Iguazu Falls: Visiting both Argentine and Brazilian Sides
WOW! Days 164 to 167 have been a complete highlight for me. The falls had such a profound emotional impact. The vast beauty of the place was just incredible. So, here goes it, our blog of Iguazu Falls.
The Iguazu Falls (Cataratas del Iguazú) are the largest waterfalls system in the world situated on the Iguazu river, which forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. Approximately half of the river’s flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devil’s Throat. You can reach the falls from Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. On the right bank is the Brazil, which has just over 20% of the falls and on the left side is Argentinian, making up almost 80% of the falls.
We flew from Salta to Puerto Iguazú because there was not a direct or easy bus route. We had chosen to stay at Terra Lodge, a small chalet based accommodation a little outside the main town on the Argentinian side of the falls. Terra Lodge has a swimming pool, which is appreciated in the 99% humidity that we experienced together with kitchen facilities in the spacious chalets.
Our first day we walked into Puerto Iguazú to suss out how to go to both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the falls. It was quite a long and unrewarding walk; the town is not too nice! We did go to the Hito 3 Fronteras, to see the three monuments to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. It was possible to see the other two countries clearly across the river. We soon discovered that food, drink and transport is very expensive here, I guess the captive audience doesn’t help.
For lunch we visited La Rueda, which was very nice and then went to the bus station to book our bus tickets to the Brazilian Iguazu Falls the following day. Our choice was for the first bus at 8am in the hope that we could go to both the falls and the bird park that is situated opposite.
The next day, bright and early we arrived at the bus station. The bus into Brazil takes about an hour including customs. For us Brits, customs are pretty easy with just entry and exit stamps needed without visas or money changing hands (I believe this is different for Australians and Americans). The bus is pretty uneventful and an old, shoddy vehicle without enough seats for people. If you want a seat just make sure you are by the door for the customs so you are back on first.
Bird Park (Parque de Aves)
We decided to go to the bird park first which is right next to the falls so jumped off the bus at the first stop. We paid our entrance via credit card (we didn’t have any Brazilian Reals) and made our way in. The first 5 minutes were quite uninspiring, parrots in cages and then onto chickens. I’m not a fan of zoos and keeping animals in cages at all so I started wondering if this experience was going to be a good one for me. It got better though. There are a total of 800 different species of birds housed here, together with alligators, snakes and monkeys too.
We came into a section where toucans were landing everywhere, Greg and I were beside ourselves with excitement. They are awesome birds unlike any I’ve seen before. We also went into a butterfly house where butterflies happily landed on us and hummingbirds lingered all around. It was very special. Finally, we were treated to a parrot house, with many macaws and parrots flying around. I now understand that the birds in the bird park have either been rescued or bred at the park, so they haven’t been captured and brought here, which made me feel better.
Brazilian Iguazu Falls
Next onto the main event. We wondered across to the entrance to the falls and purchased our tickets using our credit card again. We then caught a bus, which took about 15 minutes to get to the first part of the falls. The Brazilian side has a walk way along the canyon with an extension to the lower level of Devil’s Throat. We stepped off the bus to be greeted to a beautiful panoramic view across the falls. It took our breath away.
We followed the path for 950 metres stopping at different viewpoints to gaze longingly at the different falls that make up the full Iguazu Falls range. It was funny to be able to see people on the Argentinian side looking at the falls from a different perspective.
We then arrived at the Devil’s Throat where we walked along the bottom and essentially got drenched. I had my trusty poncho that I bought many weeks ago in Cusco so I popped that on and had both our rucksacks underneath to protect our camera. I looked like a pregnant tortoise! The noise was unbelievable as was the power of the water and it was fun to get drenched (Heavens knows why!). Next we went up to the viewing platform to look over the falls again, I was a little scared as the floor was see-through so tip toed around like an idiot.
Helicopter rides offering aerial views of Iguazu falls are available on the Brazilian but not the Argentinian side. Greg vetoed this as a plan though. After spending around 2 ½ hours at the falls, we headed back to the bus stop and back Puerto Iguazú.
Argentinian Iguazu Falls
We had been lucky at the bus station last night and found ourselves a great taxi driver, Pablo, who had offered to take us to the Argentinian Iguazu Falls for the same price as the bus. He picked us up bright and early to arrive at the falls just before the 8am opening time, so beating the first bus. We joined a very small queue into the park.
There are two options for getting around the Argentinian side; a little train or walkways. The walk won for us. Taking the Green Trail (Sendero Verde) up to the upper trail and managed to beat all the visitors still waiting for the train. We were also treated to a view of some Capuchin monkeys making their way across the trees. I think that this is quite unusual so we were very lucky.
We had the 800 metre upper trail to ourselves. It was magical; the vastness of the falls, the noise and the fact that we were on our own in this giant place. I found it very calming and quite emotional, feeling small but appreciating the beauty that nature gives us. Greg will hate me writing this, so I’ll shut up with my hippy stuff now!
After the upper trail we walked the 1,600 metre lower trail coming across lots of Coatis, little racoon type creatures who can be aggressive so wise to keep your distance. They looked cute though! We also booked onto the Green Passport Adventure with the Iguazu Jungle.
The first part of the Adventure was a trip under the waterfalls themselves. It was a lot of fun and we got drenched obviously. The force of the water was incredible to feel and it seems a surprise that the boats aren’t sank. The next section was a vehicle ride back through the jungle, where we got a glimpse of wild toucans but little else.
Time for lunch before heading off to the Devil’s Throat. We caught the train to the Devil’s Throat waterfall entrance following the walkway to the viewing platform. The viewing platform was pretty busy but there were rainbows to be seen everywhere and it certainly was an awe-inspiring view. We then moved onto the final part of our Green Passport Adventure which was a tranquil boat ride down the river passing by turtles, birds and many rainforest plants.
We reached the end of our day and decided to come back for more tomorrow so got our ticket stamped for half price entry the following day.
Day 2 Iguazú Falls
Pablo collected us bright and early again, arriving at the park just after 8am. We headed straight onto the Macuco Nature Trail in the hope of seeing more monkeys and also swimming in a waterfall at the end of the hike. We only passed 4 other people on the entire 7km walk but did see a large troop of Capuchin monkeys overhead. There was one large male leading the group with probably 20 females, which were much smaller. We stood around watching them leap between branches for a while before moving on.
After around 1 ½ hours we reached the top of the Arrechea waterfall. Our plan was to walk down to the lower pond for a swim but it was shut off the day we were there. Not to be put off we continued on past the no entry signs to the lower pond but it wasn’t the stuff our dreams were made of, and it was impossible to swim in.
We walked back and around the upper trail once more then were collected by trusty Pablo.
We spent the evening raving about the falls, I’m so glad that we made the effort to come. The beauty genuinely provoked stillness within me and I leave Iguazu Falls with a clearer head than I arrived with.
Have you been to Iguazú Falls? Leave us any comments below.