Argentina vs. Brazil: Taking Sides In Iguazú National Park

Iguazú National Park comprises hundreds of waterfalls, right on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The views from both countries are entirely different, making a visit of each side imperative. A clear winner came out of our trip, which we continued South to the ruins of San Ignacio Miní.

After an introduction to Argentina in Buenos Aires, I flew my parents to the northeast corner of the country. Humidity is king in Misiones, a province almost entirely made up of rainforest. Puerto Iguazú serves as the perfect base town for exploring, with its unique location on the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

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We were on a tight schedule, with only two days to discover both the Argentinean and Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls. That schedule went from tight to impossible when our flight was delayed by four hours. Once we finally made it to the small airport of Puerto Iguazú, we took a detour to the tourism office. I arranged a private guide that would take us to both sides of the park the next day, and drop us off in San Ignacio that same night. We spend the afternoon relaxing on the beautiful grounds of hotel Posada 21 Oranges.

The following morning, our guide dropped us off at the Brazilian entrance of the park. Although it was still pretty early, there was already a long line to get in. Once we got in, the line basically continued. The spectacular views made us quickly forget about the crowds.

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We shuffled to the main attraction, passing dozens of stunning waterfalls and viewpoints. The Garganta del Diablo or Devil’s Throat is the headliner on both sides of the park, yet the views are a world apart.

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Brazil puts you right in the middle of the action, enclosed by the raging falls. A dazzling elevator ride brings you to the top of the falls, offering impressive views of the water and the crowds.

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The Argentinean path runs at the same level on the other side. Here you walk on water to approach the center of the Garganta del Diablo from above. The amount and power of the water that comes crashing down will leave you speachless (and soaked). The Devil’s Throat Circuit often gets flooded and hence closed down.

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Before you make it to the other side, you have to get through passport control. Our guide maneuvered the car past the long lines and got us at the Argentinean entrance in no time. To our pleasant surprise, there were no big crowds here. Since the Brazilian counterpart of Puerto Iguazú has more amenities, international tourist tend to flock to the Brazilian side. Add to that a much larger developed area of the park in Argentina, and you feel like passing more lizards than people on the Argentinean side. You can take the jungle train from the entrance to the main trailheads, or choose to spot wildlife along the Green Trail instead.

The Upper Circuit brings you up-close with the waterfalls seen from a far on the Brazilian side. The impressive trail runs along the top of the waterfalls, right on the edge of where the water comes crashing down.

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The Lower Circuit goes down to the river level, offering splendid views of the series of saltos along the way.

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From here you can jump on a boat around San Martín Island, into the Garganta del Diablo. No better place to take in the magnitude and power of the Iguazú Falls than right on the water. Expect to feel really small (and again, soaked).

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It was my third visit to the Argentinean side of the falls, but the first time I made it to Brazil. If I had to pick a side, it would be the Spanish speaking one. The Argentinean side of the park is much more diverse and spread out, with a completely different viewpoint around every corner. There’s a lot of trails that take you right through the jungle, surrounded by wildlife rather than hordes of people.

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A destination often overlooked in Misiones is the Jesuit mission of San Ignacio Miní. The UNESCO world heritage site is just a three-hour drive from Puerto Iguazú, which we covered with our guide and her husband serving maté. Our private guide experience came to an end when they dropped us in the red town of San Ignacio.

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The well-preserved ruins of San Ignacio Miní are the remains of a Jesuit mission. Founded in the 15th century, the mission was established with the aim of converting the native Guaraní people to Catholic religion.

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San Ignacio Miní was discovered in the middle of the jungle, which took over when the mission was abandoned in the 18th century.

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We continued our adventure by bus, to the town that I called home for a year. Twelve hours and a comprehensive border control later, we arrived in Malabrigo, Santa Fe.

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