I have to admit it; I am a sucker for waterfalls. I will hike through jungles and climb mountains to find them. Okay that may be a little bit of an exaggeration; nonetheless I will travel far and wide to gaze upon these wonders of nature and marvel at the force and ferocity of the water.
This time I was aiming to get to the big daddy of them all, less flow overall than Niagara but absolutely first class in presentation; getting there on the other hand was a little more complicated.
Located in the far reaches of a finger of northeast Argentinian territory poking into the border of Brazil and Paraguay, Iguazu falls draws visitors from all over the world be it by bus plane or car. As I was in Buenos Aires, the most typical starting point for a trip to the falls, I had several options; I could board a bus for the twenty-four hour trip, undoubtedly the cheapest way, or I could opt for a short flight to the airport on the Argentine side of the falls.
Flights are expensive for foreigners in Argentina however a little pre planning enabled me to get a fair price in return for not losing all feeling in my ass for a day! Having said that, for a price most buses provide a flat bed that can make the journey more bearable and would be an excellent second choice.
There are three options on where to stay in the area of the falls. Probably the least desirable is in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, which has a poor reputation although I cannot attest to that. Next in line would be the city of Foz Do Iguaçu in Brazil, a reasonable option if arriving late from Rio or Florianopolis or heading to them.
My choice was the cheaper and more laid back small town of Puerto Iguazu on the Argentine side.
Arriving by plane I found that the easiest way into town was to take the local shuttle, you can find the desk just outside the baggage area and that will take you to any hotel in town at a much better price than a taxi. However if you were more than two travelling together though, a taxi would probably work out at the same price.
All the buses arrive at the main terminal in the town; an easy walk to all the central hotels and hostels but a taxi would be required to some outlying properties.
As usual most of the hostels were listed on the web booking sites and with a bit of care pretty easy to avoid the less desirable ones. There is a big HI hostel just outside of town with great amenities including a large pool but it is a bit of a hike to the bars and restaurants. If you are only interested in visiting the falls and not the town then this is a good option. I chose to stay in the town itself and picked the Timbo Hostel & Posada; safe, cheap and well located for the bus station.
The town itself is pretty small but does have a reasonable selection of steak houses, supermarkets and a few bars to choose from, making it a very pleasant place to hang out after walking the falls all day.
Buses to the Argentine side of the falls leave frequently and drop you right at the main entrance. Buy a round trip ticket at the bus station kiosk and if you are on a budget remember to take some food and drink with you, as the offerings inside the park are pricier.
Tickets are valid for one day only although you can get a stamp for a half price return visit the next day, bring some ID.
My advice is to get there as early as possible and take the little train to the last station and start your tour there, this way you should avoid the tour bus crowd and have more chance of a peaceful start to the day…don’t bank on it though as they are relentless.
There are well-marked trails throughout the park with two obvious circuits, the upper and lower. The main draw is the Garganta del Diablo, an absolutely jaw dropping spectacular that will leave you lost for words…. so no more about that then! No really, it is something to be amazed by, get there early and linger as the tour groups’ ebb and flow leaving you some precious breathing space to admire nature’s handiwork.
Another spectacular is to take a boat to the foot of the falls, get drenched, seasick and amazed… all at the same time, not cheap though.
I could go on for pages about the scenery and wildlife but there are far better resources for that information, see the links below.
So if the Argentinian side of the falls is all about getting down and dirty, the Brazil side is all about the views… and well-manicured lawns. Most visitors coming from Buenos Aires choose to ignore the Brazilian side, as being too complicated or expensive, with a little planning it is not. One caveat here is to check your visa and passport limitations carefully.
By far the easiest way from Puerto Iguazu is with Crucero del Norte. They leave from the bus station at 10:20am, I think this is the best time, and return at 14:50 and 17:00 these are Argentinian times so do not change your watch! Check with the bus station in case these times have changed.
You will need to pass Argentinian immigration yourself both ways, very easy and fast. The driver will take all your passports to the Brazil immigration, you will stay on the bus; again very quick. Once back on board, the bus will take you directly to the park on the Brazil side where you can pay with a debit or credit card, there are also ATM’s.
After a day of hiking the Argentinian side, Foz do Iguaçu was a very pleasant stroll, with fantastic photo opportunities and a footbridge taking you right to the foot of the falls, rain capes are sold there if you do not have your own. Be careful with your cameras as the mist and damp can damage them.
Once back in Puerto Iguazu it was time to head out with a few other hostellers and get stuck into the steaks and a few bottles of Malbec, swapping stories of the falls and likely itineraries for the rest of Argentina.
www.iguazuargentina.com the Argentina official website
www.cataratasdoiguacu.com.br the Brazil official website