Misiones Province—Iguazú Falls
Formerly the Sheraton Iguazú, anywhere else in the world and in most areas this hotel wouldn't get a second glance. But oh what a view! If luxury equates to a perfect spot with the best possible vista, Meliá Iguazú Hotel succeeds before you even get to your room.
Upon seeing Iguazú, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" Catching the view from our top–floor room, we agree with her. Unpacking can wait while we grab some photos and head out for a walk on the Circuito Superior (upper walkway) to get close–up and personal with part of the falls.
Strung out along the rim of a crescent–shaped cliff about 1.6 miles long, some 150 to 275 individual cascades plummet from a 130–million–year–old basaltic lava plain into the gorge as much as 269 feet below. The region is suffering a drought during our visit and the falls is only one–third full, but the thunderous roar can still be heard for miles.
© Meliá Iguazú
Newly acquired by the Melia hotel group, this is the only hotel in the park—and there are no good hotels nearby—but despite being "the only game in town," it still delivers first–rate accommodation and services. Rooms either face the falls or look into the jungle, where toucans gather in the trees at dawn and dusk. There are four luxury suites each with living room and private solarium on a large terrace.
We dine in the hotel's excellent Garganta Restaurant (Garganta is, appropriately, Spanish for throat) enjoying the falls by moonlight. Satisfied by an excellent meal of beef tenderloin accompanied by a bottle of Malbec, Argentina's signature wine, we're lulled to sleep by the endless crashing of the cataracts.
The buffet breakfast's variety should please the pickiest international visitors: Yogurt, fresh fruit and cheese, hot eggs and breakfast meats plus lots of the small pastries South Americans enjoy. Dulce de leche, a concoction of caramelized milk and a national favourite, is served in some form at almost every meal.
© Melia Iguazu
The hotel sports a new SEDA Spa and renovated outdoor pool. The Spa features a variety of treatment options in five indoor rooms, four outdoor tents and a special room for couples. There's a Zen relaxing room, steam room, Vichy shower––the list goes on. But first, we venture onto the Paseo Inferior (lower walkway) for more great views of the falls. Most walkways are made of sturdy metal grid so they're safe even when wet. Below us, the adventuresome are getting soaked on a boat ride to the base of the falls. Iguazú National Park was created in 1934 after the Argentine government bought its 121,000 acres from a wealthy landowner. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Hugo Lopez works for a private company that competently manages the park and its facilities. "The daily average of 2,000 visitors swells during Holy Week and 11,000 people were here last Good Friday," he tells us. "We manage the crowds by sending some to one place and some to another during the course of the day so everyone gets their view of the falls."
We learn more park facts at the bilingual information center then board the natural gas–propelled Ecological Train of the Jungle for a short excursion from Central Station to Garganta del Diablo, (Devil's Throat) station, leading to the main part of the falls. As we alight, mineral–rich mud on the service road is attracting clouds of colourful butterflies.
The metal walkway leads about a mile over channels and rocky islands. We're charmed by butterflies landing on our sweaty hands seeking salt. Great photo opportunities abound, especially when we reach the principal overlook where exclamations of awe are almost louder than the falls.
Riding the train back to the mid–way Cataratas Station, we make our way to the hotel, stopping to enjoy the antics of the coati, which are much like raccoons and just as pushy. A couple of small cafés offer outdoor seating and an icy beer goes down very well. Our two days have flown by and we're reluctant to leave. Next time we'll plan our visit for the time of full moon, when special Luna Llena excursions visit the throat of the falls by moonlight. It must be magical.
Review from Lorie and Paul Bennett, photos by authors except where indicated.
Web Site: www.melia.com/iguazu
Total Number of Rooms: 180
Published rates: $225 to $620 per night double + tax, incl. breakfast