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24 hours in Iguazu Falls, Argentina

24 hours in Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Destination Details
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Time Spent

  • 1 day

Cost

  • $22/person

    park entry only

Where to Stay

You can actually stay right inside of the park at the Sheraton, but that was a bit rich for our blood. I think the cost is over 300 USD a night. The more likely option is to grab a spot in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, just a 25 min drive from the park. Here you will find loads of accommodations from hostels to hotels. Many places are overpriced as the proprietors know where they are and know they can get away with the exorbitant costs.

Petit Hotel Si Mi Capitan – This is the hotel we stayed at and it was reasonably priced, in a great location and exactly what we wanted. The hotel was incredibly clean, something we’ve found to be uncommon in Argentina, and the staff was very friendly and bilingual (spanish and english). Additionally, while we were there at least, they offered a discount for paying in cash.

Getting to Puerto Iguazu

By Bus

From Retiro Station, Buenos Aires (Terminal de Omnibus Retiro) to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

Duration – The ride takes about 17-18 hours, but because it’s overnight it doesn’t feel very long (if you sleep most of the way like we did).

Via Barlioche – After some research we opted for Via Barlioche and the Super Cama (full bed) seats, which were just slightly more expensive than the Semi-Cama seats at about $115 USD one way per person. Another good option is Expreso Singer.

Buying Tickets – Tickets can be purchased online at Via Barlioche’s site or in person at the Via Barlioche kiosk at either bus station. The latter allows you to pay in cash, possibly getting you a better rate (due to the dollar blue rate) than if paid with your credit card. We got ours the morning before leaving, but depending upon time of year it might be necessary to get them earlier.

By Plane

Flying is a much faster, more expensive option with flights taking only 1.5 hours. For a cheaper flight it is possible to get subsidized airfare by booking as a porteño. We have read and heard of foreigners having good luck with this approach, but we don’t know the repercussions of getting caught, not to mention the moral conundrum. These subsidies are in place so locals can visit family or travel even if they don’t have loads of money (the major economic issues here contribute greatly). Without these, many people wouldn’t be able to travel. It didn’t seem right to take advantage of this, especially if there were other options.

Getting to the Park

By Bus

El Practico buses no longer exist, so if you’ve read that elsewhere, ignore it.

Rio Uruguay – This local bus will drop you off right at the park and costs 80 pesos roundtrip. The bus runs about every 20 mins or so. Return times are posted at the bus stop at Iguazu Falls, with the last bus leaving at around 7:30pm. You can get tickets at the Puerto Iguazu bus terminal; look for the buses to Cataratas. Note: The Rio Uruguay site will NOT allow you to purchase this route online as its a local route not a regional one. You can buy your tickets at the Puerto Iguazu bus terminal.

By Taxi

Taxis can also be taken to and from the falls. However, taxis are not just hanging out at Iguazu Falls, so make sure to confirm a return trip, time, and place with your driver in advance. Your hotel might also be able to arrange this for you.

When to Go

Time of Year

We opted for winter and we’d recommend it to anyone wanting to visit. It is low season with mostly Argentine and Brazilian tourists. It is still quite warm and humid hovering around 80 F and that was plenty hot for us. For more information visit WikiTravel.

Time of Day

Get There Early – Leave your hotel early (we left at 7:30am) and attempt to catch the first bus to the park. Within the first 30 minutes at the park it was starting to get crowded even in the low season, making it difficult at times to enjoy the views.

Two Sides of the Falls

Argentina

Much of the accessible property of the falls lies on the Argentine side with footpaths taking you right up to the edge of the falls. This is where most time can be spent. If all areas are open this can be at least a full day trip.

Brazil

We didn’t venture to the Brazil side due to the visa restrictions imposed on residents of the US, however what we read is that visiting the Brazil side takes only half a day and offers full panoramic views of the falls. We felt that you got huge panoramic views from the Argentine side, though. You probably can’t go wrong either way.

Additional Resources

Unfortunately, there aren’t very good resources for Iguazu Falls. Your best bet for finding additional useful information is to check out WikiTravel.

Trail Status

As mentioned in the post, at the time of visiting, nearly 50% of the trails on the Argentine side were inaccessible due to severe flooding in June 2014. We had a great time even without seeing this portion of the park, but if you want to be there when you can access it all, make sure to check to see if the repairs have been complete. Having seen the pace at which things get done here, I have assume it will be sometime before some of the trails are opened due to the severity of the damage. One report mentioned that some might not be able to open again due to the destruction and risk of it happening again.

Prior to arriving in Buenos Aires we knew we wanted to make the trek to Iguazu. We knew it was listed as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of The World and when we talked to others, they had either regretted missing it or said it was the best thing they did in Argentina. I’d seen the falls on some PBS special when I was a kid in the 90s and at the time it seemed like one of those incredible far-off places I couldn’t imagine ever seeing for myself. After crossing Mendoza and Barlioche off of our list, we knew we couldn’t do the same with Iguazu.

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    Super Cama style on the top deck of the Via Barlioche bus to Puerto Iguazu

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    The kiosks of Retiro Bus Terminal (2nd floor)

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    One of the many birds on the way into the park

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    The train to the main trails of Iguazu Falls

Getting There

After a month into our stay in Buenos Aires, we boarded a Via Barlioche bus to Puerto Iguazu. A mere 18 hours later we arrived in Puerto Iguazu. It was like time travel since we slept through the night in full lay-flat seats (about $115 USD each, one way). It was much more comfortable than flying coach and cheaper (unless you book as an Porteño – see details at the top for more info). Yes, it sounds painfully long, but it was a great experience. From buying the ticket to boarding the bus, everything was quite easy. The biggest downside to the bus was the terrible food that is served (not a surprise), but you can just bring your own food (including wine) onboard with no problems. The free WiFi on the bus was nearly worthless, but there is in-bus entertainment with a few movies (Two Guns, anyone?) but the sound was off on all of them. Pro Tip: have your devices fully charged before leaving (or, you know, have a paperback book.)

Staying

In Puerto Iguazu we headed to our hotel, Petit Hotel Si Mi Capitan. An odd name for a hotel, but it was perfect for our stay. Just a bit beyond the main roads, away from the noise, the hotel is tucked away on a side street. The newly renovated property is divided into two parts: the office, dining room, pool and standard hotel rooms on one side of the street and private bungalows on the other. Each has a gated entrance for security (although it didn’t really seem necessary). The hotel was exactly what we were looking for, simple and low key at a good price. Puerto Iguazu can be quite expensive when it comes to hotels and most hostels have less than great reviews as they aren’t well maintained.

The day we arrived was essentially thrown away since we arrived at 1pm. After checking in, we wandered the town for a bit and grabbed some food. Puerto Iguazu isn’t a terribly exciting town. In fact there isn’t much there, unless you are looking to party with college kids staying at hostels. Puerto Iguazu is really just a place to crash on your trip to the falls. We spent most of our time at the hotel when we weren’t out at the falls, mostly because I was sick, but also because there really wasn’t much to see or do otherwise (something we had been told prior to our arrival).

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    The spray of the falls fills the air between the jungle and the mighty Paraná River

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    The falls seem to go on forever

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    “Poor Niagra” – Eleanor Roosevelt on her trip to Iguazu Falls

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    The power of mother nature – one of the many paths destroyed by flooding

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    The lower trail from above

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    These coati seem cute, but these little bastards will rip you to shreds for the candy in your pocket

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    It can be very hard to get a good shot of the falls without loads of people posing

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    One of the many views with a nice rainbow

The Falls

The week before we left for Iguazu, we were informed that a massive storm had done quite a bit of damage to the park and the surrounding area. I was hopeful that some things had been repaired and figured even if it wasn’t all accessible, the falls would still be worth the trip. I was right, even with nearly 50% of the park inaccessible. After turning a corner on the upper trail you get a sense of the scale of the falls. I honestly don’t know how to describe it other than it looks like something out of Jurassic Park or Land of the Lost. A dense jungle being drowned by enormous floods of water, with trees doing all they can to keep from toppling and cascading down the falls with tons of gallons of water. This sight goes on for miles, disappearing into the horizon making it appear never ending.

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    With people rushing by it’s important to stop and just take in the majesty of it all

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    The photos really don’t do it justice

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    The forest can do little to stop the powerful water

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    These paths keep you above the water and away from the dense jungle while getting you within inches of the falls

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    A calm stream of water next to the surrounding furious falls

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    Every waterfall is unique and stunning

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    Some visitors enjoying the pool below the waterfall at the end of Sendero Macuco trail

We made our way around every available path taking in as many angles of the falls as possible. From the upper trail you get a sense of the entire park and literally stand on the edge of waterfalls. From the lower trail you get a sense of the shear size of the falls all while walking through the jungle.

The damage caused by the earlier floods was apparent even without access to other areas of the park. Entire foot bridges lay at the bottom of the falls, tossed aside like leftover parts to an Ikea dresser. It was quite amazing to get a first hand view of just how powerful mother nature is, and although we didn’t get to see a good part of the park it was still breathtaking and worth the 18 hour one way journey. It is unlikely we will see anything quite like this on the rest of our trip.

An upside to the closures was that we were able to take advantage of the less trafficked Sendero Macuco trail through the jungle, something we wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise. Honestly, the trail itself wasn’t that exciting and didn’t offer a whole lot other than humidity and bugs, but at the end we were treated with another astounding view from atop another, smaller waterfall. At this fall you could enjoy the view from above or go below and go for a swim, something not afforded elsewhere in the park. On the long walk back along the trail we were even able to catch a glimpse of a monkey hanging out in a tree, making the hike worthwhile.

Because of the limited access, we only ended up spending about 2/3 of the day in the park before heading back to town and to our hotel. The next day we hopped back on the bus in a torrential downpour and made our way back to BA. It was a quick trip to Iguazu, but one we won’t forget any time soon.

If you are interested in more info about our Iguazu trip hit us up in the comments.

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  1. Josh
    December 27, 2014

    Great blog! Im just planning my trip to Iguazu, and this is really helpful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Ryan
      December 27, 2014

      Thanks Josh! Glad you find it useful. Have a great trip to Iguazu and let us know if we missed anything.

      Reply