Yacutinga Lodge

Iguazu River, Iguazu & Northeast, Argentina Book from US$1140

A jungle lodge immersed in subtropical rainforest near the Iguazú Falls, combining adventure, conservation and insight
Some 30 miles above the spectacular Iguazú Falls, where the river flows lazily through virgin rainforest, Yacutinga Lodge offers a unique experience. Sleep in a cosy, rustic cabin deep in the jungle, and awake to cacophonous birdsong in the canopy high above. Follow spiralling lianas through layers of fecund plant life, spot toucans and orchids in the trees, and walk on red-earth paths strewn with a confetti of blossom. Around you flutters a spectacular array of butterflies, and howler monkeys call overhead.

Excellent bilingual guides and local Guaraní tribesmen help make sense of this magnificent chaos, combining scientific expertise with ancient insights into hunting, fishing and medicinal plants. Take the wondrous boat trip down river: find caimans, plant a tree, and spot birds from the treetop platform. At dusk, sit round the fire with a beer, before tucking into a delicious organic dinner lit by torches. Yacutinga Lodge is a magical complement to the Iguazú Falls.

Highs

  • This is adventure made comfy: hot showers, "natural" air-con, wood-burning stoves, even a swimming pool
  • Superb food, mostly vegetarian, made using local and organic ingredients
  • A rare chance to see the Guaraní people, whose fragile culture is disappearing; owner Charlie and his wife Micki support local schools and projects
  • The resident biologists have amazing knowledge of the 400 bird, 500 butterfly and 2,000 plant species in Argentina's only subtropical forest
  • Just getting there is an adventure: a 2-hour van ride from Puerto Iguazú into the jungle bordering Paraguay and Brazil, followed by a 4x4 truck for the last 15km (30 minutes) to the lodge

Lows

  • Bear in mind the 3-day package is quite busy, though you can opt out of parts, or stay for longer if you want
  • You can't visit the Iguazú Falls directly from here; allow an additional night or two in Puerto Iguazú or around to visit them
  • It's not a luxury hotel - quite deliberately - so be prepared to get wet and muddy (and then clean and dry afterwards)
  • You need to be mobile and reasonably fit for the walks and boat rides
  • It might look expensive, but it includes all food, superb guided walks and activities which you just couldn't experience anywhere else in Argentina

Best time to go

Yacutinga is fantastic all year round, although the lodge is normally closed for a month from mid-May to mid-June. The driest and coolest months are July and August (90mm of rain / 22C average); the warmest and wettest are December-March (120-150mm of rain / 30-32C average). This is the rainforest, though, so it’s going to rain at some point! Come prepared and don’t be put off.

Our top tips

Bring comfortable, light clothing which dries easily; a full change of clothes is advisable. You'll also need waterproofs, a hat, sun block, insect repellent, sun glasses, long-sleeved tops to protect against sun and insects during the day, and warm clothing for the evening, when you might get chilly. Make sure you have comfortable, supportive shoes that you could walk in for several hours, too.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Jungle Lodge
  • 20
  • All meals included
  • Over 10s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Yatei Suite

Rooms

Owner Charlie Sandoval trained as an architect, and in his mission to give guests a real experience of the forest he loves, he’s created the perfect accommodation. Rooms are rustic, cosy and simple, giving maximum exposure to the jungle without sacrificing creature comforts or privacy.

From the main lodge, a well-tended path lined with tropical flowers leads to clusters of cabins tucked into the forest. Thickly shaded by trees and covered with plants, each contains 4 double, twin or triple rooms, all with their own separate entrances along little paths that are lit at night by oil burners. The largest room, the Yatei Suite, is set in its own cabin away from the others and is designed with couples in mind.

Inside, the spacious rooms are imaginatively designed to fit harmoniously with the jungle outside, and include ingenious eco-technology. Walls have pretty coloured-glass bottles suspended in them as a natural insulator, channels bring cool air from under the earth, and vents high in the ceiling draw warm air out. In winter there are wood-burning stoves set on a colourful stone dais. Bear in mind that there are no electrical sockets and the power goes off around 11pm.

The buildings are made of concrete, solid enough to withstand any downpour but made to look organic, with yellow-washed walls, and slices of tree trunk embedded in reddish floors. Locally woven blankets and rag rugs add splashes of colour. Bathrooms are rustic but modern, with good showers (24-hour hot water) and simple toiletries; the Yatei Suite has a sunken bathtub, too. Bathroom waste is filtered organically to avoid using chemicals.

Each room has an entrance porch where you can sit out: the whole thing is mosquito netted, and a candle and matches are thoughtfully provided. It's great to listen to the sounds of the jungle at night, and watch birds and butterflies flitting about by day.

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Internet access
  • Safe box
  • Central heating
  • Fireplace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

In keeping with Micki and Charlie's conservation ethos, the food is almost all organic and sourced from local providers. The resident chefs are amazingly resourceful in creating delicious and imaginative meals from what’s available.

Meals are eaten in the dining room, set above the sitting area in the airy main lodge. Its wide balconies and colourful canopied ceiling echo the wild and vivid nature outside the large windows. All guests eat together at appointed times, but at separate tables.

Breakfast is an expansive buffet - usually eaten very early ahead of your morning walk - which makes the most of the wonderful local fruit, with jugs of juice and fresh fruit platters (the mango is especially delicious). There's also a choice of cereals, local breads and delicious freshly made cakes, plus cheeses and hams.

Packed lunches are prepared for you to take on your walk, and eaten in the blissful surroundings of the forest.

In the early evening people gather around the open-air fireplace for a beer and a chat about the day's activities: a good chance to get to know the guides and other guests. The dinner which follows is a 3-course feast, and vegetarians are in for a treat (most but not all dishes are vegetarian; it's wise to confirm your dietary preferences in advance). The food is really tasty - expect good salads, delicious concoctions with pasta and rice, and ample portions. Wine is available, though it's not out of this world, and the atmosphere is usually very jovial.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Communal dining
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

The 3-day programme is structured to maximise this rare jungle experience, and while it may look restricting, rest assured you’ll leave with a wealth of insight and adventure.

  • Days start early with a walk through the dense rainforest in small groups, accompanied by a bilingual guide. This is your introduction to the complex ecosystem, and there’s amazingly rich flora and fauna to see, with more bird and butterfly species than anywhere else in Argentina, over 2,000 kinds of plant including epiphytes and tree-growing orchids, and plenty of howler monkeys. You’ll soon start to recognise trees and plants, spot animal tracks and identify bird calls

  • Another jungle hike is accompanied by Guaraní tribesmen, who show you which plants they use for medicinal purposes and how they make animal traps for hunting. Spanish-speakers can chat to them about their lives

  • An unforgettable trip in long boats rowed by the Guaraní gives a wonderful insight into this river habitat, and the geological formation of the Iguazú Falls

  • One afternoon, you visit an area of forest which is being replanted. This is where you do your bit by planting a tree, for which you’re given a certificate to bring back the memory of fingers in rich red earth

  • Those with energy for a longer hike can see the area where capybara (water pigs) live, and watch them playing, feeding and swimming around

  • Night safaris are another highlight. You set out with your guide and torch for a vivid experience of all the life throbbing around you when you lie in bed. It’s great fun and not at all scary, with good stargazing, too

  • There are also regular talks by one of the resident biologists on their NGO-funded research into howler monkeys, medicinal plants and butterflies. If you're particularly interested in this, ask about the longer specialised programmes, which are available for groups, too

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Plantlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife

Kids

Older children will love Yacutinga, and remember the experience all their lives. It’s such an adventure staying in the jungle and seeing all that wildlife all around you, though it’s probably best if your kids aren’t too alarmed by creepie crawlies! The whole place is very child-friendly, and the food is fine for kids, too. Some triple rooms are available, and there are occasional tailored programmes for families - ask for details.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Kid Friendly:

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