When I was a kid I used to imagine myself in those places from the movies and books. Watching Indiana Jones movie, I could imagine myself running in the jungle, jumping over the stones in a river, getting splashed by huge waterfalls and seeing lots of jungle animals. Yes! It came true! We visited one of the new 7 wanders of nature which is the biggest waterfall system in the world, Iguazu Falls. It’s really impossible to express my emotions, my feelings and my joy in words. When I saw Niagara Falls I thought it was the most beautiful waterfall I could ever see. Then I saw Iguazu Falls and I’m still struggling to decide which one is the best.
I have read about E.Roosvelt saying “poor Niagara” while visiting Iguazu Falls and know that most of the people think Iguazu is much more beautiful than Niagara. But here’s what I think. Niagara has urban beauty with green color water and very neat nature and town around it. It’s like a fashionable city girl. Iguazu is more wild and shows the real power of nature surrounded with jungle and wild animals. I would call it a girl from a local tribe with all natural beauty and nudity. They are absolutely different and I wouldn’t compare them.
If you need some facts and details of Iguazu Falls like the location, water volume you should check out Wikipedia. Now, let me tell you shortly about our trip to Iguazu Falls which would be helpful for you while planning your trip. During our trip to Iguazu we experienced the real spirit of Argentina, which is absolutely different from fancy Buenos Aires. Let me tell you why.
Iguazu Falls are on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Most of it is in territory of Argentina and the city is called Puerto Iguazu. We were in Argentine side only, but if you have visa or can visit Brazil without visa then save one full day for seeing the falls from Brazilian side.
We took the 2 hours long flight from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. We had booked a driver to meet us in the airport and drop off at hotel. This driver became our guide for the whole 3 days. I would suggest you to arrange a guide or driver before heading there, as there’s a limited public transportation in town. The town itself is very small, a typical South American city and don’t expect to have any luxury buildings or restaurants here. Don’t expect the hotels and restaurants to be very clean either. As I said, it’s atypical South American town 😉
We stayed in 5 star Exe Hotel Cataratas and I still can’t understand how this hotel could have 5 stars. It was an old hotel slightly renovated. Though some parts of hotel looked great, the room was terrible. The carpet on the floor was so old and dusty that we hardly could breath. You know, Iguazu Falls have tropical humid air and having dump, dusty carpet in the room made the air even worse! We tried to spend less time in the room using outdoor pool and basketball rings :). They have huge pool and the water was pretty clean, though the pool itself seemed to be pretty old. Luckily, the food in the hotel restaurant and buffet was good. And one more advantage of this hotel was its location. It was close to the Iguazu National Park and to city center as well.
Our first day was dedicated to visiting the falls. Once our driver dropped us off at the park we purchased tickets for admission. Attention! If you have Argentine DNI (ID card) the admission will be twice cheaper than tourists have to pay. If you are from Guarani tribe, then the admission is absolutely free. I will tell you later on about Guaranis.
Spare one full day for walking in this park. The infrastructure of the park is great! Much better than I was expecting. There are different trails for watching the waterfalls from different angles and sides. There’s also a free train ride to take you from the start point to your destination. Of course you can walk instead of riding in a train, but we took the train to save our energy for walking on the trails as our toddler would go crazy walking so long. By the way, feel free to take stroller for your kids. We hesitated to take stroller thinking it would be hard for us to ride it in the jungle. But I was very surprised to find nice walking trails.
Once we got off the train in our first stop we started with the trail that took us to the Devil’s Eye part of the Falls. It took around 1 km of walking one way and this part of the trail is put over the river. It’s like you walk on a very long bridge of the water. Don’t worry about the length of the trails, it’s so beautiful around that you don’t want that road to end. There are thousands of butterflies, birds and you can see some crocodile and cat fish. I even spotted one turtle:). The national park is also popular with coatis.
Coatis are some type of raccoon and they are all gathered around the train station. There are some food spots here where you can grab some food like empanadas, sandwiches and burgers. While people eat coatis come closer to get some bite of delicious food. They are got used to people as they are always fed by tourists. However, we were warned not to feed them as they can scratch you if they don’t get enough food and get mad. You better stay away from them :).
So, we got to the Devil’s Eye or Throat balcony which is the most powerful and noisy part of the falls. This is the most impressive part, that’s why make sure that you definitely will see it. Though we took our raincoats to avoid getting wet, we never used them. The weather was so hot that we preferred the water sprinkles to make us feel chillier. After seeing the Devil’s Eye, we went back to the train station, took the ride to the initial train stop and started walking on the Upper Circuit trail for around 2 km.
It’s definitely a must see place, when we were walking on the trails the view was so fascinating that I took million photos. There’s almost always rainbows and my daughter was the happiest one to see a rainbow over the water. She is still talking about her waterfalls experience :).
After observing the waterfalls from the upper circuit, we went back to the start point and started the lower circuit. This part is longer and much more jungle walk than the others and it gives different opening view to the waterfalls. You can feel yourself very small in comparison with waterfalls while watching them from below. Unfortunately, we were not lucky to see monkeys and toucans. But you shouldn’t lose your hope. If you visit the Brazilian side of the waterfalls, there’s a birds’ park where you can definitely see toucans and many more tropical birds.
After walking on the trails, you can take boat tour to get much closer to the falls. We didn’t take the boat tour as it’s not allowed to have toddlers onboard. Next time if we happen to be here again we will definitely take the boat tour :).
We spent our second day visiting Wanda Mines, Guarani Village and Tres Fronteras.
Wanda Mines are located around 40 km away from Puerto Iguazu in Province of Misiones. I was very impressed with natural beauty while driving all the way down to Wanda Miles. It’s very green and the road is perfect for a long drive. We passed through a village which doesn’t have electricity. They do their laundry in lake and cook on the wood fire. They have a school, but don’t have any electricity in the school. Life is in elementary level here…
These mines are one of the biggest sources of gemstones like amethyst, agate, topaz, quartz and jasper. Apparently, the base on which the Province of Misiones lies was formed during Cenozoic Era, about a hundred and fifty million years ago, and it went through several instances of lava coming from the core of the earth. When the lava got cold, the gas bubbles were trapped and gave shape to the basalt, which is the mother rock that gives origin to the local gemstones. Can you imagine how much time is needed for generation of these beautiful stones? I was really blown away seeing sparkling stones on the walls, ceilings and floors of these caves. Definitely must be visited place if you are in Puerto Iguazu.
After the mines, we went to a small village where aboriginal Guarani tribe lives. As our guide explained they didn’t like how tourists came and took their photos. That’s why I didn’t take any photos of them respecting their attitudes. If your guide also speaks some guarani language you will be fine going there, if not people might not like your visit J.
Actually, this village is a small part of aboriginal Guarani nation living in Paraguay. Majority of Paraguay population have origins of Guarani Indian group and speak this language. Even more people in Paraguay speak Guarani language than Spanish.
Another place that you have to visit is Tres Fronteras or Three Borders square. This is the place where borders of all 3 countries are joined; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. While standing at the bank of Parana River you can see all three countries together. There’s nothing much to do here except taking photos of three countries together. But if you are lucky you can catch up some laser show at night. We happened to be there on time and watched amazing laser dance show. It was around 9-10 pm 🙂
We spent our third day exploring the town and Duty Free on the border with Brazil. You know what, duty free was much more beyond my expectations. The internal design is amazing with highlights of London and Paris. Unfortunately, the security officer didn’t let me take a photo and I really don’t understand why. It was so beautiful that I started taking video and an officer came up to me asking not to shoot :(. Anyways, but I was very happy to visit that place as I found some global brands which I haven’t seen in Buenos Aires. Yeey, you can imagine how happy I was. And the prices were much lower than in Buenos Aires. So, you should go for it if you are a crazy shopaholic like me.
The town itself is tiny and we just strolled around the central part buying some souvenirs. By the way, the souvenir shops at Tres Fronteras were cheaper than the others. You can check them outJ. There’s a San Martin square in the center and the buildings are mostly 2-3 stories. It’s very generic for South American town.
And my final tip is for food. If you want to try really good food which is of course asado (barbecue or grilled meat and sausage) and have pretty clean and hygienic place check out El Quicnho del Tio Querido restaurant. As our guide said, they are the best:)
I hope this would be helpful for you. I would be happy to answer any questions and help you with more details. Feel free to get in touch 🙂