When most travelers visit Buenos Aires, Argentina, they explore the main hubs on San Telmo, Palermo, Recoleta and Centro. However, there is another area 45 minutes from Retiro Station that is like an entirely different world: The Tigre Delta.
I learned about Tigre from an expat who had been living in my hostel for the past year. When I asked him if there were any good day trips I should consider, he immediately replied, “You have to see the Tigre Delta. It’s like a cross between the canals in Bangkok and the Jersey Shore.” As I had no idea what this might look like, I decided I had to go.
Tigre gets its name from some very virtuous jaguar farmers that had lived in the area long ago. Arriving in Tigre Station, I immediately walked up to the nearest tourism operator and booked a boat trip down the Tigre Delta with Sturla. For 70 pesos (about $20) you’ll get a guided tour of the river and one of the Delta Islands, coffee, an Alfajor de Maizena treat and a pass for the Tigre Touristic Bus.
Upon first glance of the specialized rivers and rental houses on the water, I understood what the expat had meant. Although the area was definitely very PG for Pauly D’s tastes, it had the summer vacation feel of The Shore, mixed with a very unique lifestyle based on river commerce like in Thailand.One thing that really strikes most people is the smell and sight of the murky brown water. According to my tour guide, the Tigre Delta isn’t polluted. It is sediments that give the water its unique smell and color. In fact, locals use it for bathing, doing laundry, cleaning furniture and watering plants – everything but drinking (thank goodness). There are no poisonous or aggressive animals in the water either, so it’s safe for swimming.
Once I got used to the cloudy water and began to learn more about the area, I started to appreciate its purpose. The people of the Tigre Delta live completely different from the porteños of Buenos Aires. Think of the river as a city road. Not only are there parking lots for boats, but also boats that act as hospitals, supermarkets (shown right), police stations, banks, taxis and garbage “trucks.” Moreover, the look and design of the houses are completely based on the water, which changes tide depending the course of the wind.
The average price of a home on a Delta Island is about $50,000 to $80,000 to purchase. If you’re just looking for a unique summer hangout, you can rent a six-person house for 15 days for about $1,000. While it may sound like you’ll be away from civilization, there are actually public schools, restaurants, hostels, bars, a public library, artificial beaches and opportunities for water sport lessons. There is obviously something drawing people to the area, as the population of 9,000 grows to 30,000 during the summer months.
If you choose to explore the Tigre Delta for yourself, you can either book a boat tour, or rent canoes or kayaks and go on your own. There’s no need to be afraid of falling in; apparently, the water is perfectly clean and safe.
Once your boat tour is complete, there are other activity options on the mainland of Tigre. Just make sure to visit on a weekend, as many attractions in the area shut down during the week. There is the Parque de la Costa, which is the largest amusement park in South America and features over 70 rides and attractions. The cost to get in ranges from 63 to 125 pesos (about $14-$29) depending which pass you choose. Adjacent, there is a great fruit and handicrafts market that sells some of the freshest produce in the city. For gamblers, the Trilenium Casino is an option, with over 1,900 slot machines, 74 board games and seven restaurants. Additionally, if you’d like to do something educational, there are some worthwhile museums, including:
- Tigre Art Museum (shown above)- Founded in 1910, this palace-like building was the former home of the Tigre Club. Today it houses an expansive collection of Argentine art.
- National Naval Museum- Formerly the National Navy Workshops, this national monument features paintings, sculptures, naval furniture, flags, ship and airplane models and more.
- Museum of the Reconquista- This museum focuses on the British Invasions of 1806 and the history of Tigre. There’s also an impressive library with specialized collections.