Iguazu Falls – The Tourist Magnet

I hadn’t planned on going to Iguazu Falls. I’m just not a waterfall kind of guy. I can for a brief moment appreciate their beauty however, I can’t sit there for hours on end and enjoy them like some people. Tamara, a Dutch girl who I had met on the Galapagos managed to convince me to go and said it was one of those things that I had to do. So, I decided to give it a go like with most recommendations I’ve had on this trip.

It was a 24 hour bus ride to Iguazu from Salta and one that would require multiple stops throughout the evening. By the time I arrived, I was in a daze and confused state as I had no idea which of the stops would be our last. We had also descended from the dry and desert conditions to tropical and humid climate as Iguazu sits smack bang in the middle of the border of Argentina and Brazil.

There are few ways of ‘doing’ Iguazu. From just either the Argentinian or Brazilian sides themselves, or visiting both sides on separate days. From my research, most of the falls were on the Argentinian side and you’re able to get up and close to them. Whereas on the Brazilian side, you get a better Panoramic view of all of the falls but can’t close to many of the falls. Seeing that I had become a bit more conscious of how much money I’m spending, I decided just to explore it from he Argentinian side to save on cost of entry as well as for a visa.

The general impression of the park when I first enter? Being classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, there’s a lot of freaken people. All types: young, old, disabled, groups of school kids. This could be one of those days where I’ll be fighting for a decent view of anything. I bought a ticket that offered a ride in a speed boat  that would go right up to the falls and pretty much into the heavy spray. There was also an ‘eco tour’ type cruise along the boundary of the upper levels of the falls where we could get a guided tour of the wildlife and flora and fauna around the area.

Iguazu falls

People, everywhere

As soon as I enter, my instincts tell me to head to the furthest point in the park above the falls where I could see the Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat) and go on the upper level guided cruise. I thought I had arrived at a pretty decent time, but it was already busy so I pretty much accepted the fact that it would be busy everywhere for the entire day.

I’d have to admit, for South American tourist standards, the facilities at the park were first class. In fact, most places in Argentina and Chile have facilities that are on par with first world that we know of: Transport, signs, footpaths (with the exception of Buenos Aires’ dog poo ladened paths) and walkways were actually SAFE unlike most places I’ve been to throughout South America where you’d encounter many ‘WTF moments’.

Upon seeing the Devils Throat, I’d have to say it was my “highlight” of the day. It’s a good five minute stroll over water across raised walkways across the upper areas of the park until you get to a waterfall in a U shape, 82m high and 150m wide. Standing on the viewing platform only a few metres from the mouth of the falls and a long way down, the sound is immense and the constant barrage of water creates a giant mist that constantly lingers around the mouth of the falls.

Iguazu falls

Walkway to The Devils Throat

Iguazu falls

The Devils Throat

Iguazu falls

A view of how close up the viewing deck is to the throat

While I’m waiting by the river for the guided ‘eco’ tour, I have a bit of time to people watch. It becomes quite apparent that everybody is either in a tour or with a group of few people or their partner. Am I the only one by them self? It’s probably the first time on the trip where I’ve become remotely self conscious about being a lone traveller. I’ve been doing it for the past six and half months now so why should it be any different? I guess things can change over time and perhaps being in a super touristy place where people are more inclined to travel with their friends for that “special trip” has me feeling this way.

During the eco tour,  the three couples and myself  hop onto an inflatable raft and a guide steers the raft with only paddles down the left side of the river to avoid being swept down the waterfalls. To be honest, apart from one alligator, we didn’t see anything else in the 20 minutes we were on the water and there wasn’t much to learn from the tour so the money would have been better spent on a few ice creams.

Iguazu falls

The eco tour. Looks exciting eh?

Iguazu falls

We did see an alligator though

The middle section of the falls is pretty cool though. There are access walkways to many of the waterfalls and you can see them from the top level where the water plummets off, or from the bottom where the constant mist from the falls is refreshing if you dare to fight through the crowds and get close enough.

Iguazu falls

Lots of monkeys around. DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS

Iguazu falls

View from the upper deck looking down to the lower level

Iguazu falls

A wider panoramic shot

After a leisurely 2km stroll across many more waterfalls, I made it to the meeting point for the speed boat over an hour earlier than the original time booked. It didn’t prove to be a problem though and I managed to persuade them with my broken Spanish to find room for me on an earlier boat.

Now I thought I had properly dressed for the occasion. I had some quick dry shorts on, a waterproof jacket and boots and thought I I could lay my backpack over them to prevent any water from sneaking in. Was I right?

Iguazu falls

Ready to get wet

About 25 people were herded onto the boat and the driver says we have a minute to take photos then he’ll give us the sign to put the cameras away into the waterproof bags that they give to everybody. Before you know it, the cameras are tucked away and we are zooming towards the waterfall. Slowing down at the last minute we slowly edge closer and closer to the falls to what literally felt like the rinse cycle of a washing machine. Every effort to remain as dry as possible had failed within half a second. A few  smarter people around me had the sense to literally strip down to next to nothing and store their clothes in the bags. By now, I had pretty much seen everything and was ready to call it a day seeing that I was completely drenched.

Iguazu falls

Soon to be us

I have to admit. The sheer size and scale of Iguazu was indeed impressive. Did I LOVE it? Not really. I don’t think I would have lost any sleep if I didn’t go. Unlikely. I felt a like it was too overcrowded, and a place where everybody puts it up as their number one must see in Argentina and that getting there is pretty easy now via land or air. I’m not saying that you should all stay away. It’s only that in this case, I gave something a go and it’s ok not to be blown away. I’ve had a pretty good run up until now and perhaps I’m slowly changing my perspective on things how I plan and prioritise where to go and what to see on this and possibly other future trips.

Other Important Info:

Stayed: Marco Polo Inn in Puerto Iguazu. US$12 for a dorm room. Includes breakfast and they have BBQ nights.

Getting there: Quite a few bus companies and Airlines travel to Puerto Iguazu. Getting from Salta to Iguaza cost US$140 (official rate). The cost of a bus from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires on Rio Uraguay will cost US$120 (official exchange rate) for a pimping first class suit.

Bus to the falls: US$14 (Official rates) return

Park Entry: US$40 (Official rate), Speed boat up to the falls and the eco tour was US$50 (Official rate). If I had to do it again, I would not bother with the eco tour.Save your pennies and buy an ice cream.

What to bring: If you decide to to the speedboat tour up into the falls then I’d recommend wearing your swimming costume and put your clothes including shoes into the dry bag the operators give you before boarding as everything will get wet. Sunscreen and insect repellent may come in handy as well.

I didn’t explore the falls from the Brasilian side but if you decide to do so then you will need to take into consideration the time to apply for a Visa if you need one and also the additional costs.

Have you been to Iguazu and does being in overcrowded places affect your experience even though it may be a Great Wonder Of The World?


Iguazu Falls – The Tourist Magnet — 4 Comments

  1. Jimmy, I love your descriptions! Had a few chuckles and could totally picture you describing it all! I’ll be following your adventures :)

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