One of the best things about cruising is that it gives you a taste of a number of countries in a relatively short space of time. You feel that you’ve experienced different cultures and can often tick-off a number of must-sees with some satisfaction and it’s easy to identify some of the countries and regions which you’d like to go back to and explore in more depth. That’s where the cruise and stay experience comes into its own, because it’s a great way to explore a city or region in more detail before setting off on your cruise, or indeed after you’ve finished it.
Why an Argentina cruise and stay?
An Argentina cruise and stay is a popular choice for many, because it offers the opportunity to experience the blend of natural and man-made wonders which make South America such a popular holiday destination. Let’s suppose for a minute that for your next holiday, you really want to get back to nature and leave it to the cruise ports to fulfil your quota of cultural city highlights. Well, an Argentina cruise and stay on which you’ll have the chance to explore the breathtaking Iguazu National Park would certainly be the one for you.
Around the world, there are more national parks than you think. A lot more. Here in England alone we have 15 and the chances are you’ll have holidayed in or at least passed through one or more of them in your lifetime. They’re all around us – a celebration of the natural beauty and biological diversity to be found in each country around the world. National parks are about conservation and the preservation of wildlife for the benefit of the nation. Though you may think large-scale environmental awareness is a relatively new thing, the first national park, Yellowstone National Park in the United States, was established way back in 1872. Today, there are 6,555 national parks around the world but in just a few days’ time, the Union for the Conservation of Nature will meet to revise their definition, so following that, there could be even more of them for us to enjoy.
Experiencing Iguazu on your Argentina cruise and stay
Iguazu National Park is one of 33 you could possibly explore on your Argentina cruise and stay. However, when you consider that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, it’s easy to see why Iguazu is such a popular choice for cruisers wishing to enjoy an Argentina cruise and stay. Take a look at a map of South America and you’d be forgiven for not associating the park with cruising as it’s about as far from the Argentinian coast as you can get. However on an Argentina cruise and stay, a transfer to or from the coast is straight-forward and all part of the package.
Iguazu National Park can be found in Argentina’s northern Misiones province on the border of Brazil and that country’s neighbouring Iguacu National Park. Created in 1934, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site 50 years later and covers an impressive 212 square miles. The park is named after the river which passes through it and which forms in part the natural barrier between both parks. Of course, the area which the park occupies has a much longer history and it was first inhabited around 10,000 years ago by the Eldoradense. They would remain in the area for thousands of years until the more advanced Guarani people arrived on the scene in 1000. Spanish and Portuguese exploration in the 16th century saw the displacement of many ancient South American cultures, not least in Argentina and the Guarani were themselves displaced by conquistadores. Today though, the park is peaceful once more and once you set to exploring, it’s easy to throw your cares away and be transported back to the simpler times of the Eldoradense and the Guarani.
Exploring the park
The lush, dense jungle of Iguazu National Park is home to a number of rare and endangered species including the South American Tapir, Jaguar, Ocelot, anteater and the Harpy Eagle. You’ll also find toucans and a many different species of butterfly and also Argentina’s national flower which grows on the Cockspur coral tree. There’s a choice of different pathways and though you may be thinking there’s a lot of ground to cover, the Rainforest Ecological Train which runs through the park is your ticket to seeing as much of the fauna and soaring forest as you want to. Operating on five miles of track, the environmentally friendly train runs from the visitors’ centre to a number of different points through the park and gives you the chance to explore different areas easily. The sides of the train are open, so you can experience the forest at its best and runs at a moderate speed of no more than 12 miles per hour, so you won’t miss anything and will have plenty of photo opportunities.
The Iguazu Falls
The falls are of course the park’s biggest draw and the focus of many a holidaymaker’s Argentina cruise and stay. It’s difficult to describe in words just how beautiful they are, which is why I’m so glad that I’m able to include some pictures in this blog, to do at least some of the talking for me.
The falls divide the Iguazu River into its upper and lower sections and the creation of these two sections is an act which features in a South American legend which tells the tale of an angry god who sliced the river and created the falls, when he found out that his would-be wife had fled with a mortal man. The first European to discover them was the Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, who must’ve thought that he’d discovered Eden on Earth when he first set eyes on their beauty.
The Iguazu Falls drop off the edge of the huge Parana Plateau and comprise numerous different falls of differing heights and lengths. Depending on water levels, there can be up to 300 smaller waterfalls, though roughly half of the river flows through an area known as the Devil’s throat; a 269-foot-high, 300-foot long chasm which is one of the most famous areas of the falls, which the border between Argentina and Brazil runs through. The fact that there are so many different falls and areas is one of the reasons why the Iguazu Falls are so popular. The walkways are arranged to allow for maximum viewing and at one point you can look around you and behold a 260-degree backdrop of cascading water. Put simply, there are more falls to see here in once place than anywhere else on Earth and few are as beautiful.
By Simon Brotherton