ARGENTINA – Posadas & the Jesuit Missions day trip; must-see European heritage

Argentina - Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní
Argentina - Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní

Buenos Aires was my starting point of this trip as I had a business conference there. Before the conference, I had approximate 10 days to go to Paraguay and from there drive through the country to Posadas to see the Jesuit Missions in Argentina (and Paraguay). I did this by private car with driver. I even planned in a short visit to Colonia, Uruguay too which made this trip packed with culture. Posadas is also a great overnight day trip from Buenos Aires if you just have two days. I’ll show you to which Jesuit Missions you should go, enjoy this heritage tour with me!

What were the Jesuit Missions

The Jesuit Missions in South America (which are in Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia) are remains from the religious missions from the 17th century. The Jesuits build towns for the native people which were self-sufficient. The Jesuits provided a structured life compared to the nomad life the Guarani people had prior to the arrival of the Jesuits. They provided writing, education, political order in towns ranging up to a few thousands of people. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from South America and the towns became abandoned at the beginning of the 19th century and were quickly taken by the jungle. At some missions, you can still see this, others are very nice restored. For me, it was very interesting to see this kind of churches in the middle of the jungle compared to Europe where they are mainly in the city centers.

Argentina - Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní
Argentina – Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní

Jesuit Missions – Santa Ana

There are 4 Jesuit Missions in Argentina that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site; I visited 3 out of 4. The one I did not visit was Santa Maria Mayor mission. I first stopped at the mission of Santa Ana which is located near a waterway for drinking and washing water. This mission was founded in 1633 by the Jesuits and has a big town square, a church and was surrounded by administrative buildings and residential buildings. The town is still partly overgrown by jungle which is removed in parts to show more of the original mission to visitors. In the visitors center you can get a great impression on how the town must have looked like in the 17th century. The site is not that big and an hour was enough to see it.

Argentina - Jesuit Mission Santa Ana
Argentina – Jesuit Mission Santa Ana

Jesuit Missions – Nuestra Señora de Loreto

After Santa Ana I stopped at a nice restaurant along the road for a nice Argentinian lunch. I then continued to the mission of Nuestra Señora de Loreto where I was a bit disappointed by the state of the site. At the time of visit (August 2013) they were restoring the site and some parts were off limits to tourist, I hope they can maintain it. The structures all needed a lot of support to not just fall down and lots of vegetation was growing over it damaging the stones. The site was founded in 1610 by the JesuitsJesuits and the site was in that time famous for its printing press to print the bible and other Christian works into the local languages. The layout is like the other missions but less restored and therefore it doesn’t take more as half an hour to walk through it.

Argentina - Jesuit Mission Reducción de Nuestra Señora de Loreto
Argentina – Jesuit Mission Reducción de Nuestra Señora de Loreto

Jesuit Missions – San Ignacio Miní

After Nuestra Señora de Loreto I drove further to San Ignacio Miní which was a great place to visit with good restored and accessible sites. The site of San Ignacio Miní, founded in 1632, is located inside a modern city compared to the other missions which are more out into the jungle. The site originally had a church, cemetery, monastery, and houses around a main square. The Jesuit church must have been huge as the foundations remaining are too. The buildings are built from the local red sandstone with walls up to two meters in thickness. The main portal has very nice carvings which are preserved very well. The site is well document and preserved and it takes up to two hours to fully explore the whole site in detail.

Argentina - Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní
Argentina – Jesuit Mission San Ignacio Miní

At the end of the day I drove back to Posadas. In the evening I had time to walk around this small city and have a great dinner; Argentinian meat is the best! The city itself does not really have anything interesting to see though. The next day I flew back to Buenos Aires and from there crossed the waters to Colonia, Uruguay. Posadas and the Jesuit Missions are a great overnight day trip from Buenos Aires; highly recommended.

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Gallery Posadas & Jesuit Missions

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