I can’t believe I left it so long to write about Iguassu Falls Argentina, our last stop in the country! It was such an amazing, indescribable experience that I’ve been finding myself more and more reluctant to attempt to put it into words, and by now it has already taken on the dreamlike surreality of memory.
For me now, the name summons up fragments rather than clear memories; white mist, the air damp and dripping, my trousers soaked through. Rainbows, the unbelievable noise of thunder and roaring, hot sun and lush green forests of tangled, mossy branches dripping with life, flourishing in the abundance of water. It’s one of those places which are so special that no clear image is enough; the experience is made up of all those little details.
We arrived in Puerto Iguassu, the last frontier in Argentina’s top right-hand corner, to find a sticky humidity and tropical landscape that was unexpected after the European coldness and countryside of Salta, Mendoza and Buenos Aires. The town itself was quiet, a sleepy afterthought of the area’s main attraction, with the roads empty and all the locals glued to a world cup game. We wandered to the river’s edge, to the viewpoint for Las Tres Fronteras, where you can stand in Argentina and look across the water to Paraguay on the left and Brazil on the right. It all looked more or less the same, a coffee coloured river separating dark green chunks of land, but standing in the corner of three countries had an air of excitement about it, and it gave us our first glimpse of the last stop on our trip, Brazil.
But it wasn’t time for Brazil yet, and we had big plans for our last day in Argentina. I’d seen the pictures, I’d heard countless recommendations… but nothing prepared me for how heart-stoppingly incredible the falls were. We arrived early, with the morning mist still lacing the tangled branches of the thick, tropical forest, and found ourselves in a relatively quiet, leafy park which still seemed to be shaking off sleep.
We were unfortunate in our timing, because heavy floods the week before had damaged lookout points and bridges, so a few of the trails and the two major attractions – the viewpoint above the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) and the ferries to the San Martin island – were closed. At first I was heart-broken, but it was still an incredible experience. We started with the Upper Trail, only half open thanks to a destroyed bridge, and curled through the forest drawing ever closer to the sound of the falls.
Suddenly, there it was; a thundering spray of white water lurching off the edge of a cliff beside us. Two big falls churned side by side, the Dos Hermanas (two sisters), which added their spray to the heavy morning mist clinging over the tops of trees, turning the whole forest quiet and grey. We crossed a bridge over a third fall, and I was so busy watching the white water tumbling away beneath me I didn’t see what was around the corner until Sam pointed it out to me. A huge, crescent-moon sweep of waterfalls, some wide, others thin, creating between them one enormous waterfall half-hidden behind the white mist of the spray, laced with rainbows. I had not been prepared for this! The view was staggering; not only the beauty of it but the power. So much noise, thundering and roaring, and so much spray that we could feel it in the air far from the falls. Such sheer force of water.
The upper trail, which we followed as far as we could, gave us various viewpoints of this side of the falls. From here, we weren’t able to see the horseshoe, the Garganta del Diablo, which is best viewed from the topmost viewpoint (sadly closed) or from the Brazil side, but we still had wonderful views of most of the falls. Next we headed down to the lower trail to get nice and close. This led us first to the edge of Argentina, where we faced Brazil across the wide, brown river, then right around the cliff to face to falls, giving us a more distant view of the whole thing, before finishing right up inside this crescent. The metal path wound through the dripping wet forest, where the morning mist and the heavy spray dripped down from the leaves as rain, and took us right out beneath the final viewpoint of the upper trail, where we were surrounded by crashing waves of swirling spray bouncing from the bottom of the falls. I stood at the end of the pier-like viewpoint to pose for a photo, getting soaked by the fresh, ferocious spray, so that within seconds I looked as though I’d fallen in the river.
Although with everything closed, there was nothing else to do in the park without paying for a boat tour, we still wanted to stick around for a few more hours. We took a ride on the small train back towards the entrance, from where we spotted a huge pack of coatis, the small racoon like animals which beg food from tourists and forage from the bins near the picnic areas, then headed back into the park along the Green Trail where we saw even more wildlife including more coatis and some gorgeous blue birds. After a picnic lunch, we revisited the Upper Trail one more time. By now, the morning mist had completely cleared, leaving bright blue skies and sunshine over the falls, making the views even more incredible. While everyone around us was scrambling to get the perfect shot, we simply stood still and gazed in total awe at a view which is, really, indescribable (not something a writer should admit) and which is infinitely better than the photos.
Heading to the falls? Don’t miss my information post for prices, tips and how to get there!
So what’s the difference between Argentina’s and Brazil’s sides of Iguassu? Check out Iguassu Falls: Brazil vs Argentina on my sister site, Backpack South America.