Ushuaia vs. Iguazu Falls?
August 29, 2013 8:13 PM   Subscribe

My wife & I will be in Buenos Aires for two weeks in November for a 10th anniversary trip. I initially wanted to take a side trip to Ushuaia while we're there to kayak on the Beagle Channel, hike and view the beautiful scenery of Tierra del Fuego, maybe see a penguin or two, etc. However, the flights are pretty pricey, and it seems a bit extravagant to spend all that money for a couple of days' worth of adventure. Another nature encounter that was recommended was to hike the falls at Iguazu National Park. The flights to that area are cheaper, it's closer, and we could do it in a couple of days, so we wouldn't lose as much time exploring Buenos Airies to take this side trip. So, for those of you who have been, is it worth it to trek all the way down to Ushuaia, or should we do the cheaper, closer option of Iguazu, which we've also heard is very impressive?
posted by ericbop to Travel & Transportation around Argentina (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen Ushuaia, but I've traveled a good deal, and visiting Iguazu was one of the most stunning, awe-inspiring experiences I've ever had.
posted by shivohum at 8:21 PM on August 29, 2013

Iguazu is mind-blowingly beautiful.
posted by zug at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2013

I haven't been to Ushuaia, but my wife and I debated whether or not to go to Iguazu on our honeymoon - it seemed like a lot of travel and expense for one day. Having been, we both agree it was well worth the trip - Iguazu was one of the most stunning experiences we had on our whole three week trip (the other was going to Bahia Bustamente to see the wildlife, nesting penguins included).
posted by pombe at 8:40 PM on August 29, 2013

Iguazu was probably one of the highlights of my 6 week trip to South America in 2008. It was incredibly stunning and mind-blowing. When I went to Iguazu, we took a bus ride that was much cheaper than a plane ride and was much nicer than bus rides in the US. There was a waiter who served us dinner and breakfast, AND there was wine included! I thought that was a pretty sweet deal for a cheap bus ride to an amazing natural area.
posted by ruhroh at 8:55 PM on August 29, 2013

I've been to both Ushuaia and Iguazu Falls, and I lived in Buenos Aires for a bit in 2010. I'd save money by taking a bus trip to Iguazu, it's about 18 hours each way from BsAs. Get full cama seats... better than any first-class airline seat. Then if you have the funds, sacrifice time in BsAs for a trip down to Ushuaia as well. Tierra del Fuego national park + Beagle Channel are both gorgeous. Also consider instead of Ushuaia going to El Calafate and seeing the Perito Moreno glacier (take the mini-trek where you hike up onto it, and then a boat tour of the glacier lakes), then go up to El Chalten for hiking. Either direction, however, you will not regret.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:51 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since both are amazing, go with the cheaper option. But if you do end up heading south, do as lefty said and visit Perito Moreno.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 10:25 PM on August 29, 2013

I've been to Ushuaia, although for a short time (less than two days). It was cool, it has this rugged end-of-the-world natural rawness to it, and I'm sure I saw only a tiny part of what there is to see. But while I have nothing less than good things to say about it, I don't really have any great things to say about it, either. I wouldn't use words like stunning or mind-blowing to describe the short time I was there. Sounds like Iguazu is the place to go.
posted by kprincehouse at 10:29 PM on August 29, 2013

Iguazu is amazing. Take the bus, they are very good. Another good thing about Iguazu is that if you spend a day and a half or so, you've thoroughly seen it; you can go back to BsAs satisfied.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:35 PM on August 29, 2013

Best answer: My wife and I visited Ushuaia and it's definitely beautiful, but I don't know if it's as awe-inspiring as what I've heard Iguazu described as. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the falls, so I can't compare directly. It is VERY out of the way to make it all the way down to the tip of the continent (we were on a cruise) and the falls are probably a better value.

I would strongly urge you to check out the Tigre Delta, though. The delta is an entire community built on these islands within the delta, with no roads to speak of. A public taxi boat takes you to this couple's house there, and they take you on a private tour of the river, set anchor, cook an amazing lunch, and all around fuss all over you and treat you like family.

It was truly one of the greatest experiences I've ever had, and it was just a 35 or so minute train ride north of BsAs, followed by a 15 minute or so public taxi ride. It was completely worth every penny and it was unlike anything we had ever seen. An entire community on the water! And the couple linked (Lo del suizos, the "Swisses", as the husband is Swiss) are the most adorable, most amazing people, cooking homemade bread and serving jellies from a neighbor, etc.

We also managed to hit up Zoo Lujan which was an altogether different experience wherein we got to hold and pet a baby lion cub, pet a full-sized lion, and otherwise enjoy animals who appeared far happier than I would've otherwise thought. Surreal experience, to say the least.

Stay out of the more touristy areas. We got "sprayed" in the subway at a transfer station in this large crush of people (think they wanted me to take my backpack off and see what hit me so that they could take it, fat chance) which was really obnoxious. They spray you with something that smells like mustard and looks like shit and sometimes they'll come up with rags and blame it on a bird and get their hands on you and take your shit.

Fortunately, we didn't lose anything, and the district we were staying in was the Palermo Hollywood area which isn't as touristy and is more hipster/boutique hotel and was really great. We felt safe in Lujan and the Delta, but we still didn't walk around with a wallet, jewelry, or anything like that. I stuffed my camera under my jacket for the train ride to Lujan, and we used a phone camera for the Delta, but I wish I would have brought my dSLR to that.
posted by disillusioned at 12:48 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dittoing lefty. I went to both while I was in Argentina, and both are beautiful, but Iguazu is breathtaking. Don't miss the falls if you have the opportunity.
posted by pitrified at 4:43 AM on August 30, 2013

I'm a tour guide in Buenos Aires and have been to both Iguazu and Ushuaia and given the time you're here I would vote for Iguazu. It's as breathtaking as everyone says and will not disappoint.

Ushuaia is a lovely place but really deserves more than a rushed couple of days. As lefty says, once you get down that far you'll also want to see the Perito Moreno and El Chalten and all of a sudden 2 days is nowhere near enough.

One other factor is that you're visiting in November which is everybody's absolute favourite month in Buenos Aires. Spring has sprung, the jacarandas are out and all is well in the world. You really want to spend as much time as possible in the city in November.

You can find my contact details in my profile - if you need anything or fancy coming on a free walking tour with me while you're here, would be great to meet up!
posted by jontyjago at 5:52 AM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

> I haven't seen Ushuaia, but I've traveled a good deal, and visiting Iguazu was one of the most stunning, awe-inspiring experiences I've ever had.

Same here. I was at Iguazu over forty years ago and it's still one of my most vivid memories. (I walked down to the riverbank below the falls; back then you couldn't see any signs of human existence from there—probably no longer true—and read my copy of Neruda's Canto General and felt like... well, I can't say what it was like. It was indescribable.)
posted by languagehat at 7:41 AM on August 30, 2013

I've been to both Ushuaia and Iguazu, and I think I would agree that Iguazu sounds better given your constraints. I actually preferred the area around Ushuaia, but we were taking a 3-day Australis cruise from Punta Arenas in Chile to Ushuaia, and we got to go ashore and explore ton of islands and fjords and see things that are totally inaccessible except by boat. Ushuaia itself was nice, but the town itself kind of just a convenient place to take off for the areas AROUND the town, and the best pieces of those areas aren't very easily accessible without dropping a bunch of cash.

Iguazu, on the other hand, is quite accessible for a 2- or 3-day trip. If you can swing it, stay in the Sheraton INSIDE the park (pricey but worth the splurge); we were able to get up and hike on all the crazy catwalks around the falls first thing in the morning and at dusk, which gave us a lot of stunning vistas to ourselves, and it was amazing.

If you really want to do a traditional Patagonia landscape side-trip rather than the jungle, I echo those above who say that going to the Perito Merino glacier (tip: you can do a tour where you HIKE ON THE GLACIER and do ice-climbing) is much better for a short jaunt. In my opinion the Perito Merino glacier and Iguazu Falls were equally impressive and equally accessible for short-plane-ride visits from BA. Plus you stay in El Calafate, which has some of the best lamb I've ever tasted in my life.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2013

I haven't been to Ushuaia, but I did do a one day trip to Iguazu when I went to South America for a conference a few years ago. A fellow conference attendee told me that it was worth even a one day trip, so I flew up from BA in the morning and spent the day, then flew back that night. it was AMAZING. Well worth the trip, I only wish I had more than a day to spend in the area.

When I got to the park the guides have me some material and asked where I was from, and when I said Canada, one of them mentioned Niagara Falls and said something about me maybe not being impressed with Iguazu if I'd already seen Niagara. Totally not the case. Iguazu blows Niagara away.

I would love to get back and see the south of the country and the glacier, but Iguazu is worth it, especially if it is more affordable.
posted by Cyrie at 4:44 PM on August 30, 2013

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