We left Brazil the scenic way – through the Iguaçu Falls into Argentina. The Cataratas (falls) are formed by the Rio Iguaçu, which thunders into a massive 80 metre crevasse dividing the two countries – creating one of the world’s natural wonders. You can get fantastic (and very different) views from both sides. We’d been told repeatedly by other travellers that the falls are best viewed from Argentina, but we wanted to compare both views for ourselves – and what we found surprised us.
It was a sunny morning when we arrived at the Brazilian side of the falls – a few kilometres from the town Foz do Iguaçu. We were some of the first to arrive and easily got a seat on the open-window bus, which takes you on a ten-minute scenic ride through the jungle to the track.
When you reach the start, there’s just one path to follow and it weaves through jungle along the cliff-edge facing the falls, which cascade over the Argentine side of the gorge. We heard the crash of the water before we saw them. Suddenly, the jungle-enclosed path opened out into a lookout platform where we could see the first cluster of waterfalls as they tumbled down into the river below.
Rainbows sprang out of the water and shot through the mist in arches of colour. It was here we could start to see the true scale of the falls – they stretch for more than two kilometres and, rather than one huge waterfall, there’s more than 270 separate streams of water that thunder into the river.
The average volume of water flowing over the falls is also massive, at around 1,700 cubic metres every second. In the rainy season, it can increase to 12,000 cubic metres per second – that’s more than five Olympic sized swimming pools!
As we followed the path along the edge of the cliff, the views seemed to get more and more impressive.
Halfway along the track, a snuffling in the bushes next to us made us break away from our waterfall-gazing. Funny looking little animals, which seemed like a cross between a racoon and an anteater, were frolicking in the foliage – some play fighting and some foraging for tasty morsels to snack on.
Eventually we reached the most famous part of the cascades – the Devil’s Throat. Here is the highest point of the falls, where around half of the river’s flow thunders over three sides into a massive chasm.
You could see the power from these falls more than any other – the mist that was created from the rushing water rose up in huge clouds that soared higher into the air than the falls themselves.
We couldn’t wait to get a closer look and we found that the path wound right out on to a platform at the entrance to the Devil’s Throat – where we were both soaked in seconds by the spray.
We were very impressed with what we’d seen of the falls in Brazil and I found it very hard to imagine how Argentina’s viewpoints could be much better, but we were looking forward to finding out!
The next day, we made our way through Puerto Iguazú – Argentina’s equivalent of Foz – to its Iguazú National Park ready for another good soaking. The first thing we noticed about Argentina’s take on the falls was that they’d created a huge attraction for people to visit, which included a train ride, boat rides (which cost extra) and several different tracks to see the falls from at different angles. Unfortunately, this seemed to have drawn in the crowds and the park was packed.
When we eventually got into the park, we took the upper track – which takes you along the top of the cascades, with bridges cleverly positioned so that they fall away into the chasm below from right under your feet.
Although it was great to see the falls this close up, we didn’t get the same ‘wow’ factor that we’d had back in Brazil when we saw the panoramic view of all of the different cascades crashing into the river below. We also didn’t enjoy being jostled about as people struggled to get the prime position for their photos.
We got as far as we could along the upper-track and were surprised to find that it stopped well short of the main event – the Devil’s Throat. You could just about make it out in the distance, but there was no way to access it at all. Apparently, there used to be a fantastic track that led straight into the middle of the Devil’s Throat, but it had been washed away by flood water months beforehand and still hadn’t been replaced.
We’d also been looking forward to a free boat ride over to San Martin island, where you can get a better look at the falls from in front of them – similar to the view from Brazil, but much closer (and wetter)! Unfortunately for us, the island was closed with no explanation given, so we resigned ourselves to doing the only other option left – the lower track (and a small train ride back to the entrance/exit).
On the way to the lower track we encountered more Coaties on this side of the falls too – although these ones seemed much more used to people and much braver. We saw a few trying to steal food from peoples’ tables at a restaurant and even one trying to nab food from a man’s picnic basket!
The lower track, although still busy, was a better experience for us. It was good to see the falls as they hurtle down right in front of your face – and we both got utterly drenched!
All in all, the falls are amazing. The power and beauty of the cascades totally blew us away. The best way to view them is with a trip to see both sides, as both Brazil and Argentina have different elements to offer. But, after being told that Argentina was better, we felt that Brazil’s side actually gave a more impressive perspective of the falls. If the Argentine track to the Devil’s Throat was open and we’d been able to go to the island, maybe we would have thought differently.
Although the Cataratas are the main draw, there’s also more to Puerto Iguazú than the falls. Walking near our hotel we were lucky enough to come across a Hummingbird Garden. The garden is actually in the private property of a lovely lady who puts out feeders and plants her flowerbeds so that there’s something in bloom all-year-round – which means there’s a constant stream of hummingbird visitors.
When we entered, we were stunned by what we saw. Hummingbirds of all different shapes, sizes and colours zoomed all about us as we stood open-mouthed in a small, but lush, garden full of tropical flowers.
We sat there for nearly an hour, content to watch the little birds – that were sometimes nothing more than a blur accompanied with the buzz of tiny flapping wings.
We were sorry to move on from Brazil leaving so much more to explore, but the falls were an amazing parting gift – and Puerto Iguazú was a fantastic welcome to Argentina.