With our tickets bought and time on our side we decide to explore a bit more the province of Misiones, a territory named after the Jesuit settlements that flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nothing better than going to the most impressive mission on Argentine soil: San Ignacio Miní. Near to the ruins we find Hostel ‘El Jesuita’. As simple as the search for an original name are the rooms, the service, kitchen,… simple but with the most friendly staff ever. We have the possibility to put our tent in the garden and after a day of rain even under a roof. As for the ruins: at the entrance you’ll find a small museum with some themed rooms illustrating various aspects of Guaraní and mission day-to-day life and the visitor will find also a detailed maquette of the entire site so you’ll get a good idea of the whole structure. On the site itself, plenty panels in different languages lend context to the ruins. Free (the magic word in backpackers world) tours in Spanish start regularly from the small entrance museum. On a dry evening it is well worthed to assist the popular sound and light shows.
As said, in the 17th century, participants of the Society of Jesus came to the region as missionaries. They began to establish a series of Jesuit Reductions of which San Ignacio Miní might be the most known but in a few years they set up 30 mission villages. So another day we lift our thumps, enjoy the landscape during a 16km southwards ride on RN12 and look for the ruins of Santa Ana.
Hidden and consumed by nature, also here, as all Jesuit ruins of the area, Santa Ana is centered on a large square. Over and under grown by roots, stand the crumbling walls of what was once one of the supreme of all Jesuit churches, build by the Italian architect Brazanelli.
We have a great time. As many tourists take a return ticket to Iguazu and miss the beauty of this region, we simply have learned to enjoy also the smaller things in life. We truly enjoy talking with the local people, help those making empanadas and enjoy the reward of an invitation on a spectacular ‘asado’.
- ‘El Jesuita’ is cheap, relax and near to the heart. You want the feeling of being part of the family? This is your house.
- The ruins are rather a nice distraction than a true archaeological wonder but never the less part of the history of this region and for that a must-do.
- Apart of all this, Misiones is also the area where Yerba Mate is cultivated. The surroundings of the village ‘El Dorado’ is home of countless ancient mills and small family factories where mate can be tasted, compared and bought.