We arrived at Iguazu bus station in Argentina on Christmas Eve. We’d had a fabulous journey from Buenos Aires on the Rio-Uruguay executive bus. It took us 17 hours and cost $4000 ARS/£179. Really expensive but the seats were SO comfy and we even got food and drink on board abit like a plane – definitely the best overnight bus yet!
We’d been gifted the stay at the fancy YVY Hotel De Selva in Iguazu for Christmas and were so excited to get there and experience a little luxury for a few days. As we exited the station we jumped in a taxi which cost $130 ARS/£5. We drove through Iguazu and were left feeling pretty uninspired. The place was so quiet and to be honest a little boring. It turned out that our hotel was quite the drive out of the town itself and more in the jungle area. As we pulled up to the hotel we were super excited to be greeted by friendly hotel staff. 8 days in Buenos Aires had left a lot to be desired to be honest.
We checked in, admired the pool and took a look at the grey clouds – perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite the blue skies for swimming we hoped for. Our room was really beautiful and by far the most luxury place we’d been in. The bed was some sort of super queen size or something with at least 12 cushions (I mean who really uses these cushions? They ALWAYS end up on the floor…).
So it was Christmas Eve. What do we do now? Pop the champagne that been left in our room by Jack’s parents? Take a walk? Swim? If we were at home we would probably be drinking pints of baileys, wrapping last minute presents, tucking into a cheeseboard and watching loads of TV. We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves! This was the first Christmas either of us had ever spent away from home actually. Everyone who knows me knows that I am in fact not a massive fan of Christmas (yes Scrooge blah blah blah heard it all before!) but at least there’s some sort of plan or routine you usually follow over Christmas, not much usually changes does it?
We headed to the reception who informed us that usually guests go or for dinner on Christmas Eve – Christmas Eve is the biggest celebration in Argentina so it’s best to do all your celebrating then. The receptionist called round a few restaurants for us and EVERYTHING was booked up. We couldn’t believe it. Not a single restaurant could take us? Boring. We were told that the hotel next door was having a knees up though so we could get involved if we wanted to. We headed over to the Mecure hotel and booked ourselves in. It was $50 US Dollars for an all you can eat and drink soirée. Sounded decent.
To be honest with you it was one of the best buffets I’ve ever had. The chef had spent hours arranging cheese boards into beautiful pieces of art and even built a croquembouche! My first and probably my last… for those who don’t know a croquembouche is a tower of vanilla pastry cream caramel-dipped profiteroles and is decorated with sugared almonds, sometimes chocolate. Our glasses were topped up with red wine too many times to even mention followed by unlimited champagne! Yes real champagne none of that prosecco shit. We toasted in Christmas Day with a few families and all in all it was pretty delightful really. Nothing crazy but a very pleasant Christmas Eve. We headed back to the hotel exhausted and set our alarms for 7am. (yes 7am who gets up on Christmas Day at 7am??? Madness)
The alarm was ringing. It was Christmas Day 2017 and were in the middle of he jungle in a super queen size bed ready to tackle the world’s biggest waterfall system. We ordered a taxi (apparently there is in fact a bus that runs to the falls and back from the town but HEY it’s Christmas and we’re getting a flipping TAXI! The taxi was very expensive. It cost about $700 ARS/£23 return but we just went for it, we were too excited to get there.
The first European to set his eyes on Iguazu Falls was the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541. The Iguazu waterfall system makes up 1.7 miles of the Iguzu River and consists of 275 waterfalls! Epic! Apparently the actual name Iguazu originates from two words that mean ‘water’ and ‘big’. We approached the ticket office and checked out the options. We’d heard so many different stories and suggestions of what routes to take and which tours were the best. The park offers three different tours on top of the actual park entrance. These are run by http://www.iguazujungle.com. The three tours are as follows: Great Adventure, Nautical Aventire and the Ecological Tour. We went to the park with the aim in mind to catch a boat ride through the falls as well as actually walking the whole park. The tours were really expensive ranging from $950/£32 per person. As we approached the desk we actually were informed the nautical adventure wasn’t actually running – apparently the water was too low. So that was that option out the window then. We purchased general tickets for access to the park costing $500/£20 each.
We were off! The park was already heaving with families and tourists. It was about 9:45am and it looks like a lot of people had rushed in at the opening time of 8:00am. We headed towards the central station to board the train. There was shop and I couldn’t believe it they served beer! Great news, a good way to get the Christmas celebrations started – beers at 10am! The park rules are really relaxed – you can bring your own food, drink and even alcohol. You can also eat and drink it wherever and whenever you want in the park. Crazy. We boarded the little green train ready for the adventure. I didn’t know what to expect really but I just knew it would be good! We pulled up to Cataratas station and were told to get off. Turns out there were at least 60 people waiting at that station and it seems they get priority! So we got off and queued again! Top tip: just walk to Cataratas station from the visitors centre in the first place!
So we finally got on the rammed train sipping our beers and were headed right to the top of the park. We got off at Garganta station and we were met with so many beautiful butterflies. The butterflies were mainly electric blue and hovered around the station area. It was just so idyllic. We moved on to follow the Garganta Del Diablo Trail towards the Devil’s Throat. It was about a 20 min walk along little rivers and swamp land. The closer we got I could start to see the steam in the air take over. We finally turned the last corner and saw the top of the falls. I turned to Jack extremely excited with what I was about to see! My god I was not prepared. We took steps closer to the front of the viewing platform and felt the full force of the falls. It was INCREDIBLE. The power of the water was just unbelievable. It was just water as far as the eye could see. Breathtaking. That moment truly (don’t laugh) I felt really emotional. It was just an insane natural wonder. A real beautiful example of what Mother Nature has provided us. If only everyone could experience this.
Next it was time to jump back on the little green train towards Cataratas station. Cataratas station believe it or not has a Subway sandwiches and they were even doing a deal on beers: two Quilmes for $100/£4. Looks like this place was expecting us! At least with a few beers we could feel a little more Christmassy I suppose… the humidity had got crazy by this point it was one biggest sweat fest everywhere. We needed those beers to cool us down.
Next stop on the trail was the yellow Lower circuit route. We set off on the walkway which takes you through masses of jungle and rivers and numerous spots to get up and close with the waterfalls. It was just spectacular. The park was busy but it didn’t actually FEEL that busy – the walkways and viewing points are so spacious. There is also another food (& beer) stop along the way. This stop was absolutely run riot with the famous coatis. They were literally causing so much havoc stealing food, climbing on tables and getting in bags. To be honest they terrified me! Some of them were massive! According to trusty Wikipedia The South American coati, or ring-tailed coati (Nasua nasua), also known as Brazilian aardvark, is a member of the raccoon family from tropical and subtropical South America.
The first spots on the trail were the relatively small (in comparison) Lanusse Fall and the Alvar Núñez Fall. Across the Lower Iguazu River is Brazil. This was a pretty quiet spot and we knew there was better to come. We headed onwards for a further 10 mins where we found a fantastic landscape view and photo spot. From here we could also see San Martin Island that sits in the middle of the falls. This is actually open to walk around but on our day it was shut due to the tide. The boat trip usually run around the island and under the falls too. Apparently you get soaked and go right under the falls which sounds hilarious.
Probably the most epic part of the Lower circuit was the Bossetti Fall. Here you are literally right up within touching distance of the fall. It made for some amazing pics. We got pretty wet but it was mind blowing the feel the full force of the falls in front of us. It was a struggle to get a pic, it had reached lunchtime and was getting really busy!
The last stops on the lower circuit were the lower walkways at the bottom of Chico Fall and Dos Hemanas Fall.
We were eager to get on track for the upper circuit trail. We headed onto the walkways just as the sun started to shine… I was desperately hoping for some sunny pics and maybe even one of Iguazu’s famous rainbows…
We headed over the top of Dos Hermanas Fall, Chico Fall. Standing so close to the edge of the falls looking down was an entirely different perspective. It was kind of scary to see quite how quick the water flows off the edge – you can’t help but imagine being on a little canoe and flying off the edge Indiana Jones style! It must have been insane and terrifying to first discover a waterfall… let alone one this size!
The next stop on the trail on top of Bossetti Fall my dreams came true. The most perfect Christmas Day. A an actual rainbow popped out right in front of us! It was so vivid I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. Why is it that no matter how old you are a rainbow is just MAGICAL.
The entire Upper Circuit trail was absolutely stunning. The intricate views from the top of Adán y Eva Fall, Bernabé Méndez Fall and Mbigua Fall were enchanting.
The rest of the upper circuit trail is mainly jungle walk. The trees are full with little monkeys. Believe it or not we did witness a monkey eating an actual banana. The monkeys surprised me how confident they were – jumping from railing to railing in front of tourists. I was desperately wanting to see a toucan which apparently are really popular here but no such luck. Toucans are so cool to me they look like cartoon characters. We did see one back in the botanical gardens in Rio, Brazil which was even cooler because it was so unexpected.
We headed back to the shop area and of course decided to pick up some more beers and snacks to round up our Christmas afternoon. My excuse was that if I was at home I would definitely eat drunk by now… so we took our beers back up to the Bossetti Fall and found ourselves a spot on the bench. We sipped staring at one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
We took another wander through the trail knowing we had over an hour and a half before our taxi was due to pick us up. So there we were watching the huge rush of water in front of us and suddenly Jack took his phone out of his pocket shouting it’s “15:57 oh my god” we had 3 minutes to get back across the park to the taxi area. But how could this be? We carefully timed everything and checked loads of times. We were fuming – we knew our pre paid taxi would just drive off without us. We SPRINTED across the park already pretty drunk effing and blinding the entire way. It was impossible.
We reached the visitors entrance and there was no sign of any taxi. Jack launched off in search of the taxi while I ran to the desk to get our tickets stamped. Upon exit you can get your ticket stamped for 50% discount on entrance the following day…
Jack came back over to the desk his head in hands showing me his phone. The screen said 15:15.. What? Why? How? We suddenly realised that somehow our phones had changed back to Brazilian time while we were at the falls. Somehow our iPhones knew were in Brazil geographically… who knew phones did that without WiFi?!?! Madness.
So we sat outside the visitors entrance knackered and pretending nothing had happened when the taxi driver showed up. We couldn’t believe it.
As we got back to the hotel we collapsed and finished copious amounts of champagne. By evening we polished it all off with a steak dinner at the hotel restaurant. Perfect.
What an incredible Christmas Day 2017.