Your Guide to Iguazu Falls
There is a God.
That’s the only plausible explanation I can come up with for why a place as enchanting as Foz do Iguaçu exists.
If your sole purpose is to be deeply moved by Mother Nature, and take some pretty epic photos, than Iguazu should top your bucket list. But if you’re more interested in adrenaline pumping adventure, nightlife, or culture? Well than perhaps shelf this trip until later in life, as this is a great family vacation or romantic getaway without much strenuous activity.
For me, making this tranquil and relaxing stop sandwiched between wild and crazy nights in Buenos Aires and even more debauchery in Punta del Este was the perfect detox.
<<|| PRE-TRIP + GETTING THERE ||>>
Getting there is a wee bit of an annoyance as you’ll have to arrange a shuttle driver to take you on the the hour+ journey from the small, and rather desolate, airport to your hotel. Disclaimer: The drive isn’t particularly fascinating and traffic can be sluggish …or downright stopped. However, the verified hotel buses can travel in a speedier lane through border checks, so make sure you book with your concierge ahead of time.
You can stay on either the Brazlian side or Argentinan side of the falls, but know that you’ll need to apply for a visa (which is good for 10 years) prior to your entry in Brazil. To do so contact your closest Brazilian consulate to schedule an appointment. I was lucky to get an appointment within a month of the trip, but others in my group had to send their passport out through an expedited service for close to $500 usd. My appointment was approximately $150 USD, and they kept my passport for a week before I was able to retrieve it. We had heard mixed reviews on whether or not the visa was necessary, and I can say with full confidence that it was, as we had to go through multiple passport checks before arriving to our hotel.
<<|| LODGING ||>>
The Argentinean side of the falls is definitely more built up and provides direct access to a plethora of trails surrounding the falls. There are a few hotel options located right inside the park.
However, if you want a luxurious plantation-esque escape, I strongly suggest staying at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas on the Brazilian side. The pink facade of the hotel gives way to dreamy grounds, an inviting pool and enchanting spa. The rooms are beautifully appointed in almost a vicotrian style decor and the food at the hotel is impeccible. Included in your stay is an extensive daily breakfast and lunch buffet (yes, both) with fresh and creative options. There is also a fine dining restaurant located inside the restaurant with some of the most delightful entrees we enjoyed on our trip. Get the hearts of palm pasta, you won’t regret it. OH and the spa, one of the best massages I’ve had to date. This nearly all inclusive hotel has everything you could want within it’s pink compound, and is the perfect starting point for exploring the falls.
<<|| ACTIVITIES ||>>
From the Belmond, you are afforded a view of the impressive, albeit perhaps less grand, Brazilian side of the falls. A mile or so trail from the hotel will bring you to the devils mouth, which is my personal favorite vantage point. You follow this bridge right out into the middle of the falls, high perched above the crashing rapids, yet below the tallest peak. And there you find yourself, at the pulse of Mother Nature, and everything kind of stills for a moment while you take it all in. On my solo jog there one sunset, I let out a few warm tears, overwhelmed with humbleness.
Whichever side you stay on, I highly recommend visitng the Parque Das Aves, the Bird Sanctuary. Book a backstage experience (lol) so you can feed the flamingo babies by hand and toss treats right into the mouth of exotic tucans. This sancturary is much more than a tourist attraction, it’s a haven for birds who have been injured or rescued from captivity who can not survive without human intervention. Our tour guide Jessica Wands was a lovely soul, tell her Chelsea says hi when you visit 🙂
You’ll definitely want to visit the other side of the falls during your stay, the ride is an hour and there will be shuttles leaving periodically from the Belmond. The other side will be more built up and give you a few more options for hiking. You can actually walk right up and over the very tip top of the falls, which is pretty extraordinary. You can also get a photo like this:
Another little fun part of Iguazu is all of the animal sightings. Mostly lizards and these lemur/raccoon adorable critters, but if you keep your eyes peeled in the treeline you can spot monkies and toucans!
And that’s kind of it. There’s also a helicopter tour, which would be pretty incredible I’m sure, but we didn’t want to break the bank to find out. An activity we did partake it that I wouldn’t suggest is the raft ride into the falls. It’s simply just a tourist attraction where you take a raft up to a small part of the falls and they maneuver the boat around until everyone is absolutely drenched. Picture Splash Mountain, but with out the fun fall. Or the adorable singing animals. Or the churro waiting for you at the bottom.
I don’t think I’ll return to Iguazu Falls. It’s a see once and cross off the list type of destination. But if you find yourself on a South America adventure, I suggest you don’t miss out on seeing this natural marvel.