Occasionally, a hotel opens that transforms the experience of a famous destination. The Iguazú Falls — the largest series of waterfalls in the world — are one of South America’s leading attractions, on par with Machu Picchu and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. The Iguazú River forms a border between Argentina and Brazil, and two contiguous national parks make up a protected area of nearly 1,000 square miles. However, the nearby cities of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil are uninspiring places, dotted with dozens of midrange tourist hotels. When I heard about the new Awasi Iguazú resort, which debuted in February, I was somewhat surprised. The company has two other properties, both in Chile, located in regions remote from mass tourism: Awasi Atacama (Hideaway of the Year in 2013) is set in the desert 1,000 miles north of Santiago, while Awasi Patagonia is situated at the country’s southern tip, overlooking the vertiginous mountains of Torres del Paine National Park. Why, I wondered, had Awasi chosen to expand in such an obvious and well-trodden destination?
Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
Puerto Iguazú (population 82,000) is a two-hour nonstop flight from Buenos Aires. We were picked up at the airport in a white Ford Ranger 4x4 by our guide, Constanza “Coti” Mainero, a lively and humorous woman with a fluent command of English. After about 20 minutes, we pulled off the highway into a patch of rainforest where Awasi Iguazú occupies a private and secluded 25-acre plot. The entrance to the resort is unobtrusive, and from the outside, the low-slung main lodge is an unassuming dark wood structure with a tin roof. Inside, however, we discovered a spectacular open-plan space, comprising a lounge area, a bar and a dining room. Outdoors, we found an expansive, multilevel deck facing an impenetrable wall of green. Although the river is close by, it is invisible. Awasi Iguazú provides deep seclusion; the dramatic views are elsewhere.