The Verdant and Steamy Iguazu Falls- Argentina side

My first day in Iguazu was an early one. I had an early morning flight from Buenos Aires to the town of Puerto Iguazu. It was the base for my three day excursion to see Iguazu Falls. I first learned about Iguazu Falls when I watched season 2 of The Amazing Race, and I was entranced and wanted to visit them. I absolutely adore waterfalls, and seek them out whenever I can. It was doing my research about Argentina, when I realized that the bulk of Iguazu Falls are actually in Argentina (The Amazing Race featured the falls from the Brazil side, so that is where I figured you had to access them).

The first thing I felt when I got off the plane was the strong heat and humidity, even at 0900 in the morning. It was a definite shock to the system. I had come from Ushuaia, and previously the Pacific Northwest, where the highs were in the 50s at best, and the fierce wind could make it feel even colder, to Puerto Iguazu, where the highs were in the 90s and the humidity was cooking. I had to scramble for appropriate clothes, because I had packed plenty of long sleeved shirts and warm pants to layer against the cold and wind, but only about two T shirts. But I made it work, even if the sweat was pouring off me at times.

Since I got to Puerto Iguazu early in the day, and I didn’t have any excursions planned that day, I decided to spend the afternoon visiting Iguazu National Park on my own. My taxi driver was more than willing to come back to the hotel to drive me to the park, and pick me up at the agreed upon time (for the right price of course). I knew I had an excursion in the park the next day, but I didn’t know if it consisted of a park tour. In any case, I like to do things at my own pace when possible and not under the direction of a guide (at least for things that don’t absolutely require a guide).

Now the afternoon is the not the BEST time to visit from a weather perspective, because the sun is at its peak heat. But there are also fewer crowds at that time, and the park has plenty of shade to hide from the sun. So I bought my ticket and headed in. There is a train that can take you from the main gate to the center of the park, but there is also a nice, fairly short nature path that takes you to the same destination but allows you to see some of the flora and fauna of the park. My one disappointment when I got to the park, was realizing that the Garganta del Diablo (or Devil’s Throat) was closed. It is a boardwalk that goes out to the center of the waterfall and overlooks the most thunderous part of the falls. I was really looking forward to seeing it, but spring meltoff had raised river levels so high, that it took out part of the boardwalk. So you could only see that part of the waterfall from afar.

But even with that closed, there were still ample things to see and do in the park. Argentina has about 2/3 of Iguazu Falls within its borders, and its boardwalks and trails give you a closer, more intimate view of the falls. The trails are very well marked and easy to use, and in the case of one trail, it is supposed to be one way only to better control visitor flow.

If you have the time, I would recommend you see all the main trails in the park, because they provide different views of the falls. But if you only have time for one trail, make it the Superior Circuit. It is the longest trail, because it has the most views of the falls. There are many viewpoints along the trail that give you a variety of awe inspiring views of the waterfalls. The trail itself is a well maintained boardwalk so you are on the side of the falls, and is flat and easily traversable.

The hardest thing about the trail was tearing myself from the viewpoints. It felt like every viewpoint was better than the last, and I was constantly taking pictures and taking the time to take it all in. This is when I was glad to have done this park on my own. I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with the group or afraid of pissing off the tour guide, because I was too slow. I had allowed myself nearly five hours of excursion time before my agreed upon pickup time with my taxi driver, so I had no need to hurry. Iguazu Falls were the best waterfalls I had ever seen, and I wanted to really take it all in.

It is hard to pick a favorite viewpoint, because they are all different, but spectacular. The crowds weren’t overwhelming, which is probably partly because it was the afternoon and many of the tour groups had left, but also because it was November, and the peak tourist season hadn’t hit yet. I heard the crowds get ridiculous in December and January, and I try to avoid peak travel time for most of my vacations.

I was definitely feeling the heat, but the nice cool water bottles helped a lot. The Superior Circuit has a clockwise travel pattern, so you see all the waterfall viewpoints first, and then the trail turns inland through the lush, verdant forest before bringing out near to where you started. I still had time on my hands, so I decided to do the Inferior Circuit, which is a shorter trail, and different viewpoints of waterfalls.

This circuit doesn’t have an established traffic pattern, maybe because the entire trail wasn’t open. The trail was open in two different directions taking you to different waterfall viewpoints, but the interior of the loop trail was closed down due to trail erosion. The first waterfall viewpoints I stopped at was Dos Hermanas Falls and Chico Falls. These views were from the bottom of the waterfall looking up, and were a counterpoint to the overhead falls views from the Superior Circuit trail.

Then I backtracked and followed the trail down past a couple other small waterfalls to an expansive lookout of San Martin Island in front of you in the Iguazu River. The view is wide and nice, though it feels a bit bifurcated by the terrain, since the island view divides the waterfall in half.

By this point, I was tired and sweaty and getting close to my pick up time. Instead of taking the train back to main gate, I decided to take the nature trail back, and it was a pleasant way to end my day. The park was getting ready to close in about an hour, so there were substantially fewer tourists, and it felt so much quieter than the din earlier in the day. I am very glad I took the opportunity to see the park at my own pace, because it is truly worth a full day of your time.

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