I had originally planned on taking this trip in Nov 2016 but I moved it up. I wanted to see the Iguazu Falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian side on this trip. Currently, Brazil waives visa for US citizens and other nationalities from June to September because of the Olympics. Argentina has suspended the exit reciprocal fee for US citizens until further notice. With these two waivers in place, attaching Iguazu Falls to my Paraguay trip made sense financially if I went now instead of Nov.
I arrived in Asuncion at 1am on the 29th, went straight to bed as soon as I arrived at my hostel – El Nomada. Later that day, I explored the old town area which is walking distance to my hostel. The center is nothing fancy, just a few plazas and historical buildings. I also purchased my ticket to Cuidad Del Este for the next day.
I arrived at my hostel in Cuidad Del Este around 2pm after a 6 hours bus ride from Asuncion. The hostel was pretty basic. Glad I was staying for just the night. Cuidad Del Este is interesting in that it borders Argentina and Brazil. It is a 20 minutes car/bus ride to Brazil and about an hour to Argentina. Pretty cool, right?
The owner of the hostel was very helpful in assisting with planning the activity for the day and giving me tips. I decided to go visit the waterfalls in Cuidad Del Este – Salto de Rios Monday Waterfalls. It costs 20,000 Guaranis for entrance fee and another 10,000 Guaranis if you want to take the elevator to the other viewing platform. There is a trail where you can bike or walk. It’s a beautiful way to spend the day. After that, I went to eat lunch and around 4.30pm, I headed to the Itaipu Dam.
All visitors to the Dam must go through the visitor’s center where they take down your information. Foreigners must come with their passports. I was lucky that a tour was just about to start when I arrive, it is a free 45 minutes tour in Spanish of the dam. The Dam produces about 80% of the electricity used in Paraguay and contributes 17-20% of that used in Brazil. Both Paraguay & Brazil maintain the dam. Every Friday and Saturday, there is a musical show and illumination of the dam starting at 6.30pm. I waited for this. The music performance was by a local group. At around 8pm, we all boarded the bus (provided by the dam) to go see the illumination. Beautiful!
The next day, I took a taxi from Cuidad del Este, Paraguay to my hostel in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil for USD$18. The taxi stopped for me to get an exit stamp for Paraguay and entry stamp for Brazil. I didn’t do much sightseeing this day. The next morning, I went on a group tour to the Argentinian side of the falls with rd fall travel agency. We arrived around 10am and didn’t get back until 6pm. It was an amazing day. I had visited the Argentinian side in 2012 but only went on the trail to the Devil’s Throat.
This time, I re-visited the Devil’s Throat and did two more trails – the superior and inferior circuit. Fantastic is all I can say! After completing the three trails at around 3.20pm, my new friend (Andrea) and I went to do the boat excursion. The boat takes you up close to the waterfalls, I loved it. Because it was a last minute decision, we obviously didn’t have change of clothes so we were soaking wet! I decided to buy change of clothes at the souvenir store. It was a great way to spend the day.
The following day, I did two things – explore the Brazilian side of the falls and do the helicopter tour of the fall. I took the public bus to the National Park and got off at HeliSur’s office which is 5 mins walking distance from the National Park by the way. The helicopter tour cost USD$120 for a 10 minutes tour. Expensive but worth it. I was lucky to be sitting in front by the pilot so my view was not obstructed. My fear of height is slowly disappearing :). After the tour ended, I simply walked to the National Park.
The Brazilian side also offers a boat excursion. Unlike the Argentinian side, there is only one trail here – leading to the Devil’s Throat. Here at the Brazilian side, you do get up close to the Devil’s Throat. There are several viewing platform but the closest is the one with the bridge across the falls. Loved it.
I left Brazil the following day to return to Paraguay where I had to catch my flight to the US.
End of vacation.
6 Lessons I Learned From This Trip
- It makes sense to see the both sides of the Iguazu Falls. Plan on spending the whole day at the Argentinian side and 2-3 hours at the Brazilian side.
- Although it is very easy to sneak in and out of the Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay from that border area, don’t do it.
- I found men in Paraguay annoying. I encountered plenty catcalling which made me take taxis everywhere. Off course not all men in Paraguay are assholes, I just happened to meet a lot of the assholes.
- You can pay with dollars almost everywhere in Paraguay. At the border towns, four currencies are at your disposal – US Dollars, Brazilian Reals, Paraguay Guarani and Argentina Pesos.
- Puerto Iguazu has more accommodation options than Foz do Iguazu.
6. Don’t miss the tour of Itaipu Dam. You can take it from the Brazilian side or the Paraguay side.
P.S. Paraguay was the only country I haven’t been to in South America, well until last week. So officially, I have visited all the countries in South and Central America :).
The 18 hours bus from Santiago, Chile to Cordoba, Argentina was pleasant. Cordoba is an okay city, you only need a day or two there if you are not into winter sports. I met two Chilean sisters and together we explored Cordoba. The most interesting museum I visited was the Women’s Museum. After two nights here and I left for Puerto Iguazú – the city that house the amazing waterfalls. The plan was to stay one night in Puerto Iguazú but that changed. The bus from Cordoba to Iguazú was 20.5 hours. This meant that I arrived in Iguazu at 8.30am the next morning. I dropped my bags at the hostel and went straight to the Iguazú waterfalls.
The waterfall is simply amazing. You really have to experience it. The pictures I took don’t quite capture this spectacular view. For reasons I don’t know, at the falls, a lot of folks asked to take a picture with me. I agreed and sometimes requested to use my camera as well. I explored the park for about 4 hours then decided to go see the Brazilian side of the falls. The Brazilian side is only 45 minutes away and the bus cost $2. However I couldn’t cross into Brazil because I didn’t have a visa – Sad. I went back to town, decided against staying the night and took the bus to Buenos Aires instead. The bus ride was almost 18 hours to Buenos Aires. At the end of the trip, I was TIRED – I stayed in bed (in Buenos Aires) for 1.5 days.
For me, I think Buenos Aires is an overrated city. Yes it’s huge and different neighborhoods offer different things but I failed to see the big deal about Buenos Aires. Yes they eat lots of steak so does people in Texas. In my opinion, you will find more delicious steak in Texas! My favorite neighborhoods in Buenos Aires are San Telmo and Downtown. San Telmo is the old city so there you will find old buildings and the likes. I’m obsessed with old cities! There was something about the Downtown area I loved.
I got the opportunity to see ‘Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo’ (The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) in action. The mothers of the plaza began its activism during the ‘dirty war’ in Argentina where many people disappeared without a trace.
Another interesting thing I did was to hang out with a few Afro-Argentines and Afro-Uruguayan folks. A lot of us have been told that Argentina is the most European country in Latin America and that there are no Blacks or Indigenous persons. Well that is false!!!! There exist Afro-Argentines – that is descendants of the Africans that were brought to Argentina to be enslaved during the slavery period. The population of Afro-Argentines is not as large as that in Brazil or Colombia but they exist and also there are organizations that represent their interest. I visited one of the organizations –Movimiento Afro-Cultura.
I left Buenos Aires after 5 days for Uruguay.