It’s funny sometimes how seeing great things can spoil you. I’m not sure I can look at any waterfall the same way after seeing Iguaçu Falls. At a point we traversed about a kilometre of water which fed the most powerful and stunning cascades I have ever seen. I can understand the sentiment in the quote “Poor Niagara!” after seeing the sprawl of falls around the basin and Garganta del Diablo.
Getting in and where I stayed
After returning to Sao Paulo from Americana it didn’t take long to work out that flying around this continent would send me broke. So after reminding myself that the 18 hour bus ride in Myanmar wasn’t so bad I decided to try the Brazilian buses from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu (foz means mouth by the way).
I took the subway at peak hour to get to Rodoviario Tiete, which, surprisingly, was more packed than Japanese peak hour in Tokyo. I bought a convencional ticket from Pluma for R198 to leave at 6.30pm. To be honest I didn’t find the regular coach seats that bad for the 15 hour journey. It might have helped that the bus was mostly empty and that I could spread across two seats. The Brazilian bus stopped for a few toilet and food stops whereas the Argentinian ones don’t seem to, but provide you basic food instead.
So I arrived at the Rodoviaria Internacional de Foz do Iguaçu at about 10am relatively refreshed and I took a cab for R18 towards the Terminale de Transporte Urbano (because I’d heard that was where the buses left for the falls) and found a hostel nearby.
I stayed at Pousada El Shaddai (R35 for a dorm on Rua Eng. Rebouças near Rua Naipi) which was great. The staff were very helpful and even offered a discount voucher on the boat rides (which you only paid if you used it). The girls who I met later stayed at Hostel 76 in centro (R24 for dorms) which seemed passable and it was actually better for the buses being near the main road.
Getting into the Brazilian Foz
I took a public bus from Rua Tarobá to the Brazilian side of the falls for R3.20 which took about 45 minutes. On the bus I started to hear some familiar accents and realised I wasn’t standing next to three Brazilian girls, but it was three Australians. I guess I’ve just gotten used to the diversity of Brazilian looks. We started chatting and I ended up sharing the next few days with them.
The Brazilian side of the falls is quite compact. It cost R57.30 to enter which included the shuttle bus. Along the boardwalk we found these strange critters. Like a platypus I can’t help but feel their face doesn’t match their body. It’s like an ardvark crossed with a racoon or something.
The Brazilian boardwalk will get you wet wet wet and up close and personal with some of the falls, but just wait until you see the Argentinian side.
It’s not really the time to be afraid of heights here. Call me crazy, but I chose to wear thongs to keep my boots dry. Never underestimate the value of dry shoes!
The sun peeked out just for a little while before we headed back to Foz do Iguaçu where we grabbed a quick buffet dinner and spent the night drinking tea and eating coconut dessert.
Crossing to Argentina
The next morning we got up early to cross the border and see the Argentinian side of the falls. It was just as well we did because it took about 2.5 hours…
We took a bus for a few reais to the Brazilian border checkpoint and got our passports stamped. The bus did not wait for us and none of the buses behind it wanted anything to do with us! We waited about half an hour and in the end we had to split into pairs and hitchhike to the Argentinian border checkpoint which was about 5km away. Afterwards a bus driver from another company must have taken pity on us because buses from his company ignored us the first few times we flagged them down. He took us into town and we followed some bad Google directions to the hostel.
I ended up staying at Hostel Paramba (AR150 for dorms on El Uru Street) which was where Google told us to go for El Guembe Hostel. It was pretty good and had a great breakfast. The girls stayed at El Guembe which was a great deal and the staff were helpful (AR100 for dorms w/ breakfast on the corner of Av. Guaraní and Gdor. Lanuse).
I think we all liked the feel of the Argentinian town of Puerto Iguaçu better. It was smaller, had a really homely feel to it (strangely like a snow town) and a little more character to it.
Seeing Argentina cry for us
El Guembe ended up organising a private car to take us to the falls for AR130 each. It’s about the same cost as the buses, but we didn’t actually see too many public buses on the road anyway.
We actually saw the falls in the wrong order because we were worried that things might close. We started with the strawberry on the cake (as our driver Daniel put it) rather than saving it for last, but I’ll talk about it here in reverse.
Assuming you start early, you should begin with Circuito Inferior (the lower circuit). I’m not sure it even took us an hour and I actually preferred it to Paseo Superior because you are beneath so many of the falls and kind of at a middle level.
From the Circuito Inferior you can normally access Isla San Martín, but for us it was closed which is a shame because it looked awesome!
The Paseo Superior doesn’t really live up to its English interpretation, and the Spanish meaning is all that is accurate. It’s literally just higher. The penultimate view on the “superior” track is probably the best one so no need to go further unless you want to lower your expectations before the strawberry!
Finally, take the train again to have your strawberry popped. Be prepared to walk for a good 10-15 minutes across what must be almost a kilometre of water before you reach Garganta del Diablo (aka the Devil’s Throat) and then prepare yourself again to be amazed.
The sheer amount of water is stunning and is probably best appreciated through these videos.
Well that’s pretty much it folks. After this we just ate, chilled and slept. Oh, but we did buy bus tickets too. Which, amusingly, and maybe this is due to it being low season, were almost half the regular price when we paid in cash. We got Cama business class style treatment with a premium bus company (Via Bariloche) for just AR1080 rather than AR1700. I found this worked for other Argentinian buses too so don’t buy online if you know there are seats.