4 July 2014

Iguazu Falls- best waterfall ever- and Argentina vs. Brazil

When I planned my trip to South America, I discovered  places that I did not even know existed. One of the places that stuck in my mind was Iguazu falls, the widest waterfall in the world. I have always been enchanted by waterfalls, large or small, spectacular or not. When I heard that these waterfalls(yes, many times plural), were so big they divided two countries, Brazil and Argentina, it landed the first spot on my have-to-see-places on my two month adventure. Absolutely legendary!

Admiring a handful of falls from the Argentinian side

How to get there from Buenos Aires
I know that you're well capable of figuring this out yourself but I'll tell you anyway for good measure.
From Buenos Aires there are several bus companies taking you to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina. Plataforma10 is a really good page for bus tickets in Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as well. If you pay in cash you get a few pesos off. They are not fans of creditcards in South America in general, and it'll often cost you more. (Before I forget to mention it: Bring USD or Euro to Argentina! There's a black market where you get much more in exchange!) 

The bus from Buenos Aires takes about 18 hours, and is surprisingly comfortable. Get the "Cama" seat though, the "semi-cama" is just a regular seat. The "Cama" goes almost all the way down and if you do share a two seat with a stranger there is plenty of space for the both of you without any awkward bumping into each other. You also get a snack and dinner on board, the television usually works, and shows up-to-date movies in English. 18 hours sounds like forever, but if you manage to get a little bit of sleep and watch a few movies, it'll be over in no time at all. You can also book a flight to Puerto Iguazu, but it gets a lot more expensive the closer you get to departure, and for people who doesn't plan far in advance, it was lots cheaper to take the bus.

The speedboat takes you right into this mighty fall

The Argentinian side
In Puerto Iguazu there are plenty of hostels, and you probably don't have to book in advance. However I usually did in South America just because I was worried I'd get lost and end up in a dangeruos neighbourhood(super paranoid). Also two German girls I traveled with for a bit had already booked one, Marco Polo, so I ended up there as well. It's not a good one by the way, it's kinda old, and smells like mildew. And that brings me to how little faith I have in Lonely Planet(it's good for maps though), "the bible" recommends really shitty hostels. Maybe Marco Polo was good ten years ago?

Picture of people taking pictures- looking down from one viewpoint to another

There is a direct bus every 20 minutes from outside the bus station(and right in front of the Marco Polo entrance) for AR$80 return. In addition, the entrance fee to the park is AR$215. The Argentinian side has about 80% of the falls. There are lots of walks in the park, and you can probably spend 10 hours there if you want to see everything.

Garganta del Diablo- Devil's throat

The most important is the Devil's throat which sounds way cooler in Spanish: Garganta del Diablo. There's a train going from close to the entrance taking you to the path that takes you to the massive water drop. The plateau where you admire the falls are as close you can get to the Devil without getting horribly wet. It is all the way at the beginning of the waterdrop where the river does a plunge and falls tens of meters down. Not only is it astoundingly beautiful, but seeing the tons of water able to crush anything underneath it, made me think of everyone I hold dear wishing they could see something as out of worldly as this. I just can't believe that most people never see Iguazu Falls! Still in awe and bewildernment, you take the train back and find other explorer tracks, walking from fall to fall, small and large.
View of Isla san Martin(no, it's not photoshopped; it's actually that pretty)

Close to Isla San Martin, there is a speed boat that will get you super close and super wet to the waterfall for US$22. You get to Isla San Martin for free by boat right across the river. We only reached the little pebble beach, where you can have a little swim if you like. We came there a little bit too late to walk to the other side of the island, as they close it off at about three o'clock. If you do get a chance to go there, the views are supposedly awesome.

If you feel like you haven't gotten enough the first day, you can actually go back the next day and get 50% off the entrance fee, just get your ticket stamped before you leave the park. Seeing the same side two days in a row, sounded excessive to me and I chose to go to the Brazilian side the next day. What a great decision!
View from the last plateau on the Brazilian side

The Brazilian side- amazing panoramic views
You can't go all the way to Puerto Iguazu and not do at least a day trip to the Brazilian side of the falls. Although only a small portion of the falls are actually on this side, you'll have the most extraordinary panoramic view of the cataratas(falls=another term that sounds cooler in Spanish). There is a return bus from the bus station in Puerto Iguazu with the only purpose of taking you to the falls' entrance. It takes less than an hour, but only goes about every two hours, first one at 8.30 and second at 10.30, if I remember correctly. So plan a head so you don't end up waiting that long. Immigration ran smoothly, and on the Brazilian side they didn't even check our passports. When you get to the entrance you buy a ticket for 50 Real,(a lot cheaper than the Argentinian side), then a double decker bus to the falls. From where the bus lets you off to the end view point it takes about an hour to walk, if you walk slowly taking photos and admiring the view. In the middle there is another view point where you are almost right in the middle of the action. Bring a rain coat(or buy a poncho at the spot), you can't walk for long on the board walk before you're soaking wet from the powerful falls. Don't be intimidated though, raincoat or not(I didn't realize I could buy a rain poncho until after I was soaked), best feeling ever to stand that close to tons of water crashing down before you and passing underneath you.

Argentina vs. Brazil- you don't have to choose!
People have asked me which side I liked the best, and if I think they should go on both sides. Personally, I am so grateful I got to see both sides, because they were both extraordinary in their own ways. And it would be impossible to tell someone that one or the other was better. The Argentinian side has more walks and you can obviously spend the whole day walking from waterfall to waterfall, seeing them up close. The Brazilian side though, lets you see all the amazing falls at once, admiring it from distance. The board walk on the Brazilian gets you up close and personal to the biggest fall(without the help of a US22$ speed boat ride). It's hard to beat that experience. So whatever you do, don't miss either one of them, the day trip from Puerto Iguazu is easy. See it for yourself and you will understand exactly why I insist you do both!

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