After hearing fellow travellers rave about Iguazu Falls we decided that this was a must do this trip to South America.
From Buenos Aries it’s a long bus ride or a short easy flight into the tiny airport. Here we lucked out and met Leonardo who became our driver into Puerto Iguazu. Taxi and Remise drivers all charge a flat fee of 700 Pesos which is rather pricey, but hey it’s a tourist town.
Leonardo’s English was way better than our Spanish. Once he found out our plan was to stay two nights in town (which would allow us to pop over to the Brazilian side) and then two nights at the Gran Meleia hotel which is right in the park, he offered us his services as driver for our trip to Brazil.
From the Brazilian Side
For a flat fee of 2000 pesos (approx. US $34) he picked us up in the morning on schedule and we were on our way. As we drove across the bridge that separates the two countries he pointed out the Triumvirate where Argentina, Brazil & Paraguay meet. At both sides of the border, he assisted with us clearing immigration before driving on to the park.
Here he explained how to get tickets; (approx. US $17 each) you have two options, line up to wait for the ticket booths to open and buy there, or line up to use the automatic ticket dispensers. We split forces with me in the booth line and the guys in the dispenser line…. In this case the dispenser was quicker.
Although he didn’t come in with us he explained how the park is set up and how the bus system works. Buses run every few minutes from the entrance to the end of the line with 2 stops along the way. The first is where you get off to catch a boat to get up close and personal to the falls. The second is the entrance to a trail which takes you past multiple viewpoints of the falls, each one more impressive than the last.
Views of a Lifetime
The trail eventually leads you to the long and packed boardwalk that stretches out over the river towards the viewing platform built next to one of the biggest falls here. As you get closer to the falls the roar of tumbling water fills your head and the spray kicked up by the torrent, slicks the deck beneath your feet while coating you with tiny cool droplets.
Due to the popularity of this place you may have to wait a while before you can get to the very edge and see right down into the aptly named Devils Throat. Words cannot cover the immensity of it so please do have a look for yourself:
After soaking it in we headed back along the path onto the next bus and to the final stop. This is at a lower elevation. Rather than being at the upper level before the falls come crashing down, here you are at the base of the falls. The trail leads to a number of viewing platforms at different levels all of which are very different.
At one point we spotted a few stairs leading up ahead of us. Craving a little respite we headed up there rather than following the flow and found a little viewing platform all to ourselves. It was here that we realized that the flocks of swallows that swoop and feed over the falls were nesting in the cliffs behind those same falls. They appeared to fly directly though the streams to their nests on the cliff face behind.
This final stop is also a big complex with shops, restaurants etc. To check out the top platform you do not have to use the elevator just follow the exit signs and you will get there anyway.
Onto the bus once more and we head back to the entrance. The whole set up is a well-oiled machine, designed to move the 10,000 to 15,000 visitors that come here every day. Despite the numbers we were completely entranced and so very glad that we came.
Next up was one of our splurges for this trip.
Iguazu from the Air
One of the reasons we skipped the boat trip was because we wanted an aerial view and the only way to do that is to take a helicopter trip on the Brazilian side.
The Helisul field is just a couple of minutes away from the park entrance and Leo gladly drove us over and introduced us. For approx. US $114 per person you get a tour of the falls. Actual time in the air is probably only around 10 minutes but is worth every penny. Well it was for us anyway, as neither of us had been in a chopper before.
Each trip takes 7 passengers, 3 up front with the pilot and 4 in the back. Best views are of course from up front, then the two rear window seats. Sadly where you get seated is not dependent on who gets their first it’s all about your size and the size of your fellow passengers. Because the chopper has to be balanced, the smaller petite folks usually get the front seats and the taller ones the back. I had a rear window seat and Mike next to me, so not the best seats but worth it.
After being securely strapped in, the engine revs and we raise a little, then the nose dips and we are off. In just a few moments we are over the falls where the pilot does a figure eight so we all get views of the falls and a particularly stunning look at the Devils Throat!
It was a perfect day, wrapped up with a great dinner at Agva just across the road from our hotel.
Iguazu from the Argentinian side
After two nights in Puerto Iguazu we had decided to splurge once again and book two nights at the Gran Melia which is right inside the park. This meant we never had to use the buses that run from Puerto Iguazu to the park every day.
Leo collected us and drove us over; we had to stop at the entrance to pay the onetime (800 pesos about US $13.50) fee that allows multiple trips into the park.
Iguazu in Style
Our hotel did not disappoint. As soon as we walked into the main foyer we could see the Brazilian side of the falls cascading down into the depths below. The whole hotel is built to take advantage of this view, from falls view rooms, to the infinity pool and the roof top bar. Service was impeccable and after saying adios to Leo we were served an ice cold welcome drink and shown up to our room.
Our afternoon was already planned. Leo had suggested that the best time of day to see the Devils Throat from this side was around 3 or 4 pm as the light is better for photos and there is more chance of seeing multiple rainbows.
There are three trails on this side. The first the ‘Lower Trail’ was just a short stroll from our hotel, the second ‘Upper Trail’ is just a little further and the third the ‘Devils Throat’ is a short train ride away.
To Hell and Back
The somewhat rickety train has open air carriages with wooden benches and putters slowly back and forth along the track from the entrance to the Upper Trail, onto the Devils throat and back with the last train out at 4pm and last one back at 5pm.
The trail soon becomes a raised metal walkway (mostly over water) which leads you all the way out to a long platform along the edge of Devils Throat. It is huge and it is no wonder that it can be clearly seen from the Brazilian side.
What a way to get close and personal and to actually feel the power of the water. The roar drowns out the babble of the crowd who don’t seem to feel the same kind of awe as we do. Millions of gallons of water are sweeping past us just a few feet away before plummeting down that long hungry throat.
The crowds are every bit as dense here and equally concerned with their selfie sticks and getting their glamour shots. Many of them are part of large tagged tour groups and are being rushed along to stay on schedule. We have time on our side, so can linger longer and wait for the crowds to disperse.
The crowds do thin but just as its getting manageable, we are herded off the platform by one of the park attendants as the last train is going to be leaving soon. We head off planning our strategy for tomorrow.
Back at the hotel, the infinity pool was summoning us, as was the rooftop bar, so we succumbed. Both were stunning.
We Sneaked in Early Shh!
The next morning we took advantage of the early breakfast buffet, which included whole honeycombs, juicing machine, eggs cooked to order and a couple of bottles of bubbly to help yourself from.
We hit the trail to the park well before the official 8 am opening time and were on the Upper Trail by 7.30.
We had the trail to ourselves apart from the birds, butterflies and the coatis (which look very much like racoons) who beg and steal food. They also bite, which is why there are do not feed signs all over the place.
It was a sublime experience to be here without the hordes. Each twist and turn of the pathway opened up vistas of yet another waterfall (Iguazu consists of over 200 separate falls) each one more spectacular than the last. We lingered at each spot to enjoy the tranquility; the thundering water and the billowing spray (while trying to keep the camera dry).
Eventually the tour groups started arriving. As we had almost finished the trails we finished up and made our way back to the central food court to regroup. Here we were entertained by a coati who was convinced that we must have food in our bags (see video). With none to be found, he gave up and wandered off in disgust.
Plan for that afternoon was to explore a nature trail just up the road from our hotel. Crazily we thought we would have the place to ourselves as we had only found out about it from Leo. There was so much foot traffic we gave up after an hour or so and headed back for a shower and lunch at the poolside bar.
All Alone with Nature
Before we knew it our last day had rolled around and we decided to once more break the rules and revisit the Lower Trail. The exit off the Lower Trail is very close to the hotel so as it was way before 7am we decided to see if we could get in that way. No problem at all and we did not come across any do not enter signs.
As we were even earlier than yesterday we were treated to a frog chorus and a little mist which rapidly burnt off. The trail was utterly deserted once again and we took our time just taking it all in. It was a sublime experience.
These two morning walks were the highlight of our Iguazu trip, or maybe it was the helicopter ride. It’s hard to choose which the highlight was.
Hope we have given you some insight into this amazing place. And we hope you can go and see it for yourself. If you can, try and stay in the park it wasn’t cheap but was worth every penny.
If you ever find yourself in South America near where Paraguay Brazil and Argentina meet, Iguazu falls is a must see. We also highly recommend hiring somebody like our friend Leonardo who can make the whole experience even better.