The Brazilian town of Foz do Iguacu was my base for exploring Iguazu Falls. Upon arriving at the hostel, I order a Brahma cerveja at the pool bar. As is customary in Brazil, the bartender brought me a large, 600 ml bottle of beer in a plastic insulator, along with a small, 6 oz glass. This system keeps the beer cold and refreshing. 👍 The bartender also brought me some nuts and wax paper napkins. Don’t even bother trying to wipe your face with Brazilian napkins, because they have no absorbency and will only smear grease and food particles on your face. 👎
Iguazu Falls, located on the Rio Iguazu between Argentina and Brazil, consists of nearly 300 individual waterfalls, making it the world’s most extensive waterfall system. The falls are wider than Victoria Falls, and both wider and higher than Niagra Falls. Upon first seeing Iguazu Falls, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”
My first view of Iguazu Falls was from the Brazilian side. After arriving at Parque Nacional do Iguacu, I walked the Trilha das Cataratas, or “Waterfall Trail.” I frequently stopped to admire the panoramic views of the falls, with the jungle and the Rio Iguazu below. The trail ends at Garganta do Diablo, or “Devil’s Throat.” The Devil’s Throat is a narrow canyon where half of the river’s flow falls from Argentina to Brazil. I walked on a humanmade walkway to the middle of the river, surrounded by the water thundering down violently to the bottom of the vast ravine. It was a dazzling display of power, rainbows, and spray!
After visiting Iguazu Falls, I shared a taxi to Friendship Bridge and walked over the Rio Paraná to Ciudad del Este. Ciudad del Este is a city in Paraguay, located on the triple border with Brazil and Argentina. The town is a popular shopping destination for Brazilians and Argentinians, but I didn’t come to shop–I came to check another country off my list. Americans need a visa to travel to Paraguay, so I waited inconspicuously outside the immigration office while my British and Australian travel companions had their passports stamped. There isn’t much to do in Ciudad del Este except shopping for cheap goods at malls. We returned to Brazil after eating a quick lunch at one of the shopping malls.
Our taxi dropped us off at Parque das Aves, or “Park of the Birds,” about an hour before it closed. An hour was enough time for me to tour the park and see the birds of the Atlantic Rainforest up close. I prefer seeing animals in the wild instead of in cages, but admittedly I never would have known how beautiful toucans are without seeing one up close in the park.
The next day I returned to Argentina to see Iguazu Falls from the other side. In Argentina’s Parque Nacional Iguazu, I viewed the falls from elevated walkways, nature trails, and a boat that brought us close to the bottom of Garganta do Diabo. Parque Nacional Iguazu is much bigger than its Brazilian counterpart, requiring at least a full day to walk all of its trails.
For a grand finale at Iguazu Falls, I ran on Sendero Macuco to Salto Arrechea, a 30-meter waterfall. I ran on the muddy trail for 3.5 km in my flip flops, passing only a couple of women on the way to the waterfall. I felt off the beaten path and wondered if a jaguar would spring from the subtropical rainforest and attack me, but the only predators were mosquitoes. Upon arriving at Salto Arrechea, I cooled off with a refreshing dip in the pool underneath the waterfall. Soon the two British women that I ran past joined me. We chatted while swimming and sunbathing on large rocks near the waterfall. It was the perfect ending to my two days at Iguazu Falls.