It is almost impossible for there to be something that is off the beaten path at the internationally famous Falls of the River Iguaçu. Millions of visitors come here every year.
However, May seems to be the peak time for butterflys around the park, and in particular near the wet areas of the trail that provides a series of viewpoints. The butterflies seem to really enjoy the moist mist provided by the falls.
However, few people come to the falls to see the butterflys only!
They are willing to perch on just about anything (especially the trail handrails, certain types of clothing, and many other things), and with little effort it is possible to get them to stay on your hand - sometimes for a very long time.
Please be careful where you step! You will want to save enough of a generation of them to make more for next year's tourists!
One of the great places to stop in for an afternoon in Foz do Iguaçu is at the Parque das Aves, which literally translates to Bird Park. As a person who enjoys taking photographs, this was a great opportunity to get up and close to the beautiful birds that had been flying around the falls and cities as we travelled throughout the region. In particular, we had the opportunity to see the coveted bird, the Toucan. Maybe it was all of those Fruit Loops commercials when I was younger that had me fascinated with Toucan Sam, but I have always wanted to see one of these animals up close. Well, Sarah and I got our wish here at the Bird Park.
The bird park of course has many other birds here, including flamingos, parrots of many varieties and many others. As of 2007, the cost to enter the park is $12USD, and the park is open from 8:30am through 5:30pm, which works out well if you are adding this before or after a day trip through the Parque Nacional do Iguacu, since it is located less than a mile from each other.
Although your eye will be continually drawn, while walking through the national parks on both sides of the falls, to the wonderful views of the falls themselves, don’t forget to look around you too. You can see lots of really beautiful butterflies along these paths, and they come really close, sometimes even landing on you – see the 2nd photo, which Chris took when one landed on my hand. The butterflies are attracted by high levels of salt in the soil; we saw huge groups of bright yellow ones on the bank when we went on our boat trip. Apparently my sweaty hands were an adequate source too!
We also spotted a large iguana one day on the Brazilian side, and saw lots of coati on the Argentine. The various tropical plants are also eye-catching, and make a fitting setting for the falls themselves. I think the plant in my 5th photo is a bromeliad - can anyone confirm that for me?
Parque des Aves is just outside the National Park. It houses hundreds of birds, most but not all from South America and most of them in adequate enclosures. It also has an awesome, walk-through butterfly cage.
One of the largest enclosures is that for the blue and gold macaw, one of the largest members of the parrot family.
The hyacinth, arara azul, is the largest of all macaw. (There are about 30 extant members of the macaw family, several endangered.)
The hyacinth cage was the only one I saw at the Parque that was much too small for the birds in it.
The coati is a member of the raccoon family. It's a carnivore and scavenger. Males are usually solitary; groups will be all females and youngsters.
Coati are ubiquitous in Foz do Iguaçu; those around heavily populated areas tend not to be afraid of people. They're cute — but they can be dangerous if scared or provoked. Their teeth are sharp and they can carry rabies.
If you ever fly into Sao Paulo and you know it will be during the day, make sure you're sitting in a window seat. The view over this sprawling mega-city is amazing. They say it's the third largest city in the world and it's really quite a sight to see how far the buildings stretch out all the way to the horizon.
Other than the view from the sky and a tour of the airport, I didn't see any more of Sao Paulo, but it's known for its nightlife and its busy, big-city lifestyle (a stark contrast from the laid back life of the Cariocas ).
Rio de Janeiro is amazing. I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful physical setting. The long, curving beaches are like beautiful brushstrokes on God's canvassed earth. The mountains jut up from the sea just off shore and the city itself is full of beautiful bodies and exciting rhythms. What's not to like?
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Land of the tango and European-flavored elegance. Well, after spending some time in the jungle that surrounds the waterfalls, you might feel the need to pamper yourself with a little high-class living. BA is less than a two hour flight away and these days, it comes on the cheap! It was only a few years ago that this was the most expensive city in South America, but due to an economic crisis (don't worry, it's safe) and the devaluation of the Argentine peso, Buenos Aires is now really affordable.
If I had to select only one other attraction to see in this area other than the waterfalls, I'd definitely recommend the hydroelectric plant at Itaipu. It's the largest facility of its kind in the world and it generates more power than any such plant. In fact, Itaipu powers 90% of the electricity in Paraguay and supplies 25% of Brazil's.
Best of all, the tour is free. See my Foz do Iguacu page for more information on visiting the plant.
Feel like living dangerously? Then Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is your kinda' place. I spent about three hours shopping mostly from the street vendors here. It's definitely a little dirtier than either Foz do Iguacu or Puerto Iguazu, but I figured that I better take the opportunity to visit Paraguay not knowing if I would get the chance again anytime soon.
If you choose to do a little shopping here, take the international line bus from either Argentina or Brazil and get off at the first stop after you go through customs. Customs is a big joke here. The officer literally took 2 steps up into the bus and hardly even glanced at the people inside before he waved us through.
For more details on the dangers associated with this place, pay a visit to my Ciudad del Este, Paraguay page.
Puerto Iguazu in Argentina is another alternative to Foz do Iguacu when it comes to finding a hotel. From what I've read, it's a little safer than its Brazilian counterpart, although my experience staying in Foz do Iguacu was great and I felt perfectly safe the whole time. I only spent about two hours here and there's really not much to see here, but I did notice some small shops and restaurants. If nothing else, it will be your main gateway for visiting the Parque Nacional del Iguazu on the Argentine side of the falls.
I was pleasantly surprised with Foz do Iguacu. It's really a rather quiet town, although it's the largest of the three towns in this area. The population is ethnically and culturally diverse and helpful to the travelers that frequently come here to see the falls. While there isn't a lot to see here from a tourist's perspective, you will find some good hotels, restaurants and shopping streets. Check out my Foz do Iguacu page for details.
Ciudad del Este, Paraguay is just across the Rio Parana from the city of Foz do Iguaçu. You can walk across the Ponte da Amizade/Puente de la Amistad; ride a bus from the rodoviaria; or take a taxi, though some cab drivers are reluctant to go into Paraguay. ('They steal cars over there,' one told me.) Neither passports nor bags are checked on either side of the river.
Ciudad del Este reminded me of Tijuana, Baja California, in the 1950s — dirty, unpaved streets, small cluttered shops, street vendors hawking everything from fake Rolexes to American cigarettes (which may also be fake).
On the other hand, it has a couple of good Japanese restaurants, a chic department store, and a large casino. (Casino gambling has been banned in Brazil since the 1940s.)
Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in South America. It is also the only one I've seen whose border is marked by a commercially sponsored sign — for Samsung, a Korean company.
(The U S State Department warns that al-Qaeda terrorists have been active in the tri–state area — it has a large Muslim population — and that the area is also a haven for drug smugglers.)
This is also another highlight of the visit to Iguacu Falls. It's fun, thrilling & an experience of the lifetime!
Basically, it comprises of 3 parts:
1) Enter the safari & ride on the 3 km ride by jeeps.
2) Walk to the Macuco Falls (optional, u may skip this if u don't have enough time).
3) Boat ride - more like a raft where you'll be taken for a "bath" under the falls! This is the best & most exciting part of the safari. Basically, be prepared to be wet from top to toe! Trust me, you'll be wet! If you want to stay dry a little, bring your own raincoat & also plastic bags to protect your camera & equipments! Forget about shoes or track shoes. Sandals or sneakers are best!