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Trip Report Trip report for Iguazu

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Below follows our trip report for Iguazu:

Arriving around 23:00 at Iguazu airport, we got a taxi (at the airport stand) to town for AR$110 to the Sheraton located in the park. Our taxi driver was Enrique whose taxi (and tour guide!) service we ended up using for the duration of the trip. If you’re interested in contacting him, you can call him on +54 9 3757 15558138 or email him on exe_215@hotmail.com. We were supposed to pay AR$170 per person at the park entrance en route to the Sheraton, but the gate station was unmanned so late at night and we entered for free. Woohoo.

The Sheraton was a serious disappointment initially, and although our impression of the hotel improved over the course of our stay, we still feel they abused its “only hotel in the park” status for what we got and what we paid (AR$2,500 per night, including breakfast and taxes). No welcoming concierge service (although it was late at night), scaffolding covering the entrance, a clerk at reception (who was more interested in the itch in his ear than us) who, when we asked him about information to clarify the confusing explanations of Wikitravel on how to enter and leave the park, said that at 08:00 the next morning the concierge will be able to answer all our questions (when in reality, it was representatives of the river boating company who simply wanted to sign us up for their river experience – so ended up rushing breakfast for no reason). We were allocated a “jungle view room”, which turned out to be the only other alternative to a “falls view room” with stunning views over the scaffolding-covered entrance. When we called to ask how to turn off the air conditioning (it was set to freezing cold) it turns out that it was off, but that the constant loud noise was actually coming from the generator which sounded like it was located right next to our room. A long silence on my part was clue enough for the clerk at reception to suggest finding us another room, which turned out to be a “falls view room”. Gladly relocating to our new room (with little help from the bell boy who simply dropped off our bags leaving the plate of complementary plate of biscuits and champagne (nice touch, at least) for us to carry along ourselves) we found it infested with every possible insect known to thrive in the jungle. Another call to reception and they delivered anti-insect spray which ran out, but luckily not before we managed successfully to invoke our personal version of pest control. I was determined to complain, but luckily our experience improved from hereon and in the end we left matters, grateful for our new “falls view room”.

Day 1

We set off fairly early (the park opens at 08:00, but we never really encountered any barriers to entry, on a walk to the falls, appreciating now the fact that the hotel is situated in the park itself. The hotel offers a helpful map and it’s a mere 5 minute walk to the first views of the park along the “lower route”. Strongly recommend following the “lower route” (1.4km long) first for a nice “intro” to the falls, then the “upper route” (650m), followed by the “Paseo Garganta del Diablo” (Route of the Devil’s Throat) (1.1km) which you can reach with the free train (journey of around 20 minutes) that runs every 30 minutes, on the hour, from the Cataratas station. Going early is strongly advised because of the reduced people traffic which allows for much better picture opportunities and a more personal falls experience.

Dinner at the Sheraton (we couldn’t be bothered to leave the park, going for town, only possible with a taxi) – great dinner service and the menu slightly cheaper than European prices. We called Enrique, our taxi driver, to book him for 10:30 the next morning for an all-day service of AR$500 (hotel price around AR$550 or more).

Day 2

Up early again for another tour of both the lower and upper routes on the Argentinean side of the falls (too stunning not to see it again!) and met up with Enrique at 10:30. Given we were two people travelling, his AR$500 fee works out not much more than what buses would have cost us, with the obvious advantage of being able to travel on our own schedule while a very helpful and knowledgeable Enrique were able to answer a whole range of questions on the park, life in Iguazu and more, with some handy travel advice on what to visit, where and when. He also took us through the border posts (where he seemed to know everyone, which I’m sure made it a lot easier than if we travelled by bus) where you have to obtain an exit stamp on the Argentinean side and an entry stamp on the Brazilian side (and in reverse again upon our return journey to our hotel later that day).

We paid our entry (49 Real per person) with our credit card, as the exchange rate for pesos is absolutely rubbish. A free bus takes you along to the first viewpoint with stops along the way for the helicopter and boat cruise jetty. So first stop was the helicopter, where we queued for only about 15 minutes after paying 255 Real per person (also with our credit card) for a short (only 10 minutes, but worth it!) flight over the falls. In total there were 3 couples in the helicopter with the pilot, and we served 4 times over the falls for some fantastic views and perfect photo opportunities.

Next stop was the boat cruise (140 Real per person) which Enrique explained lasts longer if you do it from the Brazilian, rather than the Argentinean side, and which took us right up to the falls, even going under (or so it felt) one of the falls where we got soaking wet…so be prepared (and carry a plastic bag to protect and dry cloth to afterwards wipe off the spray from your camera)!

After that we walked the route along the falls, this time not as close to the falls as on the Argentinean side, but with some fantastic views across the length of the falls on the other (Argentinean) side of the river. We took the free bus back to the entrance where we met Enrique. Here we withdrew some Real from the cash machine (on Enrique’s advice), just enough to convert to Argentinean peso to pay for our hotel, as we had run out of cash again! Enrique drove us to a shopping centre not far away, where we exchanged Real for pesos (effectively we ended up receiving 7.80 pesos per USD, somewhere between the official rate and the dollar blue rate, at a counter within the shopped where they were geared up for all the Argentineans who travel across the border with their Real received from Brazilian tourists to exchange into peso). I expected Enrique was in on the deal but he promised he’s not and to be honest, it looked that way from everything we saw and experienced with the exchange. From their back to the Argentinean side (passing through both border control points fairly swiftly) where we simply had to show our hotel room keys to gain free entry into the park again. Dinner at the Sheraton again (our last night, so we decided to splash out, going for a fantastic buffet). We ended up paying Enrique an extra AR$100 for all his help, advice and services during the day – after all, he did save us around US$440 by helping us to convert Real into a not unreasonable unofficial rate.

Day 3

Up early for a 06:30 breakfast when it opened, taxi ride to the airport with Enrique at the same AR$110 rate. Our flight was nearly 2 hours delayed and upon arrival we decided not to chance it with our international connection and paid for a car transfer (can’t remember the cost, but not much more than what a bus would have cost us for 2 persons, plus we didn’t have to worry about the waiting time and transfer time of the bus). Got to the airport with just about enough time for some final gift shopping and a safe flight home.

Iguazu is a must for any first Argentinean trip, and visiting both the Argentinean and Brazilian side of the falls is highly recommended. If you only have 1 day to spend at the falls, it would be very hard to choose between the two: Argentina for a "closer" falls experience, or Brazil for a better view of the falls. In theory it is possible to do both in a day, but certainly not recommended - you'd have to set of sharp at 08:00 on the Argentinean side, rush the falls, take a pre-booked taxi across to Brazil, and rush the falls, probably skipping the river boat and helicopter.

Anyway, that's it folks. What a great and unforgettable trip - probably the best so far in our lives and this is certainly a country we'd like to visit again, if not settle their for our retirement one day - warm weather, friendly people, fairly cheap and well-connected (wi-fi) everywhere!

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