Every Sunday evening, ‘La Milonga del Indio’ takes place in Plaza Dorrego in the heart of San Telmo. The perfect spring weather in late October and throughout November is the perfect time to watch the dancers and take a whirl on the floor at the open air tango dance gathering.
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There are two trains, a couple of buses and a commuter boat that go to Tigre from Buenos Aires.
• Mitre Train
The most economical way to get to Tigre from Buenos Aires is via the Linea Mitre train. This train begins at Retiro station.
This line has a new viaduct which has cut travel time between Retiro and Tigre from almost an hour to about 40 minutes. There are several branches of the Mitre line — make sure that you take the line that has ‘Tigre’ station as it’s ultimate stop.
Those staying in the northern areas of the city can also board at a later stop such as Lisandro de la Torre or Belgrano C.
Tickets cost roughly AR$18.50 with a Sube card and AR$37 without. Trains leave every 10 minutes on weekdays, every 20 minutes on weekends and the journey takes about an hour.
• Tren de la Costa
For those who want to travel in style, the Tren de La Costa (Coastal Train) takes tourists to various stops along the river.
Revamped as a tourist attraction in 1995, this train offers picturesque Delta views and stops at 11 train stations, many refurbished, along the way.
One type of ticket takes you straight to your destination while another allows you to get on and off the train as you please.
To ride the Tren de la Costa, take the Mitre train described above from Retiro via the Mitre line (which has ‘Mitre’ station as the last stop). Once at Mitre station, cross the tracks and head to the Tren de La Costa station.
The standard gauge electric train cabins are climate controlled. The train costs almost exactly eight times more than the very affordable Mitre train outlined above, but it is intended as an half day or day-long excursion in itself.
Some worthwhile stops include Borges Station, named after the writer, and dubbed the ‘Station of the Arts;’ the English-style Barrancas Station; and San Isidro where a small urban center offers leisurely shopping and outdoor pubs and restaurants.
Due to political problems with the train system, the Tren de la Costa is not as exclusive as it once was, with aging upholstery on the seats and graffiti (not the good kind) marring some cars. As tourist use has declined, some locals simply use the Tren de la Costa to get around locally for free – they get away with not paying the fare because the ticket offices along the route are often closed.
• Buses to Tigre
It is also possible to take the number 60 bus from various points throughout the city but the journey takes at least an hour and a half, usually more.
Another option for those staying in a northern part of the city such as Palermo or Belgrano is to take the 152 bus to Mitre station where you can catch the Tren de la Costa. This option avoids backtracking to Retiro to take the train.
• Commuter Boat to Tigre
Monday through Friday it is also possible to take a commuter boat from Dock Four in Puerto Madero to Tigre, but there is only one boat per day, at 6:30 p.m.
The boat is a good Friday evening option if planning to spend the weekend in Tigre. Tickets need to be reserved at least 20 minutes before launch time and riders need to carry an I.D. SturlaViajes is the company that runs the commuter boat. You can book a $20 round-trip boat ride with them online that includes a hop-on, hop-off bus in Tigre. If you’re having fun in Tigre, there is always the option to ditch the ride back and just hop on the train back to Buenos Aires or stay in the delta overnight and get the boat back the following day.
Getting to Tigre by Bike
One of the most popular longer cycling excursions in Buenos Aires is the trip to Tigre. The bike route goes along the River Plate, and if you get tired you can hop on the train along the way. Since it is an easy, flat ride, most bikers successfully make it to Tigre and return to the city by train.
To get to Tigre by bike, take the bike path along Liberador Avenue heading north to Figueroa Alcorta. The 26 km trip takes about three hours. It’s pretty straight forward but a few twists and turns means it is worthwhile to download the google map before you go.
Another option is to take the slightly longer Super Panamerican Bike lane, but this option doesn’t go along the river, so it’s not as scenic.
• Driving to Tigre from Buenos Aires
To get to Tigre from downtown take General Paz to the Panamericana Highway. Head north until passing over Avelino Rolón and veer onto the ‘Ramal Tigre’ heading northeast. Once you are in Tigre, veer east to reach the city center.
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Buenos Aires’ San Telmo neighborhood is unique for its sheer quantity of impressive — but often decrepit — old buildings and also the abundance of high-quality, colorful street art — often found on the exterior of those buildings.
The corner of Tacuarí and Estados Unidos Streets is a good block to see turn-of-the-20th-century San Telmo architecture and postmillennial street art collide.
The street was painted with permission of shop and home owners in an event organized by Street Arte BA.
This section features a piece called ‘Face Off’ by artists known as BlaBla Buto and Clavahead. To the right is a work called ‘Peekaboo’ by Animalito Land. The pieces are on a building that dates to the 1880’s, built long before aerosol spray paint was invented.
Tigre town and the River Delta’s islands are no longer just an enclave for the well-to-do.
Today, small wooden shacks, modern ecological homes and elaborate grand mansions all lie incongruously together on Tigre’s islands, which stretch over 8,700 sq. kilometers.
Many of the houses are ‘dream homes’ thought up by their owners and the result is an architectural hodgepodge of different styles and tastes. Projects range from elaborate eyesores to stunning structural wonders and everything in between.
Some once-splendid mansions lie old and crumbling, a symbol of the downfall of the aristocracy, other buildings are half-built and seemingly forgotten. Many of the fancier houses are also neglected for a large part of the year; these are weekend homes, only visited when their owners need a break from city life.
All the houses have one thing is common — they are built on stilts to avoid flooding when Tigre’s riverbanks overflow during heavy rain.
Services on the Islands of the Delta
All houses have jetties and most islanders have some sort of floating transport.
Islanders can survive without relying on the mainland. Outlying services include schools, churches, garbage collection, doctors and even a floating fire brigade. Locals can also buy a surprisingly large amount of supplies from the shops dotted around the islands or from the ‘boat-shop’ that passes once a day.
There aren’t many restaurants along the delta, and most cater to an upper-class clientele willing to pay a premium for the riverbank setting.
There are no natural beaches along the river, but there are a number of fake-sandy ones to lounge on, usually attached to Tigre’s growing number of spas, hotels and hostels.
Ecological Projects in Tigre
Tigre’s natural beauty seems the perfect setting to inspire people to look after the planet, and a number of ecological projects have sprung up along the Delta.
Some, such as Proyecto Delta, are community living schemes with a focus on conservation and protecting the environment. Others such as Echo-Village are part of a worldwide eco-movement and accept foreign volunteers for a small cost.
The ecological groups have a strong community feel and projects such as Echo-Village reward the hard work of volunteers with wild, weekend-long parties.
Films and TV Programs Set in Tigre
Tigre has also inspired several TV shows and films. The Argentine TV show, ‘Verano del 98’, was popular at the turn of the millennium and was filmed in Tigre. It was similar to the US show, Dawson’s Creek, but with even more soap opera-like drama. The characters, opening sequence and plot lines were almost identical to Dawson’s Creek. The show never became popular outside Argentina, so it seems the producers got away with the probable copyright infringement.
The film ‘Todos tenemos un plan’ (Everyone Has a plan) was shot in Tigre in 2012. It stars Viggo Mortensen – most famous for his part of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Argentines will be proud to discover Mortensen speaks perfect Argentine Spanish – he spent time in the country as a child.
Everyone has a Plan was produced by the same team that shot the Oscar winning ‘El secreto de sus ojos’ (The Secret in Their Eyes) and stars the same leading lady, Soledad Villamill.
It tells the story of twin brothers, both played by Mortensen, one of whom is frustrated by Buenos Aires’ life. When one brother dies, the other takes on his identity. He goes to live in Tigre, and soon becomes wrapped up in his brother’s criminal dealings.
Is Tigre Going Underwater?
It seems that blissful island life may not last forever. As with Venice, Italy and New Orleans, USA rising sea levels threaten to wipe out the islands.
The river Delta also advances southward 50-90 meters each year, which means it is possible that northern suburban areas in metropolitan Buenos Aires, such as Nuñez may become islands later this century.
Perhaps one day the River Stadium — home to popular national football team, River — may be underwater, something that their arch rivals, Boca Juniors would no doubt celebrate.
– by Rosie Hilder
→ continue reading: Tigre from Smugglers’ Paradise to Upper-Class Enclave
Roughly 290,000 people live in the town and on the river’s islands. Tourists descend on the area in almost equal numbers during major holidays.
History – The Early Years and Tigre’s Name
The first known settlers on the Tigre Delta were Guaranis, an indigenous tribe, who lived off fishing and agriculture. As the Spanish and their servants settled in the area, they pushed out the Guarani, and the tribe slowly dispersed north.
The area did not appear in official records until 1508 when the Spanish conquistador Juan de Garay coined what is known today as the Reconquista River with the name ‘Las Conchas’ (the shells) due to the snails and freshwater shells that lay at the bottom of the river.
For Spaniards there’s nothing controversial about the name ‘Las Conchas’ but in Argentine Spanish, concha is also used to refer to female private parts. Referring to someone’s mother’s concha is a potent insult used by irate taxi drivers and over-excited football hooligans.
‘Las Conchas’ was officially renamed ‘Tigre’ (tiger) in 1952. Tigre has no meaning in Argentine slang, so for now its residents are safe from ridicule.
There never were tigers in the region, but the Spanish who had never seen jaguars, mistook an animal they’d spotted on the islands for a tiger. This tigre supposedly killed cows and sheep in the area and people began to refer to the area as ‘el Rincon de Tigre’ (Tiger Corner) at the end of the 17th century.
There are no records of tigres after this point and the creature’s existence in the area became something of a myth.
The legend was passed on through generations, and strengthened by very occasional sightings, but the name stuck. Today, visitors are just as unlikely to see a jaguar in the area as they are an actual tiger. Jaguars are totally extinct in the area, although the myth continues — once in a while a youtube video appears of a huge house cat filmed from afar that the videographer claims is a tiger or jaguar.
Smuggling in Tigre
By the early 1600s, Tigre was a strategic port between its islands and the nearby village of Garay and was used to transport carbon, firewood and timber to Buenos Aires. Business was not easy as the restrictions enforced by the Spanish practically forbid free trade. Before long, the port had a reputation for something other than shells — it was a smuggler’s paradise.
Across the Río de La Plata (River Plate), the Portuguese occupied Uruguay had no such restrictions. Small boats coming from Uruguay soon realized they could reach Tigre’s port undetected and were able to smuggle goods to Buenos Aires and other Argentine provinces without risking crossing the wider Río de La Plata.
“Colonia del Sacramento was more or less a ‘free shop,'” says local historian Eduardo Masllorens. “Smuggling in Tigre became so bad the Spanish authorities were almost unable to control it.”
In 1778, the Spanish decided to change the law — they permitted free trade with any nation that wasn’t ‘an enemy of the Spanish crown.’ This decreased smuggling and allowed the small port town of Las Conchas to grow.
The Growth of Tigre
With trade liberalized, the town began to focus on wood and fruit production, as it still does today.
The inhabitants suffered various invasions from the British and Portuguese and the islanders often fought to defend their lands.
They also had problems with storms and flooding, forcing them to move to higher ground. In 1820, after a particularly violent tornado, the town and port moved to where Tigre lies today.
Tourism in Tigre
During the 19th century, Tigre became a popular destination for the capital’s aristocrats. In those golden days of Buenos Aires, it became fashionable to spend leisure time outdoors. The cafes along the Costanera Sur opened, and rich folk would spend their days lounging in Palermo’s parks.
Having a weekend home in Tigre soon became a fashionable accessory for the wealthy.
President Domingo. F. Sarmiento fell in love with the islands and brought important figures such as writer Marcos Sastre, and politicians Bartolomé Mitre and Carlos Pellegrini to Tigre. These illustrious figures shared his passion and became determined to develop the islands, fighting for the rights of those who lived there and encouraging tourists to visit the region.
The arrival of the first train in Tigre in 1865 and the electric train’s inauguration in 1916 increased trade links with the capital and allowed tourists to easily visit the town. Day-trippers flocked to the region, as they still do today.
Rowing & Water Sports
On December 10th 1873 a group of mostly English rowers held a regatta in Tigre. President Sarmiento attended the race and said that he hoped “our youth will follow this example.” The rowers took his advice, and six days later a group of Argentine and English rowing enthusiasts met in a café on Florida Street and founded the Buenos Aires Rowing Club.
Rowing enthusiasts descended on Tigre in the hope of being part of this exciting new trend and rowing clubs began to move from the nearby town Barracas to Tigre. Europeans set up their own clubs, and yacht and sailing clubs soon followed suit.
The rowing club moved to its current building in 1911, and although activities are strictly for members only, the grand building can be seen from the shores of Tigre town.
Today, water-sport enthusiasts continue to come to Tigre to row, sail or go yachting. Water or jet skiing, canoeing and kayaking are also popular. Some clubs, clinging to the prestige of days gone by, are still ‘members only’ but most water-sport schools are open to the public.
Get in touch via our contact form for information about day trips to bike and canoe in El Tigre.