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One’s thirst for an impressive waterfall, as the waters melt from placid flow into thunderous frothy free-falling white torrents, can never really be sated.
Drink in the sights of the, “Cataratas do Iguaçu,” in Brazil and your only thirst remaining will be for a post- visit caipirinha in the exclusive Belmont Hotel overlooking the falls.
Often erroneously called by its part Argentinian name of Iguazu Falls, the falls in fact straddle both Brazil and Argentina. Here’s your how to guide for the Brazilian side, along with how we managed it with a 6 month old baby.
The Parque National in which the Brazilian side of the Cataratas do Iguaçu are situated, is set up for vast numbers of visitors every day. They claim to have over 2 million visitors every year and, given the scale and proficiency of their operation, I can believe it. Intriguingly, despite covering some 185,262 hectares, the only publicly advertised access to the whole of the Iguaçu National Park is the falls.
Whether you buy your R$80 entry ticket online (click here), at the self-service machines or at a manned ticket booths, the time of your ticket is the time your open-sided double-decker bus leaves for the various optional stops enroute to the falls.
The buses depart from behind the ticket kiosks and, during the covid-19 outbreak, expect temperature checks and being ‘invited’ to spray your hands with alcohol gel. The buses depart pretty much on time, so don’t be late.
There is space for a pram or two on the bus but I would strongly suggest that to do any walking you will better off using a sling or a baby carrier backpack as we did.
Stop 1: Poço Preto Trail
The, “Trilha do Poço Preto,” is a flat 9km trail through the Atlantic Forest, which can be undertaken in electric golf carts, by bicycle or on foot. A guide is obligatory and each option comes with its own price tag of +/- R$278 per person.
On this pleasant distraction, expect to be immersed in nature, hear the sounds of the forest but probably not see much more wildlife than butterflies and the odd capuchin monkey.
The trail ends at a 10 metre high observatory over the Iguaçu River and offers a gentle kayak or boat ride towards the falls (you are above the falls at this point) or a short cut 2km walk on the Bananeiras Trail back to the National Park road.
Stop 2: Macuco Safari
A pricier and more adventurous way to experience Iguaçu’s Atlantic Forest, the Macuco Safari (click here for their website) offers a short walk or electric car ride through the forest and culminates in an exhilarating speed boat ride to see the falls up close. Expect to get very wet on the boat ride!
Stop 3: The Falls Walk
This is where we, and the vast majority of visitors, alighted. The walk is a couple of kilometres along a concrete path tucked into the hill side with various inclines and steps.
It’s not wheelchair or pram friendly but has a handrail and rest points along the way, if you are not too steady on your feet. Given that buses arrive every twenty minutes or so, it could easily get quite crowded. We visited during Covid-19, which meant that visitor numbers were vastly reduced and made for a very relaxed walk.
The whole Iguaçu falls consists of an extraordinary 280 cascades, cataracts and falls. The walk on the Brazilian side is blessed with seeing the vast majority, which sit across the river on the Argentinian side.
The path is also home to cute coatis and slightly more aggressive looking iguanas. Neither are in the slightest bit interested in you, so you should not have any concerns about passing them.
As the path progresses, the falls become increasingly impressive ’til you reach the confluence of falls (and tourists) at the Devil’s Throat. Here, the walkway extends out into the river, right into the powerful falls and cool spray, to offer privileged close-up views.
Stop 4: Porto Canoas
Above the Devil’s Throat walkway is the end of the line Porto Canoas bus stop, fast food outlet, souvenir shops, public toilets and wifi zone.
In theory, you could get off the bus here and enjoy the falls from just this vantage point ant take the lift down to the walkway into the falls. This is the only option available to wheelchair users and the frail.
Our 6 month old decided at this point to deliver his own waterfall of sorts which ruined his only outfit we had with us. We can at least attest that the baby changing facilities at Porto Canoas were up to the task.
Back at Bus Stop 3 lies the beautiful and exclusive five star Belmont Hotel. At over £200 per night, it was beyond our budget on this trip. Our son was now dressed only in my outdoors shirt and I was certainly looking and feeling a little bedraggled from the walk and the spray.
We enquired after a coffee on their veranda, which was not possible. Much to my surprise, we were instead welcomed to their poolside restaurant for lunch.
As the well-heeled bronzed themselves by the beautiful pool, I felt we were a little out of place. The staff were tremendously hospitable and even helped us fashion a bed for our son out of two chairs and some pool towels. I can’t fault their thoughtfulness and service.
A main course and quite a few caipirinhas later, we knew we regrettably had to take out leave. The park bus soon whisked us back to the large visitors centre and the free wifi there was enough to hail a cheap Uber back to our hotel.
The Foz do Iguaçu are a genuine must see, even for the well travelled. It is far from an Indiana Jones experience, so do not come expecting that. Do come expecting a ‘new 7 natural wonders of the world‘ and a well orchestrated visitor experience.