Iguazu Falls – Argentina, Brazil & Paraguay

Hello!

We flew from Rio on an internal flight to Foz do Iguacu. Iguazu/Iguaçu falls was high up on our bucket list. It’s considered one of the natural 7 wonders of the world; spans 2 countries, has 257 individual waterfalls, comprises a width of 2,700 metres, and has an iconic waterfall called The Devil’s throat with an 80 metre drop! While we were fully aware that the area was renowned for its tropical weather, no one could have prepared us for the thunderstorms and rain that greeted us on arrival. We were literally wading through water on the streets. Fortunately, our year trip allows us flexibility so we ended up jumping between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay for about a week! Our planning was a little tricky as we were amazed how little information of bus timetables/prices there was online. (We took photos of the bus timetables and put them at the end of this post in the practical info section for any future travellers).

We got the bus to the Argentinean side of the falls with the intention of going back to the Brazilian side later. They say you should allow 7 hours for the Argentinian side as there are various circuits and viewpoints to fully admire the surroundings. Therefore, we arrived too late so we visited the Triple Frontier instead where the border of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet and where the Iguazu and Parana rivers converge.

Puerto Iguaçu, Cataratas de Iguaçu – Argentinian side
The following day we caught a bus early from the main bus terminal in Puerto Iguaçu to the falls (see practical information for more info). The entrance to the park costs $500ARS pp and annoyingly, after withdrawing money the previous day, they had a card machine at the till!

There are three main walking circuits; lower circuit (1.4km’s), upper circuit (1.75km’s) and the Devil’s throat (1.1km’s). We decided to embark on the lower circuit first, partly as all the tour groups seemed to be heading for the upper circuit, but also as we were both in agreement that waterfalls tend to look more impressive from the bottom up. We had both read about the various animals you can expect to see at the falls, including jaguars (although incredibly rare), and shortly into our walk spotted two toucans nestling in the trees, along with several Coatis which are sort of racoon/anteater/badgers. There are warnings throughout the park not to feed or approach the coati’s as they have a nasty bite and carry rabies. However, on the contrary to what we had read, they seemed incredibly docile and tolerant of annoying people harassing them. Along the way, we got our first glimpse of the spectacular falls. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rain earlier in the week, the water was a dark brown colour although the sheer volume and velocity of the falls still made it such an impressive sight.

We then caught the train (price included within the entrance to the park) up to the Devil’s throat. The walkway takes you right to the mouth of the waterfall where the falls drop 80 metres. Every time the wind blew, we got absolutely soaked! From here we were easily able to see the Brazilian side a short distance across the falls. We stopped for a picnic on the benches before catching the train back down towards the beginning of the upper circuit. It was at this point that some kind of insect stung me on my arm, leaving me in (no exaggeration) excruciating pain. Dave pulled out the sting, shook off his hand and stupidly went back to eating his sandwich without checking if it had actually fallen off. It must have still been on his hand as it pierced his lip and he proclaimed he would rather be kicked in the balls than stung by whatever that insect was. And he didn’t even get the full sting! We didn’t see what it was but it must have been some kind of Brazilian wasp.

After catching the train back down we then did the Upper circuit which gave a slightly different perspective from what we had seen earlier in the day.  Overall, we felt it was definitely worth it to complete all three circuits given the different view points and chances to see wildlife and rainbows in the mist! There is also the option to do a boat tour for $900ARS. However, as I was still in pain from the insect sting and both of us were quite tired by this stage, we decided to leave it until the Brazilian side. In hindsight, definitely do it on the Argentinean side if you get a chance as we later found out that the cost of the boat tour on the Brazilian side was over double!

We decided to get the bus across to Ciudad del Este and then head back on ourselves to tick off the Brazilian side of the falls. The bus ticket to Ciudad del Este cost $40ARS (£2), a bargain when you consider it crosses three borders as there is no bridge between Argentina and Paraguay so you have to drive through Brazil. The bus only stopped to stamp us out of Argentina and not at all in Brazil. We were hoping to jump off at the Paraguayan border and get our entry stamp. However, the bus didn’t stop there either – probably the most lax border control we have ever encountered! We dropped our bags off at our hotel and were feeling a little concerned that we had technically entered the country illegally, so we walked back across the bridge to Brazil and then re-entered as legal immigrants.

Foz do Iguazu – Brazilian side
After our first border crossing by foot, we continued walking onto the main bus terminal on the Brazil side. From here you can catch the 120 bus to Parque Nacional for $3.45BRL (see the bus timetable below). The falls are the last stop so you really can’t go wrong. The entrance to the park costs $64BRL and this includes a return coach transfer to where the walkway begins. The Brazilian side gives a completely different perspective, you are further away from the falls and higher up giving a much wider view. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather had run out and it was spitting throughout our visit. The walkway along the canyon is fairly short, finishing with a walkway out onto the lower basin of the Devil’s throat. There are several stop off points along the way but it seemed much more congested and crowded than what we had encountered on the Argentinean side. We went through the Brazilian side much quicker than the Argentinian, half a day to complete and admire the walkways on the Brazilian side was more than enough.

 

Practical information – Prices & Bus timetables for Iguaçu falls  October 2017

  • Puerto Iguaçu (Argentina) to Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) –
    $40ARS, 1 hour and a half, bus only stopped to stamp out of Argentina
  • Foz do Iguazu (Brazil bus station) to the waterfalls: 120 bus to Parque Nacional for $3.45BRL, 40 minutes
  • Puerto Iguaçu (Argentina) to the waterfalls [Cataratas], return ticket costs $150ARS, 35 minutes

 

Thanks for reading, join just next time as we head to Paraguay!

Sophie & Dave

Ep.22 – Brazil

Hello!

We absolutely loved Brazil and it’s definitely high up on our list of top destinations. I think it smashed so many of our misinformed preconceptions about safety and just had so much diversity and a variety of landscapes within the country. And we only scratched the surface as we worked our way up the East coast of Brazil in Florianopolis, Sao Paolo, Paraty, Ilha Grande & Rio de Janeiro!

Thanks for watching (don’t forget to set it to 1080p!)

Sophie & Dave

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Hello,

We left Ilha Grande with a private transfer company who dropped us to the door of our hotel in Rio. As we started to enter the city, we saw lots of armoured vehicles (including 4 tanks) rolling in the opposite direction along the highway which we suppose were due to the recent favela conflict. A lot of people visit the favalas on tours when they go to Rio but given the climate when we were there, we thought it was wise to stay away. Other than that, we were pleasantly surprised by how safe we felt in Rio. Perhaps due to the fact we stayed in Botafago, a notoriously safe area within close distance to the main attractions. We were also grateful to have the nearby shopping centre; Botafogo Praia Shopping, with it’s fast food court where we went for most meals.

We visited the two main attractions, Sugar Loaf Mountain & Christ the Redeemer. Sugar Loaf was only a short walk from where we were staying. The route to the base takes you past Botafago beach which was completely deserted apart from a few people doing outdoor exercise, but it has the perfect view of the mountain. We continued walking around the coast to the bottom of the cable car. It costs BR$80pp (£20) which is reasonable considering its a return on two cable cars & entrance to a top attraction. We were surprised by the fact that it wasn’t particularly busy at all. We went around midday and had some truly spectacular views over Rio with clear-ish weather whilst we were there. We were even more surprised at how developed the attraction was, there are cafes, ice cream parlours, even a watch shop at the top. It was also incredibly windy, so most of the photos have everyone’s hair blowing vertically in the air.

Our next visit was to the Christ the Redeemer statue. You get a train from Cosme Velho station which takes you up to the top. The station only serves the statue so it was straight forward buying tickets. It leaves every half an hour and costs $BR56 in low season which includes return and entrance. The train ride up was not as scenic as we thought it was going to be, even though we sat on the right hand side of the train as we’d read that had the best views, it was just lots of dense forest. We did think the forest, which is part of the national park, looked like a great place for wildlife spotting if you were brave enough to walk up the mountain. We were amazed you can get a lift up from the train and then even an escalator to basically right behind the giant statue! The statue of Jesus is 98 feet (30m) tall and his opening arms stretch to 92 feet (28m) wide. It was a little unfortunate that it was quite cloudy and muggy at the top. Though having said that, we were fascinated by the fact that it was nearly impossible to distinguish between where the sea ended and the sky began. It was a lot busier so we felt it was slightly less enjoyable than sugar loaf, but of course the views were still stunning and the statue itself is just so iconic.

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we jump on a plane and head to the border with Argentina for Iguacu falls!

Sophie & Dave

Ilha Grande – Brazil

Hello!

From Paraty, we caught the local bus for only $BR14 each (£3.50) two hours along the coast to Angra dos Reis. This is the port town where you can catch either a ferry, catamaran, tourist boat or private boat to Ilha Grande (big island). Ilha Grande has world famous beaches, jungle hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife. We got the tourist boat that leaves at 2.30pm from Caxa do Prau, for $BR25 (£6pp). If we hadn’t known the name of where to catch it, we would have been clueless as there are no signs, we just had to ask around. The tourist boat looked like a pirate ship and it mainly carried supplies to the island. Ilha Grande has only one main area of civilisation, Abraao, with the port, restaurants & accommodations. The entire island doesn’t have any motorised vehicles either so you see lots of people pushing carts on wheels with the cargo from the boats.

It was raining on our first day (again we seemed to be chasing bad weather) but we still wanted to make the most of it so we did a trail heading West of the town. It was very slippery and quite a steep incline so though it was only about a 12km walk, we probably spent about 3 and a half hours walking. Oh and even though it was cloudy and occasionally raining, we were both still dripping in sweat because walking through the jungle parts were so humid! On our trail, we first saw the Lazaretto Ruins, basically an abandoned farm house that was used to quarantine people with leprecy. Next on the walk was the aqueduct; apparently built with stones and whale’s oil in 1893 with the dam above it still supplying water to Abraao today. The main attraction for the walk is the waterfall, Cachoeira da Feiticeira. Though pleasant, and a nice place to stop to eat biscuits, it was nothing spectacular. On the way back, we met two Spanish girls who were struggling and asked what the waterfall was like. We showed them a photo and one of them instantly said, “right, we’re turning back” haha. We decided to carry on a bit further for our final stop Praia da Feiticeira, a very small beach with one vendor on it (bringing supplies by boat everyday). We bought a delicious pot of acai with granola; sort of like a berry ice cream though acai is meant to be a super food with less sugar than other fruits.  It’s really common in Brazil, especially on the island, making it the perfect boost to get you to walk all the way back to the Abraao town.

The next day, we set off fairly early again for another jungle hike headed East of Abraao to one of the world’s top beaches; Lopes Mendez. It’s about 8km up and down through the jungle. Unfortunately, we never even made it to the beach because I fell over and smacked my knee on a rock which swelled instantly and thus I couldn’t walk properly. It took us a whole hour to walk 1km with my limping which got us to the middle beach, about half way to Lopes Mendez. From there we were able to get a taxi boat back to the main town for $BR25 each. The highlight of the jungle walk however was finally catching sight of 2 Howler monkeys! We’d heard them the day before but still not seen them. The sound they make is absolutely insane, it sounds like an army of beating drums. This brief encounter was our only proper wildlife sighting on Ilha Grande which we were a little sad about. However it is rainy season and we don’t think we ventured far enough off the common jungle hikes to give ourselves the best chance of sightings. Apparently you can sometimes spot an armadillo on the island. We said perhaps one day we will return to Ilha Grande with a tent and camp as we walk round the entire island. It’s unfortunate that the hikes on Ilha Grande aren’t loops but rather you have to walk back on yourself to get back to the town where all the accommodation is, a tent however, would be a different experience.

Our final day on Ilha Grande took us only to the town’s closest beach, given my knee from the day before, Praia Preta. We had a nice day reading books in the sunshine though we had to constantly edge backwards given the tide was trying to devour the beach whole! In the evening, we went for dinner for a second time to Las Sorrentinas. A really reasonably priced, fresh pasta place which was up there with literally our best meals of all time!

We got an all inclusive transfer from Ilha Grande to Rio, our next destination for BR$95pp (£22). The company we booked with was right next to the pier and a boat picked us up from the port and then a van met us at Mangaratiba and we drove to Rio where they dropped us off at the door of the hotel in Rio!

Join us next time for our time in the capital!

Sophie & Dave

Paraty – Brazil

Hello,

From Sao Paolo, we headed to Paraty; a UNESCO world heritage town with cobbled streets and a river running through it with nearby pristine beaches of Trindade. It sits on the coast between Sao Paolo and Rio. There’s only one company that does the bus trip, Reunidas Paulista, for £20pp. The bus was meant to take 6 hours though annoyingly it was closer to 8! It’s been a while since we’ve done that long during the day rather than over night so we really struggled. Because the bus was late, it also meant we arrived in Paraty in the dark and we were wandering around trying to find our home stay. We had to ask a man sat on the street and he very kindly walked us there.

Despite the fact that the accommodation, Chales Pouso e Panela, was a little bit out of town, we loved it. We were the only guests and the woman who runs it cooked us the most extravagant breakfast for 2 each day. Also, because it was a bit out the way, we saw some amazing wildlife nearby. We walked back one day to find about 6 tiny marmoset monkeys scampering along the telephone wires and jumping in to the trees. We also saw a group of peacocks which seemed to be wild or at least with free range. Everywhere in Paraty there were huge black vultures too.

Paraty old town, reminded us a bit of Colonia, Uruguay though it was quite a bit bigger. We enjoyed meandering through the cobbled streets though it was hard to take in the surroundings because you had to constantly look where you were walking so as to avoid face-planting. The paving was as though someone had sought to deliberately make the most uneven footing.

Though we seemed to be chasing bad weather in Brazil, we still decided to walk to the beach, Praia de Jabaqurara to have a look around. It wasn’t far at all from the town but it was such a huge contrast in such a short distance. We left the cobbled pavings and ended up straight away with a view of the jungle before arriving at a sandy beach. We then had an amazing seafood lunch at Bar Balacobacco sat on wooden benches in the sand with a beautiful view and even a lovely soppy dog with huge ears for company.

We stayed an extra day than we’d intended in Paraty because it seemed we’d finally had a bit of luck with the weather; a whole day of sunshine! As the best beaches are not actually in Paraty, we decided we’d have a little day trip and catch the local bus one hour to Trindade. It was fairly straight forward getting the bus from the main bus station as Trindade was the last stop and they even have the ticket price on the front of the bus ($BR4.25pp). Trinidade is a little town complete with swimwear shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. There are numerous beaches in the area and so we spent the day moving between them. The first beach, with the most people, was Praia dos Ranchos. This beach had a couple of restaurants on it but we decided to go in to the town for lunch to get a break from the sun. In the afternoon, our next beach was Praia do Meio, this is a fairly flat walk about 15 minutes from the town. The final beach we went to was Praia do Cachadaco, to get there you had to clamber through the forest. It was quite steep and slippy at times but in the end, it takes you to the most deserted and peaceful beach though the waves were huge!

Thanks for reading, join us next time as we head to the tropical island, Ilha Grande!

Sophie & Dave

Sao Paolo – Brazil

Hello!

We left the island life of Florianopolis and headed for Brazil’s biggest city; Sao Paolo. We opted for the bus company Catarinense for the 11.5 hour trip costing us BR$260 (£62) each. We didn’t know what to expect of our first big Brazilian city, particularly in terms of safety. I think our brains had been seriously warped by the media, stereotypes, friends and family’s experiences etc. In reality, we felt really safe in Sao Paolo. Perhaps due to the area in which we stayed; Vila Madalena. It is considered the ‘bohemian neighborhood’ and there seemed to be quite a lot of cafes, hostels and restaurants so we didn’t stray too far from our area given we were only in Sao Paolo for 2 days.

We went to Beco do Batman, a famous alleyway/area full of street art murals. Whilst some artwork was undeniably extremely impressive, we thought it was a bit over-hyped. Also perhaps because we are spoilt and have recently been to Valparaiso, Chile which is essentially a street art city. In the evening we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy meal out. Sao Paolo notoriously has a large Japanese community and thus Japanese food influence – sushi! Though we’re 24 & 26, neither of us had ever properly eaten at a sushi restaurant before! We found a fairly well rated one near us called Tanuki, and we just went all out and got a sharing platter. Whilst we did enjoy the food, I can’t see us rushing back, especially with the sushi price tag.

For our only full day in Sao Paolo, we decided to spend it in the park Ibirapuera. It was a 5km walk from our hostel in Vila Madalena to the park, plus walking round the park and back made it quite a big loop. The park is rated the number one thing to do in Sao Paolo on trusty Tripadvisor. We did really enjoy strolling around the lakes full of bird life and just relaxing on the grass reading our books!

Perhaps we could have done with a day or two more in Sao Paolo to explore further.

Join us next time as we head to Paraty!

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave

Florianópolis – Brazil

Hello!

We made it to Brazil. Technically our first stop was Porto Alegre though we only stayed a night and didn’t really do anything. The start of our Brazilian adventure was when we arrived in Florianópolis, also known as ‘Floripa’; a city predominantly on an island in the South of Brazil, infamous for it’s 42 beaches!

We arrived fairly late so we decided to stay one night near the old town where the bus station is. We had a very fancy lobster dinner at Rita Maria Lagosteria, though very pricey, it was pretty spectacular. The next day we headed deeper in to the island. There are apparently many local buses you can catch, or taxis. But we opted for an uber; a 40 minute journey for $BR26 = £6.50 – such a bargain especially when lugging around backpacks.

Speaking of bargains, we stayed at one of the nicest accommodations we’ve had this year. The island has so many different areas, we were unsure where to stay. In the end we opted for Haute Haus near Lagoa da Conceição. It was a guest house but more like staying in a mansion, complete with beautiful grounds and a swimming pool! The gardens surrounding the property were my personal favourite as one day, when I was standing on our balcony, I caught sight of what I initially thought was a dragon walking across the grass! I grabbed my camera, pushed Dave in to the door (apparently) and sprinted down the corridor and outside the house where I discovered an Argentine black and white Tegu lizard! They are the largest of all Tegu species, and males can grow up to 4.5ft!! Of course, see photos below, this lizard was even bigger than the Monitor lizards we saw in Singapore.

Unfortunately, we seemed to be a little unlucky with the weather so didn’t actually have any sunbathing beach days but we did walk to Joaquina beach nonetheless. Joaquina is one of the highest ranked beaches and you have to walk over the sand dune to reach it. There’s a rocky/cliff area where lots of people climb around or sit overlooking the waves. I thought the steep, slippy rocks looked too dangerous for my taste so I waited for Dave to return.  However, when Dave came back exclaiming ‘you wouldn’t believe what I just saw!’,  turns out he’d just seen an enormous wild tarantula crawling over the rocks, I couldn’t resist, and ironically this is what swayed me to clamber over the rocks too. Unfortunately I didn’t see the tarantula for myself but we did see a man sat right at the lowest rocks’ edge against the enormous crashing waves. We watched him for ages because we thought he was absolutely mental! He looked as though he could have been engulfed by the waves every time. We actually ended up chatting to him later and he told us he came and sat there every weekend to just listen to the waves. I showed him some of the photos I’d taken of him too (see below) which he was thrilled about and asked for our email address to send him a couple.

We’d seen quite a lot of people sand boarding the day before and decided we wanted to try for ourselves. However, when we got to the dunes, they were completely deserted. In off-season, they must only run on weekends. We still had fun running around just the pair of us in these huge lonely dunes. I even found a piece of cardboard (like the flimsy backing board of an IKEA book case) and we tried our own card-boarding down the dunes. It sort of worked. We have some hilarious videos, mostly of me falling over.

Our last day in Florianópolis was of course a sunny one. We were fortunate that the accommodation let us hang around for the whole day before our onward night bus at 9pm. As they had no other guests arriving, they even let us keep our room for the entire day free of charge so we were able to enjoy some pool side time and see Lagoa da Conceição in all its glory in the sunshine. The lagoon is a hotspot for windsurfers and sailers alike and we sat and watched them tear across the lake at such speed. In case you’re wondering, there is a small river out of the lagoon that feeds in to the South Atlantic Ocean.

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we head to Sao Paolo!

Sophie & Dave

Ep.21 – Uruguay

Hello!

Our shortest travel video yet from our time in the little known Uruguay where we strolled the cobbled streets of Colonia del Sacramento and explored the old city of Montevideo.

Hope you enjoy and put Uruguay on your South America travel destination list!

Sophie & Dave