This itinerary is the perfect luxury winter escape, full of Brazilian flavour and colour with plenty of opportunity for exploration and relaxation. Soak up the vibrancy of Rio and take in some of Brazil’s incredible white sand beaches and colonial charm.
Exploring Iguazu Falls by Foot, Boat and Plane
Scarlett, our Latin America specialist, has just returned from exploring the highlights of Argentina and found the magnificent Iguazu Falls truly jaw-dropping! Read on to find out why she considers them to be one of South America’s real gems and perhaps one of the most impressive waterfalls on the planet.
In my opinion, the Iguazu Falls are easily the most dramatic waterfalls in the world and a highlight of any trip to South America. After a recent visit to these falls for the second time, I was left completely mesmerised by their natural beauty and ferocity – no matter how many times one visits this spectacle, they will always be as mind-blowing as the last. Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, they comprise of a complex chain of 275 falls, stretching over 1.67 miles and enclosed by a large expanse of national park on both sides which is teeming with rainforest and unique wildlife.
To really appreciate the sheer size and beauty of the falls you must visit both sides. During my visit I stayed in accommodation on both sides of the falls, but normally people will stay on one side of the falls and use that as a base from which to explore. The majority of the hotel options are on the Argentinian side, as it’s the most developed national park. However, located on the Brazilian side within the national park itself, you have the iconic and effortlessly luxurious Belmond Hotel das Cataratas.
With unrivalled views of the Brazilian side of the falls, I really believe if you can stay anywhere on either side of the falls, this is the place to stay. Iguazu FallsFirstly because it’s by far the most luxurious option, but secondly, and even more importantly, because it offers exclusive access to the falls when the main gates are closed to the public, meaning you can wander the Brazilian walkways at sunrise or sunset, crowd free, and enjoy them in complete privacy. Pretty special, right?
My first day was dedicated to exploring the Argentine side of the falls, which can easily take up a full day. With a number of upper and lower trails to choose from, you can walk along the walkways and get various different panoramic views of the falls, observing as the water crashes into the rocks below. Each angle offers a different perspective and another photo opportunity. The most impressive part is by far the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), which is the U-shaped start of the falls. At 269 feet, this is the highest part of the falls and is incredibly dramatic.
Our guide Romina was really good fun and knew the walkways like the back of her hand, avoiding the crowds as we went along. When we had explored the various pathways, we headed back towards the entrance and jumped in a 4X4 jeep, which took us through the rainforest and dropped us off at the edge of the river to embark on an epic boat adventure right into the depths of the falls. This is the BEST way to see the falls in my opinion – giving a totally different perspective. As you look up at the water thundering down it is a truly exhilarating experience.
If you embark on this boat journey, don’t take your camera and just enjoy the experience. You will get soaked, there is nothing you can do to stay dry during this adventure, so be prepared and take a change of clothes for afterwards.
After our boat adventure it was time to cross the border and head to Hotel das Cataratas, which was to be my home for the night – lucky me! This did involve crossing the border from Argentina to Brazil and all the formalities that come with it, but having Romina with us made the process really quick and efficient; she took care of everything and we didn’t even need to leave the car. As we crossed into Brazil we drove up to a helicopter pad; it was sunset and the opportunity to see the falls from a birds-eye view was too good to miss. Our ever-pleasing guide was more than happy to take the detour and wait while we took a 20 minute flight over the falls and WOW, just WOW!
This was the first time I had ever been in a helicopter, so this alone was exciting, but looking down and seeing how vast the falls are and how extensive the rainforest is that surrounds them was just spectacular – the whole area looks so untouched. Never have twenty minutes flown by so fast (excuse the pun)! For anyone who is able to do so, I would thoroughly recommend taking a helicopter to really understand the sheer size of Iguazu Falls. Back at the hotel and after some time to freshen up, it was time to hit the bar for a caipirinha (again, highly recommended) and go for dinner. The hotel was hosting a traditional churrasco night (Barbecue night), and as far as buffets go this has to be one of the best I have ever experienced. The staff were incredibly attentive and really took the time to hear all about our day and make sure we took advantage of the wide array of food on offer.
The next day was an early start as I wanted to take advantage of the Brazilian side of the falls whilst they were still closed to the public. Just footsteps away from the entrance of the hotel you are greeted with your first viewpoint of the falls, offering a wide panorama of various flowing cascades with vegetation creeping through at many points. Seeing the sun break through the morning clouds and glisten off the water as it came crashing over the cliff edges was utterly beautiful. Apart from me, and a couple of the guys in my group, there was nobody else there.
Being alone at such a huge and powerful natural wonder had an eerily yet amazing feel; it was so peaceful with just the sounds of the crashing water and wakening of the rainforest. When I say we were alone, this is a slight lie as we had been greeted by around ten or twelve Coatis, which are raccoon-like critters that call the park their home. There is only one walkway on this side of the falls, and as you follow it round enjoying various angles on the many cascades, the falls feel much closer than on the Argentine side. At the final point of the walkway you are led onto a platform built into the rock edge; right above you the water looms, crashing down and spraying over on to the platform, providing one of the most natural and refreshing showers you are ever likely to experience.
Back at the hotel we were welcomed to a morning glass of champagne and assisted to breakfast. Already we had enjoyed so much, yet the day had only just begun. Unfortunately for me, after a hearty breakfast with the falls in view, it was time for me to pack up and move on to my next destination. If I had a full day here I would definitely go back to the falls for a second time, and then spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool in the beautifully manicured gardens at das Cataratas hotel and indulge in some five star luxuries. My trip to Iguazu was over, but if I can help it, it won’t be my last. They are frequently rated as the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, above even Victoria Falls and Niagara, and for very good reason. No picture, video or explanation can quite do them justice, so to really understand their sheer beauty you have to see them first-hand… what are you waiting for?
Planning a trip to Iguazu Falls? Hotel Das Cataratas gets our vote but if it doesn't take your fancy have a look at some other hotels we highly recommend:
Loi Suites – the next best option in the area and located on the Argentine side of the falls. Loi Suites is a large hotel but retains an intimate and personal service. The outdoor pools are a real highlight and it’s the perfect place to relax after a day out exploring.
La Aldea de la Selva Lodge – this peaceful jungle lodge is fantastic value and close by to Iguazu Falls. With only 24 cabanas you can be sure to have a personal service and hide from the crowds.
Get in touch with our specialists on 020 7622 1116 to start planning a tailor-made trip.