San Ignacio, a tiny little town just 4 hours out of Iguazu, this stop can be easy to miss, but if you have the time it is definitely worth a visit, the main attraction being some of the best restored Jesuit ruins in Argentina. There are over 30 Jesuit settlement sites around the area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, 7 of which have been named world heritage sites.
Entrance to the park is 60 pesos for foreigners and 40 pesos for argentines. If you are particularly interested in Jesuit Ruins, this ticket will allow you access to any of the other sites within 15 days which is worth knowing if you are interested in that stuff.
I would have to say that previous to this visit I wasn’t particularly interested or knew too much about the jesuits. To me they just sounded like spanish missionaries who killed a lot of people. Anyway after a guided tour which was included in the entrance fee plus 1/2 an hour or so in the museum, we found out a lot more about them. I actually quite enjoyed this and they were a lot older than I imagined, founded in 1610. The interesting architecture is of ‘Jungle-Baroque’ style, designed by an Italian architect but made with the materials from the region.
I would have thought that the Jesuits would have been a large group of people but according to our guide, this mission was run by just two priests Jose Cataldino and Simon Masceta who happened to be ex military. One of the reasons the Jesuits survived in these countries was apparently the fact that they were very intelligent in their way of approaching the locals and instead of directly imposing their beliefs on to them, integrated their beliefs with the beliefs of the guarani people. One of the benefits to the guarani being extra protection from the invading Spanish.
So why in ruins? After a while the priests left the mission and a later on so did the Guarani people who were originally of nomadic culture, through war and time the structures eventually became overgrown by jungle and weren’t rediscovered and restored until the late 1930s early 1940s. It is amazing to think that jungle could take over such massive structures but there is still proof when you see the ‘tree with the stone heart’, where a massive tree has started through a seed on top of a stone column and eventually grown over and smothered the stone. Now the stone is only barely visible through a slit in the trunk.
There is also a light show every night at the ruins which costs another entrance to the park, it’s supposed to be amazing but unfortunately the weather was getting a bit miserable and we weren’t game enough to brave the wind and rain to wait around.
We hadn’t pre-booked any accommodation but as soon as we got of the bus we found the information centre across the road, which just happened to have bungalows for rent 350 pesos ($71 aud) per night for a 2 bedroom unit. Brizas del Norte. The place was very comfortable and only a 15 minute walk to the ruins. The only thing is that it doesn’t include any plates or cutlery in the cabins but thankfully we were able to borrow from the restaurant to enjoy out tomatoes and cheese on bread for dinner.
There is apparently also a nice national park not far which you can hire bicycles from the information centre and take a ride to, again because of the weather we decided to miss this one and left to Resistencia the next day.