Iguazu Falls, the world's largest series of waterfalls, is ranked as #1 of the 7 wonders of the nature. Spanning 2.7 Kilometers across the border between Brazil and Argentina and reaching up to 80 meters in height, Iguazu Falls definitely live up to their name which means "Big Water" in Guarani. These immense falls are a must-see destination for anyone traveling through South America.
Crossing into Argentina
Most visitors to the falls come from Rio or Buenos Aires, but our trip begins in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Even though it may be quicker to take the bus through Brazil, we decided to try the scenic route, the ferry across the river to Argentina. Embarking from Tres Fronteras, the ferry offers a tranquil ride over the Rio Parana directly to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. We were able to see all three borders (Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina) from the middle of the river.
Logistics: From outside the terminal in Ciudad del Este, you can take a bus through Presidente Franco to Tres Fronteras. Ask the driver to take you to the "balsa"(ferry). At the turn for Tres Fronteras you will see a big green sign that says "Balsa a la Argentina". After walking about a half kilometer down the hill you will find a little customs office where you can get your exit stamps. The balsa costs 10 mil Gs/ $2.5 per person and runs every half hour from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Saturday.
Once off the boat, you can get your entrance stamps at the customs office. Make sure to print out a copy of your Argentina visa ($160 for U.S. travelers, technically a reciprocity fee). Remember walking down the hill in Tres Fronteras? Now it's time to hike back up to Puerto Iguazu. After eating pizza in the centro, we walked down the cobblestone streets to the beautiful Jasy Hotel. Despite being only 8 blocks from the center of town, the hotel has a surprising jungle atmosphere. We felt as if we were staying in tropical rain forest resort! And we definitely loved the welcome drinks, caipirinhas!
Parque Nacional Iguazu
To get to the falls from town, you can either take a bus or a taxi. Since they cost the exact same price when divided among four people, we chose the much more comfortable taxi. There is a park entry fee of AR$115, but once inside the park, all the trails, the train, and passage to the island are free. There are several "adventure" packages you can buy including a ride through the jungle, getting splashed by the falls in a boat, and a rafting safari.
The park is huge and has many different trails that each offer spectacular views of the falls. Because of the size of the park, we never felt like it was crowded. We started out by hiking the "Paseo Superior" which takes you up above the falls. From the viewpoint at the top of the trail, the falls seem to continue on forever. Next we took the "Circuito Inferior" a loop trail that weaves through the jungle and takes you to the boat landing at the base of the falls. The forest around the trail is filled with colorful birds and other wildlife. We even got to see a pack of coatis cross our path! From there, we took the exhilarating boat ride into the falls. The shear power of the water is terrifying! Clothes now completely soaked, we crossed over to the Island San Martin to dry off on the beach. The the hike up the island trail gives you an incredible close-up view of the falls. It's hard to describe the views of the falls without sounding like I'm exaggerating, but every time we reached a new look-out point we would say, "Now this really is the most beautiful view!" In reality, they are all spectacular!
We took the boat back to shore and rode the train to the "Paseo Garganta del Diablo". Make sure you hike this trail! You get to stand directly over the part of the falls called "the devil's throat". The water crashes below you in an 80 meter drop, so far that you can only see mist flying back at you. It is awesome! Wow I forgot to mention the rainbows... you will see dozens of rainbows in the mist of the falls, the largest of these can be seen from quite a distance hanging ominously over devil's throat. In the case a river exploration, if you see a rainbow over the water... look out! A huge waterfall could lie downstream.
We ended our day with the ecological raft ride. We really enjoyed the contrast between the torrential rush of the devil's throat and the slow pooling waters above the falls. As we drifted languidly through little islands of trees, we caught glimpses or parrots and toucans flying overhead. We even saw the infamous "jacare" quietly resting in a bed of reeds. As the sun began to set, we reflected on the beauty, power, and majesty of the falls.
The next day we went to an animal refuge called, Guira Oga, which means "bird house" in Guarani. There you can hike through the reserve to see all kinds of cool jungle animals: monkeys, toucans, anteaters, eagles, otters, and more. Ben loved getting to see the toucans up close and Jared actually got to touch a monkey! That afternoon we took the direct bus to Ciudad del Este and began Part 3 of our journey.