Entre Rios: A Long Weekend in Entre Rios

Entre Rios is a short drive, and worlds away, from Buenos Aires.  The driving is not too bad - once you get out of the Buenos Aires conurbation, the congestion disappears and the road is a good four-lane divided highway.  At Zarate you head north on Ruta Nacional 12, which becomes 14, crossing a long stretch of wetlands on an elevated road with a railway running alongside.  We started out late on a weekday, thus avoiding rush hour in Buenos Aires, stopped for lunch on the road in Ceibas, and saw very little traffic the rest of the way to Colón, about 310 km from down Buenos Aires.

At Concepción del Uruguay we detoured to visit the photogenic Palacio San José, a very nice stop indeed.  This estancia belonged to Justo José de Urquiza, strongman of Entre Rios and its elected governor in 1841, who later rebelled against Buenos Aires ruler General Rosas, defeating him at the battle of Caseros in 1853.  The buildings were designed by an Italian architect, with sumptuous gardens surrounding them; both buildings and gardens have been restored and are very well kept.  Followers of one of Urquiza’s rivals assassinated him here in 1870, in a room now known as the Sala de la Tragedia.  Some descriptions lead you to believe that there are large bloodstains and bullet holes decorating the walls.- while this is quite not the case, there is something eerie about the simple armchair holding a card recounting Urquiza’s last words: “they are coming to kill me.”.. Open from 0900 to 1245 and 1400 to 1800.  More information at <http://www.palaciosanjose.com>

There are no accommodations near the Palacio, so the traveler heads on to Colón (if there is time and you’re a museum buff, there’s an interesting museum in Concepción, the Museo Delio Panizza, with a wide-ranging collection of oddities including bits of the Graf Spee).  Colón is a very nice small town on the Rio Uruguay, becoming more attractive the closer you get to the river.  (When you turn off the RN14 you’ll pass an extraordinary little memorial to the Gauchito Gil - this “Argentine Robin Hood” was a Corrientes native, but has a large following in Entre Rios, among other provinces.)  At the waterfront you’ll find a very nice municipal tourism center in an old mansion, and the Hostería del Puerto on Alejo Peyret 158.  This delightful spot was turned into a small hotel after ten years of painstaking restoration of the 1880 building.  At the center of the hostería is a patio with a huge century-old cistern, enclosed by two levels of balconies.  The rooms are generously-sized; each has a loft, and can accommodate a family of four plus baby,  for more information, see <hosteriadelpuerto@ciudad.com.ar>.  One excellent choice for dinner is next door at the Cosquilla del Angel - Alejo Peyret 180.  La Plaza, on the Plaza de Mayo, a few blocks away, or El Viejo Almacen, just a few blocks further, are other options.  During the weekend, you can try fondue dishes at the restaurant of the same name, also a short walk along the waterfront.

Colón has many early 20th century buildings, which are attractive in themselves, and quite a few of whose owners have succumbed to the temptation to paint them as well in gaudy colors - tangerine, lime, melon.  Off the Plaza San Martín are some tourist shops - don’t pass them by, you’ll be offered excellent local liqueurs as well as crafts related to mate, basket work, and so forth.  The palm trees that are the focal point of El Palmar, the national park just to the north, are the source of the fruit from which the excellent Yatay liqueur is made.  You’ll also find this liqueur in the shop at the entrance to the park’s campgrounds if you decide you should have purchased another bottle...other local brews of orange, and honey, are very nice, but the Yatay liqueur is unique.  (If you have not visited the Palacio San José on the way to Colón, there is a tourist train from Villa Elisa on Sundays.)..Colón hosts a national handcraft show in February, and very likely the town will be full to overflowing.   We visited on a weekday, and things were slow, but during the long holiday weekend in October a few days earlier, the hotel facilities in the town were 100 percent occupied.  You can mostly just relax here; one possibility is a trip by boat to the islands, or by “Army truck” on land, to see wildlife. We noted one attractive offer from Itaicora Aventura (42-3360), or <www.itaicora.com.ar>.  Horseback riding and so forth also is available around Colón.  More information on Colón at <www.colonentrerios.com.ar>

El Palmar National Park, fifty kilometers north, is quietly spectacular.  The basic terrain is rolling grassland, with stands of very tall “yatay” palms.  Park staff are working hard to clear invasive species.  Along the streams in the park are “gallery woodlands” where dense groves of trees form in mini-climate zones, and the temperature may drop 10 degrees Celsius within the grove.  Some of the palms are 300 years or more in age.  You half expect to see a dinosaur come lumbering along the road; the sensation of being in another geological era is very strong.  The park has a campgrounds (which are recommended by the Argentine automobile association, ACA) and a branch of the Cosquilla del Angel restaurant.  This is a fine bird-watching spot, and chances are good to see other interesting animals such as armadillos, lizards, vizcachas (a burrowing animal related to the chinchilla), many foxes, ñandues (Argentine ostriches).   If you are looking for “excitement” this is probably not your place, but as you drive around in the region you begin to understand the tourist slogan printed on sugar packets: “Visit Entre Rios: All the Greens.”  This landscape has every shade and intensity of green imaginable, and they surround and soothe you.  ¡Visitelo! ¡Disfrutelo!

Other lodging options:  In the area of Concepción/Colón there are several estancias where you can stay - for example, San Pedro, with a park of 180 hectares, designed by French landscape artist Charles Thays.  Tel (03442) 42-8374; fax (03445) 48-2107.  Santa Candida, an estancia that belonged to Urquiza, on the banks of the Uruguay;  Reservations can be made in BA at Libertador 2286.  Fax 4802 9364.  If you’re looking for pampered luxury, near the waterfront of Colón is the Hotel Quirinale, a five-star hotel with thermal baths, tennis courts, golf, casino and so forth...for information and prices, 421 133<reservasonline@quirinale.com.ar>  Between Colón and El Palmar on the river is La Aldea, with bungalows for 6 at $150 for Friday to Sunday, or hostal or camping.  The spa area of Villa Elisa offers 20 swimming pools with mineral waters, with entry on a day-trip basis.  See <http://www.elisanet.com.ar>, tel (03447) 480-146.  <www.laaldeacolon.com.ar>; reservations at (03447) 423-057.

© Copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, Richard W. Tripp, Jr.