How to visit Iguazu Falls on a budget

 

IMG_4535Considered the largest waterfall system in the world, one thing is for sure, Iguazu Falls are gorgeous. Accessible from both Argentina and Brazil (and each side has its advantages) travelers often complain that is too expensive to visit them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you can plan ahead. Let’s say you are already going to be in Argentina, perhaps in Buenos Aires, the capital city. You can do what we did- purchase one way tickets on LATAM airlines, in advance, for about $173 per person, (booked on Expedia). And we were able to get that entire amount reimbursed by the credit card with which we paid for the flight (our Barclay Arrival Plus Visa).

We weren’t going to have enough time in our itinerary, alas, to go to the Brazil side (which would have required a tourist visa that nowadays costs close to $200 no matter how brief your visit), or to visit the Jesuit missions, so we wanted to stay in a hotel that would give us optimum falls viewing opportunities as well as ease, in getting to the various good vantage points. That meant the Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa, which is right inside the Iguazu National Park.

Sheraton Iguazu right in the national park

Although we used SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) points to book the hotel for free (12,000 points per night for a room with a jungle view), had we taken advantage of a non-refundable booking on the SPG website about six months in advance, we could have paid only $160 per night, including buffet breakfast. What a steal! But I wasn’t sure we would be able to keep our dates, so we went with the free nights; also a good deal, but 24,000 is a lot of SPG points for two nights. We did still get the breakfast, though, a nice bonus, because within a month of our arrival date, the price of the rooms for our dates, if we had been paying in dollars, would have been $360 per night, and within two weeks, $415-460.

Yet the best bonus happened during check in; we were offered the option of upgrading to a room with a view of the falls for only $60 a night additional (or a suite for $150). We jumped on the room (only the two of us traveling this trip), and were so glad we did. Sitting on our at least temporarily monkey-free balcony (we had been forewarned to lock said balcony door whenever we went out…) watching the sunrise and sunset while admiring the view of the Cataratas de Iguazú was a real treat.

 

a coati (local aardvark) feasting on a plant

The walking routes from the hotel grounds directly to the variety of the excellent vantage points ringing the Iguassu river and its tumbling torrents, were deservedly popular (with the animal population as well!) though never overcrowded, reminding us of the value that the approximately $28 (500 pesos) for the national park entrance fee delivers, especially since paying only once would give us two full days of access to all trails, and we could reach them easily from our hotel. We took different paths both days, depending on the time of day and the light, to our hearts’ content.

 

IMG_4546

We also swam in the pool, worked out in the gym, and sweat out any and all toxins in both the dry sauna and the steam room; relaxing, refreshing and reinvigorating. We didn’t have time for a massage, but heard they were expert.

Other than the very good breakfast buffet included in all room rates, the food at the hotel was mediocre AND overpriced, but for two days, that was not the end of the world.

From Iguazu, our next destination? Salta and the stunningly beautiful Northwest of Argentina with its spectacular canyons, cliffs, colonial cities, and more. We were each able to get a one way ticket for free, both of us using only 12,500 SkyMiles from our Delta (a partner of Aerolineas Argentinas) accounts.

So, you see, it is possible and easy to see the world-famous Iguassu Falls on a very limited budget, that’s the travel cutie way….
By the way, the falls are a backdrop for other forms of natural beauty, too: birds, butterflies, and more flora and fauna, abound! Also, it’s a shame that we couldn’t be there for the right dates to coincide with a visit to the nearby Jesuit mission, San Ignacio. Maybe next time….

 

 

 

 

We also bought one way tickets from Salta back to Buenos Aires, for less than $200 each.

 

 

 

 

And in Buenos Aires,  we were able to get 3 nights in the Intercontinental Hotel for free, sort of, each using our Anniversary Weekend Night certificate (making our annual fee of $49 each- because it is smarter to have separate cards and accounts- totally worth it). Then, for the third night, we still had some points leftover in our accounts after other travels, but had to transfer some points from one account to the other, since neither had enough on its own, and we paid $55 for the transfer fee.

 

 

 

 

We didn’t pay much for our round-trip tickets from Boston to Buenos Aires, either-  less than $100 each for taxes, because we used 60,000 AAdvantage miles to book our tickets in Economy class, with a stop in Miami in each way.   ¡Argentina!

 


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