Iguazu Falls: Absolutely Must See Once in Your Life


 The Power and the Beauty of Iguazu Falls

Devil Throat of Iguazu Falls from Argentinean sideIn our digital age we’re surrounded by opinions, in list form, of the 10 or 100 or 1000 things to see before you die. I think life expectancy must be on the rise the way people keep adding stuff to their To Do lists. It’s always too soon to die, the list is always growing. But it is also very subjective. A wonder for you could be a “whatever” for others.

Iguazu Falls, though, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, are among the rare natural wonders that inevitably make it onto the top of everyone’s list. Its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1984 started to draw more attention to its beauty, as well as to its ongoing preservation struggle.

I’d heard about this place many times, but didn’t realize how magnificent it actually is.

Iguazu Falls on Brazilian side

Visiting it, at last, happened to be one of the most humbling and exciting experiences of my life. The falls are 1.7 miles long, divided into many different waterfalls by tiny islands and islets dotting the Iguazu River at the edge of the plunge. These falls range from 197 to 269 feet high.

Lush green islands in Iguazu Falls

The Falls’ maximum recorded flow is 45,700 cubic meters per second. To put things in perspective, 45,700 cubic meters is about how much water would be used if every single household in the state of Texas flushed their toilets at the very same moment. That’s how much water was going over the falls every second. That’s a lot of water if you ask me!

To sense how powerful it is, one needs to get very close to the Devil’s Throat, the most dramatic semi-circular water drop at Iguazu Falls.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady, once visited Iguazu Falls. When she first laid eyes on the falls, she exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”

Poor Niagara indeed!

Where Iguazu Falls Are Located

Iguazu Falls the Triple Frontier region

Near the Falls there are three major cities, in three different countries separated by the Iguazu River. They form a triangle known as the Triple Frontier:

  • Puerto Iguazu, a frontier city in the province of Misiones, Argentina
  • Foz do Iguaçu, a city in Paraná, Brazil, that is three times bigger than its Argentinean neighbor
  • Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay

Two of these countries can claim part of the waterfall as their own: Brazil and Argentina.

Keep in mind that 80% of all the waterfalls are on the Argentinean side, while 20% are in Brazil. Each perspective is unique, but you definitely have more options approaching your target from Argentina. When visiting, ideally plan on spending one day exploring the Argentinean side and keep a few hours reserved for Brazil on the following day.

As we prepared for our trip, we read a number of online comments about armies of mosquitoes and bugs attacking visitors on the Brazilian side, so we decided to skip it completely. Dengue fever is a real thing in this part of the world, so we were little uneasy about it.

You can also take a boat tour of the Falls from either side, if you feel like you didn’t get wet enough exploring on your own.

Furthermore, you can actually book a place on an exciting helicopter ride, in order to view the Falls from on high. The chopper departs from the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu.

If you want to see the entire Iguazu Falls, both the Argentinean and the Brazilian side, you’ll enjoy your experience much more if you set aside at least two days to soak in all the beauty, and to enjoy all that Iguazu Falls has to offer you as a tourist, guest, or visitor to the area.

Getting to Iguazu Falls

While a bus ride from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls may take up to 20 hours, travel by air is quite easy. A flight from Rio De Janeiro or Buenos Aires will get you to Iguazu Falls in less than two hours. The airport on the Argentinean side (IGR) is just 6 miles (10 km) away from the waterfalls, and 13 miles (20 km) from the city of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. A cab ride will cost you a bit more than in Buenos Aires. For a ride from the airport to Iguazu National Park, we paid 220 Argentine pesos, approximately $20 USD at the dollar blue exchange rate—what you might call the “peer-to-peer” rate 😉

Because we were traveling with a five-month-old baby, we decided to stay at Sheraton Iguazu Hotel, right there in the National Park in front of the waterfalls. Eva seemed to love the rain forest and the sound of waterfalls.

Standing at Sheraton hotel Iguazu in front of the falls

More economical accomodations are available in the city, but these entail a 20-30 minute ride to the Iguazu National Park, where the waterfalls are located. Entry to the Iguazu National park will cost foreign citizens 215 Argentine pesos per person, so a bit less than $20 USD at the “dollar blue” exchange rate as of time of writing. So budget this in, as there is no way around this expense if you want to see the waterfalls.

What to See at Iguazu Falls

Excitement on the train riding to the Devil's Throat at Iguazu Falls

Once you are in the National Park, you can take a free open-air train to Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat). Keep your hands and feet clear from the coatis. These guys feel home at any train station, and may leave you with a nasty bite:

After a seven-minute train ride, you disembark at the top side of the river and have to walk for 1100 meters (0.7 miles) towards the vista point. It’s a nice twelve-or-fifteen-minute walk over ramps erected above Iguazu river.

Ramps at Iguazu Falls


At the end of the walk, you will see something absolutely amazing: The Devil’s Throat. It’s hard to capture the power of this place, one needs to experience it.

Just watch the 30-second video below (make sure your speakers are turned down).  This is what I call a dramatic drop:

Besides the Devil’s Throat platform, there are a couple of trails leading to the other parts of Iguazu Falls. You may take the Upper Trail to see waterfalls from the above. Eva was happily asleep when we discovered the Adam and Eva waterfalls. We learned that the white noise of the waterfalls works very, very well at putting Eva to sleep.


The Lower Trail will get you as close as possible to the waterfalls from below. Although most people call the spray emanating from the Falls a “mist,” prepare yourself for shower-quality refreshment. It’s so close, you’ll get wet before you snap your first photo:

Did I mention that the rain forest around looks like a film set for Indiana Jones? Oh yeah, because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was shot there…

You will also see all kind of species, from toucans to eagles and beyond. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Harpy Eagle at Iguazu Falls


Whatever you end up doing at Iguazu Falls, it is a very exciting and refreshing experience!

Can you recommend any sights comparable to Iguazu Falls (besides Victoria Falls obviously)?

An unexpected discovery one hour from Santiago: one of the most beautiful beaches



Tunquen Beach near Santiago Chile with Seagull Flying Over

I’ve lived here long enough to know it all… right?

We lead our lives secure in the knowledge that we’ve seen it all around our own ‘hood. We believe there is nothing left to explore, unless we head out to the opposite side of the globe. Then someone fresh arrives to ask:

What? You haven’t been to this café around the block? These guys roast the best coffee in your neighborhood. It’s a must!

Life experience has reinforced my belief that there are new, amazing discoveries waiting just around every corner of your life’s routine. Embrace the world around you like it’s uncharted territory: all that’s required is to have eyes and ears wide open.

We lived in Santiago, Chile for a few months before realizing how close we were to one of the most beautiful, abundant beaches in this part of the world—and yet also one of the least known.

This adventure started with a humble attempt to recruit at least four or five friends for a quick beach getaway in early spring. At first I had trouble getting people on board, but we eventually had to turn down requests as the house we rented filled to capacity. And then we discovered something truly amazing, something hiding just in front of our noses.

The video below is a courtesy of ASP production. So enjoy.

Tunquen weekend video


Tourist attractions, or world explorer’s distractions?

If you ask anyone in Santiago to recommend a nearby beach, you will consistently hear the same two answers. Half the people you ask will speak enthusiastically about Vina del Mar, and another half about Valparaiso, which is essentially the same thing.

Night view over Vina Del Mar from RenacaThe photo above was taken from a 20th floor balcony in Concon, looking towards Vina Del Mar. It looks and feels great!


You need to realize….

Vina Del Mar is a major attraction for anyone coming from the east, the north, the south… did I miss the west? Well, there is only New Zealand to the west of Vina del Mar, but it’s 6,000 miles across the Pacific. Not every kiwi will make it that far.

Vina del Mar and the surrounding area is a summer playground for all kind of people, carrying all kinds of passports, coming from all kids of social circles, from the metropolitan areas of Chile to Argentina and Brazil, and beyond.

What the hell is Tunquén?

A very small handful of the people you asked, though, would tell you about a small beach town south of Valparaiso called Tunquén. Historically, Tunquén was a refuge for artists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Santiago. Now it mostly consists of vacation homes sitting on a bluff above an incredibly beautiful beach, or scattered over the hillside adjacent to a pine forest.

Abundant beach of Tunquen

Tunquén residents have developed a self-sustaining community that produces its own energy and water, and deals with its own waste.

Some of the recently built structures serve as examples of contemporary architecture, and very fine examples at that:

Topcliff House in Tunquen

… or take this one, designed by Grupo-7:

Tunquen Residence by Grupo 7

The show begins

My Canadian friend Alain was visiting us in Santiago and we were looking for a quick weekend getaway. My intention was to find a short-term house rental for ten to twelve people, somewhere near a surf break. I was looking at options in Concon and Renaca but this Light House With Garden in Tunquén Comuna de Algarrobo caught my attention. As I started reading about the area I learned that the Playa de Tunquen could be surfable. That proved to be the only hope left unfulfilled by this fantastic weekend trip.

For a group our size, we needed to rent a van. In the United States, a regular rental minivan seats up to eight people—if you have more friends than that, good luck. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that in Chile, every car rental company offers vans seating up to fourteen people. The most economical option I found, also offering a very convenient pick-up option, was Chilean Rent a Car, with offices in the Bellavista and Las Condes barrios of Santiago.

So off we went to discover something unknown.

Google Maps does not give you good directions once you start navigating small coast roads in Chile. Based on the owner’s instructions, though, we finally found the artist’s house we had rented, within a gated community on an unpaved road winding through the forest. It was quiet and fairly isolated.

We enjoyed some great moments sharing the space and food during the day.

Teh artist's house in Tunquen commmunity

By evening we were the only ones out on the hill, disturbing the peace with a BBQ and marshmallow feast running late into the night.

Having marshmallow BBQ in Tunquen


It’s worth mentioning that there is a better-known beach town about 17km south of Tunquen. The neighboring town of Algarrobo is much more developed, and boasts a few attractions of the sort you’d expect from a seaside resort town.

Algarrobo is known for the world’s largest swimming pool. It’s a kilometer long, covers 20 acres, and contains 250 million liters of filtered seawater from the Pacific Ocean. It’s hard to justify the existence a pool so huge that maintenance costs run to almost $4M USD annually. Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out.

The worlds largest swimming pool Algarrobo


Algarrobo is also the place you go to stock up on food supplies. We went to a market near the gas station to pick up some fresh fish for the grill. Fish merchants there will fillet you a whole fish in a matter of seconds. They put on a great show, slicing it down quickly with two massive knives.


Time killed outside is time well spent

The following morning, we set off to explore the area and get our hands sandy at the main attraction. The enormous beach we found at the end of the road exceeded all our expectations.

Panoramic ocean view from Tunquen community

We spent a few afternoon hours occupying ourselves with some silly stuff. Some practiced their bouldering skills on slippery, algae-covered rocks:

Climbing on the slippery rock at Tunquen playa

Then ran around scaring the crap out of the seagulls:

Scaring off the birds on the playa de Tunquen


Nothing would stop the bravest and the strongest of us from experiencing an early-spring swim. (The quantities of beer consumed the previous night should also be taken into account.) Chile’s coastal waters may be turquoise, but don’t get fooled thinking that they’re warm. The average water temperature is 12C / 56F year-round. Anyone would find this refreshing. This beach also features a very strong rip current, so it’s necessary to be cautious about venturing into the open sea.

Swimming at la playa de Tunquen

Some would take clever pictures of the cave hole:

Circling cave openning

And others would shoot a silly photo of the clever photographer:

Silly photo of a clever photographer


My wife got inspired by Steve McCurry’s photography and produced some close replicas:

Steve McCurry replica

Dragging giant kelp around was also fun. It weighs much more than one would expect. No wonder, since there is so much healthy stuff in it 🙂

Caring kelp around

The Chilean coast is famous for its sea kelp, also known as cochayuyo or simply cocha weed. Locals harvest it and then sell it restaurants, where it’s turned into one of the most delicious salsas I’ve ever tried. The best batch I’ve had was at Pepi restaurant at Punta de Lobos, near Pichilemu.

There’s no shortage of cochayuyo in Chile. The stuff practically comes crawling out of the water.

Giant kelp on the beach at Tunquen


It was very amusing scaring my friends by pretending that the kelp was moving around like a sea creature, beached on shore but still alive. Just look at these priceless facial expressions 🙂

Scare moving giant kelp


That was one of those perfect weekends, getting out of Santiago, having fun and getting energized from nature. At the end of the day, you just sit on a rock, enjoying the surf break, dreaming of how cool would it be to live right here on top of this cliff.

Sitting on the rock at playa Tunquen


Do you have any stories to share about your own unexpected discoveries?