Long before you see them, the thunderous roar of billions of gallons of water plunging over volcanic cataracts lets you know that you’re approaching Iguazu Falls. Seeing the falls for the first time, the heady mixture of the power of nature and the spell-binding natural beauty of the landscape is more than a little overwhelming. The Iguazu River snakes across Brazil for 1,200 km to reach the cataracts, where it literally drops off the vast plateau it has travelled across to get here. It’s a journey worth making.
The 270 separate falls that make Iguazu the world’s largest set of waterfalls are one of the planet’s greatest natural wonders, and a must see if you’re visiting Argentina. We didn’t have much time to spare and wanted to visit both the Argentinian side and the Brazilian side of the falls. Our flight into Puerto Iguazu arrived in the early afternoon, so although we had a hotel booked in the town, to make the most of our time we went straight to the Parque Nacional Iguazu entrance and dived into our visit.
The weather was incredibly hot and humid, and we were soon regretting our decision to walk from the entrance rather than take the train. We didn’t make that mistake on the way back. The Argentinian side has excellent walking routes that give you a series of extraordinary views over the cascades. We made the fateful decision to explore the upper and lower walking circuits first, crossing by boat to the Isla San Martin, from where you can hike up a steep trail to get spectacular views over the Escondido and San Martin falls. It’s magnificent.
I say ‘fateful decision’ because we’d underestimated how long we’d need to complete the routes, especially when the weather was ferociously hot. Remerging at the station to get the train to the La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) we were exhausted, running out of time before the park closed for the night and in desperate need of a shower, either that or a cold beer. We decided to head to our hotel instead of going to the La Garganta del Diablo, intending to return the next day after we’d visited the Brazilian side.
Our hotel in Puerto Iguazu was a cabana overlooking the river with views to Brazil, a short walk to the Hito Tres Fronteras, where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, and marking the confluence of the Iguazu and Paraná rivers. It’s a highly symbolic location. The next day dawned hotter and more humid as we took a taxi across to the Brazilian side of the falls. Inexplicably, our taxi driver convinced us to visit a Parque das Aves, a forested aviary with around 140 species of birds. Excitingly, we got to see a toucan up close and personal.
When we reached the park entrance ominous, dark clouds had blotted out the sun and rolls of thunder could be heard in the distance. Shortly afterwards the heavens opened and we were running to find shelter from the torrential rain. The Brazilian side is much smaller than the Argentinian side, and a little less dramatic, but definitely worth a visit for the different perspective it gives on the falls, particularly La Garganta del Diablo. At least that’s true if it isn’t pouring with rain, although the thunder provided a dramatic soundtrack.
The rain was relentless, low cloud and mist from the falls obscured much of the view. We bought a couple of plastic ponchos and saw as much as we could without getting too wet. Eventually we took shelter in a restaurant directly opposite La Garganta del Diablo and tried to dry off. Here we watched amazed, not at the falls but the antics of several coati, the odd-looking South American member of the raccoon family. Leaping onto tables they were absolutely fearless as they stole food.
The rain didn’t seem like it was going to stop any time soon, so we went for lunch in the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu before returning to our hotel. We never did get to go to The Devil’s Throat on the Argentinian side, which is a shame, but at least it provides a reason to come back.