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We left Puerto Iguazu by bus to reach the city of Encarnacion, Paraguay. Rather than returning to Brazil and entering Paraguay from Foz do Iguazu, we made the decision to go via Argentina and stop in San Ignacio Mini. We made this choice as we didn’t think there would be much to do on the other side and heard Ciudad del Este was not worth a visit.

We were also quite interested in learning more about the history of the “missiones” region of northern Argentina…

This post is also available in French

Let’s start with a bit of history

In the 17th century, during the Spanish colonization of South America, the King of Spain ordered the Jesuit monks, who knew the Guaraní language and customs, to establish villages in the region in order to “civilise” the Indians living in the forests. The Guaranis, preoccupied by the Portuguese slave-hunters (bandeirantes) coming from the Brazil, let the Jesuits approach them without too much reluctance in order to take advantage of the protection offered by the Catholic Church. The Guarani Indians thus participated in the construction of “reductions“,  autonomous villages that can accommodate up to 3,000 people. In 1750, when Spain and Portugal signed the Madrid Treaty redefining the borders of the two empires in South America, the Guaranis, supported by the Jesuits, resisted. This incident called the “Guaranis War“, ended up in the massacres of many natives and while the survivors escaped to the forests. At the same time, the empires of the occidental countries, which saw the rising power of the Jesuits with an evil eye, began to expel them from their territories. After Portugal and France, Spain expelled the Jesuit monks from its lands, while Pope Clement ordered the suppression of the “Company of Jesus”. The reductions then disappeared, leaving the forests to regain than land.

Today, improvements have been made throughout Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil to recover, preserve and protect the ruins of these Jesuit missions. Many of them have been classified as “Historical Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by Unesco.

Website of Unesco – Trinidad and Jesus + San Ignacio

There are more than thirty reductions in more or less good condition. We chose to visit San Ignacio Mini in Argentina and Trinidad and Jesus in Paraguay. They are fairly easy to access and their current state helped us to understand the extent of the Jesuit missions in the region.

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San Ignacio Mini – Northern Argentina

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After a few hours drive from Puerto Iguazu, our bus dropped us off to what looks like a village. We immediately felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. This is San Ignacio Mini. We crossed the “gate” entrance and went towards the city center to find a hostel. Our little free travel guide “Get South” which can be found throughout Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, directed us towards a very nice place with swimming pool and restaurant : the hostel “San Ignacio adventure hostel“. We paid €9 each for a dorm which you could imagine used to be nice…

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Since we had decided to spend the night in San Ignacio, we made the choice to only visit the ruins by night in order to enjoy the light and sound show.

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The night tour gives a playful version of the history of the reductions through holograms projected within the grounds of the mission. With our MP3 players in English (also available in French and German), we walked for about an hour into the heart of the Jesuit mission. It was fascinating and the holograms and projections were very realistic.

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Costs and useful info

Currency change in February 2017: 1 € = 16.59 ARS

Leisure :
Light and sound show entrance: 180 ARS pp *
Daily entry: 100 ARS pp *
* Price for foreigners

Transport :
Bus to Puerto Iguazu -> San Ignacio Mini = 255 ARS pp
San Ignacio Mini Bus -> Posadas = 40 ARS pp (instead of 56 ARS depending on the ticket seller at the bus terminal of San Ignacio Mini)

Accommodation :
San Ignacio adventure hostel = 9 € pp pn – There is not much else

Note : in San Ignacio there is only ONE bank (yet 3 pharmacies) and our Visa Cards were NOT accepted, which forced us to leave sooner than expected …

The added bonus !

During our visit to San Ignacio in late January 2017, as we were waiting on the opening of the Ruins ticket office, we heard a lot of noise coming from down the street. Curious, we headed towards the noise where we found groups of teenagers… They were dancing and playing music in the presence of their parents… We asked what was the story and learnt they were training for the carnival festivities which would be held the next weekend. It was quite nice to see them training like this, knowing that we were leaving the next day to Paraguay with the aim of attending the famous Encarnacion Carnival.

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