The Amazonian countries of Brazil, Venezuela, Colombian, Ecuador, Perú, and Bolivia are replete with so-called “jungle lodges” in their dense tropical rain forests, but the forests of Misiones haves a couple of similar accommodations barely an hour from Puerto Iguazú. Coincidentally, both of them are forest reserves in their own right.
Posada Puerto Bemberg
Barely half an hour south of Puerto Iguazú, Posada Puerto Bemberg is a 400-hectare property with a hotel originally built for that purpose—at a time when the easiest means of visiting the famous Iguazú Falls was to take a steamer up the Paraná and its tributaries.
In addition to the recently expanded hotel, a rustically stylish luxury accommodation better than anything in and around the town or the park itself, Puerto Bemberg boasts substantial stands of native selva, with some areas undergoing forest restoration. Other parts of the land are dedicated to growing the hotel’s own organic produce.
Expropriated during the Perón years, this onetime yerba mate plantation was repurchased by the Bembergs, whose fortune is synonymous with the Quilmes brewing empire, a few years ago. One of its landmarks is a chapel, overlooking the Paraná, by the famous architect Alejandro Bustillo; at one time the Paraguayan faithful used to gather on the opposite bank to hear Sunday mass broadcast over loudspeakers.
The family’s most famous member, though, is probably film director María Luisa Bemberg, whose historical drama Camila earned an Oscar nomination as best foreign film in 1984.
Activities at Puerto Bemberg include hiking (in some cases, with obligatory guides), cycling, excursions on the river and to Iguazú, and swimming (in the pool rather than the river).
The hotel’s common areas include a huge library in several languages, with some of the books for sale, and an exceptional bar-restaurant with exquisite caipirinhas. The 13 rooms and single suite also include small libraries, but TV is available only by special request (though Wi-Fi is available).
Posada Puerto Bemberg (Fundadores Bemberg s/n, Puerto Libertad, tel. 03757/49-6500, www.puertobemberg.com, US$250–360 s, US$280–360 d, for bed and breakfast; US$320–440 s, US$360–520 d, with full board and activities) is about 30 kilometers south of Aeropuerto Internacional Iguazú by smoothly paved RN 12. Transfers to and from the airport cost extra.
Set in a 570-hectare private reserve about an hour east of Parque Nacional Iguazú, Yacutinga Lodge is far smaller than the park, but its remaining (and recovering) subtropical rain forest provides a more up-close-and-personal view of the natural environment in accommodations that far surpass the Sheraton in style.
For bird-watchers, Yacutinga offers a list of more than 300 species, plus many mammals, reptiles, and butterflies; with technical assistance from Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina, it has created its own biological research station supported by profits from the lodge.
Eight separate nature trails, one self-guided and the rest open with local guides, range from 500 meters to six kilometers (round-trip). There is also a short but fascinating catwalk through the forest canopy, six meters above ground level, leading to a platform that’s ideal for observing birds and other flora.
The lodge proper deserves special mention. Using the maximum possible materials salvaged from the forest, the Argentine owners have created a Gaudí-esque combination of tranquility, comfort, and style that amounts to five-star rusticity. The main building is an idiosyncratic masterpiece, with a large living room, dining room, and bar.
Twenty tasteful rooms can sleep two or three people each in five secluded units, but except during major holidays such as Holy Week, the proprietors prefer to host only a small percentage of their capacity to ensure a quality experience. Accommodations are available on a full-board basis only (drinks extra); day excursions are not offered. There is electricity from sundown to 8 a.m.
Yacutinga also meets many standards for appropriate development as 70 percent of the staff, including native Guaraní, come from the nearby community of Andresito, and most supplies are purchased locally, except for beverages such as beer, wine, and soft drinks. In the off-season, Yacutinga offers complimentary environmental education programs to neighboring schools.
Yacutinga’s food is good, though if you stayed longer than a week it might seem repetitive. Unlike in Argentina’s pampas heartland, the beef comes from chewy (though tasty) Zebu cattle. Vegetarian menus are available on request, though sometimes the main dish is vegetarian for everyone. Breakfast’s homemade bread deserves special mention.
Yacutinga makes accommodations arrangements and quotes prices through travel agencies only. For additional information and travel assistance, contact Yacutinga (www.yacutinga.com) through their website.
Guests get picked up at Raíces Argentinas, a handicrafts store on RN 12 at Avenida Juan Domingo Perón, in modern vans that travel through Parque Provincial Urugua-í and plantations of yerba mate. After 45 kilometers of paved road, they transfer to a 4WD Mercedes truck for the last 12 kilometers.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition