I’ve seen some spectacular waterfalls in my lifetime…Niagara Falls in Canada, Gullfoss in Iceland, and Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. However, Iguazu Falls tops them all. (And now I’m even more anxious to see Victoria Falls someday, because it earns a spot on the list of “7 Natural Wonders of the World.” Iguazu doesn’t.)
Iguazu Falls sit on the border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. It is out of the way from anywhere you might be going, so when my recent work trip to Sao Paulo spanned a weekend, I knew I needed to visit this hard-to-reach destination (just under two hours by plane from Sao Paulo).
I flew out of Sao Paulo late on a Friday night – arriving on the Brazilian side around 1:00am. (Thank goodness my driver was waiting for me!) He took me across the border into Argentina (hooray for getting to use my Argentina visa again!!), and to my hotel inside the National Park – Sheraton Iguazu.
I woke up in the morning to two unusual things…1) a sign warning me of monkeys entering an unlocked room!
2) An incredible view of the pool and the waterfalls in the distance!
There was a TERRIBLE thunderstorm in the morning just after I finished breakfast. I’m so glad it started before I headed out on my hike. Otherwise, I would’ve been drenched. As soon as it looked like the worst was over, I headed out. I wanted to make the most of my day! (As an aside, I found out AT THE END OF THE DAY that Argentina is an hour behind Brazil. In two days, my phone never adjusted. And I’m pretty sure that means I was up at 5:45am (thank you, jet lag). That early start coupled with the storm is probably why I was one of the only people on the trails for most of the morning.)
Before I go any further, let me just say that I took a photo around every. single. turn. I couldn’t help myself! The scenery was unbelievable. I couldn’t get over the beauty, power, and breadth of the waterfalls. They were seriously awe-inspiring. One of my friends told me it’s the most beautiful natural thing he’s ever seen, and the only thing I can think of to rival them is the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia. I think it’s best if I stop babbling and let the pictures do the talking. The quality isn’t great due to the humidity, low clouds, and waterfall mist, but I’m sure you’ll still get the WOW factor.
The Argentina side is full of trails. I spent the morning hiking the Lower Trail and the Upper Trail.
One of the signs in the park explained the color of the water:
Barely four decades ago the waters of this river ran clear. Since then, with forest clearance in most of the watershed, each time that it rains water washes away the unprotected soil which turns the river red. Turbidity affects wildlife: fish cannot find each other to court and spawn, and birds and mammals which feed on fish cannot see their prey. Today, the dams upriver act as sedimentation tanks and lessen the problem.
[This was probably one of those moments when I gasped! One of many times throughout the day!]
[These crazy looking critters are called coati. They seem to be a member of the raccoon family. I’m not a fan of raccoons, so I wasn’t too thrilled with these characters either. They are looking for food, and they know if you have it. I even saw one sit on its hind legs and beg like a dog. They were EVERYWHERE (even more so on the Brazilian side the next day), and I was terrified of them!]
[And how could you not be terrified when signs like this were hanging all over the place?!?! Despite all of these warnings, you would be AMAZED at how close the tourists would get in order to get a picture. Rest assured, all of my pictures are zoomed. When they were nearby, I was very focused on avoiding them.]
[Waterfalls as far as you can see!!!]
[Most of the paths were on elevated walkways like this. We were literally walking on top of the waterfalls! Some felt more secure than others…]
[Look at all of the lookout points – across and below. On the Argentina side, you are practically in the waterfalls. So many incredible views!]
[Can you FEEL the rush of water?!?! (Just imagine the ROAR!) It was incredibly intense! I’m actually happy it stormed so much in the morning. I feel like it helped the waterfalls to put on their best show!]
[Just hanging out on top of the falls!]
After hiking the Lower Trail and the Upper Trail, I took a train ride up to the entrance of the trail to the Devil’s Throat. When we boarded the train, I noticed the brave, little coati creeping out from the bushes to look for food from train passengers.
[I was amazed at how many times I found myself on my own on one of these paths. Confession: I was typically singing outloud in these moments, since the roar of the waterfalls drowned me out.]
[The entrance to the trail leading to the Devil’s Throat. That name may sound intense, but it is definitely fitting!]
[Don’t be fooled by this calm scene. The water was actually moving quite quickly.]
[The first glimpse of the Devil’s Throat…]
[And just so you aren’t confused about which side you’re on…]
[So much water…rushing so fast…and ROARING SO LOUD!]
[The mist made thick clouds that blew water into those on the platform whenever the wind changed. Hence, the low quality pictures…]
[I can’t believe birds don’t die flying into / around these huge waterfalls. Maybe they do…]
[A glimpse back at the viewing platform…]
[I was hoping to see some monkeys in the park, and I did! There were quite a few of them. I tried to capture some pictures of three of them wrestling.]
[There were so many gorgeous butterflies, too…particularly close to the Devil’s Throat. Most didn’t pause long enough for a picture, which is why I only caught images of two or three. So many shapes, sizes, and colors! My brother would NOT have enjoyed this part.]
[This has to be one of my favorite shots…]
[On my way to get into one of these boats! I heard it was only a 12 minute ride. How bad could it be?!]
[Once in the boat, they told us we could take pictures. They would warn us when to put our cameras away. Seeing the waterfalls from the water was pretty incredible!]
While we were taking pictures, I noticed those working on the boat put on head-to-toe waterproof gear. When they drove us into / under the first waterfall, I understood why. This was one of those moments when I thought, “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been to Niagara Falls, but I seem to remember being outfitted in a lot of gear before riding the “Maid of the Mist” or walking under the falls on the American side. All that was provided here was a life jacket and a bag to keep your things dry. With those supplies, I wasn’t quite expecting to get soaked. At least I waited until the end of the day to do it. When in Rome, right?
The next day, I checked out of the hotel and a driver took me to the Brazilian side. Here, you pay another entrance fee and board a bus. They drive you down a long road to the start of the trail. It’s much shorter than the trails on the Argentina side. Basically, you’re walking the stretch where you can see the panoramic view of the falls. It was on this day that I could really take in just how enormous they are. When all you see is waterfalls in both directions, it’s hard not to be amazed!
[Translation is a funny thing…]
[WOW! WOW! WOW!]
[That’s the Devil’s Throat down there making all of that mist!]
[Can you see the crazy little boat going into the falls?! That was me the day before!!]
[Another creepy creature! I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I didn’t see a snake! These lizards and coatis are one thing, but a snake would’ve sent me jumping into the falls!]
[So excited to go out on that walkway over the falls and toward the Devil’s Throat!]
[Wow – didn’t expect that walkway to get me so wet!!]
[This is not a picture of the statue. Rather, it’s a picture of the monster crawling below the statue! Yikes!!]
[Approximately 30 seconds after I arrived at the bus terminal, the sky opened up, and it started POURING! I was already wet, so I don’t know what difference it would’ve made, but I was happy to watch it from under cover.]
[When you’re a foreigner traveling in Brazil, it’s completely acceptable to order Pao de Queijo (Portuguese for Cheese Bread) for dinner!]
This weekend was painfully expensive, but it was also extraordinary. I love that this planet is full of impressive wonders like this that reflect the awesomeness of the Creator. If you ever find yourself wondering in the middle of nowhere between Brazil and Argentina, take advantage of a day or two at Iguazu Falls. You won’t be disappointed!