For no good reason whatsoever, the thought of Iguazu Falls always left me unsettled. As a producer, writer and editor for the Travel Channel for eons, Iguazu Falls crossed my desk quite a bit — via the work and travels of other writers, of course.
I’d see pictures of the massive, teeming falls, read superlative write-ups on their beauty and majesty and yadda yadda yadda, and then think to myself, “Wow. I have no desire to go there.”
When it came time to plan our stint in Argentina, Iguazu didn’t make the initial cut. Ayaz had already been there, and I, obviously, lacked the urge to visit.
Thanks to a limited budget for flights, ri-WHAT-ulous flight prices to Florianopolis, Brazil (our next stop after Argentina), and Ayaz’s ninja-like cheapo-flight research skills, we discovered that the least expensive way to get to Floripa was by flying into Puerto Iguazu, on the Argentine side. We’d then cross into Brazil by land to Foz do Iguacu, and to our final destination Whew.
You guys wanted to know all those deets, right?
Anyway, this meant one foreboding thing: I’d get to see those blasted falls after all.
Ok, so why the weird aversion? Honestly, I wish I could pinpoint it. Maybe I was just not a smitten kitten for waterfalls (I also feel remarkably blase about Niagara and Victoria Falls), maybe I sensed Iguazu’s popularity as a suicide hotspot (this confirmed by a Puerto Iguazu local).
Despite my oddball reluctance to go, Iguazu completely rocked the proverbial kasbah. Few natural sights or noises rival the pounding, roaring cacophany of 1.7 miles of 269-foot-high falls dumping an astonishing 62,010 cubic feet per second of water over twisting, turning, perilous edges.
There are those natural wonders that are worshiped, praised and dropped onto every “Best-of” list known to mankind that completely live up to those heightened expectations (see: Grand Canyon, USA). Then there are those iconic sights you visit and feel a tremendous sense of, “meh,” (see: Monument Valley, USA).
Thankfully, Iguazu fell into the former category.
Approaching the base of a small section of falls via walkway left me a) soaking wet, and b) covered in awe-inspired goosebumps. These suckers are overwhelming. Words and pictures fail to do justice to the enormity, the riot of noise, the crazed visuals of that volume water falling that far, that fast.
We booked a completely wild and hair-raising boat tour that drove us into, more than under, one of the cascades (again, leaving me hilariously soaking wet), and walked every manner of trail, walkway and viewpoint we could find. Pictures were taken, clothes were soaked, hair was a bird’s nest, and yes, it was completely incredible.
Think all’s well that end’s well? Ha! Think again, my pretties! Things would take a dark and unexpected turn (at least for the next 5 days or so). More to come on that…but first, what you need to know for a visit to Iguazu.
What’s the Deal With Iguazu Falls and Iguaçu Falls?
I used to wonder this myself. The falls straddle the border between Argentina and Brazil. There are parks with opportunities to views the falls on both sides of the border. In Argentina, they’re called Iguazu Falls, and the town nearest to the falls is Puerto Iguazu. In Brazil, they’re known as Iguaçu Falls, and the nearest town is Foz do Iguaçu.
How to get to Iguazu Falls from Puerto Iguazu:
Buses run to the falls approximately every 20 minutes from the main bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu. Rio Uruguay is the bus company that serves the falls, and a round-trip ticket costs 75 Argentine pesos (approx. $7USD). Of course you can also take a taxi for around $16 – $20USD, but really, save your pesos — the bus is a cinch.
Where to Stay:
One of the best-run and most charming boutique hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in, Jardin de Iguazu, knocked my socks off. I booked our stay based on Tripadvisor reviews, and was more than thrilled with the beautiful property, complete with tropical pool area (with colored lights come nightfall), funky and welcoming sitting areas, and a helpful staff including one gent who happily plied us with caipirinas after a long, hot day at the falls.
The location was another bonus: right in the center of town, and a 5-minute walk to the bus station.
What to Do at the Falls:
There’s truly a myriad of activities that await you at the falls, and while you’ll easily spend 4 to 5 hours here, you can do so leisurely. There’s a tiny choo-choo train service to the major points within the park, that leaves visitors in proximity to the area’s trails. Plan to hike both trail systems, the “Inferior” and “Superior.” All the Inferior trail implies is that it’s lower, closer to the base of the falls. Truthfully, this trail was the better experience, as it allowed you to get remarkably close to the heart-stopping cascades.
Be sure to make your way to the epic Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), easily the most startling views of the falls you’ll experience while in the park. Save this bad-boy for last, because it is hands-down Iguazu’s pièce de résistance.
We booked the short boat ride into the falls. This was approximately a 20-minute trip, and well worth the heart-stopping, drenching journey under the cascades.
Finally, we also booked the “canoe ride” from the Garganta del Diablo back to the start of the Inferior trail. The canoe was really more of a raft, and it went lazily down the river, rowed by a very overheated employee who did a stellar navigational job.
What to Wear:
Not much. It’s hotter than Hades and humid as a rainforest here. You may want to wear a swimsuit under your clothes, but regardless, whatever you wear will get completely, and utterly soaking wet.
As for shoes, I wore sneaks for the trails — it’s honestly a lot of walking; but bring flip flops if you plan to take the boat ride, because your tootsies are in for a SOAKING.
What Will Git in Mah Belly?
Always a question near and dear to my heart. At the Falls, you’ll be surprised by just how many food options are available. From ice cream to self-serve sammies and empanadas, you will not go hungry.