Cataratas de Iguazu/do Iguaçu

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It was a long drive from Pomerode to the famous waterfalls. Brazil has more frequent speed limits than Chile, Argentina and Uruguay and is covered by radar cameras to enforce them. Hence, it took us 7h for 400km. Also the section from Curitiba to Foz do Iguaçu is quite pricey: We paid a little less than $R 100 in tolls (!) for 650 km.

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The Waterfalls of Iguazu are located in between Brazil and Argentina and are part of the Iguazu National Park. In terms of height and width they are considered to be the greatest waterfalls of world beating their famous counterparts Niagara and Victoria Falls. The name Iguazu stems from the Guaranis (native inhabitants) and means Big Water.

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We dedicated two full days for the visit of each side which we felt was adequate. Since we were in Brazil anyway we started off with the Brazilian side. We stayed at a AirBnB in the city of Foz do Iguazu. From there it was a 20min drive to the park entrance.

The park entrance was $R 67 per adult plus $R 10 for Leo and $R 24 for parking. There are shuttle buses which leave every 15min. We experienced quite a long queue so we would recommend to be either the first ones in (8am) or among the last ones in (after 3pm, park closes at 5pm). There are couple of stops for extra activities (jeep safari, trekking, boat ride) on the way to the main area which we skipped. We went the 12km straight by bus to the final stop.

We started a beautiful walk way which leads to different viewing balconies of the uncountable amount of waterfalls. Supposedly, the number varies between 190 and 275 depending on the water level. We were very impressed how large the entire area is.

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Due to the massive amount of water tiny water drops elevate and help to build rainbows from time to time which is super-beautiful.

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At a couple of viewing points it’s unavoidable to escape from the herds of visitors.

80% of the waterfalls lie on the Argentinian side such that the Brazilian side offers the better panoramic views. In proximity to the park restaurants lots of Coatis can be found who try to chase all food they can find – so better watch your sandwiches 😉

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After spending two hours at the walk way we visited the adjacent Bird Park “Parque das Aves” ($R 45 per adult). It offers a huge variety of mostly Brazilian but as well some other South American species such as various types of parrots, big eagles, guaras (red small flamingos), flamingos and many more. Very interesting – particularly for kids – and definitely worthwhile as it is so close to the waterfalls.

We crossed the border in the evening which was straight forward and stayed at a AirBnB in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Of course, the Argentinian side also charges their entrance fee (ARS 700 per adult, kids under 5 free, plus ARS 170 parking). As opposed to what’s said in guide books everything can be paid by credit card. Since Argentina is one hour behind Brazil the park hours are also shifted by one hour: 9am to 6pm.

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Unfortunately, we did not figure out that the majority of visitors usually heads straight to the train to “Garganta del Diablo”, the main attraction of the park and consequently there a huge queues for the train which just leaves every 30min. The better idea would have been to follow the trail :”Sendero Verde” to the waterfall trails “Sendero Superior Cataratas” and “Sendero Inferior Cataratas” and then head in the afternoon for the “Garganta del Diablo”.

There are much more trails on the Argentinian side leading through the trees of Parque Iguazu which gives a wilder impression to the visitor. Consequently, there’s also a bit more walking involved than on the Brazilian side.

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The Garganta del Diablo itself is very impressive: The amount of water which drops up to 65m deep is unbelievable. Due to wind and elevating water foam wet hair and clothes are guaranteed 🙂 This also makes video recording and taking pictures not straight forward. On the way back we saw big cat fish and turtles in the Rio Iguazu.

After an half hour wait for the train back we walked the “Sendero Superior Cataratas” which offered superb views of hidden waterfalls we did not see from the Brazilian side. The falls were very “green” as the water was flowing in between grasses and plants. The biggest one was the Salto San Martin. In the past, it could be best seen from the Ilha do San Martin which cannot be accessed anymore these days. We also attempted to take a boat ride to approach the falls but we opted out as the minimum age was 12.

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The last trail of the day led us along “Sendero Macuco” and ended after 3.5km at a refreshing waterfall. We dipped our heads under the heavy drops of the waterfalls and swam a little bit in the waterfalls‘ pool. There were maybe another 20 people with us who had the same idea. Swimming in the Iguazu waterfalls – checked 🙂 The trail itself is pretty, but unspectacular. The only wild life we encountered were huge spiders which made us watch our heads while walking.

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We completed the day with a nice Malbec and yummy Lomo and Bife de Chorizo to say Goodbye to Argentina in a proper way 🙂 Gracias Argentina – pasamos un muy buen tiempo 🙂

Before heading back to the Atlantic coast, we returned to Foz do Iguaçu the next morning and participated in the Panoramic Tour of the Itaipu dam. The dam is a bi-national project of Paraguay and Brazil and was developed and built over 5 years and completed in 1982. It is currently the largest hydroelectric plant of the world in terms of produced energy – the second superlative after the Iguazu falls. The Three Gorges dam in China has a larger capacity but a lower GW output.

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At peak times 40,000 workers were working at the dam and had to be fed in the installed restaurants. Even today, the dam employs more than 3000 people. The amount of concrete used would be sufficient to build 210 football stadiums like Maracana. The rock volume extracted was 8.5 times higher than in the Eurotunnel between France and the UK.

The hydroelectric plant possesses 20 generators and produces 90 TWh p.a. The produced energy is split equally between the two countries but Brazil buys back the majority of Paraguay’s share such that Paraguay finally only consumes 10% of the produced energy. Nevertheless, this is sufficient to cover 90% of Paraguay’s energy needs (!). The water reservoir itself has a size of 1300 km^2.

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The tour itself ($R 45 per adult) offers three stops from different perspectives and shows a 15 min documentary (English subtitles) at the beginning. We enjoyed the tour and highly recommend it.

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