FIVE WAYS TO EXPERIENCE IGUAZU FALLS
Iguazu falls or Foz de iguasu as they’re referred to in South America had long been on my list and when I was planning the itenary, a visit was always going to be on the cards! When I started to research the area, it became apparent that there were a number of ways that Iguazu Falls could be enjoyed and I sure wanted to see the majestic spectacle of these 275 falls from as many perspectives as possible.
The falls are also known as Iguazu Falls, Iguassu Falls and Iguaçu Falls and originate from the Iguassu River. They are located on the border of Brazil’s, Paraná state and Argentina.
The name of Iguazu Falls originates from the Tupi or Guarani language and means big water. While the ancient Brazilian tribes knew of its thunderous beauty, it was only officially ‘discovered’ in 1541, when the European explorer, the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, came across its awe-inspiring beauty.
The falls are owned by two UNESCO world heritage site, Iguazú National park in Argentina and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil. They stretch in width for 2.7KM (1.7 miles) and their height can vary between 60 metres (200 FT.) and 82 metres (269 FT).
Most people opt to stay on the Brazillian side of Iguazu Falls in Foz de Iguaҫu or on the Argentinian side in Puerto Iguazu. Each of these have a lot of accommodation options, but if you’ve read my other South American posts, you will know that I stayed at The Belmond das Cataratas Hotel on the Brazilian side of the falls.
A huge proportion of the water thrusts down what is known as Devil’s Throat, a long crevasse which is 82 metres high and 150 metres wide and 700 metres in length. It has a recognisable U shape.
FIVE WAYS TO EXPERIENCE THE FORCE THAT IS IGUASSU FALLS
01 BY FOOT ON THE BRAZILLIAN SIDE
There are plenty of tours you can arrange via your tour operator or through your hotel or you can simply just get a cab from you hotel and jump on the shuttle bus when you arrive at the Iguacu National Park. It’s totally your choice and it’s all pretty easy to organise beforehand or upon check-in at your hotel. My preference would be to get a trip booked as soon as possible to avoid the hassle as you know for sure, everyone arriving are here for the main attraction of the falls.
Special walkways have been built around the Iguazu Falls to allow visitors to get close up to this wonder of their natural beauty and power.
The Brazilian side definitely felt less developed than the Argentinian side. Most people (unless staying at The Belmond das Cataratas will enter the national park in Brazil via the Park’s shuttle bus system and has options to a number of stop off points such as the Macuco Safari (which I’ll talk about later), entrance to the Fall’s primary walking trail, opposite the Belmond das Cataratas hotel.
You will see the most jaw dropping vistas on the walking trail on the Brazilian side along the single walking path which has steps leading down into the lower falls. There are a number of viewing platforms with the final viewing station providing fantastic panoramas. I am going to suggest, you need to go first thing in the morning as this is the single only trail on this side of the falls it does get really busy with tour bus crowds and I have to admit is can be limiting from what I saw.
Entry to the Brazillian Foz de Iguaҫu is BRL52 (£12.50) per person
As well as the Falls the national park is home to many species of flora and fauna. Some we managed to see included Coatis, Cyanocorax Chrysops birds and toucans.
On a little side note….Just outside the grounds of the park is the Parque des Aves, which you will be interested in if you are a bird lover and I would recommend a visit to see some of the most beautiful you’ll get to feast your eyes on! This special place works to save birds from trafficking and acts as a recovery and educational centre. The Macaw Aviary was the highlight! Allot BRL34 per person for entrance fees. You’ll be excited to see your money clearly at work to make this place even greater.
02 BY FOOT ON THE ARGENTINIAN SIDE
So the Argentinian side gives you a slightly different perspective of the National Park as it is noticeably more developed and you have more than one walkway to explore. Options include visiting the Lower Falls, the Upper Falls and Devil’s Throat and San Martin Island (it was closed when we visited). You can take a tram, which takes you half of the way, but in order to enjoy the walking trails, where each circuit will give you alternative vistas, I would recommend 4 hours to do this in a leisurely fashion. Whilst your there you can visit a small museum and you can also do a water safari from this side if you wish. If you are only visiting the Argentinian side, you can still get a water based experience. Being a much visited destination, there’s shops, restaurants and café’s.
Entry to the Argentinian side is 260 Pesos (£20) per person
03 FROM YOUR ROOM IN THE BELMOND DAS CATARATAS
A huge part of our visit to the falls (major bucket-list check-off) revolved around the fact that we wanted to stay at The Belmond das Cataratas0 and for this reason it meant we were based on the Brazillian side in this unique location. We were also travelling onwards to other locations in Brazil so it made sense to stay in Brazil as opposed to the Argentinian side. This is the only hotel that is based in the For de Iguazu National Park and once all the tourists have left and before they arrive in the morning, you are free to raom the trails of the falls alone. This definitely meant the whole experience more memorable for us and even to this day I can just close my eyes and recollect the sounds and smells of the surroundings.
There were times when we were out on the walkways when it was literally Dr C and I and the falls obviously! There is a very exclusive feel to this hotel location but also that you will be paying a premium to stay here. If you can possibly splurge out for 3 nights as we did then by all means go for it. The hotel is not just in an uncompromised location but also the level of hospitality and service is definitely reflected in the traditional Belmond style and reputation we know and love. The colonial style pink facades is stunning against the lush green backdrop and if you don’t stay at the hotel, I would definitely suggest paying a visit if you have time to see the interior and experience some of that old-world colonial charm. The Caipirinhas in the bar are worth a try as they use 6 year old cachaças and you will be able to hear the falls from your seats.
We were very lucky as our room at the hotel faced towards the falls and as well as catching a glimpse every now and then, we could hear the water gushing every night when it was quiet. You can read my review here of The Belmond das Cataratas Hotel
04 FROM THE SKY BY HELICOPTER
I have been lucky enough to have been on a few helicopter flights in the past, but this was my first flight over waterfalls. As being at the falls was a bucket-list experience for us, we didn’t want to miss out and have any regrets as we are pretty sure we wouldn’t be returning.
I think the photos probably speak for themselves. Being in a helicopter gives you a fantastic birds-eye view of the falls and surroundings and you can see just how close proximity the hotel was to the falls from above.
My tip would be to book the flight for your first day just incase the weather is bad as it can change literally within minutes over the falls. Our first flight was cancelled due to mist and rain and we went on the second day instead!
Our helicopter flight was booked through Helisul and cost BRL430 (£104) per person for a 20 minute ride. You are only actually over the falls for between 9-11 minutes.
05 THROUGH THE WATER BY BOAT ON A MACUCO SAFARI
Now, no trip to Iguassu falls is going to be complete without trying out the water-based options, is it?! The Macuco safari is the most popular add-on experience on the Brazilian side of the falls and is a two part journey, the first being on land and the latter being in the water. You start with a drive through on a eco-friendly open back four wheel drive, through the jungle learning about the flora and fauna with a bilingual guide. You end up at the departure point for the Macuco Safari. Luckily our guide reminded us to wear flip flops and take a thin rain coat but you can buy a poncho from the shop.
You will also be given lockers to put all your bits and bobs in. My advice-don’t obviously take anything too valuable with you and leave everything in your locker except a waterproof camera. You are going to get drenched! I am NOT kidding either! It was a rainy day when we visited but it was very warm so we dried off naturally but if you wish, you can take a change of clothes with you and store in your locker for afterwards.
Once you have your life jacket and waterproofs on it’s time to board and we headed for outer side seats as we had a small school party on board with us too!
I just have to say you will not quite understand the enormity of the falls until you are in this position, zipping by them and realising just how close you are to them. You are not going to get any closer than this-it really is spectacular! There is barely a chance to take any pics as you are just in awe of the whole thing and before you know it the captain is getting you right in under the falls and you are drenched! It is so much fun but every part of you is soaking wet, really! If you don’t manage to get any pics worry not, you will be able to buy GoPro videos and pics from the reception after you leave the boat as one of the crew members will be taking pics of you, under the falls.
If you’re on the Brazilian side of the falls, in my opinion this is a must-do but make sure you’re appropriately prepared by bringing plastic bags for storage, bring a waterproof camera if you can, dress appropriately with a change of clothe if needed, wear flip flops, wear lightweight clothing that dried quickly.
Macuco Safari is open 09:00-17:00 and costs BRL179 (£44) per person.
If you are planning to see these magnificent falls, from either side, then I hope this post has given you some inspiration on how you would like to spend your time there and figure out, which experiences are best for you. If our trip to the falls wasn’t partly about staying at the Belmond das Cataratas hotel and our ongoing journey wasn’t through other parts of Brazil, I would stay on the Argentinian side, there are different vantage points on the side and definitely more trails. But I am sure you can see from the pics, I had a blast and am ecstatic that this bucket-list dream came true for me.
Our hotel and activities at Iguacu falls were pre-booked by our travel consultant, Laura Olds at Latin America for Less tour Company. We also had a private guide, Paulo who drove us and accompanied us to the Argentinian side of the helicopter port and Macuco Safari points. He also took care of our VISA waiver application paperwork and had our passports stamped on entry and departure at the border of Argentina and Brazil. UK citizens do NOT need a VISA to enter Argentina or Brazil. Make sure you take photocopies of your passport as a back-up.
If you are NOT a UK passport holder, ensure that you research into the VISA process.
Have you stayed on the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls? If you have I would love to hear from you in the comments below and hear your perspective.
PIN FOR LATER