I’ve seen many waterfalls in my lifetime, mostly in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and even swam in a few, but Iguazu Falls are something else.
Vast in size and fierce in nature the Iguazu Falls straddles both the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná, and can be viewed from both sides.
From the Argentine side you can get up close and personal with the cataract and from the Brazilian side you can apparently get a better view of its sheer size. However, to pass through from the Argentine side to the Brazilian side you have to pass through immigration but I think this is easily done.
We visited the falls from the Argentine side after taking a two hour Lan flight into Iguazu from Buenos Aires (£200 return). The falls themselves are located in Parque Nacional Iguazu.
Once you enter the park (cost is around £15 per ticket) you can take a quick look around the visitor centre to find out what kind of animals inhabit the park and learn about the indigenous Guarani people and the arrival of the European settlers to the area.
Some dangerous animals do inhabit the park, such as Jaguars. The Lonely Planet lists animals as one of the parks’ ‘Dangers and Annoyances’ citing a park ranger’s son who was attacked and killed by a jaguar in 1997, though I imagine a tourist would have to be incredibly unlucky for this to happen to them!
The only annoyance you’ll likely get from animals in the park is from the Coatis, a racoon-like animal, one of whom stealthily crept up beside me and stole my last empanada that was wrapped in a paper bag for later. My immediate reaction was to snatch it back of him but I thought better of it. There’s also monkeys but they tend to be a little less brazen.
Once you clear the visitors centre it’s a short distance to pick up a train that takes you to ‘La Garganta del Diablo’ or The Devil’s Throat where you can get up close and personal with the falls.
Once you’re off the train it’s a 15-minute walk over water on elevated steel platforms to meet the falls. Then you’re right in the thick of it.
It’s pretty packed so there’s lots of jostling for space to get to the rails to see the falls properly but it’s totally worth it.
The energy journalist that I am, one of my first thoughts gazing at the sheer might of Iguazu was ‘imagine how much energy you could harness from those cascades!’ Might ruin the scenery a tad though.
Here you get a good sense of the falls’ power as they pass by right next to you and its backsplash cools you down from the clammy Argentine heat.
Visibility depends on the weather. On the day we visited it was a bit overcast as it had rained heavily earlier in the morning. This had turned the water a dirty brown colour caused by sediment from deforestation around the water table being pushed down into the falls. This is a bad thing because the murky waters make visibility poor for fish to mate and spawn and for other animals to find prey but is a common problem of excessive deforestation.
After you’ve taken in The Devil’s Throat it’s back on the train to where you started. Then you can do two trails: an ‘inferior’ lower trail and ‘superior’ higher trail. The names have no bearing on which is the better trail, as we thought. Do both and you’ll see the falls from every possible angle.
You can also travel on a speed boat to within close proximity of the falls via Iguazu Jungle and do a 4×4 tour but after two harrowing experiences in speed boats in Indonesia and Australia I’m not a fan.
Our taxi driver insisted we needed six hours in the park to see everything but unless you do the extra tours we found 5 hours was more than enough. There’s plenty of food and drink available inside. Also, you’re going to get wet, and if you do the boat tour you’re going to get drenched.
We stayed in Village Cataratas. It’s a beautiful place full of wild butterflies flitting about and is great value for money. The rooms are big and clean and the internet is good. However, because it’s not in the main town you have to get a round trip taxi ride to the falls rather than a bus which costs around £20 and you’re obviously not near any backpacker bars or restaurants. Though the restaurant in the place is nice and very reasonable.
I’ve only seen a small bit of Argentina so far but I think if you visit, Iguazu is must do!