After our short time in Rio, our next step was to take an internal Brazilian flight to Foz do Iguazu to visit the Unesco World Heritage site of Iguazu Falls.
A brief intro to Iguazu Falls.
After a war between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay the land along the Iguazu River was divided among the 3 countries. Both Brazil and Argentina have national parks on opposite sides of the river with views of 2.7 kms of waterfalls. Many argue which side is the best to view the falls. However, Argentina has around 80% of the falls on its side. We simply had to see both sides and make the decision for ourselves. Unfortunately for Paraguay they have no views of the falls.
Getting to Iguazu
We planned ahead and got 2 internal Brazilian flights from Rio de Janeiro to Foz do Iguazu, via Curitiba. In total it took us around 5 hours. We met people in Rio who tried to do this but went to book too late and the prices were sky high. They were forced to get a 24-hour bus for the same price as we paid for our flight…
For the 3 days that we planned on staying, we decided to base ourselves in the Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu, mainly because it was cheaper and seemed like there was more things to do. As we had a super early flight, we landed early and headed straight to the Brazilian park from the airport and crossed the border into Argentina afterwards to avoid having to cross the border several times. The parks have luggage storage so we were able to dump our backpacks and get onto the park bus for a short ride to the trails without having to carry everything with us.
The Brazilian Falls
– Eleanor Roosevelt upon seeing Iguazu Falls
Literally translated to English, Iguazu means “big water”. Our first impression of the falls…”wow”. Sandwiched between American and Chinese tourists we could see layers upon layers of waterfalls and rainforest everywhere we looked.
The park consists of a trail offering panoramic views of almost the entire range of falls. The main attraction is the “Devil’s Throat”. Garganta del Diablo is a U-shaped, 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide fall that the trail almost walks straight into. It is stupidly big, loud and mighty. While standing on the platform, we can’t comprehend the sheer amount of water flowing over it. In seconds everything that is not protected with waterproof jackets is soaked. There are platforms that bring you out in front of it and platforms that bring you right along side it.
We were able to do the Brazilian side in around 3 hours and picked up our bags buzzing for our entry into Argentina.
We needed to get a bus from the falls back into town and then find the bus crossing over into Argentina. We were told that a small local bus does the job. At the bus terminal everyone pointed us outside telling us that’s where we needed to go but in these small towns there are little or no signs and it was hard to believe the international bus wasn’t in the terminal. After struggling to communicate with very nice elderly locals who helped us find the bus stop casually placed on a sidewalk, we crossed the border for only €2.
Since we were leaving Brazil, we needed to get an exit stamp and then an entry stamp entering Argentina. What we didn’t know was that the passport offices are on either side of the river and the buses drop you off but don’t wait for you. Just to cross we had to get the same bus 3 times and wait around for 2 hours in the sun with no water, no Brazilian currency and no way to get Argentinian Pesos.
After an evening of empanada’s and beer, we woke early to make our way to the Argentinian Park that is a lot larger and more developed. The park has several trails that give different viewpoints of the falls. We decided to tackle the park by doing the upper trail first followed by the lower trail and finally we took the park train to view the “Devil’s Throat” from above.
We had planned to do one of the main attractions of the park, a 10 -15 minute boat ride which drives straight into and almost under section of the falls. We debated about this for a while as we heard it was expensive but after hearing people’s thoughts about how it was worth the extra cost we decided to go for it. Arriving at the park we got an unpleasant surprise by how expensive it was. Like most things in Argentina, the price had tripled from what we were told by people who had been before. We just did not have enough cash on us and entered the park a slightly pissed off…
The reason some people think the Argentinian park is better is not just because the park is bigger, it’s because for most of the falls we are to get right up in front of them or right beside them. It is truly incredible and one of the few times the word ‘awesome’ can be used correctly.
Our personal highlight was something that many people miss. There is a point when the trail splits. One trail goes down to the dock with signs saying entrance is not allowed without a ticket for the ferry. There are no signs saying that there are two boats here. The expensive ferry and a small boat that brings people across the waters to an island right in front of the falls for free. We hopped on the free boat.
Once on the island we got a sense that we were entering Jurassic Park. A short hike up brought us to what we believe is the most impressive view in the park. A wide opening with dozens of falls only 10s off metres in front. On the edge we got splashed by the waves crashing down and drenched by the mist. We spent a long time here just staring.
A very close second in our eyes and the main attraction of the park, “the devil’s throat”, was also one of those once in a lifetime experiences. We got on the train and walked along the boardwalks over the wide rivers, spotting catfish and alligator’s, before hearing thunder. We were getting close. The mist started rising as we reached the main platform overlooking the devil’s throat. It is hard to think of how they made the platform as we were literally on the edge of the falls looking straight down into it. It made us feel tiny. In Brazil we almost walked into the bottom and now we were looking down into the belly of the beast. Everything gets soaked.
Other than the parks and the Guira Oga Animal Refuge there is not much else to do. The last thing for us was to visit the tri boarder. A section on the Iguazu River where only 100m2 separates Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. All three countries have the same monolith painted in the colours of there respective flags. We went to the tri-border first thing on our last morning as it is only 10 minutes walk out of town and we almost forgot about it. We ran from our hostel, took some photos, bought a tri-board badge for our backpack and ran back to our hostel to collect our bags. We walked to the bus station and watched our bus leave as we got there. Nothing else to do but wait for the next one…
This brought to an end our time in Iguazu. So after 3 days we left and made our way down to San Ignacio and the Jesuit Ruins.
Costs and useful info – Brazil
Currency change as of January 2017 : 1€ = 3.24 Real
Flight Rio de Janerio -> Foz do Iguazu = 100 € (bought 2 months in advance)
Bus from the Airport -> Brazilian Park = 10 R
Brazilian Park -> Foz do Iguazu = 10 R
Foz do Iguazu -> Puerto Iguazu, Argentina = 2 R
Locker at Brazilian park = 33R
Costs and useful info – Argentina
Currency change as of January 2017 : 1 € = 16 ARS
Hostel « Iguazu falls » hosteliguazufalls.com.ar – Average
Though, the kitchen was a bit too small for all of the backpackers. Lack of atmosphere between travellers, probably due to the organisation of the common area. Swimming pool water was not very clear. Didn’t really like the breakfast (stale bread for toast) – but that was cheap ! – 230 ARS pp pn
ATM : max withdraw authorised 2400 ARS with 94 ARS fee – The only bank where the Visa premium card worked was « Banco Macro »
Argentinian falls website : http://www.iguazuargentina.com/
If you wish to come back the next day, there is a 50% discount if you get your ticket stamped upon exit. To do so, go back to the ticket desk and give your name and passport number.
(At the moment, prices in Argentina are just insane. Below is the new price table as of the 1st of March 2017. At the end of January 2017, we payed 330 ARS each…).
We have heard it is possible to visit the park during the night, only during the full moon. Unfortunately we were a bit too late… or too early. Price is 600 ARS…