My Brazilian adventure, continued below with Part 2… (where Part 1 is Rio and Part 3 is Ponta Dos Ganchos on the southern coast)
Day 4: Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas – Iguazu
So after wrapping up an absolutely incredible day in Rio de Janeiro, a day that began with a private visit and breakfast at Christ the Redeemer and ended with a private yacht cruise around Rio, we headed for the Rio airport (GIG) for the short two-hour flight with TAM Airlines to Foz do Iguacu (IGU). From IGU, it was a quick 20 minute drive to the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas, located inside the national park. (As both Virtuoso and Belmond Bellini Club, I am so pleased to be able to offer my clients extra value-added benefits at the Hotel Das Cataratas including complimentary daily breakfast, upgrade if available, and a one-way complimentary private airport transfer.)
The 5* Hotel Das Cataratas is not only STUNNING in its Portuguese colonial-style architecture, but has the PERFECT location as the only hotel located inside the national park, with views and sounds of the mighty falls. (We heard that one time a guest left a window open and actually complained because the falls were too loud. Um, okay..) The historical hotel was built in 1958 as a residence and has since been expanded and renovated, most recently with a $30M renovation and has been an Orient-Express (now Belmond) property since 2008. The Ipe grill next to the pool serves a great buffet breakfast and a delicious gaucho-style buffet at night, while the Itaipu restaurant is more upscale and serves outstanding Brazilian cuisine. This area is a bit quiet, so at the end of a long day of exploring the falls you’ll definitely want a nice property to come home to, for dining and a nightcap, and the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas is that place. I strongly suggest two nights here to take advantage of all the area has to offer, but three if you can make time.. you’ll also want to enjoy this beautiful property’s pool, spa, and fitness facility.
Tonight we enjoyed dinner at Ipe, the poolside restaurant at the hotel, followed by a short nightcap. We knew that the next day would begin early as we were to explore the magnificent Iguazu Falls inside and out!
Day 5: Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas – Iguazu, Seeing the falls by water, air, land, and both sides- Brazil and Argentina
We pretty much dissected every bit of Iguazu Falls today. It was truly amazing to see this natural wonder by water (SO fun), air (my first helicopter ride ever!!), and walking the trails of the upper and lower falls on the Argentina side. There are a few key things to know before visiting Iguazu Falls:
- Transportation within the park is very tightly controlled, and only a few companies have access to drive around it. I can arrange tours and drivers that will help you get the most out of your park visit in the most efficient way.
- You may view the falls from Brazil or Argentina. US citizens must have a visa for travel to Brazil and purchase a reciprocity fee for travel in Argentina (pre-paid in the US before departure for $160), so basically, wherever you choose to stay/view the falls, you will have to pay a fee.
- The majority of the falls and walking trails lie in Argentina, but the boat company and the helipad lie in Brazil. I highly recommend a combo of these to best explore the falls.. by water and air offer different perspectives and are so much fun!!
- Stay in Brazil at the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas for a truly 5* experience and views and sounds of the falls. It is about an hour drive to the Argentina side, so if you must be able to walk out of your door and be on the main upper and lower trails, then stay in Argentina. I walked through the 4* Sheraton, which has the best location on the Argentina side. Just remember there is little to do in the area after dark, and I would much rather fill my belly and put my feet up at the Belmond in Brazil any day.
- The most spectacular fall is called Devil’s Throat and is located in Argentina, but can be viewed from Brazil. There used to be a footbridge on the Argentina side where you could get very up close and personal with the Devil’s Throat, but that footbridge was destroyed by a flood 4-5 months ago. They are currently rebuilding it, but from Brazil, you can view the Devil’s Throat from about 300 meters away, and it is still spectacular!
After a perfect day of exploring Iguazu Falls, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Itaipu at the Belmond, followed by some cachaca nightcaps, natch. And finally.. Nacir. He is the beloved bartender at the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas who creates his own cachaca infusions, and served his favorites to us with a frenzied passion (and a thick Portuguese accent). We love Nacir.
A little Q&A with the cachaca expert:
Q: What is your favorite caipirinha recipe?
Nacir: My favorite caipirinha recipe is: half of lime cut in 4 pieces, 20gr of sugar, 60ml of Organic Cachaça and 5 ice cubes. Using a old fashioned glass, add sugar, drop and squeeze all the lime. Pour in the ice and then the organic cachaça. Stir well.
Q: How long have you been making your own cachaca infusions, and what is your specialty?
Nacir: About 5 years, and to make my infusions, I only add some ingredients to the cachaça, as cardamom, star anise, cloves, orange peels and any other spices.
Q: What is your favorite cachaca?
Nacir: My favorite cachaça to make caipirinha is Terra Vermelha, a organic cachaça from Paraná State, because for my taste, it combines very well with any kind of fruit. As a digestif or aperitif, I really like Ypioca Malte 160, a premium cachaça aged 6 years in Oak barrels.
To end the very long day with the brightest stars twinkling overhead, the thunderous falls roaring in the distance, and delicious cachaca with a great group of friends is something I won’t soon forget! Saude, Iguazu!!
Day 6: Ponta Dos Ganchos – Santa Catarina (overnight), but first.. one final hike at Iguazu Falls
This morning we enjoyed one final walk at Iguazu Falls before saying goodbye to this beautiful area. Just outside the doorstep of the Belmond begins a short trail that leads down to the path that is about 300 meters from Devil’s Throat. It is about a 30 minute or so walk and best done early before tourists begin to arrive. The swift current was practically lapping at the suspended walkway, which allowed the soft mist of the water to serve as a quick wake-up call as I happily ran around until I was nearly soaking wet. I only returned to the trail to save my iPhone from a soggy death. A bittersweet farewell to this beautiful area that was probably the biggest surprise of my trip. I knew I would love Rio, I knew I would love the beach, but I was surprised at how much I loved Iguazu Falls and the Belmond, and how I reallllly wished I could stretch out this portion one day longer.
With a brief clean-up and check-out back at the Belmond, we were on our way back to Foz Do Iguacu Airport.. and headed to the southern coast for some beach time!!