Despite all my travels, I’ve never truly made up a ‘bucket list’ though after being to Iguazu, I must say this should be on everyone’s and very near the top! No trip to Argentina would be complete without a visit to the mighty Iguazu Falls and this natural wonder is going to knock your socks off! You might have seen some other great waterfalls before but none of them can prepare you for the shock of seeing this monster which literally makes Niagara look like a puddle…
Straddling the border of Argentina and Brazil, many have argued about which side was best to see the falls and my advice would be to see them both, really, and you’ll see why in this post. I started on the Argentine side (an easy 90 minutes flight from Buenos Aires) and my first view, although quite a distance away, left me stunned. It was from the lobby of the Sheraton Iguazu, the only hotel located inside the national park on the Argentine side.
The swimming pool, restaurant and bar all offer that spectacular view which make staying here a no brainer.
Even my room had it, and I could hear the thundering sound from my balcony.
Another perk of staying at the Sheraton is being able to wander out to the falls in the morning when the park opens before the hordes of tourists arrive, letting you enjoy the spectacle in relative peace.
Iguazu Falls are made up of an average of 275 waterfalls (the exact number depending on the season) and the Argentine side is the best to see them up-close, from the small…
…to the gigantic.
With a walking route along a series of scenic boardwalks, you’ll get close to the action and to the 1,500 cubic meters of water flowing every second on average.
The upper walkway was my favorite as it allows to see the power of the falls from above on one side, and the calm Iguazu river on the other, just before it throws itself overboard.
The falls are the main attraction of Iguazu, but what makes it stand above its rivals such as Victoria and Niagara Falls is the lush jungle experience of the national park surrounding it, teeming with wildlife you’ve likely never seen before.
If you look up, you might even see colorful Toucans flying right above you – a wonderful sight that filled me with glee each time.
The main occupants of the park though are without a doubt the coatis which are literally everywhere, roaming the boardwalks, emptying the trash cans, and overtaking all the outdoor restaurants in search of food scraps, oblivious to human presence. They might seem cute at first but beware and stay away, they can turn into quite vicious creatures and there are signs everywhere in the park warning you against them.
Butterflies of all shapes and colors are also in abundance and you could easily spend hours staring at them and trying to count all the species you’ve encountered. I’m only showing a small sample of my favorite ones here…
When you’ve done your jungle tour and admired quite a few falls from up close, you’re ready for the big action which here bears the fitting name of Garganta del Diablo aka the Devil’s Throat.
A cute toy train will bring you to the last walkway of the park which reaches the very edge of the tallest of all the falls.
The sound is deafening as you get closer and there’s no way you’re getting out of there dry. The sheer power of the Devil’s Throat is overwhelming and I was there during the beginning of the ‘dry season’ where water levels are low…
Raging sheets of water drop more than 80 meters into a milky abyss that creates a permanent cloud of mist with sprays so intense you have to continuously wipe your eyes to continue enjoying this thunderous spectacle. The Devil’s Throat is shaped like a horseshoe and contains 14 waterfalls resulting in what I can only describe as one mighty powerful testament of nature.
If you feel ready now to see the monster from even closer, then a boat ride is in order…
With water cascades as far as the eye can see, the view from below is an emotional experience as the boat covers some of the 2.7 kilometers wide area.
You keep getting closer and closer…
…until it literally takes you right under the falls for the shower of your lifetime. A thrill as scary as it is fun, trust me.
After an adventure-filled day and getting soaked on the Argentine side, the next morning is the perfect time to cross to the Brazilian side of the falls for a more sedate but equally rewarding view. While you may need a visa to do so, the panorama waiting for you on the other side will be worth the hassle.
After only about 30 minutes drive you’ve entered Brazil and made your way towards the National Park entrance, but not before stopping at the helipad.
Helisul operates a number of daily flights over the falls where for a gripping 10 minutes you’ll uncover the mystery of the falls as well as a pretty majestic view.
A unique perspective to be staring right at the dividing line between Argentina and Brazil, and to be able to appreciate the vastness of the rainforest on both sides…
You can clearly see the walkways that brought you close to the falls the day before.
The Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel in the Brazilian Iguaçu National Park just like the Sheraton on the Argentina side.
After a few minutes in the air, you’ll soon run out of superlatives to describe what you’re seeing. One thing’s for sure, everyone who ever said this was one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders were damn right!
Back on the ground, the entrance to the Brazilian park is right next door.
There’s only one walkway on the Brazil side and while you don’t get as close to the falls as in Argentina, the Brazilian side offers incredible panoramic views that help deepen your appreciation for their grandeur.
Wildlife is equally stunning over here, with butterflies and birds aplenty.
Black Andean condors fly over the falls.
The walkway ends at an elevated belvedere for one last look at the stunning beauty before heading back to Argentina.
The town of Puerto Iguazu has a few good restaurants, including La Rueda, where you can taste the local fish from the river.
Surubi, a local white fish, is served smoked as an appetizer, and grilled with a mango salsa as a main dish.
Desserts include as usual some ice cream and plenty of dulce de leche!
A packed two days in Iguazu is enough to see everything tough you’ll find it very hard to leave, wanting a few more days to process the shock of seeing this natural wonder up close, wondering when you’ll be that amazed again…