In the misted shadow of the largest waterfall of South America, Iguazú, lies Wanda Mines, a peculiar side attraction worth a visit for those interested in gemstones, geology, or jewelry.
Located just 55 km (34 miles) to the south of Iguazú Falls, these stone mines are easily accessible by organized tour, car or bus.
Surrounded by lush green forest in the rainy season, the pueblo of Wanda and its mines are a tiny blip on the map, but are on the way to another Misiones attraction, the San Ignacio Jesuit Ruins.
Colonia Wanda was settled by Polish settlers in 1936 and the town and its mines are named for a mythical Polish princess.
The Poles were later joined by German, Swiss, Brazilian and Paraguayan immigrants, who planted tobacco, citrus fruits and subsistence crops. A local man, Amalia Bogado discovered the precious stone deposits while washing his clothes in a stream, but it wasn’t until years later that his son explored further and registered the mines.
The Wanda Mine Tour
Pick-your-own crystal is a no-no, but touching is encouraged, as are pictures posed in the narrow caverns and arches of the mine.
A small gravel lot, a kiosk, small café, and gift shop are the only developments around the mines themselves.
The environmental ramifications of the gemstone extraction at Wanda Mines haven’t been studied, but it is small scale and delicate extractions forbade the use of heavy-duty explosives, so environmentalist shouldn’t be too horrified.
The mining here also provides employment to local artisans from the gemstone extraction, processing, and sale of the stones.
Getting to Wanda Mines
• Driving: Route 12 heading south of Iguazu toward Posadas (mostly paved road)
• Public transport: Daily buses from Iguazú to the town of Wanda. The mines are 15 blocks from the bus stop. You can get a taxi or hitch a ride from there. If walking, bring water.
• Tour: Most travelers stop here as part of a double Wanda Mines-Jesuit Ruins at San Ignacio tour.