Iguazu Falls in an obvious stop off point for most travellers in Argentina or Brazil, but sometimes it can be challenging getting hold of the information you need. To add to the confusion, I visited Iguazu Falls on New Year’s Eve in 2012 and there was conflicting information about whether or not the park would even be open.
As it turned out, most places were open for business as usual, although there were a few unforeseen problems along the way.
IGUAZU FALLS IN ARGENTINA
We arrived into Puerto Iguazu by plane following a whistle stop tour of Buenos Aires.
Our original plan had been to try to see both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of the falls in one day, but don’t even think about it!
It was already midday on new year’s eve when we dropped our bags off at the Hostel Inn, just a few kilometres outside of Puerto Iguazu. They advised us that we could visit the falls on the Argentinian side for a few hours that afternoon, since the park closed at 6pm. While most people recommend you give the Argentinian side one full day, it really depends on what you want to do there. Buses depart from Puerto Iguazu every 20 minutes, marked ‘Cataratas’. It’s easy to flag one down wherever your hostel is located along the road.
It takes a while to queue for the trains that transport you to different sections of Iguazu Falls park, and the train itself goes at an agonising 5km/h. If it wasn’t for this fact, you probably could see all of the Argentinian highlights in one afternoon.
We headed first for the Devil’s Throat – the most impressive section, where the greatest proportion of water tumbles over a massive drop of over 80 metres, causing a huge amount of spray to drench spectators, and usually producing a massive rainbow.
The full falls have an annual flow of water second only to Niagara, and it’s easy to believe as you watch the force of the river crashing down and listen to its thunderous bellows.
From Devil’s Throat, we took the ‘superior’ board-walked footpath for views from the top of the smaller falls that line the Argentinian side further downriver from the Devil’s Throat. It wasn’t a particularly long walk, but it took about an hour because of all the great photo opportunities.
As well as the falls, there were loads of coatis with babies, which can be aggressive if you agitate them, but are generally cute and fun to watch.
We didn’t have time for the lower footpath, although it looked pretty similar to the upper one. We also skipped the boat rides, which were a fair bit extra money and returned miserable-looking sodden tourists to the train station every half hour. I felt I’d got my money’s worth though.
You can actually have your ticket stamped if you intend to return the next day. This means you pay half price on the second day. We did this just in case, but doubted we’d have the energy to return after the new year’s eve celebrations and fit in the border crossing and the Brazilian side in the same day.
GETTING TO BRAZIL
After a fantastic new year’s eve – Hostel Inn puts on a great party – we woke to find it was torrential rain, thunder and lightening outside. The weather was a factor we hadn’t even considered. There was no way we were heading out before it calmed, so we waited until midday for the rain to turn to drizzle.
We wanted to get across the border, dump our bags at the next hostel and then head back to the falls to see what Brazil had to offer. If only it had been that easy! Even though Foz do Iguacu is only a few kilometres away from Puerto Iguazu, it took us almost 4 hours to get there, the main problem being that it was new year’s day.
To cross the border, you catch a bus marked ‘Brazil’. In theory, it drops you at the Argentinian border control and drives off, leaving you to wait for the next one to take you to the Brazilian border control, and a third to take you from there to Foz. You can reuse your ticket each time. We were lucky in that the bus waited at the first checkpoint. That was where out luck ran out.
We waited at the Brazilian border control for over 2 hours and no bus came. As we stood wondering if we’d have time to see the Brazilian side of the falls at all, it also dawned on us that Brazil was an hour ahead of Argentina at that time of year. We were on a very tight schedule.
Eventually, we flagged a taxi along with a Brazilian couple who were in the same situation. It drove them into Foz before taking us straight to the falls. We arrived, with luggage, about an hour before the park was due to close. The taxi had set us back the equivalent of about £20 and we had to pay a hefty price to leave our bags too.
IGUAZU FALLS IN BRAZIL
The good thing about our situation was that you can see most of what the Brazilian side has to offer in an hour. There’s one obvious board walk taking you right up to a view point opposite the Devil’s Throat, but beneath it, where the falls surround you. If you have the time, you can do other activities like zip lining here too.
The park was pretty lenient on the closing time, and we also managed to get a bus back into Foz.
That evening, we had more problems related to it being new year’s day. We needed Brazilian money, but all of the cash points in town were inside bank foyers, behind locked doors. We also needed food, but we had to walk miles to find an open restaurant and wait 3 hours to be served.
If you’re planning to visit the falls over new year, by all means give it a go. The parks are open and it’s definitely possible. But, bear in mind that at any time of year, it will be a lot less stressful if you give yourself a few days to take it easy and allow for bad weather. If you can stock up on food and supplies before new year’s day, it would be a great idea…and don’t rely on the buses!