Puerto Iguazu in Argentina is traditionally known as a boring town.
Puerto Iguazu is little else but hostels, tourist shops, overpriced mates, panaderias selling cheap empanadas and alfajores (a traditional cookie filled with dulce de leche that one would find in Argentina and in other countries in South America.)
Most travelers stay here for two days or a weekend only to see Iguazu Falls, a waterfall in Northern Argentina, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In order to see the falls’ panoramic view, you will need a day to explore the Argentinian side and a half-day to explore the Brazilian side.
But one of my good friends and I managed to enjoy ourselves in Puerto Iguazu for four days, despite only saving one day for visiting the falls.
Our itinerary was as casual as our taxi driver, who asked nonchalantly if we wanted to be smuggled over the Argentine-Brazilian border for 80 dollars. (We didn’t want to pay $140 U.S. for an official VISA to enter Brazil for one day to see the other side of the same waterfall.
The Monday we arrived, we bought eggs and rice for 13 pesos and ate quite a bland dinner. But for 75 cents, who could really complain.
Our second day, we visited El Hito Tres Fronteras, where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet and we hiked through the forest. At night, the cotton-candy sunset reflected itself on the rivers Iguazu and Párana that separate the three countries.
The next day, at the falls, we visited the lower and upper falls and its throat. For $150 AR pesos, we took a boat underneath the lower falls, where we got completely soaked. The pictures fail to reflect the sheer power of the rushing water of the garganta as it fumed, casting an eternal fog, which somewhat obscured the view below.
There was plenty of wildlife to see at Iguassu National Park, birds and bountiful of butterflies. Watch out for creatures that look like crosses between a raccoon and an anteater because they were quite the robbers. About 50 of them swarmed around us at one point as we opted for a short cut to reach the lower falls. Having read the warning signs throughout the park, we reacted a little over zealously, shouted expletives and running, hopping away. The Argentines who passed by us laughed and told us to calm down in Spanish.
Our last day in Iguassu ,we got massages for 100 pesos at: El Nativo in Puerto Iguazu ($11 U.S. at the time of publishing).
To many people, it seems odd to stay in place so long when there is little to do, but traveling so lentamente (in such a relaxed manner) gave us the opportunity to meet the most interesting people in our hostel, Iguazu Falls Hotel. Some like us, everyone seemed enchanted by the town with little to do and stayed for quite a long time simply to chill out.
We met one traveler, a 24-year-old Australian teacher named Teddy, who stayed in the town for a total of 7 days, but had been hitchhiking and busing his way around South America for months. He told us every morning before we set off for our days’ adventures that he was leaving; we would always find him–chainsmoking with a new girl, drinking 2 liters of quilmes light beer — there when we returned. Hey, sometimes you just need a break!
He left the day before the Argentina bus companies decided to go on strike, which fortunately didn’t affect us since we had taken a plane. But others we left behind that Friday remained stuck there until the strike was lifted the following Monday night.
I don’t think I would have minded staying a few extra days to try all of its excellent heladerias, which we visited at least once a day for a six peso scoop of dulce de leche or chocolate alfajore ice cream. Being bored never tasted so good.
Article written by Courtney Pruitt.