Imagine unbelievable amounts of water falling all around you. Imagine the deafening roar this creates, the violent white color created when the water suddenly meets air. Imagine this event is surrounded by a sub-tropical rainforest filled with colorful butterflies and birds, even the implausible toucan. Put yourself there, the mist gradually soaking you through, creating rainbows in impossible angles in all directions. This image, imperfect as it is, might just initiate one into the reality of tours to Iguazu Falls. It goes without saying that here the reality far surpasses the imagination.
Waterfalls as natural phenomena have the unique ability to combine action with constancy. The kinetic energy of the Falls is thrillingly alive, each snapshot different from every other because the water is different. On the other hand, as long as the river has water, there will be a waterfall in that place. Multiply the scale of these two elements by a thousand, and you have some way to describe what’s going on at Iguazu (which in Guarani descriptively means ‘big water’). This combination endow tours of Iguazu Falls with something very akin to ‘magic’—no wonder the Falls are one of the World´s Seven Natural Wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Iguazu Falls are shared by three countries: Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Both Brazil and Argentina have National Parks devoted to them, and they are sufficiently different in character to each merit a visit. The ‘Brazilian’ side, set farther back from the Falls themselves, is favoured for its panoramic view. From here, one can appreciate just how massive the Falls are. Many come here, if only to take that perfect photograph. The ‘Argentine’ side is more developed and advances right up to the Falls themselves, to a place called La Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat). It includes many more walks and viewing points, as well as a number of excursions that will get one above, next to, or even beneath the Falls themselves. Most of the tours to Igauzu Falls go to both countries, but, if time is short, opt for just the ‘Argentine’ side.
It is in fact an excellent idea to approach a trip to the Argentine side of the Iguazu Falls by beginning from a distance to the Falls and steadily get closer and closer. In this way, one can appreciate first their size (and ‘poor Niagara,’ as Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, isn’t as big) and later appreciate its sheer force. Therefore begin on the short, but panoramic, upper circuit before heading down the lower circuit, enjoying its several different viewing points. Finally approach the Devil’s Throat: a U shaped, several hundred meter deep and nearly90 meter high chasm of falling water that casts mist high into the air. From here, it isn’t too difficult to imagine Hell itself is just beneath the surface of the churning water.
Having seen the different views possible on the Park’s circuits, it is also possible to splash out (literally) for some additional excursions, many of which come highly recommended. The first of these is a free transfer to the Isla San Martin, where on a small beach one can appreciate the heart of the Falls, as well as get a tan. There is also a good walk here that one can explore, and perhaps even pretend to be a character from that iconic movie featuring the Iguazu, the Mission. For those who enjoy a good theme park ride, consider hopping aboard one of the high powered, high octane boat excursions that venture right up to and even inside the Falls. This is an excellent chance to feel their tremendous power first hand, as well as see a group of adults become reduced to happy, squealing children.
Iguazu is understandably one of South America’s chief tourist attractions. This means that one should expect ample crowds almost year round, but especially on school holidays. For a chance to get some time alone with the Falls, rising early is the best option. The Argentine Park opens at 8am and the Brazilian at 9am. Photographers should remember in connection to this that the sun rises from the Brazilian side (which is only a problem when photographing the Devil’s Throat) and sets on the Argentine side.
One of the joys of tours in Iguazu Falls National Park is the opportunity to be in a rainforest, which once stretched many thousands of miles in all directions. Explore the incredible biodiversity, very unlike that of temperate climes, by taking some time to visit the Park’s eco-museum, and by hiking along the Sendero Verde or Macuco to actually be in this habitat. The latter even takes one to a smaller, more intimate waterfall missed by a good number of visitors. Outside the Park, visit the thought provoking Aripuca—an enlarged Guarani trap designed to ‘capture the conscience.’ Even more interesting is the Guira Oga bird sanctuary, intended to help injured and orphaned wildlife return there. Here it is usually possible to see some of the animals one might miss in the wild, such as a macaw or a toucan.
For those following one of the many ‘Argentina only’ tours, Iguazù Falls and the surrounding area offer a great opportunity to see a very different part of this diverse country. Misiones is a world away from much of the rest of Argentina, and in many ways the people of Misiones have more in common with neighbouring Paraguay and Brazil than they do with the Porteños of Buenos Aires or the Gauchos of the Pampas. Indeed, the bus journey (at about 17 hours) between Iguazu and the Capital makes this clear as it advances up some of the most fertile parts of this sweeping country—Argentina’s Mesopotamia, the Provinces of Entre Rios, Corrientes and finally Misiones. The history of this area has not always been rosy. If time allows, make sure to witness this by stopping at the Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio just outside the town of Posadas. These once thriving communities of indigenous Guarani were abruptly dispersed and its founders from the Society of Jesus ejected in the 18th Century. They were left to become ruins—which they remain today.
It is understandably difficult to choose from among the many available tours. Iguazu Falls can be enjoyed on many different levels and budgets, from the most luxurious to the most constrained. One can stay in a hotel which enjoys a magnificent view of the Falls themselves, stay in a jungle lodge that maximizes the experience of being in this unique habitat, stay in a wide range of accommodation in town, and even camp! Whatever the preference, Say Hueque can make it happen. We can also manage connections to other parts of the country and continent. Any trip to Iguazu will undoubtedly be a highlight, and for those journeying onwards from Iguazu to Brazil and Rio, there is no better or more dramatic way to bid Argentina good bye.
For further information about tours in Iguazu, Argentina contact travel experts, Say Hueque: www.sayhueque.com