Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Puerto Iguazu and Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Puerto Iguazu is a small town in the far north east of Argentina close to the borders of Brazil and Paraguay. In fact, there is a monument in Puerto Iguazu from which you can see both countries.

Paraguay on the left, Brazil on the right>

The monument is a fountain and around sunset it is set to tango, complete with coloured lights - musical fountains seem to be a thing in South America.

Hito Tres Fronteras (Three borders monument)

Once the "show" is over you can settle back and watch the amazing sunset.

Sunset over 3 countries

But Puerto Iguazu is not just known for being a border town. It's main attraction is the spectacular waterfalls in the national park just outside the town.

Iguazu falls

To get to the falls you can take a local bus which is considerably cheaper than an organised tour. It is advisable to go early in the morning to avoid the enormous crowds to tour bus people which arrive from around 10am onwards.

Entry to the park is $ARS300 (around $A27) and you can enter the park for half price on the next day if you validate your ticket when you exit. You must validate your ticket or your second day will be full price.

At the entrance to the park are a bunch of tourist shops and the "Central train station" - a tourist train that takes you around the park. There is also a short 600m trail that leads through some of the wetlands up to the "Cararatas train station".

Wetlands on the Green trail

From this station you can access the Upper and Lower trails and the trail (or you can catch tge train) to the "Devil's Throat" waterfalls.

The 2.5km trail to the walkway to the Devil's Throat falls follows the river and the train line and gives you a nice view of the waterways.

Iguazu River from the trail

Another view of Iguazu river

The trail leads up to the Devil's Throat station and the trail to the falls.

The 750m "trail" to the falls consists of a series of walkways crossing the river over many small islands.

One on the smaller river branches crossed by the walkway

From the start of the trail you can hear the roar of the falls and from about half way they begin to come into view.

The Devil's Throat in the distance with the spray meeting the clouds

First glimpse of the falls

But it doesn't quite prepare you for just how big these falls are.

The Devil's Throat

Another view of the Devil's Throat falls

Unfortunately the viewing platform for the falls is not large enough to accommodate the large numbers of tour groups, so it's definitely advisable to get here early.

After viewing the Devil's Throat, you can head back to the Cararatas station (by foot or train) to the trail heads for the Upper and Lower trails.

The Upper trail leads across the top of Iguazu falls via a series of walkways.

Iguazu falls from the upper trail

This gives you a close up view of the torrents of water flowing over the cliffs.

A close-up of the falls

Spray from the falls

Another perspective on the falls from the upper trail

The trail is a circuit that brings you around to a point near the Lower trail trailhead. The Lower trail brings you around the base of the waterfalls.

Iguazu falls from the lower trail

Parts of the trail bring you very close to the falls, and it's a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket.

A very damp close-up view of falls from the lower trail

The trail also brings you close to other waterfalls that the Upper trail bypasses.

Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) falls

Another way that you can see the falls is by riverboat. The tour starts as a safari through the rainforest until you reach the river where the boat launch.

Brazil from the boat ramp

The boat continues up the river for around 2 km past many small waterfalls.

Smaller waterfalls from the boat

More waterfalls

And encounters several rapids.

A bumpy ride on the rapids

Until it reaches the main falls.

The falls in the distance

Which gives a very unique view of the falls.

Close-up of the falls

Very wet close-up

The falls from the river

The boat goes right up to the falls and it is important to wear waterproof gear because you get drenched.

An enormous plume of spray drenches the boat

The tour ends near a section of the lower trail. From the boat ramp you also get a unique view of the falls.

The falls from the boat ramp

The falls from the boat ramp trail

There is one final trail that you can do in Iguazu park: the Macuco trail.

Macuco trail

The trail is 3.5km leading through the jungle to the Arrachea falls.

The top of Arrachea falls

The jungle from the top of Arrachea falls

Looking over the Iguazu river from Arrachea falls

There is also a steep trail to the bottom of the falls where there is a swimming hole.

The bottom of Arrachea falls

Iguazu park also has an abundance of animal and bird life. However, most of the wildlife is nocturnal (such as Jaguars, pumas and tapirs) so it is difficult to see. However, one animal is very common: the coatíe.

A gang of coatíes

These creatures are very accustomed to humans which, despite signs everywhere, keep feeding them. The coatíes are quite aggressive when it comes to trying to steal food and a big group of them tried to lynch me for an epanada - thankfully there are lots of big poles with plastic bottles attached to the end provided around the eating areas to dissuade the coatíes.

The park also has many species of butterflies which are common in the park.

one of the many butterflies

A red butterfly - apparently these ones eat passionflower and are poisonous

A moth

Butterfly on the Macuco trail

Also common to the Iguazu area are various species of hummingbirds. They are difficult to see in the park but back in Puerto Iguazu there is a place where you can see many hummingbirds. 

The Jardín de los Picaflores is close to the main part of town and for just $ARS50 (approx. $A4.50) you can spend the afternoon with the hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds feeding

A feast for hummingbirds

And other birds from the jungle.

Birds eating fruit

A parrot

Which makes for a perfectly relaxing afternoon after trekking around the Iguazu park.

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