Going Out of the Way for Iguazu Falls

Iguazú Falls was out of our way.

I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to go – 13 hours from Rosario to Iguazú, then 24 hours of solid bus to get from Iguazú to Salta on the other side of the country.

Yes, it’s a world heritage site, but let’s be honest – it’s a bunch of falling water. Did it really merit this enormous detour?

The answer is yes. Yes it did, and for two reasons.

First, some of the bus companies in Argentina really are spectacular. As Jared said when he accepted his pre-dinner whiskey, “This is the closest I’m ever going to get to first class, so I’d better take full advantage.”

Crucero Del Norte
My favorite seats – top deck, front row, sunset views.

We took Crucero del Norte on the way there, and Flechabus on the way back. Both were comfortable, with seats reclining to 160° and meal services, but Crucero del Norte was the clear winner.

Second, the falls were incredible. Once you’re there, the journey falls away (Groan. No pun intended.) and you don’t remember how long it took; you only realize that you’re standing there, surrounded by pounding waterfalls, lush vegetation, and an array of unexpected wildlife.

Jared and I decided to save the best for last – Garganta del Diablo, the devil’s throat – and started with a walking trail around the upper and lower falls.

Map of Iguazu National Park, Argentina
Map of the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls.

Part of the appeal of Iguazú Falls is that it sits at the crux of three countries: Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. There are approximately 275 falls in the area, but most of them are concentrated on the Argentinian side.

Many people travel to all three countries, but because of the visa fees to enter Brazil, we stayed in Argentina. I have no regrets and don’t feel like I missed out on anything.

The waterfalls never stopped coming – a whole valley, full of them. I can’t imagine what it was like to be one of the first people to come across the falls. I knew they were there, but they still knocked me off my feet. The lower walk has better views, but the upper walk takes you across the top edge of the cliffs.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina
View from the lower walking track.

Along the way, we came across butterflies – so many butterflies! – many of which rested on unsuspecting tourists’ arms, backs, heads, and legs. There were lizards, snakes, and coatis, the latter of which I was extremely excited about.

Butterfly Iguazu Falls
My new amigo.

That was a mistake. Coatis are not exciting, they are evil. They’re like a cross between raccoons, anteaters, and Freddy Kruger, and they travel in packs. Jared and I had packed a bag of rolls, ham, and cheese, which we sat down to eat near a restaurant patio.

Coati in Iguazu Falls
Don’t be deceived. This coati is not cute, it is dangerous.

Fools. What fools these mortals be.

Out of nowhere, the coatis came. They prowled past the bathrooms and cornered us on our bench. I stood up, clutching my sandwich and a packet of ham, then ran across the patio towards the nearest building, much to the delight of the other tourists. Jared had the bag and a bottle of water. He managed to save the bag, but wound up in a face-off with the biggest, meanest coati. The coati took a swipe for the water and Jared abandoned it. We had to wait several minutes before it was safe to go back for it.

After all the excitement had died down and our sandwiches were quickly eaten, we boarded a little Disney World train for the devil’s throat. The train takes you 3 kilometers to the top of Iguazú National Park, where you then cross a kilometer-long boardwalk to reach the main attraction.

The falls are fed by the Iguazú River, and about half of the river charges over a plateau to form the devil’s throat, a 150-meter wide horseshoe-shaped chasm. From the observation deck, you are as close as you can get before going over.

Devil's Throat, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
The devil’s throat.

We got soaked. We couldn’t hear each other over the sound of the water. We were awed. I took picture after picture, but nothing seemed to do it justice. I was reminded that no matter what man can create, nature will one-up us every time.

They say that the view of the falls is best from the Brazilian side, but I don’t know if that view could compare to what we experienced – the feeling that we were in the devil’s throat, protected only by a small metal fence, gripping my camera, shouting Can you believe this? and shielding our eyes from the surging mist.

Devil's Throat, Iguazu
Don’t drop the camera. And that barrier better be strong.

According to Wikipedia, when former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt set eyes on Iguazú Falls, she had one thing to say:

“Poor Niagara!”

I haven’t been to Niagara. I haven’t been to Africa’s Victoria Falls. But now I know what all the fuss is about with Iguazú, and I realize that it wasn’t out of our way at all. It was just part of the journey.

View from Devil's Throat, Iguazu
View of the Brazilian side.

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  1. A friend of mine went to Argentina, Brazil and Peru this summer and the highlight for her was the falls. I’ve been to Niagara, but it sounds like these are waaaay less built up around (Niagara is like falls smack in the middle of Vegas, it’s so weird).

    Would love to go someday, glad the ride was worth it!

    1. Wow! I don’t know if it’ll be the highlight of our whole trip, but so far it’s definitely a stand out. The town of Puerto Iguazu seemed influenced by tourism, but the falls themselves are surrounded by a national park so it sounds different from Niagara in that respect. If you’re in the area (even vaguely in the area!) you should get there!

    1. Right!? I can’t believe I was ready to say “Let’s skip it and go straight to Salta.” Wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but I would have been missing out.

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