Iguazu FallsIguazu Falls

Here we go, the last big highlight of our visit to South America, the Iguazu Falls. Any travel guide you read, they rank up there with Galapagos and Machu Picchu, so we were very much looking forward to it.

Following our few days in Uruguay, we took the ferry back to Buenos Aires, stayed for one night in a hotel only noteworthy that McDonalds and KFC were just across the road, and then headed to the airport in the morning to fly to Puerto Iguazu. Puerto Iguazu is on the Argentinian side of the falls and we stayed there for 3 nights to then move over to Foz de Iguazu on the Brazilian side.

Both small towns are not particular pretty and it feels they are only there to cater for the hordes of tourists like us to visit the falls. But at least there are plenty of accommodation options, restaurants etc. on offer. The area is also interesting as the borders of three countries meet, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Paraguay seems to be the poor cousin a little as it misses out on the Iguazu Falls hype, its border runs along a different river than the Iguazu river.

When we arrived in Puerto Iguazu, it was raining a bit and the forecast for the next day was 30mm of rain. NZ West Coast conditions it sounded like. But before that, we had to celebrate our wedding anniversary and decided to head out to have a nice dinner. Thanks to Tripadvisor we picked a really nice one and were just in time to still quickly get a table. From 7pm onwards this place went gangbusters and we saw people waiting for over an hour to get a table. The food was excellent and they even had a decent IPA.

The next day and man, it can rain down here. The road turned to a small river the next day, so we waited it out in our nice apartment and caught up on stuff like writing these blogs. The apartment had a shared pool as well, and as it was still about 28 degrees, the rain didn’t stop the kids to use it as much as possible. It was good to have a couple of extra days to be able to adjust our timeline a bit. A lot of people fly in from BA for one day to visit both sides of the falls and fly back – that must be a massive day and if it is raining, well not ideal I guess…

In the afternoon it cleared and we headed to the small but excellent hummingbird garden just down the road. You have to clap at the gate to get some attention and get in. And what a beautiful spot this was, very small but I think the best hummingbird place we visited, and you can guess that we visited quite a few. A lot of hummingbirds zooming around at any point in time, drinking at flowers of feeders or following their favourite past time it seems – picking a fight with another hummingbird and chasing them off. Especially the largest in the garden, a swallow-tailed hummingbird got into it, a real bully. Well, as you know, there is no bad day when you see a hummingbird, and that despite all the rain earlier. But it was getting better.

We stayed in the garden for a couple of hours and then started to organise our upcoming big day, visiting the Argentinian side of the falls. After a bit of negotiation we stayed with the taxi driver who took us from the airport, well it turns out he sent his son the next morning. But that was a good thing as he spoke English, was really nice and also had the best/cheapest fares. So we stayed with him for the next few days and he even drove us to the Foz airport in the end. Crossing the border is no issue for locals at all, they only have to get a visa if they stay for more than two days and both towns are very close together.

In the evening we headed to the three border viewpoint on our Argentinian side, pretty cool to be able to see three countries only within a few hundred metres and separated by two rivers. Each country has a marker painted in the countries colours on their side, and apparently there is a light show but after a bit of a wait we gave up on that. We went back home early to get ready for the big next day.

So here we go, off to the famous Iguazy Falls at 8am in the morning to beat the day tour crowds rolling in from about 10am. The Argentinian side offers a few walks for us to experience the falls up close. The main ones are the lower track, the upper track and then the grand finale – Giganta do Diablo, the Devil’s Throat waterfall. But first we wanted to head down the less crowded Macuco Trail to a small waterfall. This trail offers the best chances of seeing the birds of the park, especially early in the morning. After all, the waterfalls are in the middle of the Iguazy National Park and completely surrounded by rainforest.

Very much to our disappointment, this track was closed due to the storm and rain the day before. Not a good start… So we headed to the lower track and soon got our first glimpse of the falls. The Iguazu Falls (or Cataratas do Iguacu) are the largest waterfall on Earth comprising of about 280 individual falls up to 80m deep and with a total width of 2.7km spread across the Argentinian and Brazilian side. A lot of numbers and stats to try to explain the enormity of the falls. It is mind boggling really and I hope the pictures do it some justice. You can have short helicopter rides on the Brazilian side and I think this will give the best perspective but that was of course not in our budget.

Anyway, we made our way closer and closer to the first part of the falls, and similar to Machu Picchu really, every corner you turned or different perspective you took – the better the view got. Another day with lots of pictures for sure. The number of fellow tourists was ok at this point, no rush or crowded areas and the sun was coming out as well. The small island in the falls was closed off as well that (and the next) day, so we kept walking along the lower trail. But before we got to the falls we finally saw our first kingfisher, one of my favourite types of birds overall. And as it turned out, the largest of them all, the Ringed Kingfisher. Very cool but then it was time to get closer to the falls.

But not before we checked if the Macuco Trail would be open by now. Nope, so off to the upper trail to get a better overview of the falls. On the trails we saw plenty of other birds like the always entertaining plush-crested Jays but also parrots, woodpeckers, snake heads, colourful finches and the Great Dusky Swift which nests actually in the waterfalls. I even saw an Eagle munching away on another bird on a tree. One larger bird we just saw briefly shooting past over us to sit down quite far away. Jannik took a picture and in the evening when we checked the pictures it turned out to be a toucan.

Of all the birds we wanted to see in South America, the Toucan was very high on the list. So far we saw a couple briefly in Colombia and here in Iguazu was our last chance really. Bugger we kind of missed that one. And there are lots of butterflies on the tracks too, one more colourful than the other. We also saw a few of the infamous Coatis, a raccoon like animal which can get a bit nasty if it sees you munching away in front of it. Lots of warning signs everywhere and you are even encouraged to eat within a caged picnic area. For us they looked pretty cute and tame. As if that’s not enough, we saw a large lizard and a crocodile as well.

You end up visiting a lot of waterfalls that day for sure, and they are all beautiful but the final one, Devil’s Throat is something else. You can feel it, get sprayed by the mist and the sound is deafening. Absolutely amazing! After the lower and upper trail, you take a train to this final stop and the place started to get crowded. Not too bad but you had to wait and juggle for position at the viewpoints. The sun was fully out by that time and we had picture perfect rainbows in the mist of the waterfall, just beautiful. A few pictures later, and we headed back home. What a day!

The next we moved over to the Brazilian side, to Foz do Iguazu for another couple of nights. After sorting the luggage out with our new host, we headed straight back to the Iguazu Falls. It has to be said, if you can only visit one side, go Argentina. Don’t get me wrong, the Brazilian side is spectacular and offers the better overview across the falls but there is only one path where everyone goes, the path to Devil’s Throat of course, and it is packed. Like in, this is starting to piss me off packed…

There are two stops before you arrive with the bus at the path to the falls but both you have to pay extra for, and they are not cheap. This is what we realised quickly, Brazil is much more expensive and everything you have to pay for. Like the three border viewpoints, Argentina side = nice to visit and free with a great atmosphere. Brazil, hard to get to, have to pay entry just to come out in a foodcourt type area where you can spend more money and it all feels staged. Anyway, back to the Falls.

We make our slow way towards the main observation platform in a looong line of thousands of other tourists. Once you actually reach it, you still have to keep justling for position to try to get a picture of Devil’s Throat. For the kids it was impossible to see much, so we headed to the slightly less crowded walkway to get some pictures. You can take an elevator to a higher viewpoint but when I saw the line to get up there I decided enough is enough. After we took the bus back to the main entrance area, we headed straight over to the second highlight of the day, the Parque Das Aves.

Located just opposite the Iguazu Falls, this Bird Park is well worth a visit. You can see plenty of exotic, colourful and noisy birds up close and learn about and help conservation efforts. We saw scarlet Ibis, lots of parrots and parakeets but also some birds like the Harpy Eagle you will unfortunately rarely see in the wild anymore. Of course that doesn’t count in terms of completing and adding to our bird watching list but still great to see the birds. And then there were the Toucans of course. Two different species with one being the famous Toco Toucan. Finally we were able to take a few good pictures after our two fleeting encounters in the wild. But it was getting better.

The park is located within the rainforest and first we were not quite sure but then we saw a Toucan sitting outside the cage trying to get in to his mates and enjoy some of the treats his buddies inside get. We quickly got outside the large walkthrough aviary trying to find the “wild” Toucan. Turns out there were two in the vicinity of the place and we managed to finally snap a few good pictures – Mission accomplished!

There was one other large aviary with lots of different Macaws inside. Boy, they are noisy and inquisitive. When they fly around they first nearly hit my head, then Jennifer’s and finally actually flew into another fella. Nothing serious but he got a good fright and the rest of the Macaws all seemed to have a good laugh.

We had one more day to spare in Foz and tried the local shopping mall to finally get some new hiking sandals for Jannik but still no luck. After we went to the Brazilian three border side as described above, we headed home and got everything ready for the flight to São Paulo the next day, and had a movie night in our apartment.

That wrapped up a few spectacular days at the Iguazu Falls, what an experience!

We now made it to São Paulo and will head out to experience a bit of the famous Carnival. Today is the last day, so let’s see how we go. In a couple of days our time in South America is over, crazy how quickly the first three months have passed! So much we saw, experienced and learned. Off to the next continent, I am sure South Africa and Cape Town will be amazing as well.

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