The northeastern corner of Argentina is a lush region where vermillion roads carve through dense green vegetation, delicious surubí fish are plucked from wide, meandering rivers, and the pace of life is relaxed. It's a vast area that would take weeks to explore fully; if you're short on time, the 3 unmissable highlights are the mind-blowing Iguazú Falls, the stunning Jesuit ruins at San Ignacio, and the pristine wetlands of the Esteros del Iberá - one of the most peaceful places on the planet, and perfect for unwinding completely.
Even by Argentina’s standards - a country full of natural wonders - this is an extraordinary sight. Spanning the border with Brazil, the biggest falls in South America tumble over an immense chasm into subtropical forest, with rainbows hovering in the billowing vapour. There are 275 separate columns of water, including the thundering Garganta del Diablo ('Devil's Throat'), and the national park on the Argentinian side has well laid-out walks that enable you to get up close to them from above, below and the side. Allow at least 5 hours (or come back the next day at half price), and make sure you do both the circuito inferior (lower path) and circuito superior (upper path). You can also take an exhilarating speedboat ride under the falls themselves (prepare to get soaked), or hop on a dinghy for a serene trip along the mirror-still Upper Iguazú, where you’ll spot caimans basking on rocks and toucans posing in the trees. And if your visit coincides with a full moon, make sure you sign up for the monthly night-time walks to see the falls shimmering in the moonlight.
Our recommended base for exploring the falls is Don Puerto Bemberg Lodge, set on a private nature reserve 30km to the south. It's infinitely preferable to Puerto Iguazú's bland chain hotels, and day trips are easily arranged.
After you’ve spent a day or 2 around Iguazú, retreat to Yacutinga Lodge in the depths of the rainforest. More of a conservation project than a hotel, this is a real experience of life in the jungle (in comfort!) and brings the precious diversity alive. You can also discover more about indigenous culture with Guaraní guides, who'll show you medicinal plants, take you canoeing along the river, and explain their close relationship with the rainforest.
You can imagine the thrill of discovering, in the middle of the jungle, ornately carved flowers and vines on massive red stone pillars and arches. These remarkable mission buildings were established by the Jesuits between 1609 and 1767, and built by local Guaraní people. There are 4 that you can visit now, though the mission at San Ignacio Mini is best known and is easily reached by bus from both Puerto Iguazú and Posadas. Hire a car, though, to see more missions at Santa Ana and Loreto, and you’ll build up an amazing picture of the Jesuits’ activities: silver workshops, libraries and music conservatories are preserved alongside kitchens and chapels. The roofs are gone, but the colonial arches and elaborate porticos remain. Astonishing.
Least known of Argentina’s many natural delights, these vast wetlands rival the Pantanal in Brazil for their amazing profusion of wildlife. Two vast lagoons sit in an area of totally uncontaminated marshland, home to a huge array of birds and butterflies, as well as alligators, deer and quaint capybaras. From your lodge - we love Posada de la Laguna and Estancia Rincon del Socorro - your local guide will take you out on boat trips onto the wide open water, reflecting limitless skies, and along narrow creeks between floating islands (jump on them and you'll feel them bounce). Everywhere you go, birds of all kinds call and swoop. It’s paradise for twitchers, but even novices will find it compelling viewing. Return at sunset to find the whole world turned deep orange, as your boat seems suspended between water and sky.