The proboscis-shaped territory of Misiones, in the extreme northeast of the country, is one of Argentina’s smallest, poorest but most beautiful provinces. Posadas, the relaxed capital, is usually bypassed by most travellers, but the province has a lot more to offer than the juggernaut that is Iguazú Falls, the only place most visitors ever see, zipping in and out by plane. What looks odd on the map makes perfect sense on the ground: Misiones’ borders are almost completely defined by the wide Paraná and Uruguay rivers and one can even imagine that the province’s sierras were formed by the land being compressed by neighbouring Brazil and Paraguay. The province’s distinctive iron-rich red earth ends abruptly just over the border with Corrientes, while the torrent of water that hurtles over the waterfalls at Iguazú must surely mark one of the world’s most dramatic and decisive frontiers. Along the Brazilian border, formed by the upper reaches of the Río Uruguay, you can see one of the world’s most unusual, if not most powerful, sets of cascades, the Saltos del Moconá, weather conditions permitting.
The territory was named for the Jesuit settlements that flourished in the region in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the most impressive mission on Argentine soil is the much-photographed ruins of San Ignacio Miní. Misiones became a centre of considerable immigration in the early twentieth century: mostly Ukrainians, Swedes, Japanese and Germans. The province’s wildlife-filled jungle and its emerald fields and orchards – pale tobacco, vivid lime trees, darker manioc and neatly clipped tea plantations, painting the landscape endless shades of green – are further attractions that make wandering off the beaten tracks that are the RN-12 and the RN-14 infinitely rewarding.
Away from Iguazú tourist facilities are few and far between, but a number of estancias and lodges make for some of the country’s most enjoyable accommodation experiences.