Iguazu Falls sits on the border of the Argentina province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Parana and is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the world. In fact, CNN says that Iguazu Falls is “unlike any waterfall on the earth” and should be a must-see on everyone’s bucket list. Charlotte Howell shares her experience below of her time visiting Argentina’s Iguazu Falls.
The spectacularly huge, powerful and impressive Iguazu Falls lie where between three countries in South America: Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. But, unlike the famous Niagara Falls in North America and Canada, these 275 waterfalls are often forgotten about.
This year, I have visited both the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and Iguazu Falls, and there is no comparison. On a first glance, Horseshoe Falls in Niagara was frightening. It was huge, and never stopped gushing. But on arriving at Iguazu Falls’ national park on the Argentinian side, where 80% of the Iguazu Falls lie, I was blown away.
Iguazu Falls is a mind-boggling 82-m-high at its highest point (Niagara is just over 50 m), but what is most astonishing is the sheer amount of water that continually flows over the falls. When we visited the water was overflowing, as it is the rainy season, and we saw almost 5,000 cubic metres of water flow over the edge per second! We later found out this is nothing, the water has been as high as 46,300 cubic metres per second in 2014, when the park flooded and had to close.
Access to the falls is pretty straight forward. Most people either stay on the Brazilian side in Foz do Iguazu, or on the Argentinian side. We stayed in Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, a tiny town of just 6,000 people (much smaller than Foz do Iguazu) with little to do and see except the falls, which is navigable via bus. The town does have bars, restaurants, supermarkets and hostels and is super close to the national park.
We had booked an organized tour in advance through Green Toad Tours, which cost about $20 with transport to the park. However, if you are on a really tight budget it is possible to take a local bus to the falls and pay the entrance fee when you arrive. A tour can sometimes work out cheaper though, and it the park may be full if you don’t book ahead, especially in the high season.
Most of the tours, like ours, also take you to the point where the three borders meet (the three frontiers) before or after the visit. There is a fountain to celebrate the spot and a nice view of the three countries, although they all look very similar from here. There are also a couple of tourist shops here, but you aren’t forced to buy anything.
The protected national park and World Heritage Site thankfully didn’t have as much “tourism” as we expected, and you are pretty much left to enjoy the sight, making it feel like an authentic walk through the jungle. Tours tend to stick together for the whole day, and you do need a whole day on the Argentinian side, but you can wander off on your own if you want and meet your bus at the end.
On the Argentinian side you can take a small train first to reach the most impressive U-shaped waterfall “Devil’s Throat”, aka Gargantua del Diablo in Spanish. The highest waterfall, the Devil’s Throat is the most impressive introduction to the falls. You enter a perilous bridge walkway that scales the river (and is about a 15 minute walk after the bus) and gets very, very wet.
Half of the river’s water flows to and cascades over Devil’s Throat, and you can really feel it. The thick, brown water (which is only brown when it has been raining a lot, our guide told us) gushes over the edge and gives off a powerful spray, like having an outdoor shower. You are stood over the ridge, where the water is moving so rapidly and wildly. You feel like you could be swept in at any moment. Despite feeling like this, the pathways are extremely safe and miraculously interactive, it is the best way to view the falls and takes your breath away.
The park also has a number of other trails that allow you to access the falls on foot. When the river is safe you can also take a boat underneath the major falls, but on the day we visited the boat was unavailable due to the height of the river. However, we didn’t feel like we missed out. Even without the boat, the trails give you an incredible and, in our experience, unprecedented perspective of the falls. From standing above the cascading water ridges to looking up at the waterfall and its beautiful spray, there’s nothing else like it.
On the second trail, which takes you above a set of waterfalls along a long ridge we could see rainbows forming in the bottom of the waterfalls, where the sun and the water meet. The water, the jungle and the rainbow made for a pretty special sight, one we will never forget.
The smaller waterfalls, such as Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters), may not be as astonishing as Devil’s Throat, but they offer beauty and grace, and look more like a traditional waterfalls. In fact, they are so pretty that you feel like you want to jump in under them (but please don’t).
The park has around four restaurants and canteens, where you stop for lunch. The food is a little overpriced, as you would expect, but you can bring your own. Just be aware that the raccoons and monkeys like to get in on the action, and will hang around your table (if it’s outside) for a treat. There are a number of signs telling tourists not to feed them, as they can bite. So it’s probably best to leave them alone. We did.
The final trail gives you some of the best views of the whole park and just how big the falls really are. You really get a sense for how great and powerful the water is, and of course can get more photos of the spectacular views.
However you get there, make sure you get there. Iguazu Falls are well worth the trip. Just make sure you take a waterproof camera. Check out our photos below!