There are five species of tucan in the Iguazu National Park. We saw exactly zero of the elusive little fuckers. Fortunately that’s not why we were there, we wanted to gawp at Iguazu Falls a little bit more. We actually put it off for a day and spent an extra night in ultra touristy Puerto Iguazú, not out of any love for the overpriced little town, it was just meant to be shocking weather on the Sunday. Add to that the fact I think I managed to dehydrate myself to the point of shaking a bit and yeah, best take Sunday off just to consume my body weight in water that hadn’t been processed with yeast and hops. I drank, like, a litre and a half before I needed to piss and it was still like treacle.
We’d rocked up on Saturday after a painless border crossing, changed money at a shop offering just under Blue Dollar (but way over official) rates, got ourselves a SIM card each, and got familiar with Quilmes, your standard Argentinian lager. Argentina initiation complete. Fuck me, it was hot, I’ve not sweated this much in years. You could flood nations with the fluid flowing out of places I didn’t even know I had places. I’m surprised I’m not a withered husk of a woman. It was no wonder I wasn’t feeling too clever.
Despite the fact the promised thunder storms never materialised, Monday still offered the better weather so we were feeling quite smug with our correct decision making as we hopped off the bus at the national park. Like the Brazilian side, this side has its own transport within the park but it’s a train rather than a bus. Having said that, with the exception of the Devil’s Throat (though you can walk it if you’re up for walking that far in the kind of heat the Devil himself would definitely approve of), it’s actually walkable from the visitor’s centre to the waterfalls.
However, we wanted to get closer to the falls than you can get from a mere boardwalk so we handed a wad of cash over to the lovely woman at the Jungle Iguazú desk for their Great Adventure tour which basically involves a 6km ride through the jungle in a truck before you walk down about a million steps and try not to think about the fact you then have to get back up them. Then you’re loaded into a boat and taken on a lovely, scenic cruise up the river.
They make the drive to the boat interesting though, you have a guide who delivers information in Spanish and English and you learn all about what you’re putting in your eyeholes. They take you down the Yacaratiá Trail which is named after an edible tree that’s found here, and when I say it’s edible I don’t mean the fruit or leaves, you can eat the literal wood. Apparently it’s used for sweets and is served as a fancy delicacy in restaurants. She also pointed out a lovely palm tree that’s used for its edible palm hearts, or palmito as it’s called here. This is the only place it grows in Argentina though so it’s mostly imported from neighbouring countries.
Anyway! The boat! This thing we threw a shit tonne of money at! They make it very, very clear several times that you’re going to get drenched. I don’t know what unscrupulous bastard managed to convince several people on board that one of those flimsy plastic disposable ponchos would keep them any manner of dry. You know the ones. They come in a packet, get used once then get chucked away to kill a turtle or something. Fuck those things. Also, literally nothing is going to keep you dry.
So I know we already saw the falls the other day, and I’ve done this boat ride before many years ago, but that giddy feeling when you’re bouncing along the rapids and they come into view, honestly, it’s like Christmas, except if Christmas wasn’t, y’know, utterly fucking hideous. The first pass is for photos. They take you close but not so close that your fancy DSLR becomes an expensive doorstop. You still get a bit damp from the mist but nothing ridiculous.
The second pass is for your morning shower. The driver expertly steered us into the waterfalls to whoops and cheers from the passengers. It’s so fucking incredible! There are no words to describe the feeling of this sheer force of nature battering you in the face. You can’t see, you can’t stop laughing, you’re very, very awake. He took us in a couple of times to chants of “Otra! Otra! Otra!” There’ll be generous quantities of Iguazu Falls sloshing around my internal organs for a while. You can’t help but swallow a bit of it.
We were dropped off at the dock, squelched back up the steps and were loaded back into a truck to be taken to the waterfall trail heads. There are two trails here if you don’t include the one to the Garganta Del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat, as most people take the free train there. The walkway at the Devil’s Throat had actually recently been washed away in the epic rains they’d had so you couldn’t get there, and part of one of the trails had been taken out by a landslide. I’m so glad we got to see the Devil’s Throat from the Brazilian side, it’s an absolute highlight.
We opted to do the still complete Circuito Superior, the upper trail first. You’re walking along the top of the waterfalls here and you can see the absolute power of the water as it rushes over the edge. You get some pretty good views of distant falls from this trail too, then you have a long walk through the jungle to complete the circuit. This in itself is a brilliant little walk. We saw a turtle and a tiny crocodile but despite some intense staring into the foliage we still didn’t see a bloody toucan. I’m starting to think they’re a myth.
The trail head for the Circuito Inferior is by a shop and a picnic area and don’t the coatis know it! There are monkeys too, black capuchin monkeys I believe, and whilst you’re free to make all the squee noises you want whilst you wave your camera at them, keep your distance or the grabby little buggers will have your food away and they don’t care how much of your flesh they take with it.
The lower trail is the better trail but this is the one that’s now in two pieces so it’s currently not a circuit. You have to go as far as you can one way, turn back then go as far as you can the other way. This is the trail that gets you the up close views of the waterfalls but my favourite viewpoint, Salto Bossetti, was sadly closed which I was a bit gutted about. It’s one of the ones where you can get close enough to taste it. Literally fucking taste it, it belts down with such force and you’re so close to it the spray soaks you.
We did a bit more strolling, oohed and ahhed at the baby coatis and a monkey eating an empanada it had either been given or run off with, before finally tearing ourselves away. What another amazing day. If you only have the time or the money to do one side I’d say do this one, unless the Devil’s Throat is still closed as it’s the best part. I’ve read that they hope to complete the repairs to the walkway by March 2023 but do check.
Parque Nacional Iguazú, Puerto Iguazù, Misiones, Argentina
Stayed at: Hostel Damaris, Puerto Iguazú
Useful shit to know…
How To Get From Foz Do Iguaçu To Puerto Iguazu By Bus
- At least two, maybe three bus companies ply this route. We just waited at the closest bus stop to our accommodation for the first one. It’ll say Puerto Iguazu and/or Argentina on the front.
- It happened to be a Rio Uruguay bus so we hopped on that.
- The driver greeted us in English (we obviously ooze gringa), and spoke enough to tell us what was going on.
- It cost R$20 each. I paid with a R$50 and he gave me the change in Argentinean pesos.
- I’ve since found out that Crucero Del Norte might be a little cheaper at AR$500 which is currently about R$15.
- I told him we needed to stop at the Brazilian border to get our exit stamps. He pretty much knew this anyway and gave us a ticket.
- They won’t wait for you at this border, hence the physical ticket. Ring the bell to stop the bus in case they forget. Brazilians don’t need to stop here so don’t assume they’ll remember.
- It’s easy enough to find out where to get your stamp. Get that done (we had to show Covid vaccination certificates) then return to the same bus stop you were dropped at.
- Your ticket is only valid for the bus company you arrived with so we had to wait for a Rio Uruguay bus.
- We ended up waiting about 45 minutes as two Crucero Del Norte buses and two buses Nuestra Señora de la Asunción cruised past.
- When your bus arrives get on it. It will definitely stop at Argentinian customs as everyone needs to do this.
- The bus will wait but if for some reason it doesn’t wait long enough and queues are epic you’ll once again have to wait for the next bus.
- Interestingly you don’t get stamped into Argentina any more which made me a bit sad. Instead they send you an email confirming the fact you’ve entered the country and how long you’re permitted to stay for.
- As UK citizens we’re entitled to stay for 90 days.
- The bus will then drop you at the bus terminal in Puerto Iguazú.
Parque Nacional Iguazú
- Rio Uruguay have buses leaving every 20 minutes to the waterfalls from the bus terminal. Incidentally, this same bus goes to the airport too after the falls.
- It took about half an hour, maybe less.
- It cost AR$1000 each return. You have to somehow keep your return ticket dry.
- I’d read that you had to book your tickets to the park online so that’s what we did. Turned out that you can actually buy your tickets there after all with cash or card.
- It’s meant to cost AR$4000 for non-Mercosur residents but we only paid AR$3400, possibly because the Devil’s Throat was closed, as was part of the lower trail.
- If the Devil’s Throat is open there’s a train that will take you there which is included in your entrance fee.
- If you’re not doing the boat ride you can either walk from the visitor’s centre to the waterfall trails or take the train.
- If you want to do the boat ride you need to go and see Jungle Iguazú. They have an office just after the entrance.
- The boat ride is called the Great Adventure and cost AR$14000 each. We didn’t need to book in advance and we could pay cash or card. It’s absolutely worth it.
- They provide dry bags for your stuff. They’re big enough for a small backpack and your shoes.
- English is widely spoken by the staff.
- Food and drink is obnoxiously expensive.
- We spent over five hours there including the two and a bit hours for the Great Adventure. If it was fully open we could probably have added an hour or more onto that.
- We were offered cambio by a taxi driver but it wasn’t a good rate.
- We changed our money at a shop near the bus terminal that advertised a good rate in the window.
- If the rates in the window don’t state “Cambio” then it’s just the rate you’ll get if you spend your money there. They don’t change it.
- We bought a Claro SIM card from the kiosk opposite the shop where we changed money.
- He was great and really helped us. He spoke a little English but Google Translate helped a lot.
- The SIM cost AR$500 each. He said it was a tourist SIM and the other ones required documentation we didn’t have such as a DNI. We only had to show our passports.
- He showed us our options for data packages and we opted for the AR$3500 package with 25GB of data for 30 days. Probably overkill but not running out of data is important to us.
- We added AR$300 each too so we could make phone calls and send texts. Again, probably more than we needed.