Puerto Iguazu and Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls was along with Angkor Wat and Taj Mahal one of the sights that we had decided on in advance to make sure that we ended up getting to see them. Iguazu Falls is the second largest waterfall in the world after Victoria Falls in Southern Africa, but due to a more dispersed location of the falls it is possible to get a more immersible experience of the gigantic waterfalls compared to the large curtain of water that is Victoria Falls. As the falls are located on the boarder between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay we decided to do the Argentinian side first and then the Brazilian side afterward. It was time to behold one of the greatest natural wonders of the world!
Puerto Iguazu is the city that you need to travel to if you want to see the falls from the Argentinian side. As you read in the previous post we arrived by luxury bus and pretty much had a fantastic trip up here! We found a guesthouse that was so so and spent the rest of the remaining day figuring out how to get to the waterfalls the next morning. It is really very simple, go down to the bus station where there are free buses all the time in the morning and just jump on one of them. I would recommend taking the earliest bus like we did as you basically get to explore the falls by yourself. We did not do this the first day, which was alright as we spent the day checking out the lower falls. We decided to spend two days exploring the Argentinian side and one day on the Brazilian side as we had heard that it was both smaller and less impressive than the Argentinian one. If you just want to see the biggest highlights it is more than possible to to the Argentinian side in one day as well, but as we had the time I am very glad that we did not rush it. As a result we basically covered the entire park and had plenty of time for taking pictures and enjoying the impressive views.
We spent the first day on the lower side of the falls enjoying the view of the massive waterfalls on all sides from below. The lower parts are reached by following the signs towards the island San Martin, which is located in the middle of the river. After taking one of the tour boats over to the island we walked all the way up to two separate and equally magnificent viewpoints that offered a clear view of both the valley below and the raging waterfalls all along the ridge. We ended up deciding that it was worth the money to pay for one of the boats that got you all the way up to one of the waterfalls to experience the sound and feel of it up close. It was an extra fee on top of the entrance fee, but how often do you really get to explore one of the great waterfalls in the world up close? I finally got to use the raincoat I brought for my video camera, and although the camera did not break it was basically impossible to keep anything dry as our boat drove so close to the torrent of water coming down that I could see nothing but mist and hear nothing but the thundering of water hitting the valley floor. It was an amazing and awe-inspiring experience that I really recommend!
We were surprised at how organized everything was as the area around the Iguazu Falls had basically been transformed into a mini amusement park with the main focal point being of course the falls. There were small souvenir and snack shops everywhere and signs explaining where you were at all times. The entire Argentinian side was covered in trails that were meticulously marked with signs showing which waterfalls where in which direction. So if you are expecting a raw natural experience you are a few decades too late.. but in defense of the park it is necessary as the amount of people visiting is huge and there is a need for structure and order to keep both people and the surrounding nature park safe. Another thing about the park is that it is brimming with coatis. We first met the coatis at Corcovado in Costa Rica, where they were a lot more shy due to the lack of human contact. Here it was a completely different story as there were hundreds of signs warning the tourists about not feeding the coati. Plenty of people just left their food on the table leading to packs of coati coming out of the forest to get a bite of food. They were everywhere! Especially around the places where food was sold and as they are really adorable it is understandable why tourists are feeding them and why the park is struggling with keeping them away. I even saw one of the people working at the snack shop tipping a large plastic trash can over only to see four coatis tumbling out of it as it fell! The first day was amazing and covered the entire lower part of the park leaving a smaller part for the following day along with the Devils Throat, which also is the main attraction of the falls.
As it was low season not much was going on in the city of Puerto Iguazu. The city itself is very small and we took a walk from our guesthouse, located close to the bus station, and into the part of the city where most of the restaurants and bars where located. Pretty much everything was closed except for a few places that were almost deserted. As there were plenty of bars and clubs I can imagine it being a place which is a lot more happening in the high season, but as we only came for the Iguazu Falls we did not really mind. There is even a pub to pub round you can take that is the only one in the world to cover 3 countries withing 6 hours. Imagine doing a pub to pub tour covering Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in the same night! We on the other hand settled for a dinner and a cold beer at one of the few places that were still open.
The next day we had learned from the previous day and got up really early to catch the first bus to the national park. This meant that we could also hop on the first train that headed out towards the path the lead you to the Devils Throat. As you can see on the map there quite a distance from the rest of the waterfalls and the Devils Throat, so the only way to get there was to get on the little toy train that was free of charge. As we got off the train I sprinted off wanting to be the first one to the viewing platform so that I could get some pictures of the scene without too many people crowding it. It turned out that most people really took their time and I ended up with almost 15 minutes by myself! As I ran over the many wooden bridges that lead towards the edge of the waterfall I could slowly hear a thundering sound that grew in strength for every meter I got closer. By the time I turned the last corner I could see the great plume of mist that constantly rose above the fall as a result of the 82 meter drop over the edge of the cliff. The Devils Throat was absolutely staggering. It is a view point that is located right on the edge of the waterfall with water flowing from three sides. Looking down into the abyss with the raging waterfall on every side I was dumbfounded by the sheer display of strength. It was a surreal experience to walk around and enjoying the massive waterfall all by myself, and if you ever go there I really recommend getting there early. With such a massive waterfall it is practically impossible to get a good picture that covers what you can see with your own eyes without doing a panorama or renting a helicopter. A panorama was out of the question as I did not have a tripod and a helicopter ride was too expensive. So the pictures on this page are only a weak representation of what I saw that day.
After having a quick lunch and heading back on the train we took our time exploring the upper sides of the waterfalls that we had seen the day before. It was relaxing to be able to walk around while watching the falls without rushing it. I really recommend giving the Argentinian side two days if you have the same amazing weather as we did! On the way back to the buses we got reminded that we really were quite a distance from Buenos Aires as several Tucans landed right next to us in a tree, giving me plenty of time to get some good shots of these colorful and charming birds. The moist air from the waterfalls had turned the surrounding forest into a lush tropical paradise where you could hear exotic birds chirping away. All in all Iguazu Falls did not disappoint and I am glad we managed to squeeze yet another fantastic natural monument into our travel plans. It was now time to have a look at the Brazilian side!