As a Brazilian involved in the travel market, I’ve heard a lot about the beauty of the Iguassu Falls, one of the widest waterfalls in the world – more than three times the width of Niagara Falls – located right where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay all touch.
Regardless of the mystique about this massive cascade, however, and not unlike places like Manaus and the Amazon, the Iguassu Falls are much more cherished by international travellers than by locals; like me, many Brazilians often prefer travel abroad to exploring destinations closer to home.
Although I had once planned a trip to Foz do Iguassu, the city on the Brazilian side of the falls, it never actually happened because I lost my flight. It was also never really a priority destination for me. I’ve been to the Niagara Falls in the USA already, I thought, so why should I bother? Silly me…
Then, when my close friend Wallace, who also works in tourism, said he was planning to visit the Iguassu Falls, I thought it was a good chance to take a few days off, as well as work on a project with Fabio Wandscheer, the whl.travel local partner in Foz do Iguassu. It was even a great opportunity to buy some cheap goods, since Foz do Iguassu borders Ciudad del Este, a Paraguayan shopping paradise for Brazilians.
Foz do Iguassu, Our Adventure Base
On our arrival at the Foz do Iguassu International Airport, Wallace and I were welcomed by Fabio, our local expert. After a good evening with him during which we caught up on business-related topics, we had a noble night of sleep at the Green House Hostel, one of the new businesses Fabio runs in Foz.
For the next two days, we went shopping in Paraguay. Although this adventure alone could justify a trip to Foz do Iguassu, I could not say the trip was complete at that point.
View The Iguassu Falls and vicinity in Brazil and Argentina in a larger map
After all, we were still looking forward to the next two days, which would include visits the falls – one to the Brazilian side and the other to the Argentinean side. Since the falls are right on the border of Brazil and Argentina, there is access to the falls from both sides.
The Brazilian Side: Adventure in Iguaçu National Park
Our guide, Fabio, had warned us that it was going to be a long and action-packed day. That was a thought that flashed through my mind mind when I reached the lofty platform from which I would go rappelling, or abseiling. I had goose bumps as a rush of adrenalin girpped me. From up there, I could barely see Wallace on the ground 55 metres below, trying to take some photos. The views of the falls, however, were incredible.
After the thrilling descent, as we headed straight to the rafting area, I was sorry I hadn’t eaten more at breakfast. It was a short-lived thought, though, as there and ready were the team of Macuco Safari, waiting to coach us about the ride ahead.
Due to the high water level, the Paraná River was calm. So, after bouncing on a few rapids at the beginning of our trip, we took care of the fun ourselves. Everyone plunged into the water, where we stayed for most of the remaining trip.
At the end, our finish was also the staging point for the Great Adventure Boat Ride, the most famous tour of the park. Now in a larger and tougher boat, Fabio, Wallace and I took seats right at the front. We were already soaked, so we didn’t care that we could get even more wet. We zoomed up the river all the way to the cataract known as the Three Musketeers falls. Innocently, I thought we were just going to get really close; what a surprise when the boat’s captain drove us right into the falls. An explosion of water hit me and I was completely reinvigorated.
Next on our activity-packed itinerary was a nine-kilometre forest hike. As it was already a little past noon when we reached the start of the Poço Preto Trail, we grabbed a few snacks and bottles of water, met the guide and got ready. During the long hike I could feel the nature around us with all of my senses.
The trail culminated at the upper part of the Iguassu River, where we did a quick kayak run through calm surroundings that reminded us more of Pantanal than of the turbulent falls further downriver. It was a relaxing way to finish our day!
The Argentinean Side: Iguazú National Park
Due to the rivalry between Brazil and Argentina experienced mainly through football, I was a bit sceptical that the Argentinean side of the Falls could compare with what we had seen during our incredible first day in Brazil. We nevertheless took a morning ride, this time with a group of people that included Colombians and Americans.
As we crossed the border and headed toward Puerto Iguazú and its national park, our guide ran through the itinerary and the driver put us at ease by entertaining us with some Argentine anecdotes.
From the bus we transferred to a train – the fastest way to get to the falls – that took us to the base point from which to see the Devil’s Throat, the most powerful and famous cataract of the park. Even as we crossed a long suspended footbridge that connects visitors to the observation point, we were clueless about what lay ahead. Then, the calm river below started to become rougher, a dazzling spray of water appeared above the tree tops and the mass of people suddenly became denser. We sped up to keep pace with our anxiety.
The fame of these waters was entirely justified; the power of the falls in front of us made us breathless. As I turned my camera on to shoot some photos and videos, I realised that the impressive volume and massive sound was practically impossible to capture.
For the rest of the day, we wandered across the long and characteristic footbridges of the park, getting really close to other impressive falls, one after another. I started to understand why people from the other side of the planet travel to have this same experience. And now I can guarantee: a journey to the Iguassu Falls is not complete if you don’t visit both sides.