To say that the serene and beautiful Iberà Wetlands are the lifeblood of Argentina is no exaggeration.
Located in northeast Argentina’s Province of Corrientes, just under 500 miles from Buenos Aires, they’re the second largest freshwater wetlands in the world; that’s second only to Pantanal in Brazil. And it's the sheer volume of floating islands and floodplains - not to mention countless other lakes and lagoons - that makes this the ideal habitat for a remarkable 4,000 plant and animal species. To put that figure into context, it means the Iberà Wetlands make up a staggering 30% of Argentina's biodiversity. Undoubtedly, that’s a large part of this region's breathtaking allure.
Lucky travellers could spot the eye-catching roseate spoonbill wading through the waters - or even meet the unblinking eye of a yacaré caiman; the basking giant was once hunted for its skin but is now protected here. But that’s just a small slice of Iberà Wetlands' inspiring comeback story. Large and endangered mammals like the giant anteater and native yaguareté (jaguar) have been carefully reintroduced after rapidly disappearing from hunting and habitat loss.
Today, an aerial view from above the wetlands reveals a much healthier picture: a vast blue-green network of lush channels and creeks as far as the eye can see. And a rise in conservation, protection and mammoth rewilding projects have all done their bit in bringing the area back to life - as has the boom in ecotourism. Travellers can now learn about these entrancing waterways with a guided boat safari - or simply explore them alone by kayak/canoe. Alternatively, adventurous types might prefer to take it in from above the banks on horseback; it’s a fitting way to explore the terrain when nature is so ingrained in the culture here.
Speaking of which, fishing has long been an integral part of the cultural heritage of the Iberá Wetlands. Indigenous communities and local residents have developed traditional and sustainable fishing techniques that are still practised today. Visitors could try their hand at a spot of flying fishing in the marshlands; dorado is a popular sportfish abundant in these fruitful marshlands. It’s also a popular meal in the area, along with surubí (a large catfish) and chipá (a special type of cheese bread). Many of these delicious dishes have been passed down through generations, even more fascinating when you consider these indigenous communities inhabited the area as far back as the 9th century. Importantly, their heritage can still be felt all over the area; it’s sewn into the fabric of the beautiful woven baskets, textiles and other intricate artisan handicrafts you’ll find here.
To this day, the indigenous communities still have deep and meaningful connections to the region’s land and water. And just a single visit to the Iberà Wetlands makes it easy to see why. These tranquil waters enrich all types of life that wade through them.