East Argentina, from the Jesuit ruins to Iguazu waterfalls
Let’s just say that East Argentina didn’t start that well. From Salta, we decided to cut the road to Iguazu by stopping at Ibera natural reserve. We took a bus to Mercedes, planning to take the next bus to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. Except, that last bus didn’t come for 2 days because of the rain…We’ve waited one day in a crappy hotel with clearly nothing to do! Next morning, it was still raining cats and dogs, so we decided to leave. We were not in such a good mood. But it makes us realize that we didn’t have any bad luck from a long time.
Our next stop, San Ignacio to see the Jesuits ruins. And there our luck changed! We arrived late, Michael from the local travel agency was waiting for tourist and give us the address of the cheapest hostel in town, and show us his agency for the next morning. The hostel was great with nice dorms and an amazing pool! Next day, we went back to the travel agency. We don’t go a lot in agency because it is often more expensive than organizing everything on your own. But this time the prices were affordable and after more than 3-4 days doing nothing except taking buses, we really wanted to do some visiting. So we planned one day in Paraguay to visit the Jesuits missions there, one day to visit the local area that is not accessible by foot and, most of all, 3 days in Ibera natural reserve (revenge!)
With this amazing planning in mind, we went to the ruins in town, San Ignacio Mini. This site is clearly amazing, I loved it. It’s a mixture of ruins and crazy nature. It went straight to my top 3 archeological sites in the world (with Paestum and Angkor). The day was amazing, we were happy. We finished the afternoon next to the pool, enjoying the sun and the hot water.
Next morning, unfortunately, it was pouring rain, again… We were almost sure that the tour in Paraguay was going to be cancelled. But no the taxi came, 8 AM sharp. We cross the river to get to Paraguay on a small ferry. We visited Trinidad and Jesus de Tavarangue. The Jesuits missions in Paraguay are bigger and cleaner. I mean by that, they cut a lot of vegetation. In my point of view, it takes off a bit of the charm. When you add at that the rain, we highly preferred San Ignacio Mini, but it was still a good visit.
We didn’t have much more luck on the next day, still raining. We had planned to visit two Jesuit ruins and the natural reserve. With the weather, the road to the reserve wasn’t accessible but we still have been able to visit the ruins. Santa Anna and Loreto are smaller Jesuit missions, but with a wild nature that gives a mystic feeling to these places. With rain, we were completely alone (and wet!) it was funny and I enjoyed taking dark photography.
Before heading to Ibera, we spend 3 days in Puerto de Iguazu to visit the waterfalls and spend Christmas. We only visited the Argentina side of the falls. The Brazilian one is much smaller and some people told us that it wasn’t worth the detour. The visit of the Argentina part was amazing and we didn’t feel the need to see more. This site is of course very touristic but there are few tricks to avoid the crowd. First, arriving early, it is an easy one, of course, we enter the park around 8:30. Then, don’t follow the flow, everyone start by taking the little train, we walk instead to the two walking circuits. We started by the low level walk, it is for me the best one, because you have the most beautiful view of the waterfalls. Then, we did the high level walk and the « gargantua del diablo » (yes another one!) for this one you need to deal with the crowd, it is always packed, however, you can really see the amount of water falling and it is really impressive. The last walk, Macuco, is almost always empty apparently. You need to enter before 3 PM because it takes approximately 2 hours. Here, it is less touristic you are walking in the middle of the rainforest and it ends in a small waterfall where you can swim. When you are walking, look at the ants on the ground, they are huge, as well as the spider if you look up!
As we decided of not visiting Iguazu on the Brazilian side, we went to Guiraoga, it is an animal refuge. They are rescuing animals that are hurt (meanly on the road) or held as pets. As much as possible, they are making sure to free animals in their natural environment. Sadly, some of them cannot be released (hurt too bad or detained in captivity too long) and it is these animals that we can see during the tour. It is great because you can see all these amazing animals without cautioning keeping then captive in a zoo.
Ibera natural reserve
We are finally visiting Ibera natural reserve! From Posadas, we are taking a 4×4 to go to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. We had 3 expeditions included in our tour. We started with the boat expedition, we did a tour on the lack seeing crocodiles, different birds and deer. It is amazing how close you can get to the animals, they are not afraid. The next morning, we did a walk. We saw the same animals then the day before and some monkeys and coatis (the weirdest animal I ever saw). During the day, it is really hot so no expedition before 5 PM. We stayed by the pool to stay fresh (but we burn a little in the process…).
Early evening, we added a horse riding walk. I love horses so I was happy but as always on this kind of tour, the horse is trained to do the tour and doesn’t answer to your command, so it is a bit frustrating.
After that we did a night walk, I didn’t see a big interest in this expedition, we didn’t see more than during the day.
Big warning, the area is hot and full of water, you can guess it, there are a lot of mosquitos. I wear long clothes, anti-mosquito spray, I still have been bitten everywhere. Once again, I was the favorite, nothing stop them, they bit me through my clothes and on my face….
The next morning we took the bus that never came on our first attempt to visit Ibera and everything went well.
Even if we had some bad luck with the weather, this area was really beautiful with a good variety of landscape and things to do. I let you enjoy the pictures. See you next time.
How to get there? Buses in Argentina are really expensive. A night bus cost easily 2000 pesos and a short bus like Mercedes – Colonia Carlos Pellegrini cost 400 pesos
Where to sleep?
Mercedes: I wouldn’t really recommend it but it is the cheapest hotel in town: Ibera Hostel next to the bus station (300 pesos the night)
San Ignacio: super nice hostel with a pool and an amazing breakfast: SI Hostel (350 pesos the night breakfast included)
Puerto de Iguazu: nice hostel with a pool: Hostel park Iguazu (287,5 pesos the night breakfast included)
Colonia Carlos Pellegrini: included in our tour see bellow
How to visit? San Ignacio: the ticket for all the ruins in the area cost 220 pesos
With the agency Tierra Colorada turismo, we planned for one day in Paraguay, the visit of the ruins not accessible without a car and the 3 days in Ibera for 200$US. I definitely recommend this agency, Michael was nice, helpful and the price seems fair.
Iguazu: the entrance on the waterfall site cost 700 pesos and the bus to get there 130 pesos one way ticket.
Guiraoga the entrance cost 300 pesos and the bus to get there 25 pesos one way ticket
Colonia Carlos Pellegrini: we added the horse riding walk for 450 pesos