Just one day after our arrival to Argentina, we escaped the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires and headed for the jungle. Iguazu Falls is a dramatic collection of waterfalls on Rio Iguazu, which forms the border between Argentina and Brazil. These falls feature between 150 and 270 individual falls – depending on the water level – and are up to 470 feet high! Both sides of the falls are located in National Parks, and everything we read indicated we should see the falls from both side. We opted to spend 2 nights on the Argentinian side and 1 night on the Brazilian side – both with accommodations within the National Park so that we could have access to the falls without the crowds and at off-peak times.
Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
We stayed at the Sheraton Iguazu Resort in Argentina, which did not live up to its price tag and looked similar to a Cold war era bunker. Unfortunately, even with paying a hefty price, you aren’t allowed to enter the park before 8a or after 6p. We’ll let you read between the lines as to how we photographed sunrise at the falls.
In Puerto Iguazu, we were welcomed by sweltering heat and highly inflated rates for lodging, food, transportation, you name it! Neither of these factors took away from the beautiful majesty of the falls, and we quickly settled into sightseeing in full force. We spent our time walking the numerous paths and bridges that take you both over and right up next to the humongous falls. Our favorite sight was la Garganta del Diablo, a point at which the entire river gets swallowed into a huge black hole of waterfall. Additionally, we got to witness construction workers building a new observation deck over the falls. Getting to this observation deck, unfortunately, came with the joy of waiting an hour in sweltering heat for a train to bring us to the beginning of the walkways. Given Chris’ disdain for both heat and crowds, it’s amazing that he survived this feat!
Although you could probably swim across the river to Brazil, they require an official visa for entrance. As we didn’t plan far enough in advance to do this in the States, we had the pleasure of visiting the Brazil consulate in Puerto Iguazu. The application was quite elaborate, requiring bank statements, proof of exit, current employer… as well as $160 USD (which quickly became $200 based on their incorrect exchange rate). Included for free was the game of charades we played in attempting to communicate in spanish-guese. The worst of all, however, was breaking the golden rule of international travel: “Do not let your passport out of your possession”. Thankfully, after 24 hours of mild anxiety, our passport was returned, complete with a new visa, and off to Brazil we went! For more details about the visa process check out here.
Foz do Iguassu, Brasil
We were immediately impressed by the Brazilian national park for its panoramic views of the falls, and all of the efforts spent getting across the border were quickly forgotten. This side of the park is much smaller and we were able to see all sights within a few hours. We stayed at the Hotel Das Cataratas, a beautiful and historic hotel within the park. This time, the money spent was well worth it, as we had amazing service and delicious meals – on par with the Broadmoor!
The following day, Chris returned to the observation deck overlooking la Garganta del Diablo and captivated an amazing scene of a rainbow arcing over the waterfalls at sunrise (I foolishly slept in). After a delicious breakfast featuring tapioca (delicious crepe-like creations) and Brazilian passion fruits (horribly bitter) we headed out on the Macuco Safari Tour. This experience included raucous local Brazilians, a (rather boring) jungle ride, followed by a boat ride that provided an amazing view below the falls and a prolonged soak in the falls. We managed a quick shower at the hotel then headed off to the airport for our next destination… Mendoza!
This was truly an incredible start to our trip! We keep saying that we will be extremely lucky if everything else goes so smoothly, but we aren’t holding our breath!
Flights: LAN airlines (AEP – IGR)
Accommodations: Sheraton Iguazu Resort and Spa (Argentina); Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas (Brazil)
Food: within resorts