(Altitude: 175 m / 613 ft, Population: 22,300, Phone Code: 03751)
Not too far between Posadas and Puerto IguazÃº, there is a small town brimming with things to see and do: Montecarlo. Founded in 1911 by immigrants from Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Central European countries, this village is set amid a landscape of yerba mate and tea plantations. The great green fever of mate cultivation even drew Paraguayans and Argentines, including the Guevara-de la Serna family, whose eldest son, Ernesto (Che), spent his infancy here.
Montecarlo stretches 8.1 kilometers (5 mi) along Avenida Libertador, from Ruta Nacional 12 to the ParanÃ¡ River. The centerpiece of town is Plaza San MartÃn, 4.5 kilometers (2.8 mi) off the highway. The main boulevard ends at the Club de Pesca (Tel.: 48-0022. Entry: $0.80), where you can not only fish, but also take a boat out to Parque Provincial Isla Caraguatay. There are hiking trails on the island (dusk-dawn. Entry: free).
Montecarlo is the capital of the RegiÃ³n de la Flores (Region of Flowers), a well-deserved title. Every year it celebrates the Fiesta Naciomal de la OrquÃdea y Fiesta Provincial de la Flor (mid-September-beginning of October, depending on the year). Thousands of visitors come to town, and the few hotel rooms are booked months in advance. Dozens of viveros (green houses) and orquidearios (orchid nurseries) open their doors to visitors year-round, charging about $1.50. Visit Catesetum (Calle Carlos Britzius s/n, Tel.: 1566-9669 / 48-2321) and Orquideario de Rita Franke, which has the most diverse collection of species (Avenida Libertador 3179, Tel.: 48-0195). The Centro de Informes TurÃsticos has a list of greenhouses.
Another way to get lost in the exuberant vegetation is to wander in the Laberinto Vegetal in Parque Juan Vortisch. This labyrinth, constructed of ligustrina, covers 3.1 square meters, making it the largest in South America (Tuesday-Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. MartÃn Lutero, about 1 km / 0.6 mi east of Avenida Libertador, 6 km / 3.6 mi west of Ruta Nacional 12, Tel.: 48-0404. Entry: adults $0.70, children $0.25).
The Montecarlo area continues to be a major yerba mate producer. The processing of the herb can be seen at Molina de la Cooperativa AgrÃcola Mixta, whose major brand is Aguantadora, in the center of town (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. F Quiroga, half-block north of Avenida Libertador. Entry: free, free package of samples given at end of tour).
The region's fauna can also be appreciated at Zoo-Bal-Park (daily 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Ruta Nacional 12, 1 km / 0.6 mi north of the rotonda. Entry: adults $1.40, children $0.80). The Aquarium Montecarlo features the native fish of the RÃo ParanÃ¡ (winter: daily 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., summer: daily 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Eras GeolÃ³gicas, 1 block west of Ruta Nacional 12, Tel.: 48-2196, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com, URL: www.aquariummontecarlo.com.ar. Entry: adults $3, children $1.50). Montecarlo's other fairs center on its other important economy, cattle: Fiesta Provincial del Ganadero (August), Fiesta Provincial del Ternero (February) and the rodeo events of the Gran Jineteada Provincial (mid-December).
If the rains drive you indoors, then check out Montecarlo's museums, which charge a nominal fee (adults $1.50, children $0.75):
Among the many families drawn to the region during the yerba mate boom of the 1910-1920s was the Guevara - de la Serna, parents of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Just outside of Caraguatay, seven kilometers (4.2 mi) west of Montecarlo, the Parque Provincial Che Guevara, preserves 22 hectares of the old plantation. A museum describes the infancy of Che here and his life's work. A 160-meter (520-ft) trail leads to the ruins on a hillock overlooking the RÃo ParanÃ¡. The park also protects stands of native caÃ±afistula (golden shower tree), guayabira (ironwood) and higuerÃ³n (short-leaf fig) forest woven with giant bamboo and vines. Frequently seen birds include the Solitary and Red-rumped cacique, Red-breasted Toucan, Reddish-bellied Parakeet, and woodpeckers. Mammals include agouti, crab-eating raccoons, and deer. Camping is allowed near the center, though there are no facilities or provisions (free, daily 8 a.m.-dusk. URL: www.loscaminosdelche.gov.ar. Entry: free). Capilla Santa Rita is two kilometers (1.2 mi) down the road to the old homestead; every May 22 a pilgrimage occurs. There are opportunities for birdwatching, horseback riding and other nature activities in the jungle around Caraguatay.
On your way to or from Posadas, stop off for a cold pint of homebrewed beer at Cerveza Artesanal Von Hafen in Puerto Rico, 47 kilometers (28 mi) west of Montecarlo (Ruta Nacional 12 and PÃo XII, Tel.: 03743-1545-1613).Services
Montecarlo has basic services. Businesses are located along Avenida Libertador.
There are several campgrounds in Montecarlo:
La Misionerita (Ruta Nacional 12, Km 1510, Tel.: 03751-1540-0126, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com, URL: www.la-misionerita.com.ar) - Open all year; camping ($2.25 per person); also cabaÃ±as and dormis (2-5 persons)
In Montecarlo, few restaurants are located in town itself. Most are along the highway.
There are several supermarkets on Avenida Libertador.
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...