Images taken and owned by Mademoiselle Meme.
by Editor | Mademoiselle Meme
Back in August, I planned a trip to South America for the first time. There were two places I wanted to see: Buenos Aires, Argentina and Iguaçu Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. In this two-part travel series, I will dive into all you should know, see, and eat when visiting each destination.
PART 1: BRAZIL
Iguaçu Falls, as a tourist hotspot, spans over the borders of Argentina and Brazil. It is a quieter region to visit, with a vast nature reserve surrounding the falls and the humble, country city of Foz do Iguaçu nearby. For this reason, I would recommend visiting for 36 hours.
When visiting the falls, you will have the option to visit both sides, each with completely different access to the falls. Seeing both is a must.
Besides walking the breathtaking trails to the falls, you can also go water rafting. There are two rafts, wet or dry. Be advised the “wet” raft ride takes you directly underneath the waterfalls. I’ve heard some people love it, but others thought they were going to drown because of the gushing water as you pass underneath. We did not go rafting as we were visiting during winter which is quite cold in August. Another option: taking a helicopter ride over the waterfalls.
Located near the waterfalls is the not-to-be-missed bird park. The Parque das Aves is a wildlife sanctuary established by a local family with the goal of protecting Brazil’s wildlife. There are birds housed that you will not see outside of Brazil, or more accurately, outside this park. Many of the birds are near extinction, with a wide variety coming from the Amazon. Besides birds, you can visit the Butterfly Room, which is equally as spectacular.
We opted for staying on the Brazilian side, Foz do Iguaçu, with family. I highly recommend the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. The millennial pink hotel is located inside the waterfalls on the edge of the trail. It has impeccable views and access to the falls and is the best hotel in the area. Fly into either airport, Cataratas del Iguazu International Airport in Argentina or Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. They are both very small airports conveniently located near the falls.
In terms of safety in Brazil, I would advise to exercise precaution. The waterfalls are a tourist destination, but Brazil does suffer from political corruption that trickles down to local authorities. While we were in Brazil, we were stopped while driving out of the waterfall nature preserve by police that were charging a fake “ecotourism tax” on random cars on the small highway. If we did not pay, they threatened to take our car. The tax was not substantial, but the fact that authorities abuse their power is a little unnerving for most. We were in the car with two local Brazilians we knew who lived in the city and spoke the language, but that didn’t help us avoid this predicament. Perhaps we would not have faced this hassle if we were in a tour bus as many tourists were using to visit the falls.
If you speak Portuguese, that is a major plus. We were able to get by because we knew Arabic and Spanish, languages popular in this area because of the large, local Lebanese community as well as the city’s borders with Paraguay and Argentina.
Since we stayed on the Brazilian side, we had access to exotic food markets and great specialty restaurants like churrascaria, Brazil’s finest all you can eat barbecue. With an influential Lebanese population, there are great options for upscale Arabic food dining. Check out our list below of things to try and the local’s guide to eating out:
- Buffalo Branco – The best Brazilian barbecue in the area, and its halal! DO NOT leave without trying the grilled cinnamon pineapple for dessert.
- Le Mir Comida Arabe
- Burgerz – Trendy burgers and fries near the university
- Castelo Libanês Restaurante – fabulous Arabic food
- Jauense – The locals’ most prized, upscale bakery/cake shop, try the heart of palm filled puff pastries and the pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread rolls). We stopped here every morning for a pastry as options in the city are nearly nonexistent.
- Benjamin Café – A cafe/coffee culture is nonexistent in this area, but this spot has a large coffee menu.
- Pomare – Gourmet Supermarket. Try their dried provolone chips, a popular snack. Stock up on cacao nibs, goji berries, brazil nuts, açaí and more! These products are highly sought after and extremely expensive in the US. We stocked up on frozen cherimoya, guava, passionfruit and açaí.
- Things to try:
- churrascaria – Brazilian barbecue differs from Argentine barbecue as it is cooked on skewers and cooked over eucalyptus or charcoal. popular cuts include picanha which is the rump/sirloin cap
- brigadeiro – Chocolate truffles
- pão de queijo
- all things heart of palm, like grilled heart of palm (found at restaurants), pastries, etc.
- açaí bowls – They do not taste the same as your hipster açaí spot. açaí is just once flavor offered, also try the frozen cupuaçu. popular toppings include condensed and powdered milk.
- cherimoya – A very expensive fruit in the U.S. is available in abundance in Brazil
- guava – Try in in a croissant at Jauense or buy at the supermarket
- churros – Served with doce de leite
- fresh coconuts – Found on the roadside as many fruits like cherimoya and guava. Many are located near the tourist areas like the waterfalls. Once you finish the juice, they cut up the coconut so you can eat the interior.
- passionfruit and cupuaçu – Cupuaçu is a fruit that takes like banana and passionfruit. It looks like a potato but once opened contains a white, fruity flesh.