Waterfalls are always a somewhat magical phenomenom and make every hike a little more special than just walking on a trail. However, when you have some of the largest waterfalls in the world placed in a tropical jungle climate, the phenomenon takes on a whole different level of incredible. That is what it is like to experience Iguazu Falls.
Iguazu means big water in Guarani, which is a fitting name for the deafening roar this beast of a natural waterfall showcases. In fact, it is something very akin to ‘magic’—and it should be because the Falls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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.
1. Hike the short circuit first, then the long circuit and finish at the Devil’s throat
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 nearly 90 meters 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.
Take advantage of 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.
4. Catch the sunset and sunrise on the right side
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.
5. Hike less common trails
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.
6. Visit Aripuca or a Bird Sanctuary
Outside the Park, visit the thought provoking 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.
7. Head to Paraguay to visit the Jesuit Ruins
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.
For further information about tours in Iguazu, Argentina contact travel experts, Say Hueque: www.sayhueque.com