Esteros del Iberá stretches over an enormous area, but the most convenient access point is Colonia Pellegrini (pop. about 800), a hamlet of wide dirt roads on a peninsula jutting into Laguna Iberá, 120 kilometers northeast of Mercedes via RP 40. Technically, Pellegrini has formal street names, but it’s hard to find signs and, on occasion, even people to ask for directions.
Passable under most conditions, though sections of it are bumpy, RP 40 can be muddy and difficult for conventional vehicles in wet weather. It requires caution and moderate speeds at all times.
Eastbound RP 40 to the junction with paved RN 14 is impassable except for 4WD vehicles, and it is especially difficult in wet weather.
Note that Pellegrini has no bank or other exchange facilities. Some hotels may accept U.S. dollars, but it’s better to bring enough money for your stay.
Accommodations and Food
Pellegrini may be small, but it offers a diversity of quality accommodations and food for all budgets. In general, most places offer packages that include two or more nights of accommodation, full board, and at least an excursion per day. Most of the mid- to top-end places are adding Wi-Fi has been late to reach here.
Except for hotel dining rooms, it lacks good restaurants; in fact, most of the local comedores are pretty dire. To eat where you’re not staying, make advance arrangements, as drop-ins are uncommon. Limited supplies are available; locals stock up during shopping trips to Mercedes.
Shoestring backpackers will find a growing number of hospedajes such as Posada San Cayetano (Aguapé and Yacaré, tel. 03773/15-62-8763, US$13 pp) with tidy but basic multi-bed rooms. It has even added air-conditioning and a pool.
The accommodations at Rancho Inambú Hostel (tel. 03773/43-6159, Yerutí between Aguapé and Pehuajó, www.ranchoinambu.com.ar, US$16 pp) occupy a typical rancho correntino with adobe walls and mud roof, but the large common areas, in a separate building, include pool tables and a bar-restaurant that serves as a pub on weekends. Prices are likely to rise as it adds private baths.
Hospedaje Jabirú (Caraguata and Yaguareté, tel. 03773/15-41-3750, US$32 d with fan, US$37 d with a/c) is a friendly and tidy place that only suffers by having too many beds in some rooms. Its next-door restaurant Jacarú Porá has a more diverse menu than the basic comedores, and the dishes are prepared with a little more care. It has especially choice empanadas—try the cheese and onion.
The best value is underpriced Posada Rancho Ypa Sapukai (Yacaré and Mburucuyá, tel. 03773/42-0155 or 03773/15-62-9536, www.ypasapukai.com.ar, US$75 pp with half board and excursions) for elegantly simple rooms with private baths, ceiling fans, and air-conditioning on request. On beautifully maintained grounds along the lagoon, it has attractive common areas good enough for just relaxing if bad weather delays excursions, as well as above-average food.
On densely wooded grounds, Hostería Ñandé Retá (Guasú Virá and Caraguatá, tel. 03773/49-9411 or 03773/15-62-9109, tel./fax 03773/42-0155 in Mercedes, www.nandereta.com, US$90 pp with full board and excursions) has a jungle-lodge feeling despite its midst-of-the-village location. The rooms, though, are a bit smaller than those at other, newer places.
Irupé Lodge (Capivara and Irupé, tel. 03773/15-40-2193, www.irupelodge.com.ar, US$125 pp with full board and one excursion per day) is not bad, but less appealing than other places and arguably overpriced. At handsomely designed Rancho de los Esteros (Yacaré and Yangapiry, tel. 03773/15-49-3041, www.ranchodelosesteros.com.ar, US$125 pp), a so-called rancho boutique, the price includes full board and excursions.
Posada de la Laguna (Guasú Virá and Timbó, tel. 03773/49-9413 or 03773/15-62-9827, tel. 011/4797-7449 in Buenos Aires, www.posadadelalaguna.com, US$198 s, US$290 d, with full board and excursions) has six spacious rooms with high ceilings and comfortably stylish furnishings set on sprawling gardens along the lagoon; it also features a swimming pool and a separate bar-restaurant. The owner is Elsa Güiraldes, a niece of Ricardo Güiraldes, author of the classic gauchesco novel Don Segundo Sombra.
The largest accommodation is the colonial-style Posada Aguapé (Yacaré and Timbó, tel./fax 03773/49-9412, www.iberaesteros.com.ar, US$106–137 pp with full board and two excursions per day), which sprawls along the lagoon in two wings with overhanging galleries for protection from both sun and rain, along with a large pool. Decorated with high-quality but rustically styled furniture, the 12 suites are substantial and appealing; there is also a bar and a dining room. Rates include several excursions; children under 10 pay half, children under three are free. Its Buenos Aires contact is María Paz Galmarini (Coronel Obarrio 1038, 1642 San Isidro, Provincia de Buenos Aires, tel./fax 011/4742-3015).
Getting to Colonia Pellegrini
Daily except Sunday, El Rayo (tel. 03773/42-0184) and Itatí II (tel. 03773/42-1722) operate bus services from Colonia Pellegrini back to Mercedes (3 hours, US$8). The El Rayo bus leaves around 4–5 p.m., but Itatí II departs around 4 a.m. This allows locals to make shopping trips and return in the same day, but it’s not so great for travelers who want a full night’s sleep. They will pick you up at your accommodations in Pellegrini, however.
From the Posadas airport, it’s possible to arrange direct transfers for four to six people in a 4WD vehicle for about US$200–225 with Anamatours (tel. 03752/42-0199). From Pellegrini, Trans-Beto (tel. 03757/15-51-5862) and Hugo Boccalandro (tel. 03773/15-40-0929) offer similar services.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition