It’s the first weekend home for me in a very long time, and it means that I can go back to my Latam story. For many reasons, travel and personal ones, this trip has become so meaningful to me that coming back to it is always a joy.
I have already written about the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, a series of amazingly spectacular waterfalls at the border of Brazil and Argentina. I still hold my breath looking at their pictures, amazed by the majesty of nature (and by the capability of my camera to take great photos without me really knowing what I was doing, at the time). At 26, I was impressed like this by the skyscrapers of New York.
The Argentinian side of the Falls is equally impressive, yet in a very different way. The Brazilian experience we had was very private. Waking up with the sun at 6 am. Exploring the Natural Park, closed to the general public, at 8 am. Running down the rainforest paths surrounded by coati. Dining at a very, very good restaurant of the hotel. Watching the evening sun dissolving in the velvet water of the pool. And then you come to Iguazu from the Argentinian side, and it is like Disneyland.
Meaning there is a park, a map, several walking tracks, a train and waiting lines the length of a lifetime. To say that the Argentinian side of the Falls is huge is an understatement. It is a small city, a separate ecosystem filled by crowds of gringo tourists. It felt like the safest place in Latin America, and it probably was. I am giving a few tips on how to navigate it among the other promised tips below, after the photos.
Like in the post about Iguazu, Brazil, I am stepping away from my collage approach to multiple shots, and letting you breathe in megabytes of these breathtaking views.
Ok, the promised tips:
- Visit both sides of the Falls. We had some doubts about the Argentinian side first, and it was so much worth it. The experience is very different but (almost) equally great. My heart will always stay in Brazil.
- Plan at least an entire day in Argentina (something we did not do). There are three main trails in the park, and you will need this time with the distances and waiting lines (for example, it takes around 45 mins to get to the train taking you to Garganta del Diablo, the Devil’s Throat. Then around 20 min on the train itself and another good 30 min to get to the waterfall).
- Brazil side has only one trail, and 1,5h is usually enough to go through it. If you are staying in Brazil, do this trail at different times of the day: sunset views are predictably stunning and one-on-one with nature early in the morning is a great experience on its own.
- More on trails: in Argentina, you would naturally want to start from Garganta del Diablo, because it is the most photographed place at the Falls. However, this is the least spectacular of the three trails. (And the road to get there is a time killer, too.) Start with any of the other two routes, you would need energy to go through them. Leave Garganta del Diablo for the hottest time of the day, when spending a few hours queuing and commuting (both in the shade) won’t seem like such a bad idea.
- Plan to spend at least two nights at the Falls: the weather is totally unpredictable, and you don’t want the tropical rain to be the only thing you witness during your stay.
- For the hotel choices, stay in the park. In Brazil, the only choice like that is Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. For SPG lovers, Argentina has Sheraton, which we could see from different points of the falls (like our hotel, which was especially great to see from the Argentinian side: so close and yet separated from us by the national border and a 1,5h taxi ride). It probably is 5 times more expensive than the hotel properties 20km away but you are there for only a few days and you want to get the most out of it.
- Pack on sunscreens, water and something you can eat: especially when going to Argentina. Despite the Disneyland size of the park, food options are very limited there and by far not as appealing as those in the original fairytale city.
- Bring cash. Any cash, really: Argentinian pesos, Brazilian reals, US dollars, everything works better there than a card. In Argentina, for every card payment you make, you would need to confirm your passport data on a receipt. In writing.
- Raincoats are overrated: you going to get soaked up anyway, in Brazil for sure, but think about taking a protective gear for your camera. This piece of advice is probably written somewhere because everyone around me had their cameras cased-in. I did not.
- Go by taxi between the two countries and trust the taxi driver to arrange the passport control formalities (you would need to give him your passport though and might need to wait in the cab, so don’t freak out). Maybe tip him a little bit to be more reassured.
- Book some down time. A visit to Iguazu Falls can be extremely busy. You would probably walk, climb, run, get soaked, grill under the sun for some fair number of hours and then get soaked a few more times. Make sure you carve out some time to slow down and take in what you see. Together, hand in hand.
What comes to us, we closed this unbelievable day (all the photos of the two sides of the Falls were taken the same day, imagine!) and happily returned back to our hotel in the National Park of Iguazu in Brazil. To jump straight to the pool, yes. Long day was ahead of us, with the Bird’s Park visit and travel to, well, Buenos Aires. As you can see, everything in Latin America is very close, despite the distance.