Things to Do in Puerto Iguazu
Though the Brazilians boast of their outstanding views over the falls, Argentina is blessed with about 80% of Iguazu, lovingly threaded by several kilometers of paved trails and catwalks that could keep you occupied for three days. A free "jungle train" connects several trailheads.
The Upper Circuit Trail offers outstanding views over Mbigua Falls and the undulating Iguazu River, before dropping toward misty Bernabe Mendez Falls. The Lower Circuit Trail has more views, as well as access to motorboat trips under the falls, whitewater rafting, and a free ferry to Isla San Martin, with even more to explore. Whatever you do, don't miss the vistas over Garganta del Diablo. No matter where you trek, you will get soaking wet. And that's not a bad thing on a hot summer day in Argentina. Though Puerto Iguazu, 17km (10mi) from the park, is the smallest of the three cities here at the triple border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, it has a great deal to offer tourists.
The highlight of any trip to Iguazu Falls is this massive complex of cascades that form a narrow chasm some 150m (500ft) long and 80m (262ft) high. The roaring falls and veils of spray create an awesome, full-sensory experience, which can be enjoyed from any number of vantage points.
The postcard-perfect view is from the Brazilian side, at the top of a 2km (1.2mi) trail ending in an elevator trip to the top of this natural wonder. To explore the falls up close, however, you'll need to take the Devil's Throat catwalks skipping across the deceptively calm waters atop the roaring falls. From there, you can watch as millions of liters of water drain violently into the river below.
Serious fans can splash out on a helicopter ride above the falls, available next to the visitors center on the Brazilian side.
There's not a lot to do in the quiet town of Puerto Iguazu, which is just a fraction of the size of Foz de Iguacu in Brazil or Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Why not relax and do some souvenir shopping at the Puerto Iguazu Mercado Artesanal?
You'll find all the usual Argentine mementos, including T-shirts, souvenir hats, and of course, the ubiquitous yerba mate bombillas. Here, however, in the Guarani heartland, these could be considered something special; the indigenous group was the first to discover mate's invigorating effects. Other Guarani crafts include fine baskets woven with geometric patterns, beautiful ceramics, aho-poi (embroidered linen cloth) napkins and blouses, and carved wooden bowls and utensils. Semi-precious stones, such as agate, topaz, and amethyst, are mined close by, and available at excellent prices either as unfinished geodes or beautiful jewelry.
What do you do when you’re in rural Brazil? Feast on churrasco and enjoy a lively dance show, of course. In the city of Foz do Iguaçu near Iguazu Falls, the Rafain Churrascaria dinner show gives a flamboyant introduction into Central and South American music, dress and dance cultures: 45 brightly-clad musicians and dancers put on a lively two-hour show bursting with Argentine tango and Brazilian samba, Cuban salsa and Mexican mariachi music.
Established in 1959, at Rafain Churrascaria the popular all-you-can-eat buffet has over 200 hot and cold dishes with Brazilian specialties that include a typical churrasco barbecue as well as international dishes ranging from sushi to Italian, and there are also many dessert options.
Iguazu Falls aren't northern Argentina's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. History buffs may be tempted away from the falls by the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis, a cluster of well-preserved ruins of reducciones, or settlements, built here by the Catholic order in the 1600s. There are four of these beautiful walled cities to explore: Sao Miguel das Missoes, in Brazil, and Argentina's Nuestra Señora de Loreto, Santa Maria Mayor, and San Ignacio Mini, the finest of them all.
San Ignacio Mini was originally founded in 1611, and moved to the current location in 1696. Hewn from beautifully carved red sandstone, it was designed to both protect and convert indigenous Guaranis, primarily children, to Catholicism. The remains of a magnificent church, as well as sleeping and living quarters, can all be explored on a guided tour.
The Wanda Mines, home to some of the best agate, amethyst, quartz and topaz found in Argentina, make for a fascinating visit in the north of Argentina. Located less than 40 miles (60 km) from Puerto Iguazu in the rain forest along the Paraná River, this open pit mine is a delight for the eyes. Wanda, the town where the mines are located, was founded mainly by Polish settlers, and in fact, it was named after a Polish princess who had a fondness for gemstones.
The family-owned mine, where minerals are found near the surface, is especially interesting to enthusiasts of gemstones and collectors. Visitors to the mines learn about the formation of the gemstones, when lava coming from the core of the earth cooled and the trapped gas bubbles formed into crystals with amethysts, agates, topazes and quartz. Mining companies, which have been operating since the 1950s, have guided tours to show tourists the variety of gemstones found in the area, the different parts of the mines.
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