Passported’s Monique recently returned from Argentina and snuck a side trip in to the famous Iguazu Falls. She maps out when to go, how to get there and, most importantly, where to stay. (Hint: the best place is NOT in the park!)
Brazil versus Argentina
Lets get this out of the way. The Brazil side has the panoramic views of the falls, the Argentina side is where you walk, breathe and feel the falls, get up close. If you’re headed to Iguazu, you’re likely entering from the Argentina side, in which case you already have your visa. A visa for US Citizens is also required to enter Brazil, but the process is much more arduous and time consuming (Argentina = online and easy, Brazil= consulate and in person).
Where to Stay
Book a room at the Iguazu Grand Resort. Just 15 minutes from the falls, the Grand gives tired travelers a full service resort with three restaurants, three pools, a kids club, tennis courts, a soccer field, rock climbing wall, and more. You can’t get bored here! Whether traveling solo or with kids, this is a a place that keeps everyone entertained. Parents, you can even hit up the casino after the children are in bed. Tip for families: the delicious Argentine asado restaurant has televisions showing activity in the kids’ club, so parents can dine while monitoring little ones. Brilliant.
Timing Your Trip
It’s possible to do one full day in Iguazu, but we wouldn’t recommend it. There are many flights from the local airport in Buenos Aires, and while it would be exhausting, you could fly in and out in one day. For a more leisurely approach, arrive mid-afternoon, settle into the Iguazu Grand, go for a swim and get to bed early because, if you want to enjoy the falls, you need to be there first (i.e. in line for the first tram at 7:30 am). The concierge can hook you up with a great guide and tickets.
Weather and Timing
Climate is subtropical. It rains all the time, throughout the year. May to September is said to be less hot and less crowded, except the two weeks in July when there are local holidays.
The Argentina side is a massive network of falls with walkways and a railroad tram connecting different parts of the park. The morning objective is to get on the first tram to the Devil’s Throat, and trust me you want to be there first. At 80 meters high, and with the powerful and engulfing sound of rushing water all around, you don’t want to get pushed around by tourists with selfie sticks. Exiting the tram, it’s a 1-kilometer hike on a metal walkway over a flat mass of water. Even though you don’t see the falls first, the sound and energy can be felt through the beams under your feet as you approach, and suddenly you’re standing right on top.
Spend some time there, taking pictures from all angles, then make your way back to the tram to see the middle and lower parts. This is a much larger area and can be done in a more leisurely pace.
Having a guide is inexpensive and totally worth it. Ask the Grand’s concierge to book someone who speaks English; ours communicated perfectly and it made a huge difference in terms of really understanding the area. They arrange entrance and boat tickets in advance, know the staff in the park, and they’re helpful with queues and strategy. You can get sucked in watching the falls (the immensity of it all!) and the guide snaps you out of it and keeps you all moving.
If you plan on doing the boat ride, which goes directly under the Devil’s Throat, be prepared to be completely soaked. I had a rain poncho over my clothing, and there was not a dry spot on me. If I had to do it all over again, I would (reluctantly) invest in a Croc-style shoe and wear a bathing suit underneath my shirt and shorts. Flip-flops are a bad idea; with all that walking it’s begging for blisters. There are waterproof bags provided for your camera, belongings and personal items for the boat ride.
Skip the truck ride through the rainforest after the boat.