Misiones: Amidst Yerba Mate, Tea plants and Waterfalls
By Natalia Boccocio
My husband and I have become traveler enthusiasts in the last few years. I believe we both inherited a traveling culture which we’ll definitely pass on to our daughter. Before the raising of the COVID 19 we traveled abroad several times: Manhattan, Disney World, Perú and Brazil.
During 2021, 2022 and 2023 we decided to keep on traveling during our summer vacations. International trips were discarded due to different restrictions in 2021 and at the same time because I was pregnant. Now, with an 18 month baby girl we don’t want to do long trips or visit other countries.
Visiting Argentina, the Motherland
These past three years we decided to give a try to local trips and enjoy the beauty of Argentina, our motherland.
Our destination was Misiones, the northeastern Argentinian province. It shares a border with Paraguay on one hand and, on the other, with Brazil.
Misiones is characterized by its hot and humid weather during summer, its vast vegetation, waterfalls, cascades, rivers, streams, forests, jungle, reddish soil, archeological ruins and a rich history that includes Argentinian native people, colonization and a sense of identity.
Foreign and local tourists alike flock to Iguazu Falls every year. No doubt it’s considered one of Argentina’s top attractions. However, Misiones has much more to offer.
Away from crowded and noisy cities, there are hundreds of camping sites where the tourists can enjoy the tranquility of wild open areas, local flora and fauna.
Argentina’s currency devaluation attracts foreign visitors
During the last few decades, the value of the American dollar in Argentina has seen a notable surge. This shift in currency dynamics has proved advantageous for American tourists exploring the diverse landscapes of our nation.
Their U.S. dollars now possess greater purchasing power, enabling them to indulge in a wider array of experiences, from savoring delectable local cuisine to exploring the rich cultural heritage of Argentina.
A warm welcome
There are domestic flights from Buenos Aires to Posadas (Misiones capital city), however, we drove from our hometown, Rosario. It was a long journey (almost 900 km) but we made a stop at my parents-in-law to celebrate New Year.
Once in Misiones, we stayed in Posadas one night. This capital city is different from other big cities in Argentina. It’s a coastal city with a new pedestrian area to walk and behold the sunset. There’s also a small beach that invites the tourist to jump into the crystal clear waters of Paraná river. At the same time, far from the tranquility of the river bank, the streets in downtown are a frenzy of activity and deafening noise.
The city’s nightlife, like its restaurants and bars, caters for all tastes, whether you are searching for the opportunity of a live show or are simply after a beer and a bit of dancing. We decided to have dinner- late at night- at a restaurant on the riverside path. It was a superb choice since the Paraná river formed a breathtaking backdrop.
Sandals or boots? That’s the question
During December 2021 and January 2022 Argentina was going through a heatwave. So, while in Misiones, I haven’t dared mention the good weather for fear that it would immediately be boiling.
In general, The weather in Misiones can be described as tropical, with warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. The province is located in a region known as the “green corridor,” which is characterized by dense jungle and rainforest.
The summer months in Misiones, from December to February, are hot and humid, with temperatures often reaching into the 35 Celsius (80s-90s Fahrenheit). It’s not uncommon for afternoon thunderstorms to occur during this time, which can bring relief from the heat and humidity. If the weather channel forecasts a heavy storm at 2pm, believe it.
In addition to its natural and cultural wonders, Misiones offers a wide choice of dishes in all sorts of eating establishments. It is also famous for its delicious local food, which combines indigenous, Spanish, and other cultural influences.
One of the most iconic dishes of Misiones is the chipá, a type of bread made from cassava starch, cheese, and eggs. The chipá is a staple food in Misiones, and it can be found in every corner of the province, from street vendors to high-end restaurants. The chipá has a chewy texture and a slightly salty taste, and it is often served warm, accompanied by mate, a traditional Argentinian tea.
Another popular dish in Misiones is the mbeju, a pancake-like bread made from cassava starch, cheese, and butter. The mbeju is similar to the chipá, but it is thinner and more delicate. It is usually served with honey, jam, or dulce de leche, a sweet spread made from milk and sugar.
Misione’s Flavorful Stews
Misiones is also known for its rich and flavorful stews, such as the guiso de arroz con pollo, a chicken and rice stew seasoned with onions, garlic, and spices. The guiso de arroz con pollo is a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for cold winter nights.
Another popular stew in Misiones is the locro, a thick soup made with corn, beans, meat, and vegetables. The locro is a traditional dish that is often served during patriotic holidays, such as Independence Day or May Revolution Day.
For meat lovers, Misiones offers a wide variety of grilled meats, such as the famous Argentinian steak. However, in Misiones, the traditional asado (barbecue) has a unique twist, as it often includes grilled chicken hearts, sausages, and blood sausages. The latter, called morcilla in Spanish, is made from pig blood, rice, and spices, and it has a rich, savory flavor that pairs well with grilled meats and red wine.
Thanks to Misiones’ lush greenery and tropical climate, it’s the ideal location for tea plantations. The region boasts several tea estates, which offer guided tours for visitors interested in learning about the history and cultivation of tea. Many of these plantations also have tea houses, where visitors can sample a variety of teas and enjoy the serene surroundings.
One rainy morning we decided to visit Camellias tea house in Oberá city to have a delightful cultural experience. Located in a beautiful English building of 1890, we shared, tasted and enjoyed the real Argentine tea with exquisite treats such as alfajores de dulce de leche, chocolates, pastries or chipá and sandwiches. There’s also a tea shop in the house where you can buy a great variety of pure tea leaves and the different blends. A visit to a tea plantation and tea house in Misiones is a must for tea enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Finally, no visit to Misiones is complete without trying the local fruits, such as the guava, the mango, and the passion fruit. These fruits are not only delicious but also very versatile, as they can be used in juices, jams, or desserts. One of the most popular desserts in Misiones is the arroz con leche con frutas, a creamy rice pudding with fresh fruits and cinnamon.
In conclusion, Misiones is a gastronomic paradise that offers a unique blend of indigenous, Spanish, and other cultural influences. From the chewy and salty chipá to the flavorful guiso de arroz con pollo, Misiones local food has something for everyone. If you ever have the chance to visit this beautiful province, make sure to indulge in its delicious cuisine and experience a true feast for the senses.
Connecting to Argentinian roots
The San Ignacio Miní reducción (settlement of native people converted to Christianity) is situated at the heart of San Ignacio city. The ruins stand as a reminder of evangelization of Guaraní people. Today, visitors are attracted by the opportunity to marvel at the splendors of a bygone age.
Some of the constructions are surrounded by a vast vegetation so are inaccessible to the visitor. Once I stepped on the main square I couldn’t believe my eyes. There’s a stair that leads up to the temple facade which dominates the skyline. There, you can see the portal of the temple, which is 10 -meter tall, and is the most impressive piece that still remains standing. It’s mainly made of reddish bricks from local stones.
The ruins are now open to the public, and they offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Jesuit missions and the indigenous peoples of the region. We could explore the buildings and walk along the cobblestone streets, imagining what life was like in the mission in its heyday. Once the guide was finished, we were invited to walk through modern runways which were built to reach every nook and cranny of the reducción.
Into the wild
Misiones is well-known for its vast vegetation, jungles, cascades and waterfalls. One of the most popular destinations for waterfall enthusiasts is the Salto Encantado Provincial Park, which is located in the southern part of the province. The park is home to the Salto Encantado waterfall, which is over 60 meters high and surrounded by lush vegetation. We enjoyed a hike along the park’s trails and took in the stunning views of the waterfall and the surrounding jungle.
Another popular destination for waterfall lovers is the Moconá Provincial Park, which is located in the eastern part of the province. It’s the icing on the cake when talking about cascades. The park is home to the Moconá Falls, which are unique in that they flow parallel to the river instead of perpendicular to it. This creates a stunning optical illusion, as the water seems to be flowing horizontally instead of vertically. We took a boat tour along the river to get a closer look at the falls and the surrounding jungle.
During our trip we visited many other cascades and waterfalls scattered throughout Misiones. Most of them are located in campsites which are full of tourists who decided to spend the weekend. These places are the most frequented due to the facilities and closeness to town. However, these campsites were crowded and many customers had to make long queues at the grocery store and the swimming pool was a bustling area.
Others are located in remote and unspoilt areas that are only accessible by a pick up truck, minivan or 4×4 car, making them a true adventure for those willing to explore. These hidden gems can be found far away from commercialized areas without any kind of facilities.
In all cases they belong to landowners who kindly let us spend the day in the stream and enjoy a day out on their property. As tourists we relied on the GPS so as to get to our destination since most of these waterfalls can only be reached through unpaved streets poorly signaled. One day we decided to spend the day on Salto Escondido (Hidden Fall) in Oberá city. Apparently, it was really hidden since we couldn’t find it.
Overall, the cascades and waterfalls of Misiones are a true natural wonder, and they offer visitors the chance to experience the beauty and power of nature in all its glory. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or just looking for a relaxing escape, the waterfalls of Misiones are sure to leave you in awe of the province’s stunning natural beauty.