace.
Manuel, like everyone associated with the organization, is ever proud of the Club Canottieri Italiani’s shining moment, when two members took the gold medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki in the men’s double scull competition. Although today only a small percentage of the club’s membership is actively involved in competitive rowing, the Olympic triumph still affords them bragging rights. It’s emblematic of the spirit of pride and tradition that’s ever-present in this privileged corner of Argentina.
Getting to Nordelta
From Ezeiza, the international airport of Buenos Aires, a transfer to the InterContinental Hotel Nordelta Tigre via taxi or private car will take up to an hour and a half and cost approximately US$60. For those arriving at the Buenos Aires city airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, or departing from elsewhere in the metropolitan region, travel time and cost are cut approximately in half.
From Nordelta to Tigre
Nearby Tigre and its numerous and varied attractions will entice many visitors to Nordelta. The town is located just 15 minutes by car from the InterContinental Hotel. The hotel’s concierge can quickly arrange transport via private car for around US$16 round-trip.
Originally published in SPLENDID magazine, the official publication of InterContinental Hotels Group in Latin America and the Caribbean.