Travelers to Argentina often fold in a side trip to Iguazu National Park on their way to other acclaimed sights like Buenos Aires, Patagonia, and Mendoza’s agricultural region. They fly and bus their way to the northern border shared with Brazil, often slotting a day or two for the trails. But many people who view the hundreds of waterfalls collectively known as Iguazu Falls neglect to schedule enough days to truly appreciate the park.
Whether booking a tour from Buenos Aires or traveling to Iguazu independently it’s best to do a bit of research. You can view the falls from Argentina and Brazil, but we elected to see it only from the Argentine side of Iguazu. This is because U.S. citizens have to pay well over $100US for a tourist visa. Since we weren’t planning an extensive visit to Brazil we decided against buying the visa. When planning a trip to Iguazu, make sure to find out if you need to buy a visa for either Argentina or Brazil.
Our visit to Iguazu National Park and Puerto Iguazu
Melissa and I spent four days and nights in Puerto Iguazu over our most recent anniversary weekend. Puerto Iguazu is a small town and the perfect base for exploring the area near Iguazu Falls. We stayed at a place called Iguazu Royal Hotel Posado at Lorenzo 132. The staff was helpful with recommendations for our anniversary dinner and served breakfast in the morning. There is also a swimming pool, and our room contained a private bathroom, television, and good Wi-Fi.
Iguazu Royal Hotel Posado was only a ten minute walk from the main bus terminal where we caught a local bus to the National Park. The bus fare from the town of Puerto Iguazu to the Argentine entrance for the park was 10 pesos ($2.25US) per ride. The return from the park is the same price and buses in either direction run about every half hour. The bus we rode had the letters and words, T.A.P. El Practico, written on its side.
Helpful information and great signs inside of Iguazu National Park
We traveled to dozens of places in South America over the past nine months, and Puerto Iguazu and the national park was a top spot for receiving quality information. When we first arrived at the bus terminal we went to the information office in the main bus terminal. Sergio from the office gave us a map and great directions for hoofing it to our hotel. We made it there just before a downpour of rain. The next morning his colleague Nestor recommended a comprehensive two day itinerary based on our preferences.
Information is abundant inside the park as well. Timothy and Ariel at an information kiosk helped me with logistics and dining options. Omar, a tour salesman who works for Iguazu Jungle tours, helped me weigh my options on adventurous ways to see the waterfalls. Iguazu National Park is covered with signs making navigation easy and convenient. One sign that was constantly ignored was Don’t feed the animals. Idiotic adults and ignorant children were constantly feeding mammals and birds.
Transportation and main trails within Iguazu National Park
The entrance fee for Iguazu National Park is 130 pesos ($29US) for an adult on the first day. Visitors on a second consecutive day get half priced admission of 65 pesos ($14.50US). To receive the discount get your ticket stamped before you leave the park on the first day. A third day would be regular price (130 pesos). A fourth day would be half priced (65 pesos) with the discount stamp from your third day.
Walking on concrete and dirt trails and on elevated, metal catwalks is the main mode of transport inside Iguazu National Park. However, a wheel-chair accessible train chugs through the park, servicing three stations. Estacion Central is closest to the front entrance. Estacion Cataratas leads travelers to the Circuito Superior and Circuito Inferior hikes. Farthest from the entrance, Estacion Garganta del Diablo, delivers tourists to a panoramic view of scores of cascades.
On weekends there were long lines for these train rides. One time we had to get off a train just to get on another line in order to wait for another train to go in the same direction. Be patient and remember that everyone else is going through the same ordeal. Walking the Sendero Trail back to the main entrance is a scenic way to skip one leg on the train. Weekdays offer smaller crowds and shorter waiting times.
Food options at the park
There are several restaurants in the park including La Selva near the entrance and El Fortin by Circuito Inferior. La Selva is buffet style and discount coupons are available at the nearby information kiosk. Fast food shacks and shops stock steak-sandwiches, pizzas, empanadas, and other favorites.
On our second day exploring Iguazu we self-catered. We brought in food from a supermarket and made our own sandwiches. We bought empanadas and pastas from a store in Puerto Iguazu called Mamma Pasta, threw them in our backpacks, and used the microwave at the park to heat them up. We saw groups of friends picnicking on the grass at the park. They followed the rules and didn’t share food with furry creatures.
Tour options in the park
Iguazu National Park offers many options for self-guided touring. Melissa came to the park with me on our first two days and we accomplished all of the major hikes except for the Sendero Macuco. When we were there it was not possible to go to Isla San Martin.
I returned for a third visit to the park by myself. My main goal was to see the falls from the river on boat tours. One option for Iguazu Jungle Tours is the Gran Aventura, which includes an open jeep ride/ecological tour and a motorized boat ride. The boat brings you close to the waterfalls and riders will get soaked by sea spray. However the crew will make sure that your camera gear stays dry after you snap some shots. Another option is the Paseo Ecologico. For this mostly dry tour, a bilingual guide rows a raft while explaining how the rivers in the region affect Iguazu. The Aventura Nautica is another possibility if you like to get wet. I tried the Gran Aventura and Paseo Ecologico and received a discount of 290 pesos ($65US) for the two tours.
Planning three to four days to tour Iguazu National Park gives travelers extra flexibility on their itineraries. With more days you can plan what to do based on the weather or choose to frequent the park at quieter times. So pick up a poncho before you go and enjoy the grandeur and power of Iguazu Falls.