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48.75 Hours in Iguazú Falls - Julio 2023

Updated: Jul 6

Actually, make that 31.25 hours.


I had previously visited the #2, #3, #4, and #5 greatest waterfalls in the world, so it was about time I visited #1.


Numerous blogs attempt to convey all the majesty and beauty that is Iguazú Falls but fall far short of conveying the details that can make a traveler's stay more enjoyable, less stressful, and most importantly, more economical. In an effort to fill this travel void, I will provide more details than usual in this Report. Don't worry there will still be enough of my vivid prose to convey the color with some spectacular photos to provide the cheesecake¹.


Overview

Iguazú Falls is located on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR), serves the city of Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and provides nearby access to the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls (Spanish "Cataratas del Iguazú").


Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport (IGU) serves the city of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, and provides nearby access to the Brazil side of Iguaçu Falls (Portuguese "Cataratas do Iguaçu").


There is a border crossing between the two via the Fraternity Bridge (Portuguese "Ponte da Fraternidade," Spanish "Puente de la Fraternidad") over the Rio Iguazu.


The Details

Wednesday

08:00 am

I arrived at IGR from Buenos Aries via an Argentine carrier called FlyBondi. It was a discount airline as evidenced by its prices, its name, that I had to be bused to the plane from the jetway, and that the plane that took off two hours late was quite dated (and noisy).

The airport transfer I had arranged prior, from IGR to my Argentine hotel, for 4,500 ARS ($9 USD) did not show. So after walking out of baggage claim I made a hard left, walked outside, and hired a taxi via the taxi stand. The standard rate is $5,500 ARS ($11 USD). And 25 minutes later arrived at the Iguazú Jungle Lodge, Puerto Iguazú.


As I had now gone without sleep for almost 24 hours (see below), after an expeditious and included breakfast, I took a nap until 1330. Then via the hotel concierge, booked a taxi to Iguazú National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Iguazú) for 10,000 ARS ($20 USD) - round trip. While waiting for my taxi to arrive I purchased a timed entry ticket to the park online, for 10,000 ARS ($20 USD). They can also be purchased at the park gate (though there may be a line).


2:30 pm

And 30 minutes later the taxi dropped us at the front gate of the park. During the drive, I coordinated with my driver, Diago, that I would text him via Whatsapp to coordinate my pick-up.


We entered the park and immediately proceeded to the Estación Central to board the park's 600 mm train that would take us to the access points for each of the park's three trails.


1. Inferior: a series of trails and walkways in front of the falls (at the bottom of the falls).

2. Superior: a series of trails and walkways above the falls (at the top of the falls).

3. Devils Throat: a series of trails and walkways above the Devil's Throat, which are accessed by remaining on the train and exiting at the next station, Estación Garganta del Diablo. The Devil's Throat is a horseshoe-shaped fall located in the middle of the Rio Iguazú with the Argentina/Brazil border running down its middle. Water drops some 262 ft from its top to the bottom, a white pool of turbulence and mist.


We hiked the Superior first, immediately followed by the Inferior. The Devil's Throat was closed due to high water levels at the falls².


Each of the three trails contains a series of elevated walkways that allow the hiker to literally walk over the falls. It's a cool setup and an engineering marvel as parts of the falls were"shut off" to allow the walkway piers to be sunk into the rock.

The Walkway and the View

We hiked at a medium pace, which got us back to the Estación Central station at about 1730, and 15 minutes after that we were outside the front gate waiting for my taxi.


6:00 pm

After leaving the park, it took about 1.5 hours for the return trip as the only road between the falls and Puerto Iguazú was reduced to one lane in one direction due to roadwork. Since it was getting late, I had the driver drop us off at a restaurant of his choice for dinner.


7:45 pm

The restaurant was very nice with above-average service and below-average food, so it will go unmentioned. It served a local fish called "surubi." Now part of the wonder of travel is eating new foods, I mean I didn't travel all the way to Brazil to eat a tuna fish sandwich . . . so I ordered it. And it just wasn't very tasty. Who knows why, maybe it was the chef, or maybe just one of those things. Though subsequently, I realized that surubi is a catfish and it was grilled . . . And I think there may be a reason why every time I previously ate catfish it was deep-fried.


9:37 pm

Walked back to the hotel and then immediately to sleep.


Thursday

11:51 am

The next morning after breakfast, we checked out. As the concierge was busy I contacted Diago directly and asked him to drive us across the border to our hotel in Brazil. He confirmed an immediate pick-up and a price of 8,000 ARS ($16 USD).


Taxis have their own special lane to cross the border and therefore we bypassed a very long line of private cars queuing at the Fraternity Bridge border crossing. I gave Horatio our passports and he handed them to Argentina Imigración. Everyone remained in the car as it was just like going through a toll booth, except I lowered the rear window so the officer could check us over.


The next stop was Brazil border control. Diago parked his taxi, we exited, and he escorted us through the bureaucracy. Five minutes later we were back in the taxi en route Iguaçu National Park, Brazil. From arriving at Argentina Imigración to departing Brazil border control was 15 minutes in total.


1:00 pm

Diago dropped us off at the front gate of Iguaçu National Park, Brazil, where we were greeted by an employee of the Belmond Hotel. The Belmond has a small facility at the gate that is staffed during normal working hours. A bus that runs every 20 minutes then took us and our luggage to the hotel that is located well inside the park.


About 30 minutes after that we were checked into our room. And about 30 minutes after that I was on the trail that thoughtfully starts directly in front of the hotel and hugs the Rio Iguazú providing numerous points to take numerous photos. The trail has quite a few banheiros (toilets), which is quite fortunate as the falls may have a diuretic effect on your visit.


At some point, a rain poncho with a hood may become useful. Most falls-viewers don either the clear or the white version. I would recommend against the white poncho as it evokes a Klansman vibe that only 46.8% of Americans are comfortable with. Either way, I would recommend the AfterActionReport.info approved Timberland Pullover as it is water-resistant and more importantly quite fashionable.


At the foot of the falls is what appears to be a lookout tower. I didn't get online with all the "tourists" to take the elevator, instead, I continued on and took the switch back that leads to the top, which led to the exact same place and the exact same view.

Traveler wearing AAR-approved Timberland Pullover admiring the Cataratas do Iguaçu

At the end of the trail, instead of waiting on a long line to catch a bus back to the hotel, I walked back to the Belmond (15 min) and saw a toucan!


3:30 pm

The remainder of the day was spent blogging, booking a São Paulo hotel, drinking a caipirinha on the hotel balcony, and listening to some live music at the bar,


6:30 pm

A delightful dinner at the hotel restaurant, of pirarucu (an Amazonian freshwater fish that was assuredly not a catfish), beurre blanc of manioc root juice, Brazilian vegetables, banana manioc crumble, and pitanga reduction. Itaipu Restaurante is one of the few restaurants in the world that practice the lost art of fine dining. An intimate, romantically lit, overstaffed, well-appointed culinary experience.


Friday

08:00 am

The next morning's breakfast was sandwiched between reviewing the falls. Being a guest of the Belmond enabled me to have a personal tour of the falls before the park opened. While it was very nice to view the falls without the riff-raff, the early morning temperature (~ 50° F) was conducive to a heavy mist that obscured much of the falls. Therefore we reinspected the falls after a sumptuous breakfast.

Café da manhã dos Campões

11:30 am

Then a 30-minute transfer to Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGU) via private sedan at R$190 ($40 USD). The airport is small and easy to get around.


3:15 pm

En-route São Paulo via GOL Linhas Aereas S.A. ‌flight1657.


The Lodgings

Argentina

Iguazú Jungle Lodge ($182/night tax inc.) is located a few blocks from downtown Puerto Iguazu (and about 30 minutes from the falls), up against the Rio Iguazú. Overstaffed and fairly swanky, with a country club feel, and the sumptuous breakfast that is typical to all South American hotels. However, I couldn't avail myself of most of the amenities due to my late arrival (see below).


Brazil

Hotel das Cataratas, A Belmond Hotel ($743/night tax inc.) is the only hotel located inside the Iguaçu National Park, Brazil. And no, that price is not a typo. The most expensive hotel I have ever stayed in, so expensive in fact that it had to be booked by Mrs. AAR (as I couldn't bring myself to do it). Not sure if any hotel is worth this much money, but this may be the closest. Note: The admission to the park of 86 Reals ($17 USD/person) is not included in this price, but is billed separately by the hotel (though everything in the now empty honor bar, is included).

Hotel das Cataratas, A Belmond Hotel, Iguassu Falls

The Color

The flight to Iguazú Falls, while delayed, appeared to work out fine until we arrived at IGR. Apparently, the weather at the falls was not conducive to a safe landing, so the plane turned around and returned to Buenos Aires. As this was not an international flight, the captain only made announcements in Espanol, and therefore I didn't realize that we had reversed course until I noticed the Sun was now setting on the wrong side of the plane. When the flight attendant confirmed my solar analysis, I thought about my prepaid hotel reservations and follow-on flight to Sao Paulo and almost cried.


A lesser traveler might have become visibly distraught, not me though, I just channeled the words of Yvon Chouinard, rock climber, adventurer, and founder of the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, who stated "The word 'adventure' has just gotten overused. For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That's when the adventure starts." And so I thought optimistically "Let the adventure begin."


I also may have thought, "Now you've done it, flying a discount airline has finally caught up with you, you . . ." But FlyBondi did a fine job, basically pushing the flight back, and flying us out at 5:30 the next morning. There were some touch-and-go moments during the adventure that involved a bus to another airport, a 2:00 am airport check-in, no sleep, and at one point a sprint from terminal to terminal - where I thought "If someone needs to be tripped in order for me to get on this flight, then so be it."


While waiting at the new airport, the Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) for eight hours, I noticed the cellophane guy. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you see . . .

General Notes:

1. Both sides of the falls serve as a habitat for the South American coati (Nasua nasua), which looks like and is related to the raccoon. When they are just off the trail in a tree, you feel like you are wandering through the jungle like Indiana Jones, unfortunately, they quickly dismount and approach your feet looking for a handout . . . which ruins the whole effect.

2. You can buy tickets to Iguazú National Park (Arg) the next day at half price by showing your prior day's ticket.

3. Here is an article on "How to do both sides of Iguazú Falls in one day." It has some interesting background information, but I'm not sure of its point of view. It seems like a long way to go, to then have to sprint for eight straight hours. What's next "How to make love to Gisele Bündchen in 10 minutes?" I mean it's possible, but what man would want to?

4. Due to rampant inflation the prices quoted in Argentine pesos are no longer accurate.

5. There is a tower in the Belmond Hotel that provides some nice views. If you are not a guest, then just enter the hotel like you are one and proceed up the main staircase to the first floor³ where you will immediately see the entrance to the Mirante staircase. If someone stops you, act indignant and say you wanted to have a drink at the bar, but are now no longer thirsty.



Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details that while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.


¹ As it turns out, maybe a little too much NY cheesecake.

² Not only is the falls an ecological wonderland, but an ode to travel. While reviewing my travel options at my hip, cool, and trendy condo in Buenos Aires, I was informed by numerous travel sites, that visiting Iguazú Falls in July could be problematic due to low rainfall making the falls less voluminous. This gave me pause but figured that even in a low-flow condition, the falls would still be worth seeing. Well as it was, when I visited, the falls were so voluminous that the most impressive section on the Argentine side, the Devil's Throat, was shut down due to the water level being too high.

³ In most of South America (like most of Europe) the second floor is called the first floor.



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Rosaleen O'Leary
Rosaleen O'Leary
Oct 30, 2023

Could you give me Diego’s number? Travelling to the falls in December and also staying in the Belmond…. Definitely a once off so reassured by your report🙏

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Replying to

Rosaleen O'Leary, his name is actually Horatio (my bad) and you can reach him at +54 9 3757 50 1963. Confirm prices prior to pickup. I paid in Argentine pesos, but he may take US dollars. You will love the Belmomd (make sure to stop by the bar for a pre-dinner cocktial and live music). Let me know how it all turns out.

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I always love starting my day with some chuckles while learning something new. As a native New Yorker, I also appreciated the link to info about on line vs. in line. I spent several days in Hong Kong this past July, and can attest to the accuracy of your comment in the link to fashionable travel wear: Hong Kong is very humid in July. Can’t believe you and the Missus actually sprung for that expensive hotel - not sure I could have done that, but good for you! It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience and great to be right there in the park. By the way, when you were at Iguazu, I was at DeTian Falls on the border o…

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Replying to

lindacgrady, Thanks for reading. Fourth largest waterfall, I need to put it on the list. Where in New York ya from?

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Linda Peck
Linda Peck
Aug 23, 2023

This whole vicarious trip has been just over the top, especially the parts I imagined!

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Linda Peck, thanks for the kind words.

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