How to spend a full day at Iguazu Falls (and see everything)

We left Bariloche a few days ago and headed to Misiones Province in northern Argentina. We met a friend of a friend who picked us up from the airport in Posadas and crashed at her apartment our first night there. She was incredibly nice and gave us a good lay of the land in north country. Posadas isn’t a tourist destination, but we made the most of it. Our second and third nights we spent in a hotel downtown giving us easy access to markets, stores and restaurants as well as free breakfast. It was in walking distance to our top attraction, the Costanera, which is a long multi-use path along the Paraña River. Perfect for running! We went for two runs here, saw a crossfit class, took a selfie with Paraguay in the background, and ate at a nice restaurant (splurging on some wine). After those quick few days we boarded our first travel bus for a 4.5 hour ride north to Puerto Iguazu to see Iguazu Falls.

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We saw it all in a day

The Parque Nacional Iguazu is a very large park with 4 main circuits or loops to various locations within the park. We wanted to see it all in one day, and being young and fit, we did just that and then some. Jenny said, “we’ve got feet, health and are on a budget” as we set out to see all the falls between 8am and 5:30pm. We recommend this itinerary to all that are able, because you cover a ton of ground and can get the most out of your admission ticket. Follow along if you dare…

Pregame

We loaded up on calories from our hotel’s free breakfast, and even packed away a couple sandwiches* for our lunch in the park. Loaded the bus for the park at 7:55, and arrived at the ticket office at 8:18, so far so good.

The Morning Sprint

As mentioned above, we had a lot of ground to cover at the park, and while we wanted to start off on the lower loop since it has the most stairs and longest track, we were walking behind a couple with an English speaking guide who was taking them for the train to the Devil’s Throat first – maybe we should change our plans. She was telling them that it was the coldest day of the year so far (lucky us) and with the overcast morning, it was good weather to see toucans (which we never did). We followed their lead to the free train to the Devil’s Throat, but it was full, so we took the 655 meter Verde Trail to the first stop of the train where some people get off, in hopes we could then get on. We got to the front of the line, but there weren’t two seats left, so we asked if there was a trail instead, and sure enough there was. The worker said to us “You see that sign that says ‘No Pasar’? Well, pasar there and walk 2 kilometers.” We jogged to the end of the train, and got there at 9:15 as the tour groups were setting off, no lost time. We were anxious to see the almighty falls known as Devil’s Throat so we speed walked the metal-grated walkway over the river. As we approached the lookout we began getting soaked from the heavy mist of the falls. What a powerful and awesome scene it was. After soaking in the sight and lots of spray from the falls we powerwalked back to catch the train at 9:40, yet we just missed the train and the next one is in 20 minutes. Naturally, we jogged back to where we started instead. It feels good to be on our own clock, using our own feet instead of having to wait around for the train.

Animals

We started the lower trail (1.7 kilometers) at 10:02 and saw some amazing views of several falls. Some say the lower is a part that can be skipped, but we disagree. We finish up the lower circuit around 11:15 and started to get hungry at this point (3 hours in) so Jenny eats her first course, a sandwich from our hotel buffet breakfast and we move on. We head to the Sendero Macuco (Macuco Trail) at 11:30. It’s a 3.5 kilometer trail (one way) and on our adventure along the jungle trail we saw a snake, a few lizards, butterflies, a giant spider, many loud insects, and some huge black ants. We only see a few tourists and we greet them with a soft ‘hola’. As we’re walking my neck starts to feel like I’ve been sitting front row at a movie theatre, tired from looking up in the trees for monkeys and tropical birds (no monkeys, a couple birds).

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The early afternoon

Natural shower

Natural shower

At 12:30 we reached our own private waterfall after dodging some caution tape** warning us that the trail to the waterfall pool was closed. Nothing but a few loose wooden stairs were the reason for the tape. We had the falls to ourselves and it was lovely! Finally we could relax and rest our legs on this busy day. An hour later, after climbing behind the waterfall, cooling off in the water and resting in the sunshine, we headed back. The 3.5k walk back was mostly uneventful but we did snap a few photos of butterflies and Jenny used the Burt’s Bees itch stick on her bites (thanks Vicki!).

At 14:00 we got to the Sheraton Hotel in the park and refilled (then chugged and refilled again) our water bottles, rested our legs in some comfy red chairs with a small view of the falls, and ate our can of power food (tuna) with a few crackers in their air conditioned lounge. One more falls loop to go!

The final stretch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left the Sheraton around 14:45 and walked to the upper loop, admittedly much slower than our initial steps in the park. On this 650 meter circuit we saw our first rainbows over the falls. The upper loop was exciting because the walkway is right over the edge of multiple falls. We watched the water flow to the edge and then fall hundreds of feet below.   

We were running out of steam and thought that might be our last loop, but after I convinced Jenny by telling her we were likely never coming back to this amazing place, we took one more trip to “Garganta del Diablo” or Devils Throat at 15:30. The train came in 15 minutes (we’re not walking/jogging it, this

Morning up top, afternoon below. What a difference!

Morning up top, afternoon below. What a difference!

time), we find a seat and are off to complete our incredible day with one more look at the huge falls. The train takes off and Jenny takes the opportunity to lay down on the bench seat. At 15:54 we walk the 1 kilometer metal walkway in the sweltering sunshine once more to the falls, and get to enjoy the falls again. This viewing was without mist which was a bummer because we were really hot, but it gave us a chance to slowly take in the falls and try to comprehend its power. Truly a natural wonder.

Back at the train stop we saw a new rabbit-like animal and a few more colorful butterflies. It was finally time to head back to the hotel pool for some rest. We loaded the bus at 5:35pm headed that way.

We were completely exhausted, wiped out, and worn down, but we both felt we made the absolute most out of the park admission.

While this pace and distance isn’t for everyone, if you want to see it all in one day, get there early, pack a lunch and lots of water, and stay late. Our hour of rest and reflection at midday was one of the best parts for us, both mentally and physically.

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Odds and ends

  • In total we estimated we covered 22.5 kilomters (~14 miles) which included our 1.6 kilometer walk to and from dinner in the evening.
  • We spent from 8:18 until 17:35 (5:35pm) in the park, over 9 hours
  • Don’t feed the raccoon-like scavengers throughout the park known as coatis
  • No picture does this place justice… you just have to see it, feel it and hear it in person

* Check with your hotel if this is allowed, we don’t want you getting kicked out

** Use your discretion and be careful

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2 thoughts on “How to spend a full day at Iguazu Falls (and see everything)

  1. Sounds like and looks like you had an incredible day at Iguazu Falls. We didn’t make it there on our trip, and it looks like we definitely missed a must-see. Guess we’ll have to go back. 🙂

    Like

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