Iguazu waterfalls are considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and a bucket list destination that everyone should visit at least once! It is located on the border between Argentina and Brazil and consists of 275 incredible cascades, forming the largest waterfall system in the world. You can visit Iguazu from both Argentina and Brazil, and you actually should visit it from both sides!
In translation from Guarani, the name “iguazu” means “the big water”. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu, she said “poo Niagara”, as in comparison to Iguazu, Niagara pales and seems small.
Visiting Iguazu waterfall is part of our “Argentine spring” tour together with Dabas tūres, where we visit Patagonia, Ibera marshes and Buenos Aires in a small group with a guide. If you have a chance to get a guide for Iguazu, you will benefit from it greatly, as you are guaranteed to see more wildlife and not just the waterfall!
Other articles in our Argentina series:
Border Crossing Between Argentina and Brazil, Puerto Iguacu
As we are coming from Misiones province in Argentina, our first stop is Puerto Iguacu. We arrive around lunch time, drop off our things at the Pirayu Lodge Resort and eat at the cafe on the other side of the road – you pay per weight of the food.
The city is located in the crossroads of three countries – Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and there is a sightseeing point right at the river where the border is. I wish I had a chance to quickly, quickly cross into Paraguay! But our guide Duncan says that it is not too safe to do that and in all honesty, we never have the time either. Turns out, there is a lot of illegal migration happening here, as the waterfall is one of the most important tourism objects on the continent, and many people from Paraguay cross the river twice a day illegally to be able to work in Argentina. At times the authorities try to stop for a few days but overall they are not too bothered about the people going back and forth, as it is beneficial for the businesses in Argentina as well, as the workforce is cheaper in Paraguay.
Entering Brazil from Argentina
We cross the Argentine border first, then go over the bridge where at one point we are in Brazil, and soon we are on the other side and have to get use to saying “obrigado” instead of “gracias”, as in Brazil the official language is Portuguese. As we have Duncan and a local guide with us, the border crossing is very quick, we don’t even need to get out of the bus. As we wait, we see public transport buses letting people out and then people getting on the buses on the other side. There is mostly Spanish music on the radio when we suddenly hear some familiar words – turns out, it is Ukrainian band KAZKA. It is very unusual for us to hear it in this place. Soon we get one more stamp in our passport and are officially in another country.
The Iguazu National Park and Waterfall
Both of the sides of the waterfall are a national park and many protected species live here. You can see the waterfalls from both sides, you can hike, you can take a boat and even take a helicopter tour from the Brazilian side. Argentine government considers those to be too loud, so it is only possible from the Brazilian side. The prices are quite expensive, around $400 per person (in comparison to my Grand Canyon or New York tours where I paid $200 per person).
We enter the park and then go to the bus that will take us to the waterfalls. We start talking to a Swedish girl who tells us about her travels and, surprisingly, in such a popular place we meet again on the next day but already in Argentina, on the other side of the waterfall!
The first glimpse of the waterfall is something you don’t forget! While it is cloudy, it is still incredibly beautiful. If not for our bird guides Duncan and Ilze, we would have missed another important sight – the stunning toucan bird! Soon a crowd gathers around the tree, as we have started looking up, so everyone is looking up now! There is a couple of birds nesting here, so they go inside the hollow branch, carrying some berries. There are five species of toucans living here and only later we realize how incredibly lucky we have been to see these in the first minutes of our arrival, as most people don’t get to see one at all!
Despite it being the afternoon and cloudy, even raining at times, it is still very crowded and sometimes you have to wait to get a nice shot from the viewing platform. The further we go on the trail, the less crowded it gets, and by that time most people are starting to feel tired, as the cascades do look quite similar. Our walk ends at the large cascade, where you can walk really close by and get soaking wet! A natural shower on a hot day feels very good!
Back in Argentina
To get back to our hotel, we have to cross the border again and this time it takes us slightly longer and the Argentina border line stretches til the bridge. Lucky for us, the buses are going around, but we still get to wait a bit. We are quite happy that we again don’t have to get out as it is pouring cats and dogs, as our guide returns.
When we get to the hotel, it has not gotten better, but we decide to head to the three country viewpoint anyway in the hope that it maybe will clear up. Streets are deserted and it gets dark quickly. We stay in for dinner at our hotel, and actually it is the best choice, as the food is incredible, the steaks are tasty, the cheese tapioca buns are just melting in our mouth and the mango passion fruit mousse is just mouthwatering!
Iguazu falls on the Argentina side
We leave very early, just grabbing a quick bite at the hotel. Usually breakfast in Argentina is quite light, so it is mostly for the tourists and often not much to eat, but here the choice is really very good!
We arrive at the park right as it opens, as we have to be at the boat in thirty minutes. Usually we don’t do boat trips because of the risk of getting the camera equipment wet, but here we decide to split up and I take the boat tour and Jekabs goes for a walk in the meantime.
When we are almost at the meeting point for the boat, our guide shows us a bird that is nearly indistinguishable from the tree branch – it is called the common potoo! Turns out, this bird is also very stinky. Apparently, it is a good strategy to attract insects and eat them. It also has a very strange call, I would not want to hear it wandering alone in the jungle!
We take a bus that takes us through the jungle and the guide provides us with some information about the biodiversity of this area. The we get out at the stop for the boat and each of us gets a rubber bag that bike messengers have and we put inside our things. My phone is supposed to be water resistant, so I will get a chance to test out if it really is the case! In all honesty, I would recommend wearing a swimsuit and sunglasses for this part of the trip as no raincoat will save you from all the water! It is like you went and took a shower, and everything you had on, is soaking wet! But is is absolutely worth to take the boat ride and it is incredibly fun! After returning don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen, as the sun can be very sharp around here.
When we are back on land, we quickly eat a tapioca bun and continue exploring the park. Cute capuchin monkeys and coati roam the area, and they are just so nice and fluffy that you want to touch them, but actually the entire park has signs everywhere to absolutely not touch or feed them, and not leave anything unattended as they will search for food and they bite very hard.
Despite the warnings some people are feeding them, and our guide Duncan gets so annoyed at this that he calls the park rangers to control the crowds. In fact, Duncan is here on his day off, just enjoying the park and our company, and we certainly enjoy his, as he is simply spectacular! He also helps with the translations, as the local guide does not speak English but between the two of them we learn a lot of useful information.
The day is very sunny and very hot, and the water fountains at the park come in handy. As we are short on time, we use a chance to take the park train to the Devil’s Throat, the main cascade of the waterfall. The train is very tiny but at least we get to sit down for a little while! As the train takes us to the station, we see so many butterflies! They sit on the bright red soil and drink water from the puddles. You could spend an entire day just looking at the butterflies even if the waterfall was not here! They also often land on people, so be sure to wear something bright. Some butterflies have unique prints – we see a couple that look like 88 has been printed on them!
As we reach the cascade it looks like thick fog, water crashing down with incredible force. The wind changes a bit from time to time and then you get totally wet! Some have umbrellas with them, others wear raincoats, but we just come and enjoy the impromptu shower! And just as you think it couldn’t have gotten any more beautiful from yesterday, you will get to see many rainbows in the bright sun!
Colibri Garden at Iguazu Falls
Soon the park is closing and we head back to the entrance. We could have easily spent another day here enjoying the hikes! But we have one more stop for the day – hummingbird or colibri garden. Someone who had a house in the city decided to hang special feeders with syrup for hummingbirds and the birds decided to come! So wild colibris from all around the area come to enjoy this free meal and we come to enjoy their company! Bright blue, green, with dots, black, so stunningly beautiful and quick! We spend two hours here totally mesmerized and would have stayed longer had it not started getting dark. There are posters with all the hummingbird varieties and you can see how many you can count! Some male and female look exactly the same, some look very different, and it does take a while to notice them all!
It is time to head back to the hotel, our last evening in Argentina. We buy some snacks and souvenirs at the local super market – spices, sauces, chocolate and mate tea. Everything must be 5 times cheaper easily than at the souvenir store! We go for the last swim at the hotel pool, eat more steak, tapioca buns and mango-passion fruit mousse and on the next day at 4 am we have to leave to the airport in Brazil. Two and a half weeks in Argentina have been incredible, and visiting in November definitely was the best possible choice!
Other articles in our Argentina series:
We are thankful to “Dabas Tūres” (www.dabastures.lv) for the support in making this article reality. Dabas tures offers internationally acclaimed birding tours in Latvia (lake Lubana, cranes and owls and many other bird tours), as well as numerous tours in other countries – spring in Argentina, Scottish landscapes, the castles of Northern Poland, all suitable for friends of nature. You don’t need to have any prior knowledge about birds, as the expert guides will teach you all about spotting the fauna and you will learn a lot!