Cataracas Calling: How to Hike Argentina’s Iguazu FallsAdventure Travel, Argentina, Featured — By Candace R on May 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm
By Taylor Dolven
Watch out, Niagara Falls! The beauty of the famous Cataracas waterfalls of Puerto Iguazu is enough to rival other well-known falls around the world. They are a must-see that any trip to Argentina would not be complete without. Lost Girls’ correspondent Taylor Dolven, currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, recently visited them and fell in love with the natural wonders of Iguazu.
It is possible to see the entire Iguazu National Park in one day – including a boat tour and train ride with the 100 peso ($25USD) entrance fee. The park is divided into four main parts: Upper Trail, Lower Trail, Garganta del Diablo and San Martín Island. The island was closed because of flooding during our stay, but we managed to see everything else, including a hike in the jungle! If you are going to do everything in one day, I would suggest getting to the park no later than 8:30. And don’t worry about reserving a boat tour or excursion beforehand; reservations are easy to make once you are inside the park.
This jungle hike is a great way to start the day, but definitely not a great way to end it. Although park rangers promised monkey and jungle bird sightings, the most exotic thing we came across was a giant spider. To be honest, I was not very upset about the lack of animals. From the trailhead to the turn-around point took us about 45 minutes (3600 m). Compared to the Cataracas, the waterfall at the end of this hike is underwhelming. But it does provide a swimming hole and a less crowded view of a beautiful waterfall.
Next, we headed to the lower trail to embark on our boat tour. This trail offers the first real glance at the panoramic view of the falls. Some people were crying, others embracing–meanwhile I was taking a mere 300 photographs. I can’t recall any other time in my life that a view has actually taken my breath away. After winding our way across the bridges and walkways, we found the nautical adventure hut. Even if you choose not to do a boat tour (about 110 pesos – $30), I would suggest walking down the stairs towards where the boats are to get a closer (and wetter!) look at the falls. The boat tour only lasts about 15 minutes, but you get a very up close and personal look at both sides (Brazil and Argentina) as well as a “shower” under the falls. The adventure company provides waterproof bags for your valuables and makes a “put away your camera” announcement before the shower part. I would suggest bringing a poncho and a pair of flipflops that you don’t mind getting soaked!
Drying Off on the Upper Trail
After drying off a bit and snacking on an empanada (not the best food I’ve ever had – I would suggest packing a lunch) we headed to the lower trail. Although you are seeing the same waterfalls a second time, the view is completely different. You get to stand on bridges right over the plunge!
The grand finale of any visit to the falls should be the Garganta del Diablo (“throat of the devil”). In order to get to this point, you will need to take the train (free with entrance fee). The train leaves from the Central Station every 30 minutes – but this is no high-speed train. The ride takes about 20 minutes, and then the walk to the final point takes about another 20. At this time in the day (we had been walking for six hours), my moral was low. But as soon as we rounded the final corner to the viewpoint, my breath was taken away again. FYI – You will need that poncho you brought for this one too! This is the highest point of the falls where all the water collides and occasionally flies up to splash innocent onlookers. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes here to take pictures and soak in the panoramic view.
Hanging Out in Puerto Iguazu
The actual town, Puerto Iguazu, does not have a whole lot. You will want to see the Triple Frontera, the point where you can view all three continents: Brasil, Argentina, and Parauay. Each country has a huge pole decorated with their flag’s colors and it is possible to view all three poles from this point. The best part of our experience in the town of Puerto Iguazu was definitely the dinner. Various guidebooks as well as locals recommended La Rueda, and it did not disappoint. Make sure you take the opportunity to eat the local river fish! You won’t regret it.
Hotels and hostels in town are undoubtedly less expensive. But if you are able to splurge on a hotel, I would highly recommend La Cantera. When you picture a jungle getaway, La Cantera is exactly that, complete with hammocks in every bungalo. The service is incredible, the beds are comfortable and the food is delicious.