When we made a decision to venture to South America for the first time this year, debate number one was whether to go to Brazil and Argentina or alternatively, whether to head to Peru and Bolivia. With only two weeks at our disposal, choices had to be made. And after plenty of friendly-bantered marital “discussion”, we ultimately opted for the former.
Debate number two was about how to divide up our time. Do we head to the Brazilian Amazon, Sao Paolo and Rio? Do we explore Patagonia and its phenomenal glacier. In Pumpkin’s mind though, the one question that needed no asking was “do we visit the Iguazu falls?” Of course we do. It’s a no brainer – who in their right mind travels to Argentina /Brazil without seeing the falls?
So imagine his shock when I came out with the embarrassingly ridiculous statement, “do we really need to see Iguazu – isn’t it just a bunch of waterfalls and we’ve recently seen so many in Iceland?”
The Immense Iguazu Falls
Oh, what an ignoramus I was. And how special this “bunch of waterfalls” truly was. I had no words to describe the breathtakingly beautiful and ferocious falls we witnessed on those two days. “Wow” is really more a noise expressed by those of us too stumped to be able to wire up the connections in our brain responsible for formulating words but it was all I could muster up, so overwhelmed was I by the views.This is an immersion in a world of waterfalls. Their vigour pounds the ground beneath you, an assault to your senses with sounds both soothing and alarming all in one, the vapour in the air moist on your skin, heavy on your chest.
The falls hijack your vision from above, from below, from left to right. Everywhere, waterfalls. And what’s left is a you feeling so small, so astounded and so vulnerable.
The differences between visiting the Iguazu Falls from Brazil vs Argentina?
As you’ve probably gathered, decision-making is not our strong point – so we did both, spending one day on the Argentinian side and one day on the Brazilian side. There were a few key differences I noticed and I’ll get the more boring ones out the way first. On the Brazilian side, the facilities seemed a little more polished. Signs were more clearly displayed in different languages, bathrooms cleaner and there is a little bus at the entrance that you can board which will take you into the thick of the jungle.
Regarding the waterfalls though, the distinction was all in the vistas and panoramas. The walkways on the Argentinian side afford you the close ups, the chance to stand face on, one on one with solitary waterfalls, to view their magnificently forceful blankets of grey water, particularly at the wild and infinite Devil’s Throat, a spectacular 150m wide emptying where half the river flow ends up with an emetogenic core, spewing out muddy debris in its gallons.
In Brazil, we saw beautiful panoramas –this is the stuff of wide angle lenses and postcard-perfect paintings. It is in Brazil, where you can stand at one given point and see hundreds of waterfalls gushing down like stalactites in an invisible cave , resurrecting with gusto.
Viewing the falls independently or with a guide?
We had a guide on both days but it is straightforward enough to see the falls yourselves with the walking trails clearly marked and maps a-plenty in the parks. Our guide, however, proved invaluable with her beady eyes, which could see ahead for miles, spotting racoons, turtles, wild butterflies, tropical birds and even a toucan.
We never intended to seek or find wildlife and animals on this trip but with the help of a guide, it ended up feeling almost like a safari (and we have a soft spot for safari holidays.)
Mostly though, it was that sense of perspective that I left with, of realising how much beauty exists in the world.If like me, you have ever wondered whether these falls really live up to expectations, all I can say is that the hype exists for a reason and you will not be left disappointed.
Practical TIPs for Visiting the Iguazu Falls
- Either embrace getting wet or bring waterproofs with you.
- Bring cash if you want the professional photos taken – we didn’t bother but they were selling like hotcakes on the Brazilian side.
- Cafes and restaurants are available so you don’t need to carry a packed lunch with you but do always ensure you have a bottle of water in hand.
- On both sides of the falls, there are opportunities to do boat safaris (usually with additional charge), which takes you up close to the foot of some of the waterfalls. We didn’t partake in this but it looked thrilling and you will get utterly splashed!