Iguazu Falls - The First of Many Side Trips
WHEN DID WE GO: January 18-20
WHY DID WE GO: Cuz why not? Haha. Side trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina
HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: 1 full day on Argentina side, 2 nights
WHERE DID WE STAY: Cabaña El Manantial de Iguazu
Let me just say right off the bat that I joined this side trip because a) I love waterfalls and b) it sounded fun. I literally knew nothing of Iguazu Falls before coming on this trip. Nothing about what there was to do there, what were the best sites to see, or how it would compare to the other waterfalls I'd seen, such as Niagara Falls. The only thing I really knew was that there was an Argentinian side and a Brazilian side and that there was a ton to do on the Brazilian side and that we might not be able to go to the Brazilian side, what with the majority of us being Americans and Americans technically needing a visa to get into Brazil.
But, regardless, I went. And I'm so damn happy I did.
When we arrived at Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, the smallest of Buenos Aires' two airport, it was hectic from the get-go. We had people who hadn't checked in yet and needed to get boarding passes and were faced with incredible long lines. We had people with screenshots of their boarding passes instead of print-outs and we weren't sure how that would work. Our flight ended up getting delayed for 1 hour and 15 minutes. And when we landed in at the Iguazu airport on the Argentinian side, it was down pouring more than I'd seen in a long time. Needless to say, I wasn't sure when we landed how good this trip would really be. I knew that bad weather had been threatening us for the last 2 weeks, but was now not necessarily looking forward to trudging through the jungle sopping wet, having to hide my nice DSLR or potentially leave it at the Air BnB for fear that it would get waterlogged.
Let me ease your fears now and say that this trip exceeded all expectations. And it started with our accomodations.
Our accommodations. I had no idea what to expect when we landed in Iguazu. But, when our Air BnB arranged transport for us to our accommodations, that was definitely a win! It was rainy as all hell the night we arrived so I couldn't appreciate much of the outdoor aspects of our accommodations, but we had a nice bathroom, a functional kitchen a large refrigerator and enough beds for all 9 of us. That frankly was enough to make me happy for the duration of the trip. It wasn't until the next day, pre- and post spending the day at the Argentinian side of Iguazu National Park that I really began to appreciate our accommodations. We had an amazing pool area, an area to barbecue, and the whole venue seemed very jungle-themed! I loved it! Especially with all the little animals running around. The venue owner had a dog named Luco, who we definitely loved! And I would highly recommend staying here! But, definitely read the suggestions below on using taxis as transport before you stop reading this post, especially if you plan to stay here!
The boat under the falls. As soon as we arrived, we got sucked in by one of those guys selling boat tours. He told us that if we wanted to do it, the 9:15am one was the only one available and that the rest were sold out. We all were kind of skeptical about whether or not that was true, but not wanting to miss the epic-ness that would've been a boat tour under the falls, we went for it! After a drive through the jungle checking out the lush greenery (and trying not to get wrapped up in a spider web), we arrived at our boat launch! Have you ever been on one of those rides at like Disney World that say "You will get wet. You may get soaked"? Ya. This was like that. They hooked us up with life jackets and a heavy duty dry bag for all our belonging (ie. cameras, wallets, phones), and then off we went. First, they drove up to each of the falls! We had some opportunity to snap pictures of the different sets of falls. And then the fun part began! We went straight into the falls. For those of you that have been to Niagara Falls and done the boat tours there, you know what this is like. But, with the sheer amount of water that came down from those falls and how close we got to it, this was Niagara Falls x1000. The mist was so intense you couldn't even really open your eyes! But damn was it fun! I haven't had that kind of an adrenaline rush in a long time! I felt like a kid again! And considering it was the first thing we did, I could have flown back to Buenos Aires immediately afterward and been completely happy and pumped about this trip! Glad to say I didn't though, because the next point on my highlights was just as incredible. I also have some videos of what the boat tour was like. Check out some of the videos here!
The Lower & Upper Falls Hikes. Toward the end of the day, I realized that I hadn't really done any of the scenic hikes. Even though we really only had about 2 hours left in our day, I took off with another Remote, Jenelle, to try to tackle the last couple big views of the day on the Upper and Lower Falls loops. They were incredible! Both hikes had these incredible panoramic vistas of the falls! Sometimes they were all lined up in this unbelievable, natural symmetry, which I just loved! Most of the panoramas at the top of this page are from these couple hikes. And they were so worth it. Your legs might be exhausted at the end of the day, but trust me, it's worth it to make sure you do these hikes! I'd be hard pressed to say which is better than the other because they both had some incredible views, but if you had to pick one, I'd say Lower Falls takes the cake!
Seeing all the animals. Obviously, I kind of love taking pictures! And, even more so, I love taking pictures of animals! So, obviously, one of the highlights of this experience was to see all the jungle animals in their natural environment. From the get-go, we saw a ton of spiders. And I'm not talking like your generic house spider. I'm talking massive spiders that make these huge, ornate webs! I was bummed on the jungle ride that I didn't get any pictures, but fortunately on the trail later I got a couple photos. Also, prepare yourselves for tons of coati. These little guys are pests to say the least. They're so conditioned to humans and that humans have food that they have no qualms about coming right up to your picnic and swatting your lunch right off the table. Also, their means, apparently. They had signs all over the park telling guests to beware of and not feed the monkeys are coatis because they may scratch you, and the scratches are nasty. And yes, there are monkeys. I only saw them at one point later in the afternoon, and there were only about 4 of them, but admittedly, those suckers are cute! I had a hard time staying away! Probably one of the most exciting sightings for me was when we saw not one, but two toucans! We were hoping to see them during our jungle drive, but we actually saw two of them on the Upper Fall trail. So if seeing toucan is high on your priority list while in Iguazu, maybe you should make Upper Falls trail your priority!
Tres Fronteras. Before we went to the airport, there was one stop that we wanted to make. Tres Fronteras is a vista that looks over 3 countries. We were standing in Argentina, with Brazil to our right and Paraguay on your left. It was the ultimate in being in multiple places at once! It was a quick stop and nothing special really, other than how cool is it to have a view of three countries from one spot?
The mob at Devil's Throat. After we went boating, we next wanted to head up to Devil's Throat. In hindsight, we probably should have done this first thing, but needless to say, the guy selling boat tour kind of duped us. So, by the time we went to take the train up there, we were looking at a 1.5 hour wait to take the train. Taking the train up there was fine, but walking the boardwalk to get out to the viewpoints was definitely a test of my hatred of crowds. The views out there were still beautiful, and nothing beats the sound of water cascading over a cliff, but still, this part of the day was definitely the part that felt the most like a Disney World attraction because of all the damn lines. So, this is what I will say. It is worth going up there to see this view of the falls. But do so early in the day. Like first thing!
Missing the Brazilian side. I hesitate to say that this was a bummer because after our incredible day at the Argentinian side, I really felt no inclination to go to the Brazilian side and see essentially the same thing. It wasn't until we got to the airport and we ran into some Dutch girls that a guy in our group knew that I had a little regret. They had done both sides and said that they really enjoyed the Brazilian side. So part of me now wonders if we should have done both. Oh well! I have no regrets. Just curiosities!
My Final tips.
- Plan for the worst and hope for the best. We were expecting down pours of rain the whole weekend. That's what I left Buenos Aires expecting. So when we were greeted by sun breaks and only got rained on for about 30 mins, I was pumped. So, when it comes to weather in the jungle, I think that this is a good philosophy.
- MAKE SURE YOU DO THE BOAT TOUR! This is non-negotiable in my opinion. If you skip doing the boat tour, you're missing out on, what I think is, the quintessential Iguazu experience. Trust me it's worth the $1200 pesos (which is roughly $60 USD).
- Negotiate with Taxis for rides instead of taking rides from your Air BnB. What we realized very quickly is that our Air BnB, great as it was, was upcharging us for taxis. They wanted to charge us a total of $3200 pesos ($80USD) for round-trip rides to the national park. That is steep, considering that the falls weren't that far away, maybe $20. So, we went into town and negotiated with the taxis. Instead, they offered us a round-trip fair of $1350 pesos. Much better!
- Wear quick-dry clothes or a bathing suit. This is KEY! You will be wet ALL day. From the boat rides, to the mists you get sprayed with at the Lower Falls hikes and at Devil's Throat, you will get wet, and it will happen repeatedly all day. So, wear a bathing suit. Or at least something that dries quickly.
- Wear sunscreen. This is my mothering moment. Even in the jungle, even when it's overcast, even when it's humid and you don't actually feel like you're getting burned, you probably are. So wear sunscreen. And reapply!
- Get there before it opens at 8am. There's a ton of shit to do at the park! So, get there before it opens so that you can get in line and get a jump start on all the activities as soon as humanly possible.
- Take the train to Devil's Throat earlier rather than later. I said this before and I'll say it again, I wish we'd done Devil's Throat earlier before all the crowds. So make it a priority to do it first thing.
- Or if you're going up later, save yourself the hassle and just walk. If for whatever reason you have to do Devil's Throat later, save yourself the hassle and the time and just walk up instead of waiting for the train. This definitely is faster instead of waiting the 1.5 hours for the train!