The Iguaçu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina are one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We were in the area, so it seemed only sensible to stop and see what all the fuss was about.
Our flight from Rio to Foz do Iguaçu arrived pretty late, so we’d arranged a cheap hostel for a night. At Tetris Container Hostel, the reception, restaurant and rooms are made out of 15 separate shipping containers. Even the swimming pool is an old container. After a delayed flight and some airport faffing, we finally got into bed at about 2am, only to be serenaded by a Frenchman singing in the shower above our room. Shipping containers might be good building materials, but they have few sound insulation qualities. Nevertheless, I’m still amazed I managed to convince Nicola to stay in a hostel on our honeymoon.
We woke early and had a fairly lacklustre shipping container breakfast, before heading down the second best attraction in Foz do Iguaçu, the ‘Parque das Aves’. We were greeted on the other side of the admission booth by a whole host of pink flamingos, and a large map that promised parrots aplenty throughout the bird park. Excellent news.
The best enclosure by a mile was the macaws. There must’ve been over 100 macaws living in there. Scarlet macaws, blue and gold macaws, and red and green macaws sat happily on their perches looking down curiously at the humans parading below. We stayed in the enclosure for well over an hour, marvelling at the magnificent birds. Just as we were thinking it was probably time to leave, they all took to the air at once, squawking and screeching to one another. The whole enclosure cooled down in an instant with the breeze of their flapping, and the sky was lit up as the sun caught the brilliance of their feathers.
Realising that Parque das Aves was unlikely to get better than a tornado of macaws, we left, and took a shuttle into the national park, heading for our posh hotel for the next two nights, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas.
The Belmond is an incredible hotel. A pink building set against the dark green forest, it’s directly opposite the waterfalls themselves. It’s the only hotel within the national park, which allows you to go out and explore the area at any time of night or day (although a sign at the hotel advised to avoid night, due to the family of jaguars that live in the area).
The hotel was amazing. Two beautiful restaurants, a spa, a tower with views over the falls, marble bathrooms, and the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. We’d told them it was our honeymoon, and they’d prepared chocolates and heart balloons in our room. The best bit was that they called us Mrs and Mrs Greene throughout, which didn’t get old.
Breakfast at the hotel deserves its own paragraph. It was ridiculous. Row after row of Le Creuset dishes contained every breakfast food imaginable. Eggs, bacon, beans, black pudding were all there, along with pastries, cheeses, meats, salads, pastas, smoked salmon, at least five different freshly baked cakes, brightly coloured tropical juices, platters of fruit, doughnuts, and a bread station with all the baguettes, sourdoughs and loaves you could dream of. In one corner, an egg chef fried, poached and scrambled her way through the morning, and in the other, you could help yourself to champagne and bloody marys. Once you take a seat, an endless supply of tea and coffee awaits. The napkins were thick white cotton, the service was impeccable, and it’s likely to remain the best breakfast I’ve ever had.
So, onto the waterfalls themselves. We headed out at sunset, when the tourist buses had left, and the national park was almost empty. Walking the 1.2km path which runs alongside the river, the trees parted every so often to reveal another glimpse of the falls. We reached the main viewing platform just as the sun started to set, and the spray lit up in shades of orange, shafts of light cutting through to the thundering water. The flowers and leaves of condensation-encrusted tropical plants glistened golden in the evening light, and silhouettes of toucans and swifts flew above us. We stood there, with the whole of the falls to ourselves, and actually didn’t say much at all, but stood silently in awe of the sight of the place.
After a couple of wonderful, relaxing days in the Belmond Hotel,we reluctantly checked out (mainly due to our honeymoon budget becoming increasingly diminished), and ordered a taxi to take us over the border from Brazil to Argentina.
We crossed the border with a surprisingly low level of faff, switched our phrasebook from Portuguese to Spanish, and headed to the waterfall visitor centre. If the Brazilian side of the Iguazú falls is like looking at a panoramic photo, the Argentine side is like being in the photo. A series of pathways are bolted to the side of the cliffs, meandering a few kilometres through the falls. You’ll be walking through thick jungle and suddenly emerge alongside a huge waterfall. With 275 individual falls, it becomes fairly routine to stumble across a waterfall which would be a major attraction in the UK, without as much stopping to look. You are truly spoilt for choice.
The highlight of the Argentina side is the Devil’s Throat. Here, they have somehow built a platform that goes over the highest fall, so you can stand there and stare down into the waterfall. It’s bizarrely white, and the mist is so dense you cannot see a thing. The noise is terrific, and within seconds we were soaked, despite our stylish ponchos.
Drenched, exhausted, and beginning to forget what life was like before we looked at waterfalls all day, we headed to our hotel in Argentina, and for our final night in Iguazú, decided to sample Argentinian steak for the first time. We ordered a bottle of red wine to go with it, and were reading the label discovered that was from a small vineyard just south of Mendoza, Argentina. Conveniently, that was exactly where we were headed next.