okay so maybe the seven wonders of the world varies by the writer and opinion, but there’s no denying that Iguazu falls is definitely up there as one of the best natural wonders of the world! I was trying to read more about what caused this natural wonder, but all I could really get is something about a volcano eruption about 200,000 years ago. So I guess you can say they’re 200,000 years young!
Iguazu Falls aka Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls, are waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of Argentina and Brazil. There is 19 major waterfalls, with 5 of them on the Brazil side and the rest in Argentina. My whole experience is limited to Argentina’s side.
I would have loved to have visited the Brazil side because although most of the waterfalls are in Argentina, the panoramic view is supposedly better from the Brazil side since some of the islands like San Martin break it up for us on the Argentina side. There is also a bird Sanctuary in Brazil, but the boat ride (more on this later) is on the Argentine side.
To get to Brazil’s side, U.S. citizens need a Visa. Aside for that fact that said Visa costs 160USD per person, it also takes time to get one, or even if you can expedite (which there are rumors that you may or may not depending on your luck within 48 hours), the consulate is not open on weekends. So with all the hassle required, we decided to keep our tourist spending on the Argentine side only.
To be honest, my pictures just cannot do justice to the natural wonder. Maybe its my crap photo taking skills, or all the drops my phone had on its head, or maybe its just the constant mist in the air. Either way, this will be one experience for the memory that just could not be accurately captured.
The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River
There are literally waterfalls everywhere you go!
Iguazu currently has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. The water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 40 Ha (1.3 million ft²) whilst Victoria in peak flow has a surface area of over 55 ha (1.8 million ft²) and Niagara has a surface area of under 18.3 ha (600,000 ft²). It’s quite crushing!
These falls like others are always receding. About 3mm (.1 in) per year. The powering of rushing water. I did read that the water only a few decades ago was completely clear, but now you will notice a brown sediment residue due to all the logging and destruction of forests that unsettles the ground, causes muggy water and destroys the rest of the ecosystem since the fish/animals cannot find what they need. Yes, millions of years of evolution cannot fight against the impact of humans =/.
Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters (269 ft) in height, though the majority are about 64 metres (210 ft).
It is home to many animals (birds, cats, coati). We saw a few toucans which were cool and more coati (basically raccoons) than I wanted.
Getting around the waterfalls was super easy. There were a series of 3 balcony circuits ranging around a mile give or take. The “circuits” for the most part were in a continuous stream where you enter on one end and exit on the other so although the paths are narrow and there’s many people, for the most part the path is always moving.
One of the main excursions is the boat ride into the falls. There’s a few options, a long option that costs (560 Argentine Pesos 37-56 USD depending on your official versus blue exchange rate) and a short option that costs 350 pesos (23-35usd). Both options end up going on the two sides of the falls around San Martin Island and you get completely soaked. You can’t see much because of all the water and mist, but it’s a fun experience. The longer tour takes a boat road through a bit of the river. We ended up opting for the short ride so we could spend the rest of the time walking around the park versus being a on a pretty packed boat, but I would recommend either of the options.
It is recommended to bring a dry set of clothes (they give you dry bags to protect your belongings on the boat), but me and Tony forgot about it and just air dryed ourselves out. It was about 85 degrees so we weren’t really cold.
After the boat ride and covering most of the park, we were pretty hungry. If you’re smart, you would pack plenty of water and a small lunch as the food is more than a bit overpriced in the park (like all national parks). In the parks there’s a restaurant (I think buffet style) and if you go to the information desk in the entrance they give you a coupon that drops the price from 260 to like 180 pesos or something of that nature, plus 10% of drinks. There’s also a bunch of areas with fast food stands such as Subway sandwiches (they really are more spread than McDonalds these days), individual pizza things and more Alfajores.
Within the National Park is also a Sheraton hotel. If you want to treat yourself it’s about $300 USD plus taxes a night and you get to spend the night in the national park. We were cheap and did not and opted for a $60 USD AirBnb apartment all to ourselves in town. But not being a guest in the hotel doesn’t stop you from enjoying a nice (by nice I mean okay enough) lunch with some wine and a view of the falls on a sunny patio.
I don’t know what the hotel sprays but the coati (raccoons) did not come up to the cafe. They’re pretty aggressive in the park as they’ve become accustomed to tourists feeding them and finding all sorts of treasures in the park trash. What we did see was some cool lizards (iguanas?) and plenty of birds flying over us. And also, besides wine, they have some good lemonade.
After lunch we went to go see the main attraction of the park, Garganta del Diablo. The Devil’s throat, which I learned as I traveled through Argentina is a common name for many natural sights! To get there you can walk a dirt path of about 3-4KM or take a train that travels at the speed of 5KM per hour. We opted the train.
In the morning the lines to the train were super long, but by the time we went there, things calmed down a bit. The train was still full, but not overfilled like the morning.
Garganta del Diablo is a U-shaped, 82-meter-high (269 ft) , 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long (490 by 2,300 feet) cataract, marking the border between Argentina and Brazil. Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory.
Before I came there, I didn’t expect the view from the top of the falls to be that impressive. I prefer peripheral versus immediate views. But the sheer volume of water flowing right in front of you was almost overwhelming.
Despite my hesitation of saving this stop for last, it was definitely one of my favorites in the park.
After leaving the park and we went back to our AirBnb to rest up a bit before dinner. For dinner we went to Aqva in Puerto Iguazu, the town we were staying in. Although no reservations, we were able to get seated within 10 minutes. Tony got the lomo (steak) and I ordered dorando fish dish with some ice cream for dessert. Everything was excellent.
A few final tips and maybe tricks for Iguazu National Park (Argentina)
Please note all prices unless notes are in Argentine Pesos and are probably only applicable to October 2015.
- Exchange money on the blue rate – This is probably only really related to Argentina and the craziness of the currency economy. The official rate is 1USD for 9.3 Argentine pesos, the blue rate that day was 15.8 pesos for 1 USD. I did my exchange rate in Buenos Aires, but I’m sure if you walk around the town Puerto Iguazu, you can find something in between. The restaurant we ate at was doing 1 USD for 14 pesos.
- Bring Water – true for anywhere, but water in the park was 35 pesos for a little bottle. You got through it quickly so bring some with you from a store in town which it should be around 15 pesos (or less).
- Bring Flip flops – If you plan on taking the boat ride, bring a pair of flipflops even you plan on wearing tennis shoes for the rest of the park. You cannot get into the boat with bare feet and your shoes like the rest of you will get soaked. I guess you can put them in the drybag once on the boat.
- Start early – Certain trails like Macuco trail closes early (3pmish). This 7K roundtrip goes through a less explored part of the part so your odds of seeing animals are higher. We did not do this trail in the interest of time and getting too caught up in searching for the boat ride. The train to Devil’s throat closes a little after 4pm even though the park closes at 6PM.
- The train to Devil’s throat is packed 9:30 AM through 1pmish – I heard wait was around 1-2 hours at times. The train runs every 30 minutes and we had no wait around 3:30 in the afternoon.
- There really isn’t much else to do in the area – Once you see the Brazil side and Argentine side, there isn’t much else as the trails outside the national parks are limited. Each country takes a day (I guess you could do both if you are really aggressive). Since we only have Argentina’s side we were finished in one day. There’s some missionary ruins or something, but if you’re short on time, you can probably skip (but cannot really comment from experience).
- Transportation to the Falls – There’s a bus that goes from Puerto Iguazu to the falls and I think its 100 pesos round or maybe one way, or maybe it’s less. Either way the price varies depending on inflation so this was what it was October 2015. We couldn’t figure out the bus in the morning and with limited Spanish took a taxi to get to the park. I think we also missed the bus so the next one was 30 minutes away. Our cab from the town to the park was 130 pesos (about 9USD). We tried to get a cab back from the falls to the town, but this time the cabs were charging 260 pesos so we took the bus back to town for 100 pesos (50 per person).
- Validate your ticket – Not sure if you’re coming through to the park a second day? Validate the ticket at the cashbox at the end of the day anyways. Don’t cost nothing and if you return you pay 50% off. Yes, the park charges you on a per day entrance fee (260 pesos for U.S. residents in oct 2015).
- It’s pricey but total worth it for the one day I did – We spent 350 USD on flights per person round trip (about 30USD per person to change our Sunday flight from evening to morning). About 20USD each way for taxi from airport to town, from town to airport. Food for a nice meal was pretty inexpensive with drinks. We spent about 40USD for total for a dinner with steak, fish and cocktails.
Have you ever been? Got any other great inside tips and tricks?