Why you should visit Concordia in Argentina
7 things we liked about Concordia
We travel slowly, stopping wherever and whenever the fancy takes us. One of the advantages of travelling this way is stumbling across a place, which so intrigues us that we end up staying around for longer than we expect. Concordia, in Argentina’s Entre Rios province, is a good example.
As its name suggests, Entre Rios is situated between 2 rivers. Rio Paraná and Rio Uruguay are significant rivers in this part of South America, and the lifestyle of those living here is very connected to them. Concordia is a small city (population ~150 000) on the Uruguay River, just downstream from the Salto Grande hydroelectric dam, and directly across the river from Salto in Uruguay.
So here are the sights and experiences in Concordia which impressed us:
Plaza 25 de Mayo is the central focus of the city. It has lots of shady trees with benches under them for relaxing, statues of heroes, and a unique fountain. The Tourist Information is next to the plaza and the staff was friendly and very helpful. Concordia is one of the few cities we have found with several streets in the centre that are pedestrian zones. All in all, it was definitely an easy central district to get around in. We managed to find reasonable parking for Berta, which is not always easy. And we even found a laundry nearby that didn’t charge us a fortune.
Parque San Carlos
Sometimes called Parque Rivadavia, this park is beautiful and huge. It occupies 70 hectares on the edge of the city to the north-east. It is named after the ruin of Castillo San Carlos, which is the centre point. You can tell that it is well-loved by the locals by the number of visitors, even on week days. People come to exercise in groups, go walking or running, or to just spend their siesta in nature. And on the weekends it can be really crowded with families picnicking on the grass under the shady trees. We parked Berta next to the ruin for several nights. Each evening there was a constant procession of cars; people would park, get out and walk up to the gates of the Castillo. After a brief period, they would return to their cars and drive on. We never really understood the fascination, although its former glory is certainly evident.
Costanera de Concordia
The Costanera is a developed area along the riverfront to the south-east of the city centre. It’s used for walking, running, sitting in the sun drinking maté, exercising on gym equipment, and any other outdoor activity you can think of. The locals appreciate it, and visitors like us do too. We spent several afternoons parked near the river, enjoying the cool breeze and watching the world go by.
There is a variety of public art to discover in Concordia.
We found an outdoor sculpture gallery, the result of the 3rd International Symposium of Sculpture 2013. It is in Parque Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This park is north of the city and right next to the airport entrance. It doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere on tourist sites or in guide books. Some of the pieces are excellent. Unfortunately, it is not very well maintained, so we don’t know how long it will still be worth visiting.
Along with pieces in Plaza 25 de Mayo, along the riverfront and in San Carlos Park, we noticed sculpture in unusual places. One example was in the middle of a roundabout we passed several times.
And, as we often do, we found street art. We were fascinated by one piece: we assume it’s a picture of the old port on the river, painted on 6 white tiles and embedded in the footpath of the plaza.
Salto Grande Dam
20Km north of Concordia is the Salto Grande Bi-national Hydroelectric Dam. Argentina and Uruguay share the electricity equally. Uruguay’s share can provide around 60% of the country’s power needs if the plant is operating at capacity. Obviously Argentina’s share is a much less significant portion of its usage.
This dam also links Argentina to Uruguay with a road and rail bridge across the dam wall.
It is possible to take a guided tour of the hydroelectric plant, but we didn’t.
Lago de Salto Grande
The dammed water is known locally as Lago de Salto Grande and provides recreation areas on both sides of the river. On the Argentinian side, there are beaches and picnic areas along Peninsula Soler. The locals from Concordia crowd the area every weekend. When we were there, some would drive out after work and stay until the sun set. In the summer time visitors arrive from Buenos Aires and other parts of Argentina.
Hot Springs – we didn’t go
We are not ‘water babies’ and seldom go swimming – unless it’s really hot – and even more rarely do we go to thermal baths – unless we are really cold! But it is worth mentioning that Concordia has a hot springs resort in the city area and another on Lago de Salto Grande. There are also many nearby towns which also offer thermal facilities.
Regional specialties – a curiosity
We arrived in Concordia from the north, after visiting Esteros del Iberá in Corrientes province. On Ruta 14, over 200Km from the city, we began to see roadside signs for Regionales María. And not just one sign – masses of them!
We were very curious because every sign seemed to mention some obscure delicacy or handicraft that they were selling. As we got a bit closer – maybe 100Km – we began to see signs for La Alemana Productos Regionales, also with repeated signage showing what they were offering.
We arrived at La Alemana first – about 60Km north of the turnoff to Concordia. It was more of a theme park, and the shop selling the local products was just part of it. We stopped and checked it out: curious, but largely uninterested in what they were selling.
Regionales María is only about 10Km north of the turnoff, so easily accessible if you are visiting Concordia. It has a similar theme park appearance, but one of these was enough for us in one day!
So, what do they offer? Cheese, salami, pickled vegetables, jams and marmalades, conserves of almost any animal you can name, alfajores (sweet biscuits) sandwiched around a variety of fillings, leather and sheepskin products, and the list goes on. As I understand it, they sell anything that is made locally from raw materials that are also local.
We spent almost 2 weeks around Concordia, with a few days across the river/border in Salto, Uruguay. It was an opportunity to relax in an area that provided a number of lovely places to do just that.
Postscript: Concordia is flood-prone. Now this surprised me: with a dam just a few Kilometres up-stream, I would have thought that the amount of water flowing down could be regulated. But when it rains a lot in the catchment area of such a large river, there’s too much water and it just has to go somewhere. When we were in Concordia in November 2015, the residents were just recovering, and cleaning up after a flood. We could see the level clearly marked on the wall along the Costanera. There was still mud down by the river bank. But the people were coming out and enjoying their riverside anyway. A few weeks later they were inundated again, with a much worse flood, just before Christmas.
This is why it’s a great idea to visit this courageous little city, which has so much to offer.
Further reading: Welcome Argentina
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