In Buenos Aires, the only thing that is slow is the melancholic tango*. Walk down any street in the capital and you’ll observe the Porteños chatting to one another like it’s the last word they might ever gush out (they’re not actually fighting, they’re probably just talking about the humidity). As a tourist here you can feel like you’re being whisked away in a tornado. Sometimes you just need to escape from the hectic city life before someone orders you to “tranquilo!”
*Actually, that is not completely true, but don’t get me started on the justice system, public transport, bar service, progress or foreigners learning Spanish.
The Tigre Delta is one of the most popular getaway spots. Each weekend, thousands of visitors head off to the riverside suburb’s centre as a daytrip to check out the market at Puerto de Frutos (nowadays less about the apples and oranges, and more about wicker furniture and foodstuffs), and to gawp at the stunning belle-époque Museo de Arte Tigre. It’s a simple 45 minute train-ride from the capital, or alternatively you can get a bus or the deceptively titled tren de la costa.
Whilst many then head off on boat excursions from the Estacion Fluvial to the touristy and flashy Tres Bocas, there’s so much more to be discovered. Really it’s all about the Delta de Paraná’s remote islands and their bizarre waterway communities. Many of its network of rivers can only be navigated by small boats, leading to a multitude of serene grassland and forest-covered isles which house various homes, guesthouses and serene spas. The further north you go, the more local and less populated the region becomes – and the resorts more exclusive. In 2008 Madonna brought her children and bodyguards to a Delta retreat, but don’t let that put you off.
Spend a quiet, lazy day relaxing on high-end private cruises like Soul Trips with the lovely Gaston and passionate Jorgelina, as they take you on a chilled tour of the Delta on their luxury 30 ft speedboat. The cost of this excursion is inclusive of hotel transfers, homemade picada, a relaxing island stop for lunch at a quaint, hidden gem of a private restaurant, plus a final sunset champagne to see Buenos Aires from the river. It’s romantic, so grab someone else or go with three others to have the boat to yourself. Bring your swimmers if you want to take the plunge and jump in the fresh water (don’t let the river’s colour turn you off, it’s only silt). A great city escape.
Alternatively, stay for a few days like we did and really feel your heartbeat slow down. Posada La Isla Escondida – literally meaning ‘hidden island’ – is located in the first section of islands from Tigre. It has eight rooms surrounding a zen-like pool and asado area. You can feel your stress slip away (corny, but true) in the spa, jacuzzi, hammocks or four poster poolside beds. It also offers reiki, yoga and massage as well as kayaking, canoeing and nighttime private boat tours. Our highlights were slipping in and out of sleep at sunset whilst listening to the birds and natural surroundings mix with the chilled reggae sounds coming from the hotel’s reception – and the fact they played Pink Floyd at dinner to accompany our flan. Where’s Buenos Aires again?
For an even more high-end option there’s La Becasina Delta Lodge. Located in the far reaches of the Northern Delta, it offers 15 isolated luxury air-conditioned bungalows on the water and a sense of solitude. There are no TVs or Wi-Fi connections, but there is an all inclusive policy which stretches to a happy hour before lunch and dinner – this isn’t a detox retreat. After a boozy three course meal most guests were comatose facedown on the pool sun loungers as if they’d just wandered through a poppy field. Now, that’s more like it.
We chilled out with La Isla Escondida’s Coni and La Becasina’s Juan who both agree that too much fiesta is bad for your mind, yet so is too much tranquillity. These getaways are all about providing that equilibrium in life. Now, excuse me, I’ve got to go check my Facebook.
The more adventurous (or at least fit) can do a bike trip from San Isidro to San Fernando through the neighbouring Delta villages.
Boat transfers to the islands are usually included with your resort reservation, but check. It can be confusing to work out the system of waterways and private taxis can be expensive.
For the estancias and spas a hardcore bug-spray is a must – I came back with 63 bites. Scratching isn’t very zen.