“I don’t want to leave. This is a magical place – let’s go pet the unicorns”. I was laughing – but then saw the serious look on her face. It was our final day visiting the Iguassu waterfalls and we just didn’t want to leave.
How many times have you read or heard about iconic sites that you shouldn’t miss? Yet, sometimes you end up wondering what all the fuss was about. It is awesome when the place you are visiting does live up to expectations. And not only does it live up it blows you away. Foz do Iguaçu is definitely one of those places!
When we were planning our trip to Foz (Iguaçu, Iguazu, or Iguassu depending on where you’re reading from!) we knew that it would be beautiful, but we really had no idea about the size and scale of it. You don’t really appreciate Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “poor Niagara” until you’ve stood walked along the 2.7 kilometers of waterfall. Once you see it you won’t question why it was voted one of the new seven natural wonders of the world.
Traveling to the Iguassu Falls from Joinville is an easy trip. This might have led us to feel like it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just a convenient, fun weekend trip to see a beautiful, natural wonder. We both admitted later that we weren’t expecting too much from the trip. We knew it would be beautiful, but we had no idea how great an impact it would make on us. We are already be planning our return trip!
We spent two days touring the Falls. Our first day was on the Brazilian side. One of my co-workers is from this area. He told me that we should not miss the Macuco Tour boat ride through the falls. The waterfalls are one of those backyard attractions locals are forced to visit whenever someone is in town. (I’m looking at you Woolaroc!) Even so, they would often go to the park just for the boat tour because it was so much fun.
The boat tour was our priority the first day so we went straight there. As we cruised along the river we got our first view of the waterfalls. Impressive to say the least.
Riding down the river you get a true appreciation for the size of the falls. You experience the power of the water pouring over the cliffs from underneath. The powerful waterfalls pelted us! It was an awesome time though, and we would do it again in a heartbeat (noticing a trend?).
After the boat tour, we continued to explore the Brazilian park. Many times people ask what the differences are between the Brazil and Argentine sides of the falls. At its most basic, the Brazilian side has less trails, but gives you a better panoramic view of the falls from up top. The Argentine side has a series of metal pathways that give you a more up close view of the falls. In truth, you really need to visit both sides to fully appreciate the majesty of Foz.
In the Argentine park, there are trails made of metal platforms that take you under and around the falls – giving you an up close experience of the power of Foz. There are three trails that take you around, over, and sometimes under the falls. The Upper Circuit is a 650 meter trail that gives you panoramic views from above the falls. The Lower circuit is much longer at 1700 meters. It gives you views from beneath – sometimes directly beneath – the waterfalls.
Finally, a one kilometer long trail takes you over the Iguacu River culminating at the edge of the Devil’s Throat. This magnificent display of nature’s power is a 150 meter long, 80 meter high, U-shaped waterfall. You really need to experience the Devil’s Throat from the Brazilian and Argentine sides. The Brazilian park gives you an overall view of the falls from an overlook while the Argentine side has the catwalk that takes you right over the edge of the waterfall.
It is really hard to convey – even with pictures and video – how otherworldly Foz do Iguaçu seems. Once you have been there you will see why one might think there are unicorns and other magical beasts just around the corner!
Other Sights Near Iguassu Falls
Parque das Aves (Park of the Birds)
Just before you get to the entrance of the park on the Brazil side you will come to the Parque das Aves. This is a beautiful park that is definitely worth a visit. They have a variety of exhibits, many of which are inside giant, enclosed areas that allow you to be surrounded by the exotic birds without cages between you. We highly recommend visiting the park if time permits. It will take about an hour or two to really see it all.
The Itaipu Dam is co-owned by Brazil and Paraguay. When you visit it you are technically in both countries at the same time. The reservoir formed by the dam is huge. Boat tours are available along its shores. There are two tours offered of the dam. One, is a bus tour around the outside with a tri-lingual guide explaining the history of the dam. The second one actually goes inside the dam for a closer look at its inner workings. We were only able to take the external tour the day we were there. It was a pleasant excursion but I think the internal tour would have been a much more interesting choice. In hindsight, I think we would have rather spent another day at the waterfalls. If you are a fan of modern, manufacturing marvels the Itaipu Dam is impressive and worth the visit.
The Three Frontiers. This is where the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet. I don’t recommend taking the time to visit this. Particularly from the Brazilian side.