Thursday, 1 November 2012

Iguazu Falls

When I talk to people at home about living in Argentina, I always invite them to come on down for a visit.  Getting here is expensive and it is a long flight - two hours from Detroit to Atlanta, ninety minute layover, then the ten hour flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires.  But once you are here, prices are reasonable, people are friendly and the weather is warm!

Last week we had our first visitors - my daughters Shelbe and Madison.  It was a whirlwind week and we needed near daily siestas to get by, but we had a blast.  Our itinerary was:

Friday - arrival and walking tour of Buenos Aires with yours truly as tour guide
Saturday and Sunday - Iguazu Falls
Monday - shopping in vintage shops and Florida Street pedestrian mall
Tuesday - Buenos Aires Street Art Tour
Wednesday - Ferry to Colonia, Uruguay
Thursday - walking tour of Nature Reserve then flight home

Today's blog will be dedicated to our weekend trip to Iguazu Falls.  Every tour book I've looked at for Argentina mentions Iguazu Falls.  Lonely Planet which lists Iguaza Falls as #2 of the Top 20 Experiences in Argentina - specifically "a primal experience for the senses; one of the planet's most awe-inspiring sights." Having grown up only a few short hours away from Niagara Falls, I get the idea of waterfall as tourist attraction.  But Iguazu is nothing like Niagara Falls.  At Niagara Falls, you view the waterfall from a very safe distance.  Other than looking at the waterfalls and going on the Maid of the Mist, most of the attractions at Niagara are very touristy - wax museums and the like.

Iguazu is completely different.  Everyone I talked to said a weekend trip would be plenty of time, and they were right, but it was a full weekend.  It was a short two hour flight on Saturday morning, and we picked up our rental car at the Iguazu airport.  You can stay in town and take a shuttle bus back and forth to the park, but we really liked the freedom of being able to come and go as we pleased. Plus, we were checking out on Sunday morning with a flight at 9 pm.  What would we do with our luggage?   Easiest just to stow it in the trunk of the rental car, rather than trying to make arrangements to store it somewhere in town during the day. 

I had booked two rooms at Casa Yaguarete which is a bed and breakfast I found on TripAdvisor.  When travelling for the weekend, I'd often rather support a local person trying to make a living rather than some giant multinational conglomerate. When we arrived, we found that there was a little house where our hosts, Lorena and Andrea lived, and then on the same property was our very spacious two room casita. Each room was enormous and all four of us could have easily stayed in one room, but since the rooms were $70 US per night, it was no big deal that we had booked both of them.  The property was full of mango trees and lime trees, and the girls had a great time befriending all the various cats and dogs on the property.  Lorena gave us directions to the park, locations for dinner and lots of advice so we dropped off our luggage and drove to the park as quickly as we could, hoping that Iguazu would live up to all the hype.

Our little B&B casita with a lovely covered porch.  This is the door to
Madison and Shelbe's room, and our room was around on the right side
with a covered porch as well.  Very important since it rained a lot while
we were there.

The spacious interior of our room with private bath. Much bigger
than my bedroom at home!

At Iguaza you are up close and personal with over 200 waterfalls, some falling more than 200 feet.  The walkways go right over the precipice of some of the waterfalls.  The size, power and sheer scope of these waterfalls is hard to comprehend. The park is enormous and very well maintained with well marked trails, decent restaurants, and clean bathrooms.  It was even better than the guidebooks said it would be.  Before leaving, we made sure we had our tickets stamped so that we would get a 50% discount on park entry the next day.  The entry prices vary wildly -  a very low price for residents of Argentina (40 pesos), a low price for residents of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay (70 pesos), and then a higher price for the rest of us (100 pesos).  However, I thought it was worth every centavo.

At Garganta del Diablo (the Devil's Throat)

Again from Lonely Planet:
"One of the planet's most spectacular sights, the Garganta Del Diablo.  The lookout platform is perched right over this amazingly powerful and concentrated torrent of water, a deafening cascade plunging to murky destination....It is a place of majesty and awe and should be left until the end of your visit."    They recommend that you leave your walk to the Devil's Throat until the end of the day so it won't be so crowded.  We went there first thing (I'm an eat dessert first kind of gal), and it wasn't crowded at all but the height of tourist season isn't until January and February.   You can see the plumes of mist from the falls long before you get to them, and the sound of the waterfalls gets louder and louder as you walk down the metal gangway. The anticipation builds and when you finally get there, it is amazing!!! You are literally standing over top of the edge of one waterfall as cold water from countless waterfalls splashes you from all directions in sudden gusts, the wind blows so wildly that your rain ponchos is whipping around your legs, and everyone around you is shrieking and laughing.  What a rush!

We spent the rest of the day and part of the next exploring both the upper and lower trails and we saw so many beautiful waterfalls that it became almost overwhelming.  The lush jungle foliage, the bird calls, the butterflies - it was unreal. 

There are a series of trails throughout the park with bridges and catwalks over and around the various waterfalls.  We hiked the Garganta Del Diablo trail (1100m) and the Paseo Superior (650m) the first day, and the Paseo Inferior (1400m) the second day.  The Paseo Superior takes you along the top of the waterfalls, and is an easy and relatively flat hike.  Paseo Inferior descends to the river and has lots of staircases which can get rather slippery!  It also has the access to the free boat launch to Isla San Martin.  Unfortunately the water levels were too high due to recent rainfall so the boats weren't running when we were there.  I guess we'll have to go back!

Standing on the gangway over one of the smaller waterfalls

While walking in the park, we saw toucans, coatis, capybaras, and an iguana, all out in the wild, and more butterflies than you can imagine.  The coatis are adorable but vicious and signs warning not to feed them are everywhere.  Despite the sign warning us of large snakes lying in wait just off the walkways, we never saw a single one!  John had lots of opportunities to use the zoom lens on his new camera and got many good photos of the jungle wildlife. I've posted a few here and can bore everyone with the rest of them when we get home.

Nothing like a poster of a child's hand with an open wound to drive home a point!

If you've always wanted to go to South America, come on down and visit us.  We can't guarantee toucans and coatis, but we can guarantee you'll have lots of fun!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Love the pics and description of the waterfalls.

    I agree about supporting local people while you travel. You may want to check out This website coordinates local people who are renting out rooms or whole apartments for travellers. There is a fee for using the website, but the deals you can get are amazing. We've booked both a room in someone's house as well as our own private apartment. An advantage of booking a room in someone's house is you get to meet interesting people :)

    Happy Trails,

    P.S. If Madison every travels to Vienna she will love the vegetarian restaurants! Over 30.... And so the three we've tried has been great!


Thanks for posting on my blog!