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The Gran Chaco

Tourists flock to Misiones Province in Argentina’s extreme Northeast, to marvel at the mighty force of Iguazú Falls. In the Northwest of the country, Salta and its neighboring indigenous villages are gaining popularity with travelers. But wedged between the two regions is the most forgotten corner of Argentina, the Gran Chaco. It seldom makes it into the news, and few journey to this impenetrable land of sultry summer days.

In the mid-19th century, Argentina’s Chaco Territory extended as far north as Bahía Negra in present-day Paraguay. The border between the two countries, defined by the Río Pilcomayo, was decided in 1878 by US President Rutherford Hayes. The territory was divided into Formosa and Chaco in 1884, with the Río Bermejo (Teuco) dividing them.

The two provinces have much in common. They both have Dry Chaco and Wet Chaco ecosystems, allowing them to have some of the greatest biodiversity in the country. The region’s economic growth—first logging of high-tannin hardwoods, then cotton cultivation, and now soy and cattle raising—have damaged the environment. Various national parks and the Bañado La Estrella now protect swatches of the landscape.

Formosa and Chaco also have some of the largest population of indigenous nations in Argentina. Here, the Wichí, Q’om, Moqoit and Pilagá continue many of their traditional ways. They are gaining fame for their artisan works.

The best time to come to Argentina’s Gran Chaco is April-October, when temperatures are more moderate and it is dry. In summer, it can get over 50ºC (122ºF) with torrential rains. Even Chaqueños and Formoseños head out to cooler lands for vacation.

At present, the only roads between the two provinces are in the east, between Resistencia and Formosa, and General San Martín and El Colorado. In the west, boats crossing the Río Teuco (Bermejo) and rudimentary transport connect Chaqueño and Formosan communities – but only when the weather is dry and dirt roads are passable. This is a true adventure into uncharted territory for travelers who have time.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

05 Jul 2010

Things to do in The Gran Chaco

Catedral de Resistencia

137092Resistencia's bright sun glares off its eclectic Catedral dedicated to San Fernando Rey. This temple, built from 1888 to 1898, is a blend between classical and early-Gothic architecture stripped to ...
Historical Building
Resistencia, Argentina

Resistencia Museums

137094Along with mountains of public art, Resistencia also has a number of interesting museums for visitors to enjoy. Many are free (except where noted).Museo de la Memoria (Monday-Friday 8 am.-1 p.m., 4-9 ...
Resistencia, Argentina

Catching Culture in Resistencia

137095Resistencia has an impressive variety of venues for catching cinematic and performance culture while in the city:Alianza Francesa (Roque Sáenz Peña 453, Tel: 42-4480, URL: ...
Resistencia, Argentina

Museums In Roque Sáenz Peña

139623If you’re looking for a reason to hang out in Sáenz Peña a few more days so you can soak some more in the hot springs come evening, then make it a mission to check out its museums. The Museo de ...
Roque Sáenz Peña, Argentina

Complejo Ecológico Municipal

139622Sáenz Peña’s 25-hectare (61.7-ac) Complejo Ecológico Municipal is a place to learn about the Chaco’s flora and fauna. Considered to be one of Argentina’s top three zoos, it is home to 214 ...
Other Activity
Roque Sáenz Peña, Argentina

Complejo Termal

139621In the heart of Sáenz Peña are the thermal baths of Complejo Termal, considered by the Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Termales to be one of the best medicinal springs in the country. The waters ...
Other Activity
Roque Sáenz Peña, Argentina

Reserva De La Biósfera De La Laguna Oca Del Río Paraguay

139021Reserva de la Biósfera de la Laguna Oca del Río Paraguay, created by UNESCO, is a 13,000-hectare (32,123-ac) reserve with lagoons, creeks and forests. The park is home to 176 species of bird, ...
Other Activity
Formosa, Argentina

Paseo Costanero Vuelta Fermosa

139020 The Paseo Costanero Vuelta Fermosa, with Formosa\'s port as the centerpiece, runs for almost three kilometers (1.8 mi) along the west bank of the Río Paraguay. To the north, the coastal ...
City Walk
Formosa, Argentina

Museo Histórico Regional Juan Pablo Duffard

The Museo Histórico Regional Juan Pablo Duffard is in the former home of General Ignacio Fotheringham. Eight galleries display the history of the city and province. The collection of indigenous ...
Formosa, Argentina

Parque 2 De Febrero

Parque 2 de Febrero is a shady public space with plenty of facilities for all kinds of recreation. If you are craving a BBQ, buy some meat and beer and join the locals cooking up a feast. With ...
City Park
Resistencia, Argentina

Reserva Provincial Isla del Cerrito

Where the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers meet, you'll find Isla del Cerrito. Once a leper colony and Chaco Territory's first capital, this island is now a provincial reserve with ample opportunities for ...
Other Activity
Resistencia, Argentina
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