Monday, February 20

Less Than a Day in Iguazu - Argentina

Visiting a huge place like Argentina and a beautiful continent such as  South America, there are so many beautiful places that are really great and worth visiting for. Argentina  alone has so much to offer for a first time traveler like me. But the very main purpose of my trip is to climb Mt. Aconcagua. The expedition alone will take so much of my time (we are only allowed a 30 day visa) and financial resources. In as much as I really want to visit the other beautiful places like Patagonia, Arenales, or Punta de Inca in Argentina or La Paz in Bolivia or Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil or Macchu Pichu in Peru, I really cannot. 

There is just one place I said to myself I should not miss on this trip, visiting Iguazu, one of the great natural wonders of the world and listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is located in Puerto Iguazu in northern part of Argentina and shared among the boarders of Brazil and Paraguay.  The falls stretch for over one and a half miles on the Iguazu River. Not only do the falls separate Brazil and Argentina, they separate national parks in Argentina and Brazil. In terms of surface water flowing over the falls, they are taller than Niagara Falls, and twice as wide.  2/3 of the popular Devil's Throat section of Iguazu Falls sits on the Argentina side of the border. When translated from the native Indian language, Iguazu roughly translates to mean "Big Water" because truly it's not just big, but very very big.

Both sides of the park are well served with foot trails. On the Argentine side of the park there's a small  train free ride leaving about every half an hour from near the entrance going all the way to the beginning of the trail to the Garganta del Diablo.

The  Falls are an awesome sight as tonnes of water throw themselves over cliffs and the mist rises amongst the jungle which forms some rainbow. It is well worth spending a day on each side of the falls, especially if you plan to do any of the boat rides or other activities offered. Don't just rush past the main viewpoints and leave. It's important to get a good perspective on the park overall to appreciate this awesome sight. Whilst the majority of the falls are in Argentina, a better overview is had from the Brazilian side, that's what they said but having to see just one side of the huge waterfalls, I am already happy overall. 

From Umnibus station at Puerto Iguazu, there is a bus that leaves every less than 10 minutes for AR10.00 starting 7:00am everyday to the Iguazu Park entrance. Bus ride is around 15 minutes from the main bus station to the park.  Park entrance every 8:00am. The same bus will take you back to the  city up to 7:30 in the evening. On the Argentine side (100 AR$ pp, second day for half price if you get your ticket stamped before leaving on the first day, subsequent days are free if you tell them you are staying at the Sheraton). Wear waterproofs and protect your camera as it can get quite wet on some viewpoints. Some people visit the waterfalls in swimsuits (recommended in summer). The park itself is fairly well organized, they have a train line so you can get from the entrance to the main circuits (Circuito Superior, Garganta del Diablo, etc.). They also have food stands inside the park close to the train stations, but food and drinks are very expensive there. It is a good idea to bring some food and water if you are going to spend the day on the park. During summer, it's going to be very hot, so wear cotton shirt or just tank top and board shorts, and bring lots of water. I saw one drinking fountain where one can refill water bottle, a good option than buying inside the park, it's very expensive.

There are five main tracks all of which are paved and well marked with the exception of Sendero Macuco:
Circuito Superior - is a short walk to some nice viewpoints along the upper rim of the waterfalls
Circuito Inferior - is a longer walk on the bottom end of the falls with the main attraction being the lookout to watch Salto Bossetti and Dos Hermanas. This pathway leads also to the free ferry service to Isla San Martin (that may or not be closed), and the tour operators.
Isla San Martin - has two main lookouts to different sides of the falls. There are also a lot of birds. Access by boat only (free). This may be closed when the river level is high. You can always ask the park authorities or watch the information tv sets within the park to see if the access to the island is open.
Garganta del Diablo - The main attraction of the Argentine side. There is a free train running up to a 1 km-long walkway across the river to stand just back from the main horseshoe of falls where the roar and spray are most tremendous.
Sendero Macuco - is the trail through the rainforest to the Arrechea waterfall and is a good way to get away from the crowds. It's about 7 km return on an unpaved but easy path starting at the Estacion Central. Swimming is possible beneath the fall, so consider bringing a bathing suit and towel. An informative brochure for the trail is available from the park information desk. It is recommended to do it in daylight, so don't start it if it's 3 or 4PM.
Garganta del Diablo is the main attraction on the Argentine side - do not leave without having seen it.
boats. Go in boats on the river

Argentine side

  • Iguazu Jungle Explorer,, [2]: offers trips, including boat rides (recommended) and rides on 4WD trucks through the park (not so interesting). To be booked near the entrance or on the circuito inferior before going down to the ferry. If you do one of the boat rides (AR$100 for a short one, AR$200 for a long one which also takes you some way down the river), prepare to get soaked to the skin (you'll receive a dry bag for your camera). 
I join all the rides, but if I may suggest you can do almost all on your own having just to follow the map that you can get at the entrance of the park. It's only best to join the boat ride that will bring you up close to the falls and even making you soak wet and come out drenched in the water. That has been a great experience for me. But because I am in so much hurry due to my time constraint, no regrets that I joined all the guided tour. This place is simply amazing and I will always want to visit this place again, given a chance someday. 

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