Parque Nacional Iguazú (Argentina)

Created in 1934, the park extends over an area of 67,000 ha of dense subtropical rainforest. There is excellent access to the falls themselves from various angles and along two further trails that wind through the forest to give you an experience of the wildlife.

Park information

The park is open every day of the year: 1 April to 30 September from 0800-1800, and 1 October to 31 March from 0730-1830. Get your ticket stamped as you leave for half-price entry the next day.

There's an excellent visitor centre with information and photographs of the flora and fauna, and the history of the area from the earliest settlers. Opposite, you'll find plenty of places to eat in the Patio de Comidas, including a pizzeria, parrillaand snack bar. As you walk towards the barriers where you pay the entry fee, there are excellent souvenir shops selling both commercial souvenirs and local Guaraní handicrafts (note that these are cheaper when bought from the Guaraní people themselves, just inside the entrance).

The guardería (ranger station) is next to the Estación Cataratas, on the way to the Circuitos Inferior and Superior. The guardaparquesare hugely knowledgeable about the park and will give you detailed information on wildlife and where to spot it, and will even accompany you if they're not too busy. They also hand out a helpful leaflet with a clear map of the park, and another in English, Birds of Iguazú.

Wildlife

You'll see amazingly rich wildlife whatever time you visit the park: there are more than 430 species of birds, 70 species of mammals and over a hundred species of butterflies. But you'll need to come in the early morning or late afternoon to stand a good chance of seeing the more elusive species: pumas and tapirs. Look out for restless and curious brown capuchin monkeys, seen in groups of around 20, howler monkeys and friendly coati with their striped tails. Toucans are ubiquitous, with their huge orange cartoon beaks, and also the curious plush crested jays, black with pale yellow breasts, who can be seen perched inquisitively around the park's restaurants. You'll also see two kinds of vultures wheeling above the falls themselves, both with fringed wing tips: the red-headed turkey vulture, and the black vulture whose wing tips are white. You should spot blue-winged parakeets, the red-rumped cacique which builds hanging nests on pindo palms, and fruit-eaters like the magpie tanager and the colourful purple- throated euphonia. The butterflies are stunning: look out for electric blue morphobutterflies, as big as your hand, the poisonous red and black heliconius, and species of Papilionidaeand Pieridae, with striking black and white designs.

Trails

Garganta del Diablo

From the visitor centre a mini-train (free), the Tren de la Selva, whisks visitors on a fantastic 25-minute (2.3 km) trip through the jungle to Estacíon Garganta, from where it's a 1-km easy walk along boardwalks (fine for wheelchairs) across the wide River Iguazú to the park's centrepiece, the Garganta del Diablo falls.

Circuito Inferior and Circuito Superior

There are excellent views of the wider range of falls, from Salto San Martín to Salto Dos Hermanos, from the two well-organized trails along sturdy catwalks: the Circuito Superior(650 m) and Circuito Inferior(1400 m), both taking around 1½ to two hours to complete.

Start with the Circuito Superior, a level path which takes you along the western-most line of falls - Saltos Dos Hermanos, Bossetti, Bernabé Mendez, Mbigua (Guaraní for cormorant) and San Martín - allowing you to see these falls from above. This path is safe for those with walking difficulties, wheelchairs and pushchairs, but you should wear supportive, non-slippery shoes.

The Circuito Inferior takes you down to the water's edge via a series of steep stairs and walkways with superb views of both San Martín falls and the Garganta del Diablo from a distance, and then up close to Salto Bossetti. Wheelchair users, pram pushers, and those who aren't good with steps should go down by the exit route for a smooth and easy descent. There's a café on the way down and plenty of shade. You could then return to the Estación Cataratasto take the train to Estación Garganta and see the falls close up from above.

Isla San Martín

An optional extra hour-long circuit is to take the free two-minute ferry ride at the very bottom of the Circuito Inferior, which crosses to the small hilly island of Isla San Martín where two trails lead to miradores (viewpoints): take the right-hand path for good close views of the San Martín Falls and straight ahead to Salto Rivadavia, or left for a longer walk to the same place. Bathing on the beach here is strictly speaking not allowed, but there are usually a few Argentines sunning themselves. Note that both the paths down to the ferry and up on to the miradores on the island are very steep and uneven.

Alternative trails

The park offers two more trails through the forest which allow you to get closer to the wildlife: the Macuco Nature Trail allows you to see particularly superb bird life, 7 km return, (allow six hours) is a magnificent walk down to the river via a natural pool (El Pozón) fed by a slender, ice-cold, 20-m-high waterfall Salto Arrechea. This is a good place for bathing (and the only permitted place in the park), and the walk is highly recommended. See the helpful leaflet in English produced by the Iguazú National Park: Macuco Nature Trail. The first 3 km are easy but the next 150 m are more challenging, as the path descends steeply, before the final easy 200 m; the elderly and children may find this route tough.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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