Time really does fly when you’re having fun! This blog post is a bit overdue and I’ve now got loads of things to write about, so I thought I’d do a three-part post about my various adventures!
Part 1: Iguaçu.
Where to start!
The Iguaçu Falls were originally ‘discovered’ in 1541 by a Spaniard called Juan Alvar Muñez, who named them ‘Los Saltos de Santa María’. We now know the falls as ‘Iguaçu’, a word which actually means ‘great waters’ in Guarani. According to my Lonely Planet Guide, “Guaraní legend says that Iguaçu originated when a jealous forest god, enraged by a warrior escaping downriver by canoe with a young girl, caused the riverbed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing precipitous falls over which the girl fell and, at their base, turned into a rock. The warrior surived as a tree overlooking his fallen lover.”
UNESCO declared Iguaçu a world heritage sight in 1986, and it was named one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature in 2011. 23km long, Igauçu consists of more than 270 individual waterfalls, producing 1.5 million litres of water are produced every second. The falls cover two National Parks (55,000 hectares of forest), and can be accessed/seen from three different countries: Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
Although these facts give some indication of the grandeur of the falls, you really cannot imagine how incredible they are.
I took hundreds of photos, but nothing can capture their size and power; Igauçu is truly mind-blowing! (I also took loads of photos on my snazzy new camera, but I haven’t yet figured out how to upload the photos so they sadly don’t feature in this post yet. I will update it when I’ve sussed it out, though!) We flew to Puerto Iguaçu from BA because the 18 hour bus journey was really not much cheaper than the plane. The town has a really weird vibe; it’s full of tourists and unappetising little restaurants, and doesn’t feel anything like the Argentina we know and love. Nevertheless, we stayed in a really nice hostel called Mango Chill, where we were given free Caipirinhas (I made the most of this until I realised they put 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar in each drink…) and lots of advice on where to go and what to see.
Our plan was to devote our first day to seeing the Argentine side of the falls, before crossing over the border on Monday evening. There us a lot more to do on this side than the Brazilian side, so we had quite a lot to fit in.
After examining the map and assessing the various options, we decided to start our day with the Macuco trail, a 3.5km walk which brings you to a little pool where you can swim under a waterfall. Relatively few people do this walk, which is completely unsigned and frankly slightly disconcerting, and so you really do feel ‘alone with nature’ (LOL). We only encountered about 5 other people all morning, which was a nice introduction to what was going to be a hectic, tourist-heavy day trip! I would really recommend doing the Macuco trail. It definitely wasn’t a challenging walk, and the waterfall was really special. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the park where you actually get to swim underneath the falls. We stripped off and went for a dip in the tranquil pool, but weren’t quite brave enough to climb onto the rocks for the full shoulder massage experience!
Many tourists opt to do the ‘Great Adventure’ boat trip but, after speaking to various people at our hostel, we decided it wasn’t worth the money (and time). This is a 2 hour speedboat trip where you supposedly get to see lots of amazing wildlife, but everyone we spoke to said it was pretty anticlimactic. We saw quite a lot of wildlife on our Macuco walk anyway, so we weren’t that bothered about missing out on seeing a few birds. (Fun fact: the National Park contains over 2000 types of plants, 450 species of birds and many mammals, including big cats like jaguars!)
The best part of the ‘Great Adventure’ ride is the last 12 minutes, where the boat takes you under the waterfall. Luckily, you can also opt to do the ‘Nautical Adventure’ ride, which is half the price of the other one and consists entirely of this amazing splashy experience. So that’s what we did, and it was amazing. Fortunately, I wrapped my belongings up in the waterproof bag when told to, and my electronics survived to tell the tale:
We then dried off by walking the Upper Circuit, which offers panoramic views of the San Martín waterfall. Like everything else, it was pretty incredible.
We had been advised to save the Devil’s Throat for the afternoon, because this is when the light is best. So, after a quick and unsatisfying lunch, we joined the queue for the train up to the ‘Garganta del Diablo’. After the jolly little train ride, you walk about 1km over remarkably calm waters, before suddenly arriving at the mouth of the waterfall.
This by far the most overwhelming part of the whole Iguaçu experience; you are literally standing at the top of an 80m waterfall. No photo can capture the indescribable feeling of the mist in your face or the unimaginable power of the water as it pours over the edge of the cliff.
Exhausted, we then headed back to the hostel to gather our belongings and head over to the Brazilian side of the falls, Foz do Iguaçu. I hadn’t expected the other side to feel quite so different: the town was much more developed but a lot less busy, and the unfamiliar language was surprisingly unsettling.
There is much less to do at the Foz do Iguaçu than the Cataratas, so our second day was relatively chilled. You simply get a bus to the falls and then walk a few kilometers so that you can see them from various viewpoints. The Argentine side offers you incredible close-ups, but you definitely have to visit both countries to understand quite how big the waterfalls are. From the Brazilian side, you get the most incredible panoramic view of the 23km of falls. Perfect for a few tourist snaps and panoramas!
Fun fact: The Iguaçu Falls are wider than the Victoria Falls and higher than Niagara!
Overall, Igauçu was an incredible experience. I just cannot describe how beautiful the falls are, but I hope my photos convey something of their size and power.
I 100% recommend doing this if you ever come to Argentina. It would be an injustice not to!
Coming soon, ‘Part 2: Rio Carnival’