15 Best Sights in Side Trips from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte de Tigre

Fodor's choice

An ornate colonnade leads from the Luján River to this Beaux Arts building, built in 1909 to house a social club and casino. It contains a modest collection of Argentine paintings by artists like Quirós, Castagnino, Soldi, and Quinquela Martín, as well as works portraying life in the delta. The real showstopper, however, is the beautifully restored architecture: a sweeping marble staircase, stained-glass windows, gilt-inlaid columns, and soaring ceilings conspire to form a microcosm of the fin de siècle European style adored by the porteño elite. A trim sculpture garden and flower-filled park surround the museum, which is best reached by walking along Paseo Victorica.

Ecomuseu de Itaipú

At the Ecomuseu de Itaipú, you can learn about the geology, archaeology, and efforts to preserve the flora and fauna of the area since the Itaipú Dam was built. This museum is funded by the dam's operator, Itaipú Binacional, so the information isn't necessarily objective.

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Güirá Oga

Although Iguazú Falls is home to around 450 bird species, the parks are so busy these days that you'd be lucky to see so much as a feather. It's another story at Güirá Oga, which means "House of the Birds" in Guaraní. Birds that were injured, displaced by deforestation, or confiscated from traffickers are brought here for treatment. The large cages also house species you rarely see in the area, including the gorgeous red macaw. The sanctuary is in a forested plot halfway between Puerto Iguazú and the falls. Entrance includes a 90-minute guided visit (in English and Spanish).

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Hito Tres Fronteras

This viewing point west of the town center stands high above the turbulent reddish-brown confluence of the Iguazú and Paraná rivers, which also form the Triple Frontera, or Triple Border Landmark. A mini pale-blue-and-white obelisk reminds you you're in Argentina. Take binoculars to see Brazil's green-and-yellow equivalent across the Iguazú River; across the Paraná is Paraguay's, painted red, white, and blue. A row of overpriced souvenir stalls stands alongside the Argentine obelisk.

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Av. Tres Fronteras, Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, 3370, Argentina

Itaipú Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant

It took more than 30,000 workers eight years to build this 8-km (5-mile) dam, voted one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The monumental structure, which produces roughly 17% of Brazil's electricity and 75% of Paraguay's, was the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world until China's Three Gorges Dam was completed.

You get plenty of insight into how proud this makes the Brazilian government—and some idea of how the dam was built—during the 30-minute video that precedes the hour-long guided panoramic bus tours of the complex. Although commentaries are humdrum, the sheer size of the dam is an impressive sight. To see more than a view over the spillways, consider the special tours, which take you inside the cavernous structure and into the control room. Night tours—which include a light-and-sound show—begin at 8 on Friday and Saturday, 9 during the summer months (reserve ahead).

Av. Tancredo Neves 6702, Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, 85867–970, Brazil
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Rate Includes: Panoramic tour R$46, special tour R$130

Jardín de los Picaflores

With more than 400 species of birds in the national parks surrounding Iguazú Falls, bird-watchers will be kept happily busy. This tiny garden north of Puerto Iguazú serves as more of a feeding station than a refuge, but it's busy with the little powerhouses zipping about.

Fray Luis Beltran 150, Puerto Iguazú, Misiones, 3370, Argentina
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Rate Includes: 80 pesos

La Aripuca

It looks like a cross between a log cabin and the Pentagon, but this massive wooden structure—which weighs 551 tons—is a large-scale replica of a Guaraní bird trap. La Aripuca officially showcases different local woods, supposedly for conservation purposes—ironic, given the huge trunks used to build it and the overpriced wooden furniture that fills the gift shop.

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Museo del Mate

Mate drinking in Argentina is even more deeply culturally rooted than drinking coffee in the United States or tea in the United Kingdom. The mate gourd and the accompanying flask of hot water is ubiquitous throughout all social classes and age groups, whether one is sipping alone or sharing with a group of friends. The Museo del Mate is a great place to learn about the history of mate yerba—the shrub from which the bitter tea is made—and the sometimes very stylish mate gourds from which it's drunk. Many mate gourds, both antique and modern, are made from beautifully crafted porcelain or metal. Tours are available in English.

Lavalle 289, Tigre, Buenos Aires, 1648, Argentina
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Rate Includes: 60 pesos, Thur.–Sun. and holidays 11–6, Closed Mon.--Wed.

Museo Draghi Plateros Orfebres

San Antonio is famed for its silversmiths, and the late Juan José Draghi was the best in town. This small museum adjoining his workshop showcases the evolution of the Argentine silver-work style known as platería criolla. Pieces are ornate takes on gaucho-related items: spurs, belt buckles, knives, stirrups, and the ubiquitous mate gourds, some dating from the 18th century. Also on display is the incredibly ornate work of Juan José Draghi himself; you can buy original pieces in the shop. His son keeps the family business alive—he's often at work shaping new pieces at the back of the museum.

Museo Gauchesco y Parque Criollo Ricardo Güiraldes

Gaucho life of the past is celebrated—and idealized—at this quiet museum just outside town. Start at the 150-year-old pulpería (the gaucho version of the saloon), complete with dressed-up wax figures ready for a drink. Then head for the museum, an early-20th-century replica of a stately 18th-century casco de estancia (estancia house). Polished wooden cases contain a collection of traditional gaucho gear: decorated knives, colorful ponchos, and elaborate saddlery and bridlery. The museum is named for local writer Ricardo Güiraldes (1886–1927), whose romantic gaucho novels captured the imagination of Argentinean readers. Several rooms document his life in San Antonio de Areco and the real-life gauchos who inspired his work.

Museo Las Lilas de Areco

Although iconic Argentinean painter Florencio Molina Campos was not from San Antonio de Areco, his humorous paintings depict traditional pampas life. The works usually show red-nosed, pigeon-toed gauchos astride comical steeds, staggering drunkenly outside taverns, engaged in cockfighting or folk dancing, and taming bucking broncos. The collection is fun and beautifully arranged, and your ticket includes coffee and croissants in the jarringly modern café, which also does great empanadas and sandwiches. Behind its curtained walls lie huge theme park–style re-creations of three paintings. The lively and insightful voice-over explaining them is in Spanish only.

Moreno 279, San Antonio de Areco, Buenos Aires, 2760, Argentina
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Rate Includes: 600 pesos, Closed Mon.–Wed.

Museo Naval de la Nación

Although most visitors are into naval, military, or nautical history, this museum's collection will fascinate even those whose interests point elsewhere. The interior of the building, which looks like a hangar-size barn, is filled with paintings, statues, uniforms, and beautifully crafted model ships. On the grounds are long-retired planes from Argentina's aviation history, including a great example of a North American AT-6 "Texan" from 1939.

Parque das Aves

Flamingos, parrots, and macaws are some of the more colorful inhabitants of this privately run park. Right outside the Parque Nacional Foz do Iguaçu, it's an interesting complement to a visit to the falls. A winding path leads you through untouched tropical forest and walk-through aviaries containing hundreds of species of birds. One of the amazing experiences is the toucan enclosure, where they are so close you could touch them. Iguanas, alligators, and other nonfeathered friends have their own pens.

Rodovia das Cataratas, Km 17.1, Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, 85853–000, Brazil
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Rate Includes: R$70, Closed Mon.

Paseo Victorica

Italianate mansions, museums, restaurants, and several rowing clubs dot this pictureseque paved walkway and waterside park that curves alongside the Río Luján for about 10 blocks. To reach it, cross the bridge next to the roundabout immediately north of Estación Tigre, then turn right and walk five blocks along Avenida Lavalle, which runs along the Río Tigre.

Along Río Luján between Río Tigre and Río Reconquista, Tigre, Buenos Aires, 1648, Argentina

Puerto de Frutos

The center of the action at Tigre is its picturesque market. Hundreds of stalls selling furniture, handicrafts, and reasonably priced souvenirs fill the area around the docks along the Río Luján. It's particularly busy on weekends (indeed, many stalls are closed midweek). Grab a quick lunch from stands selling steak and chorizo sandwiches.