If you’ve made it to northeastern Argentina, the chances are you have been drawn there by one place in particular: Iguazú Falls. While many popular destinations are so swamped they lose their original lustre, Iguazú rises above this wave of commercialization and continues to astound travelers with its thundering glory.
Unlike Niagara’s looming buildings and poncho-clad hoards, at Iguazú, raised metal footpaths you can explore the jungle at your own pace, past inquisitive coatis (a relative of the raccoon) and iridescent butterflies. If you have two days at the park, cross to the Brazilian side on day two for more panoramic views. Otherwise, on the Argentine side, you can walk over and along the falls. If you’re lucky, you might just spot a rainbow.
This might mean camping outside your hostel or lodge, lying flat on your back in the grass. Perhaps it means pulling to the side of a dirt road and stepping out of your truck, looking up. It could mean kneeling on the dock of a lagoon and waiting, waiting, as star after star appears, and then more and more, until the sky is white with them. Two hours by car from the nearest city, the Iberá Wetlands are topped by a piece of sky that is untouched by light pollution, for an unrivalled celestial view.
Whether you’re in Misiones exploring the footpaths around Iguazú, or hiking in Corrientes through the Iberá reserve, take time to wander, quietly, through the regions’ dense layers of palm trees, vines, and ferns. If you want to immerse yourself in wildlife, you’ll most likely get your closest look on foot. But don’t ignore the flora in search of howler monkeys or elusive toucans! “People only want to see the monkeys, and when they don’t, they’re disappointed,” my guide tells me sadly. “They don’t care about the rest.” He gestures at the rustling, chirping canopy above us and the bright pink blossoms below.
Pause and press your palm to the trees, some of them smooth and unnaturally cold. Notice rainwater cupped in rubbery flowers, or petals already dried from howler monkeys having quenched their thirst. Even though the lagoon is a short walk away, the monkeys never leave the trees – my guide tells me they get all the water they need from the plants they eat and the petals they sip from.
Listen to the jungle trilling, screeching, swishing, crunching – a chaotic, harmonious cacophony.
Caimans, capybaras, piranhas, and more. For a glimpse of Iberá’s aquatic wildlife, board a motorboat and drift across the Iberá Lagoon. A local guide is an invaluable wealth of information about the unfamiliar animals you’ll spot, and will be quick to point them out. Glide over the lagoon and pass herds of marsh deer grazing on its banks, capybaras paddling to shore, and black caimans basking on floating islands of grass. Don’t forget to bring binoculars and scan the sky – Iberá is home to more than 320 species of birds, from the regal, long-legged jacana to the endangered yellow cardinal, so keep your camera ready and your eyes peeled.
You’ll get two things out of this. On one hand, a newfound appreciation for seatbelts as your truck dodges potholes and inadvertently performs half-donuts in the mud, spinning off the dirt road while your driver steps harder on the gas, and onward! On the other hand, context. Fresh perspective on the place your driver calls home, the history of the region, what they do for a living. Are they happy to live here? What do they want to see change?
There are two buses a day from Mercedes to Carlos Pellegrini, a town in the heart of Iberá that serves as a base for most travelers exploring the reserve. Unless you rent your own vehicle (if you do, make sure it’s a 4x4), a private transfer from Posadas or Mercedes is your only other way of getting into the wetlands. Make the most of it!
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