Nothing can prepare you for the extraordinary marvel of nature that is Iguazú Falls. Located at the triple border between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu serves as a nice counterpart for the Niagara Falls located on the north of the American continent. Considered by most to be the crown jewel of nature in South America, Iguazú is beyond extraordinary.
Two sides, one story
Entrance to the area containing the Iguazú falls is actually divided in two separate entities totally independent from one another. One is the Iguazú Nattional Park, located in Argentina while the other is the Iguaçu National Park, located in Brazil. The Brazilian side contains the most spectacular views of the waterfalls (plus, an extraordinary bird sanctuary located nearby) while the Argentinian side has the waterfalls themselves (and rainbows, lots of rainbows). This entry shall deal with the Argentinian side only.
For starters, Puerto Iguazú is located 16 hours from Buenos Aires, while the waterfalls themselves are a short bus ride from Puerto Iguazú. There are daily bus connections to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.
Argentinian side of Iguazu
While the Brazilian side of the falls can be completed in half-a-day, the same cannot be said about the Argentinian side. Ideally, you should spend at least one full-day in the Argentinian side of the Falls since there are many things to do, plus the additional activities not covered on the ticket-price like the Safari and the boat ride.
I would definitely recommend going all the way to the “Garganta del Diablo” (Devil’s Throat) first. For this, you have to take two trains, expect to wait at least one hour during high-season after the first train stops. Once you’re finally all the way up, you need to take a trail trough the walk-way in order to finally reach the Garganta. Sure, the catwalk takes away much of the nature part of Iguazú Falls, making the whole National Park seem like very artificial (not unlike Niagara), and yet, after watching people with clutches as well as old couples enjoying a group holiday I fully understood that sometimes, the “authenticness” factor of a place has to be sacrificed in order to insure that most people can enjoy it and I completely agree with that.
On the positive side, you can enjoy the humming of the many different species of exotic birds that can be found along the way from the train stop to the Garganta del Diablo. Once you finally reach your destination you can hear the roar of the waterfalls and be splashed by the force of nature. Enjoy it…this is just the beginning.
The Lower Circuit and the Boat Ride
Unlike the Brazilian side, in the Argentinian one you can get up close to the waterfalls, real close, there are two kinds of circuits to do. As their name implies, in one you can experience the falls from below while in the other you can do it from above. It shouldn’t take you more than two hours to complete each one, but you might like to take your time to relax and not to hurry. Be sure to look behind the leaves of the trees, you never know what kind of interesting animal you might find!
The highlight of the lower circuit is the boat ride that takes you real close to the falls. Be prepared to get extremely wet as the boat driver passes underneath the splash of the waterfalls, this unique experience is not included on the entrance ticket but it is definitely worth it (especially if you pay with the Brazilian real instead of the Argentinian peso). There is also a free boat ride to a little island located in the lower circuit, however, this is prone to be cancelled depending on the height of the Iguazu river.
Be sure to keep your belongings in the bags that the boat driver gives you once you start to get real close to the waterfalls, I saw at least two tourists ruining their nice fancy cameras just because they wanted to take the “perfect” picture.
The Upper Circuit and the Rainbows
The upper circuit is not as long as the lower one, but it sure is astonishing because of one thing: Rainbows. Lots of rainbows. I have never seen so many rainbows in my life all in one place, and certainly not while looking down. I’m not an expert in meteorology but a quick search on google reveals that they are formed due to the geometry of raindrops that causes the sunlight to refract inwards and be split into its component colors. Yes, I felt extremely nerdy writing that.
In this circuit you can see the same waterfalls you saw in the lower circuit, only that this time from above, granted, this path is way shorter than the lower one but, after the amazing boat ride, this walk is recommended to dry off and just enjoy the sights.
One thing that might strike you as curious is that each single waterfall in the lower and upper circuit has a name, you can see it in your map and in the small plaque next to each one. Once you complete both circuits (and depending on how tired you feel) you can enjoy the nice walk back to the entrance of the park instead of taking the train. Trust me, the trail of Nature is definitely worth it.
Things to watch out for
Pickpockets and coatis. Worse yet, coatis that work as pickpockets. Sure, they might seem to be cute, friendly animals but more than one tourist has been attacked by these creatures, especially outside of the small restaurants located all over the park.
It is not advised to feed them but you can do it if you want to (I know I did). There’s nothing like the seeing a family of coatis competing to obtain your precious empanadas. I will talk more about these creatures in my post of the Brazilian side.
Finally, if you think that you haven’t got enough time to fully explore the Iguazú National Park, you can have your ticket validated at the exit so you can visit the next day at half the price. Pretty neat, right?
Have you been to Iguazú Falls? Would you like to? What are your favorite waterfalls?