I haven’t yet been to Victoria, Niagara or Angel Falls, so I can’t really judge which Waterfall is the most spectacular on earth, but Iguazu Falls must take some beating…
Situated on the border between Brazil and Argentina the Iguazu Falls form the largest waterfall system in the world. The falls are divided between two national parks (one Argentinian and the other Brazilian) and set among rainforest, which provides a broad and diverse ecosystem where nature thrives.
We decided to add Iguazu to the itinerary of our 3 month sabbatical after reading that the Falls were among the best natural wonders to explore in South America, and indeed the world. We were not to be disappointed.
Best Hotels Iguazu
We stayed in The Loi Suites, which I would describe as a reasonably good 4 star hotel. Bear in mind there aren’t many luxury choices in Iguazu, and we had to budget a bit more carefully due to the length of our trip.
The hotel is well located on the Argentinian side of the Falls, just a short taxi ride from either the Argentinian or Brazilian national parks.
The rooms at The Loi Suites are comfortable and practical, and I would happily stay there again. The food wasn’t much to write home about, in that there wasn’t anything wrong with it but it was just a little basic.
There is a very nice pool, set in the peaceful surroundings of the rainforest, which makes for a very relaxing dip after a long day hiking around the Falls.
3 nights in a Junior Suite at the Loi cost around £600 through booking.com.
If your budget is a little more relaxed, I would advise staying at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas.
This is the best luxury hotel in Iguassu (spelt differently as this hotel is located within the Brazilian National Park).
The Hotel das Cataratas has everything you would expect of a Belmond hotel. There is an onsite spa, large outdoor pool, gym, tennis courts and fine dining. Oh, and the real winner for me is that the Belmond is the only hotel situated within either the Brazilian or Argentinian national parks, just a short stroll from the Waterfalls.
The Belmond’s location means you get unparalleled access to the Falls, in particular early in the morning and at sunset when the park is closed to visitors.
We are fortunate enough to have stayed in a few Belmond hotels over the years and have never been disappointed. I would go as far as to say they are the leading luxury hotel group in the world at the moment.
3 nights in a deluxe room at The Belmond Hotel das Cataratas will set you back around £1,200.
Best restaurants in Iguazu
I recommend eating in your hotel. Neither Foz do Iguacu (Brazilian side), or Puerto Iguazu (Argentinian side) are particularly noteworthy and after a day hiking around the falls you just want to chill out. Perhaps a lunch or early dinner in the Belmond would be nice if you aren’t staying there.
Best Things to do in Iguazu
If you are anything like me, you will no doubt have trawled the internet, reading up on which side is best to visit, the Brazilian or Argentinian. Well, my advice is to save your time and visit both, which you can easily do in 3 days.
The above said I think my personal favourite was the Argentinian side. You get much closer to the falls on the Argentinian side, the park seems to be better run, and you get up close and personal with nature.
You require several hours on the Argentinian side as you walk through the lush rain forest, where you can see Coati (kind of similar to a racoon) and Howler Monkeys, as well as plenty of exotic species of bird on your way to the falls. It is a beautiful walk.
I took the jungle train to the upper walkways and headed for ‘The Devil’s Throat,’ which is a pleasant 1k stroll from the station. What hits you is a wall of thundering noise, as over 3 million gallons of water succumb to gravity and crash down into the river below. It truly is an awe inspiring sight that makes you appreciate the power of nature at its fiercest.
When I finally managed to pull myself away, I headed down to the lower walkways, where I had a date with an adenine fuelled boat ride beneath the falls. I highly recommend this tour as you really do get very close, I’m not too sure it would pass health and safety in the UK! Be prepared for an absolute soaking!
The lower walkways on the Argentinian side also allow you to stand directly beneath the falls, which is a pretty amazing, and wet, experience.
The Brazilian side of the of the falls gives you a completely different perspective and is well worth doing. Where the Argentinian side allows you to get up close and personal, the Brazilian side lets you take in the falls magnificence from afar. You really do get to see the entire falls in Panorama.
In true Le Bon style, we decided to take a helicopter flight over the falls while on the Brazilian side. In my opinion, this is the best way to see Iguazu falls in their full splendour. The flight only lasts about 10 minutes, but it is one the most exhilarating experiences of our lives.
The chopper takes you right above the falls, where you can see the mist rising as the water thunders below. Butterflies will explode in your stomach as the helicopter banks sharply right and left, a highlight of the flight for us both.
The helicopter trip was with Helisul and cost around £100 – money very well spent!
My summary of the Iguazu Falls would be that they are a breathtakingly powerful, awesome, and beautiful example of nature at its most powerful best, and should be part of any trip to South America.
How to get there
We flew into Iguazu from Buenos Aires with Aerolineas Argentinas, but a number of different airlines offer a direct service for the price of around £120.