The Iguazú Falls are one of the world’s seven natural wonders. This site, proclaimed Natural World Heritage by UNESCO, offers a deafening and impressive show by placing us in front of the waterfall’s power, the greens of the rainforest and the red of the Misiones earth. The Iguazú Falls, “Big Waters” in Guarani, are located on the border of Argentina and Brazil, near Paraguay, and are made up of a group of 275 falls united on a 2.5 km (1.55 miles) front, with the rainforest in the background. They reach 72 meters altitude (236 feet). The visit to Iguazú generally lasts two days, in order to have time to visit both sides of the Argentine and Brazilian sides.
Litoral Region, Argentina
Misiones, Corrientes, Entre Río
In the dawn of the XVII century, the order of the Jesuits, on request of the King of Spain, founded missions on the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina to evangelize the Guaranis. The natives were regrouped in several sites and acquired sedentary habits such as the growing of crops and livestock breeding, organized as a community. This system fell in 1759 when Spain decided, in order to solve a border conflict, to yield the territories to the neighboring Portuguese and expel the Jesuits and Guaranis from the missions. This archeological site was declared World Heritage site by UNESCO, and its history was popularized by Roland Joffé’s movie The Mission.
This area filled with marshes covers 15,000 to 25,000 square km (9320 – 15,534 square miles) in the Corrientes province, and is the most extensive in the American continent along with the Brazilian marshlands. The climate is subtropical with heavy rain in spring and autumn. Its difficult access has preserved the region, which houses 85 species of mammals, 35 of reptiles, 45 of amphibians and 250 bird species. Here several endangered species are preserved: the marsh deer, the pampas deer, the ocelot… The marshes are also the natural habitat of poisonous snakes such as the Bothrops snake, the rattlesnake and the coral snake, as well as of several lizards. Vegetation is just as rich and diverse: water hyacinths and water lilies can be seen. The park must be visited in the presence of a guide.
IGUAZÚ - NATIONAL PARK
Both on the Brazilian and Argentine sides there has been the same will of protecting and promoting the area since the beginning of the XIX century. Each government created a national park in which activities are controlled, tourism regulated and the amounts raised used for safekeeping the natural resources which are plentiful in this region: 2000 species of plants, 400 bird species, insects of all kinds, as well as mammals and reptiles. Besides the jungle excursions, the best thing about the park is, without a doubt, the Iguazú Falls, the bubbling activity of which is heard everywhere along 2000 square km (1243 square miles) of surface distributed on both sides of the protected area.
Puerto Iguazú is a small town inhabited by about 30,000 people located on the confluence of the Paraná and Iguazú rivers. In the heart of the city, the famous triple border dominates the confluence opposite Brazil and Paraguay. Puerto Iguazú mainly owes its fame to being the Argentine city closest to the Iguazú Falls. The peaceful and intimate atmosphere of the city, compared to its Brazilian equal, Foz do Iguaçú, guarantees travelers a primordial base point from which to easily access the entrance to the National Park, located 20 km (12.4 miles) away on the Argentine side and 30 km (18.6 miles) away on the Brazilian side.
The Itaipú Dam is a monumental work, exploited by Brazil and Paraguay since 1984. It is the second largest hydroelectric central in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China. Installed on the Paraná River, this dam provides one fourth of the electric power used by Brazil and 90% of that used by Paraguay. It can be visited by leaving from Foz do Iguaçú, Brazil. The locals spend weekends on the shores of the immense artificial lake product of the dam. The lake is 200 km (124 miles) long by 7 km (4.3 miles) wide.
Located 40 km (25 miles) south of Puerto Iguazú, Wanda owes its fame to the semiprecious stone deposits on the shores of the Paraná River. Topaz, agate and amethyst are extracted from the mine and worked on right on the spot. There are geodes for sale, as well as decorative objects and jewelry. The visit is an opportunity to learn about the extraction labor carried out at the mines.
Between Posadas and Puerto Iguazú, the Moconá Falls form following the length of the water course (not its width), creating a sort of natural curtain. It is about 10 meters (33 feet) high and covers 2 km (1.2 miles) along the Uruguay River. Summer is the best season to visit these falls since it’s when the water flow reaches its highest level. The site is preserved within a national park, in which excursions through the jungle are quite tempting.
YABOTÍ BIOSPHERE RESERVE – EMERALD PARK
Along 223,000 hectares, the Yabotí Biosphere Reserve, in the western center of the Misiones province, owes its name to the homogenous river which crosses these lands know for its strong current marked by falls and rapids. The thick rich Amazon-style jungle suffers the threat of overexploitation by the forest holdings. It houses numerous species, such as the yaguareté jaguar, the puma and certain endangered toucans and parrots. The Reserve comprises the Moconá Falls and the Esmeralda Provincial Park. Eight Guarani communities live on the reserve and attempt to maintain their traditional way of life.
SAN IGNACIO MINI – JESUIT RUINS
In the XVIII century, San Ignacio Mini was a flourishing mission with around 4000 inhabitants, on the margins of the Paraná River. As a consequence of the expulsion of the Jesuits and Guaranis, the place was abandoned and then destroyed by the Paraguayans. Currently, the most beautiful missions are the ones which have been best conserved. Mainly, the ruins of the stoneware ochre church of 74 meters (243 feet) high and 24 meters (79 feet) wide, the top of which was sculpted by Guarani artisans. The walls of several other houses have been restored.
SANTA ANA – JESUIT RUINS
Partially recovered from within the vegetation which had invaded them, the vestiges of the Jesuit missions of Santa Ana are limited to the church and the cemetery. This mission, in the midst of the jungle, had great importance in its time of apogee. Each mission was commanded by a mayor-type figure, generally an Indian Chief from the town, named by the Governor according to the advice of the Jesuit Fathers. This “executive power” operated from the Cabildo and guaranteed a proper understanding between the natives and the whites.
LORETO – JESUIT RUINS
Of the Loreto Mission subsist only the chapel ruins. Even though the church was the most important building in missions, the Jesuits also carried out educational tasks. They created schools, training centers, music schools. It was precisely in Loreto where the first printing press of Argentina was installed.
PLANT LABYRINTH IN MONTECARLO
Between the Iguazú falls and Posadas, the small city of Montecarlo, in the province of Misiones, is known as the national capital of the orchid. A fair is organized each year in Park Vortisch, a 6-hectare botanical garden. This park also comprises the largest labyrinth of the continent, over 3,100 square meters. You can have fun by getting lost or admiring it from a viewpoint, making a stop at the bank of the Paraná river.
Posadas is the capital of the Misiones province. It is located on the shores of the Paraná River and is on the Jesuit Mission route. Crossing a bridge built over the Paraná, the city of Encarnacion, Paraguay, can be visited. This subtropical region is a traditional yerba mate and lumber producer.
CORRIENTES – CITY AND PROVINCE
Corrientes, capital of the homogenous province, was founded in 1588 on the shores of the Paraná River. It has some colonial style constructions which deserve to be visited: the San Francisco Convent and May 25th Square, surrounded by beautiful buildings from the dawn of the XX century. The Costanera, the avenue which borders the river, is also ideal for visiting. Corrientes is known as the city of murals. It’s located in an agricultural region which still conserves a strong cultural identity. The Guarani language was declared the official language of the province in 2004 along with Spanish. It is also a land of carnival and folklore, expressed through Chamame, a musical rhythm product of a fusion of polka and Guarani, which is danced and sung in couples.
IBERÁ LAGOON – CARLOS PELLEGRINI
The town of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is the access point to the Esteros del Iberá, located about 100 km (62 miles) north of Mercedes. There you’ll find the Park Rangers Visitors Center. Several estancias organize excursions to the marshes, preferably early in the morning or in the afternoon, two privileged moments for catching wildlife in action. Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is located in an impressive landscape on the shores of Lake Iberá.
MBURUCUYÁ - NATIONAL PARK
Like the Esteros del Iberá, Mburucuyá National Park, northwest of the Corrientes province, is characterized by its marshes and a rich ecosystem. It remained intact for centuries, occupied by nomad communities 5000 years ago and then by the Guaranis. With Spanish colonization, the natural spaces where deforested and suffered from the onslaught of extensive agriculture and livestock breeding. The Park attempts to protect and reconstitute the autochthonous flora within its 17,000 hectares. Palm trees and quebracho, a tree with high concentrations of tannin, are typical of the region. More than 150 species of birds have been accounted for. Among the mammals found here is the capybara, the largest rodent in the world, species of monkeys and other endangered species such as the maned wolf, the marsh deer and the marine otter.
ENTRE RÍOS - PROVINCE
Bordering with Uruguay to the east, the Entre Rios province is located between two important rivers: the Uruguay and the Paraná, the second most important river on the American continent after the Amazon. The capital carries its name. The province, which enjoys a subtropical climate, is famous for the Gualeguaychú Carnival, its hot water springs (Concordia, Colon, etc.), its beaches and its sport fishing.
EL PALMAR - NATIONAL PARK
On the shores of the Uruguay River, in the Entre Rios province, El Palmar National Park aims to preserve Yatay palm trees. This species reigned in the region until crop and livestock farms were installed. The Yatay palm tree can reach 10 meters (33 feet) altitude and gives edible fruit. Archeological vestiges from one thousand years ago were discovered in the Park. Likewise, the ruins of an ancient limestone factory built by the Jesuits in the XVII century can be visited.
PRE DELTA - NATIONAL PARK
The Pre-Delta National Park was created in 1992 on 2500 hectares, with the purpose of protecting part of the ecosystem of the Paraná River’s upper delta. The landscape’s characterized by low islands, flooded by the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. This mosaic of lakes is covered by violet water hyacinths and enormous water lilies, with leaves which can reach 2 meters (6.6 feet). Marine mammals like the capybara and the marine otter live in the Park, as well as one particular bird: the Rufous-fronted Thornbird, which builds nests on branches hanging over the water.
The city of Gualeguaychú, located a few miles from Uruguay, in the Entre Rios Province, is well-known for its carnival which emulates the Brazilian one and is the most important of the country. Between mid January and the end of February you may assist to the parading of comparsas (music and dance groups) of up to 280 members and four chariots in the Corsodromo, a space with 500 meters (1640 feet) of bench rows with capacity for 35,000 spectators. Every year the carnival has a different theme. Each comparsa has its own orchestra, dancers with very small costumes made of feathers and spangles, a queen and a percussion group which closes the processions. The jury evaluates the beauty of the chariots and the costumes, the dancing, the words and music of the songs and, since 2007, the general staging.