There are a couple of options for a visit to the open mines of Wanda. You can book a guided tour or hire a taxi to Wanda (the driver will wait for you during the visit; all taxi drivers offer this trip).
But we decided to do it by public bus, which was leaving from the central bus station. We took a one way ticket, because there are several companies to Wanda (and further), so for the drive back we could take any bus we wanted. The one way fare is just 10 pesos (2009) !!
It is about 40 km’s to Wanda and after leaving the last houses of Puerto Iguazu we were driving along ‘Ruta Nacional 12’ through the vast rain forest of the province of Misiones with now and then a shabby farm house with bare footed children.
We were dropped off at the intersection to the Wanda Mines (Minas de Wanda). And after a lunch in a confiteria we got a taxi for the last 1½ km’s to the mine. We understood why this part of the country is called ‘tierra colorada – red earth’: the gravel road and all the soil was red coloured !!
We had to pay another 4 pesos entrance fee and became an English speaking guide. She showed us around the open mines with semiprecious stones like amethyst, agates and aquamarine. And we had to try to get some energy from a geode. Most impressive were the ‘real’ mines, where still miners are working and trying to find minerals in the basalt rocks.
'Of course' the tour ended in a shop with sculpted stones, crafts made of stone and jewellery. Our taxi was waiting and we had to leave; on our way back several children tried to sell us one of their stones.
Be aware all the people we met (except the guide) only speak Spanish. This was a really ‘off the beaten path’ adventure !!
Wanda is situated 43 km's south of Puerto Iguazù.
Besides the falls there isn't really too much to do, but here is one way to occupy yourself for a half day if you have some extra time. You can hire a taxi for an excursion to the small town of Wanda, about a 45 minute ride South of Puerto Iguazu. There are a couple of mines where you can see geodes being extracted from the volcanic basalt.
So that you won't be too disappointed: Although there are stores selling the minerals in different forms you should know going in that their prices are equivalent to what you would pay in the U.S!
I had priced some decorative items before our trip and I was floored when I saw what they were asking right there where they come out of the ground! Around the little town individuals have tables alongside the road. We didn't stop to find out (I really didn't want to be lugging stones around Argentina for 2 weeks) but you might get a better bargain there.
There is a free boat that leaves about every half hour to the island. This is where there are the least amount of people, and frankly, I found it to have some of the most amazing views in the entire park.
If you're like me, you'll ignore the "Danger, keep on the trail" signs. Especially on the island, getting off the designated trail makes for an amazing experience!
We went to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil with a regular public bus, leaving from the bus station in Puerto Iguazu and had to pay just a couple of pesos (one way) and came back with a Brazilian taxi for 30 reales.
(see 'General Tips' for border crossing.)
The city of Foz do Iguaçu has no major touristy sights and the shops in this rather big city with 300.000 inhabitants are not spectacular. It was difficult to enter a bank and even more difficult to get cash out of an ATM; it is better to change some money in Argentina.
After a lunch we went, again by public bus - ask for the schedule at the very helpful Tourist Information – to the ‘Foz Tropicana Parque das Aves’. It is situated close to the entrance to the Brazilian Falls and we could pay with our Argentinean pesos.
This bird park offers some local and South American birds like toucans, macaws, rhea’s, flamingo’s, a lot of parrots and birds from other continents. Total there are 900 birds of 150 species and also some reptiles and butterflies. But we prefer to see these (butterflies) in the wild, as we did everywhere in this part of the world.
There is a walkway through the park along the cages with a length of 1500 metres.
The bird park is open everyday from 8.30 am – 5.30 pm or 6.00 pm (summer).
Entrance fee (2006) is USD 8.- or 25 Arg. Pesos.
For more information: http://www.parquedasaves.com.br/html/v1/ing/index.htm
This view from the Argentinian side of the meeting point of the two rivers gives an idea of the lay of the land.
Flowing in from the right is the Iguazu River, with Brazil on the opposite bank at the right side of the photo. Iguazu Falls lies 28-km up the river from here, where it plunges over the almost 300-foot high basalt rock cliff into the gorge that it has cut for itself.
The Parana River is flowing toward the viewer, dividing Paraguay on the left from Brazil. The world's largest operating power station at Itaipu Dam is located about 17-km directly upstream from here. The Parana is a very large river, about the same size as the Mississippi and second only to the Amazon in South America for area drained. Even this far down the river from the Dam, the surface was still churning with ripples as I watched.
On the point of land in Argentina where the Iguazu River meets the Parana River, is a small memorial to this meeting of 'Tres Fronteras' - the spot where Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina all come together. This is located only a hop, skip and jump from the abandoned hotel of my previous tip.
It was also near here, in 1541, that the first white man spotted the Iguazu River and it's famous falls. Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca was on his way from Spain to Asuncion, Paraguay to assume his new position as Governor of the territories. Unwilling to wait for a proper ship to take him onward via Buenos Aires when he reached Brazil, he set off on a 1000-mile march directly across Brazil with 250 men. The amazing thing is that he actually succeeded, losing only 2 men on the journey! He named the now-famous Iguazu waterfalls 'Santa Maria Falls' but his choice did not stick! There is also a small memorial to Cabeza de Vaca located here on this point of land.
The Esturion Hotel was located only two blocks away from where the Iguazu River flows into the Parana River, so I took a stroll down Av. Tres Fronteras (Three Borders) to have a look.
One of the first things that I came across was this shell of a hotel, abandoned in mid-construction. This was the only structure like this that stood out in Puerto Iguazu, but we saw three or four examples of this while we were in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. Maybe it had something to do with the Argentinian financial melt-down a few years ago when inflation got out of control and the government had to severely devalue their currency. That is the same reason why things are still 'dirt cheap' in Argentina if you want to visit from outside the country!
On Saturday night, the restaurant "JB" (Eppens street) welcomes a tango singer to put a little bit of Argentinian touch to its atmosphere...And we did not miss it!
We went there for eating and we ask if we could dance... - Nobody dance tango in Puerto Iguazu - And it was OK!!!! What a pleasure it was...dancing in a unpredicted place...I love it!!!!
The surprise :
We just walked back from the center to the hotel when we heard a kind of walz music...Curious we went and see the place that made so much noice... As we were in front of the building, the doors were opened and we saw that it was a wedding party!!! With loud music and flashing and colorful lights...As we were on the street looking inside with an amused smile, one guy inside tells us to go in!!!! A little bit embarrassed, we refused but as the guy was insisting, we dared go in! And we were warmly welcomed by the guy and the mother of the bride! We received a glass of caipiriña and were invited to dance!!!! We received then again food and I received (before going away) a little "recuerdo" of the wedding of Cristian!!!!
I did not know that Argentinian were so friendly... an astonishing memory!!!!
The hydroelectric plant at Itaipu is the largest such facility in the world with a greater energy output (measured in megawatts) than any other plant in the world. It is located on the west side of Foz do Iguacu on the Brazil-Paraguay border. A cab from Puerto Iguazu would probably run you around 70 pesos, so you might be better off taking buses (or split a cab with some friends). The tour is free and the facility is worth seeing.