No trip to Argentina would be complete without a visit to the mighty Iguazu Falls, which straddle the border with Brazil in the far Northeastern Misiones province. Here, a huge volume of water rushes over a collection of nearly 300 individual waterfalls, some 1.7 miles wide, and up to 270 feet high. Upon first seeing the falls, it’s reported that first lady Eleanor Roosevelt could only say, “Poor Niagara!”
Since we were traveling from Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, we skipped other traveler’s advice and opted to travel by bus instead of plane. It’s a long trip to Iguazu Falls, which sits in a remote corner in the tri-border region of Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay, far from Buenos Aires.
Of course, after more than 11 months of back-breaking overland travel we were used to a bus journey or two. So, we left Montevideo early in the morning, on a 8-hour bus to the Uruguayan city, Salto. There, we found the last bus for neighboring Concordia, Argentina had already left. Not wanting to be stuck in Uruguay another day, we hired a cab to drive us over the Salto Grande Hydroelectric dam and into Argentina (our third time entering the country this trip), where we found a bus leaving for Iguazu. By 11am the next day we were pulling to a stop in Puerto Iguazu, well rested thanks to the luxurious “cama” seats we had booked for the journey. Piece of cake!
Not wasting any time, we quickly checked into the pleasant Garden Stone hostel, dropped our bags in our bungalow room, and caught a bus to the falls.
Like any well-developed natural attraction, Argentina’s Iguazu National Park offers a number of ways to experience the falls and the surrounding area, some of which are very “touristy.” You can, for example, ride a small-scale “ecological forest train”, join a jungle jeep safari, dine at overpriced restaurants, and buy chintzy souvenirs. One activity stood out from the list, though, the “Nautic Adventure” where you strap yourself in a speedboat and zip around under the falls.
We weren’t even sure this tour would be offered since two American tourists had died on one of these boats just a couple weeks before, when the boat driver suffered a heart attack, hit rocks under the falls, and capsized the small boat. Luckily (unluckily?), the tours were still running, so before we could have second thoughts, we slapped down an exorbitant amount of money and prepared to get soaked.
For the next ten minutes we screamed our heads off as the driver sped in and out of the falls, subjecting us to the pounding water (it really hurt!), dangerous currents, whirlpools, rocks, and other hazards around the plunge pools. It was intense! Check out our video from YouTube to get a sense of the madness:
We took the rest of the day to explore more of the falls from some of the scenic viewpoints and trails.
Some of the walkways allow you to get right up next to the upper lip of the falls.
As the sun started to set, we decided to head back to town and leave the rest of the park until the next day. Over dinner that night, we thought about our amazing day at the falls and asked each other…Iguazu or Niagara? It was still too early to answer that question, though, as we had left one major part unexplored – The Devil’s Throat (La Garganta del Diablo).
We were up and out early the following day to see this impressive section of the falls, where 50% of the entire falls’ flow runs into a narrow section, letting out a deep roar and a huge amount of mist. While the Devil’s Throat is actually closer to the Brazilian side, the Argentinians have rigged up over 1km of elevated walkway near the upper edge of the falls, allowing visitors to position themselves right over the action.
Since Iguazu is set in a lush, jungle environment, lots of tropical plants, flowers, insects, and animals surround the falls.
As we walked out to the Devil’s Throat, we passed a huge number of colorful birds (including toucans) and a few voracious coatis.
About halfway to the Devil’s Throat we stopped in a little rest area where we were completely surrounded by all sorts of butterflies. They were apparently attracted to the salts in our sweat (and given the muggy heat, there was a lot of it) and fluttered all around us.
Finally, the walkways ended at the main attraction, bringing us right up to the very edge of the falls, staring into the abyss of the famous Devil’s Throat.
We tried to keep our cameras dry in Ziploc bags, taking them out only in sporadic bursts between showers of heavy mist.
Of course, we got soaked!
Sadly, our main point-and-shoot camera, the Canon S90 did not leave the falls unscathed. We now have a large white halo visible in many of our shots, thanks to condensation which built up inside the camera during our time at the falls. Still, it was all worth it to experience the breathtaking Iguazu Falls from every angle!