Iguazu Falls has been named one of the seven natural world wonders and visiting will allow anyone to understand why. Iguazu Falls are the second largest in the world. The meeting of the waters serve as the border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Each country has a city on the river with access to the Iguazu River. However, the falls can best be seen from the Argentina and Brazil sides. Each of these two sides provide a unique perspective to these UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visitng Iguazu is all about the falls, so we kept our trip short and focused. Keep reading for our Iguazu Falls travel recap + guide. Before you proceed, I must tell you that pictures do not do this stunning place justice. They just don’t.
We arrived Saturday morning after a minor flight delay. Once our guide picked us up we headed straight to the Argentina side of the falls. We started with a tour through the park, then a boat ride under the falls. We then ate at one of the small cafes in the park and walked the trails on the Argentina side. We ended our day at the Devil’s Throat and then went to our hotel. After changing, we dined at a delicious restaurant in town, ate gelato, and went to bed early. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and went to Parque das Aves, which is a beautiful bird park on the Brazilian side. We walked the Brazilian trail, ate lunch at a restaurant in the park, and then went to the airport. We arrived after several days of rain, which made the falls even more impressive because they had three times the normal volume of water. Luckily, both of our days in Iguazu were sunny. This not only gave us ideal weather for the walking trails, but made the scenery and pictures even more beautiful. We were also lucky enough to see rainbows on both days! No matter when you go, expect very high humidity as it is a subtropical climate and mist from the falls is inevitable.
Our trip was short and sweet, but worth every minute and penny! If you are traveling to Brazil or Argentina and are including the falls as a part of your trip, the following will be helpful when planning:
TRAVEL & GETTING AROUND
There is an International airport on each side of the falls and there are bus/taxi services to and from the falls. However, to visit the falls on both sides, you’ll have to cross through border control, so if you are taking cabs on your own to reach the falls, ensure that they have all the proper paperwork. As far as paperwork that you will need– Brazil requires a visa for U.S. citizens and Argentina requires a reciprocity fee. They are both pretty pricey pieces of paper, but will be worth it if you are traveling to several destinations in each country. The reciprocity fee is good for as many visits in a ten year period, but the visa is a little more strict. Check your countrys’ requirements for Brazil here and for Argentina here.
On the Argentina side of the falls is the city of Puerto Iguazu. The falls from the Argentina side provides an up close view of the falls. There is also a train that brings visitors to a walking trail that ends at the Devil’s Throat, which is a long and narrow fall where about half of the river’s flow falls into. On the Brazil side is the city of Foz de Iguacu. The Brazil side gives a more panoramic view of the falls and has some walkways and lookout points that give up close views. Both sides have national parks and have entrance fees. Once inside, the walking trails are easy to navigate.
Both sides have rules in place to help diminish adverse effects to the environment. While you can drive closer to the falls on the Argentina side, buses take visitors through the park on the Brazil side. Tourists have to park near the beginning of the park and then take the bus on the Brazil side to help reduce vehicle traffic. Some tourism companies are allowed to bring cars or vans inside, but must follow strict rules regarding their speed. Argentina does it’s part by not allowing helicopter rides to reduce negative impacts to the environment. The Brazil side does allow helicopter tours, which give an aerial view of the falls. Pictures from the helicopters are incredible, but come with a price of over $100/person for 10 minutes. We did not do this during our time in Iguazu.
There are boat rides available on both sides, however given how the borders fall, you can get more up close and personal with the falls by taking a boat on the Argentina side. The boat actually takes you right under the falls where you get drenched. This was an amazing experience and really lets you get an idea of the depth and strength of the water. Never fear, you are given a life vest and a dry bag to put your belongings in.
I am not usually a huge fan of guided tours. I tend to be a little ‘fast paced’ and like to explore on my own, so tours are not always the best option for my preference. However, Iguazu was a time I was thankful we got a tour. Our guide picked us up in the morning at the airport in Brazil and took us straight over the border into Argentina. We were able to skip the long car line at the border and get our passports stamped quickly so we could continue on our way. I was the most thankful for our guide because he served as a chauffeur who bought our entrance tickets ahead of time and helps us skip almost every line (except for the very long line to get on the train to the Devils Throat). He provided us with really great history and information about the falls, but was not overwhelming and often left us to do our own thing. his passion for the falls was contagious and he was extremely friendly and informative.
I’ve almost never felt a tour is required to visit a place and this is no exception. However, it was extremely convenient so we didn’t have to worry about transportation, especially when crossing the border. The tour came with a price, but was worth it for the time we saved on research and waiting in lines.
We used Amazon Adventures, as they came highly recommend to us by friends who had done the same tour and locals. They offer several tour options, but most that feature visiting one side the first day and another side the second. They’ll customize it how you prefer. We had our own guide, but group tours are also available. You will be provided information about your tour, but some information such as what to pack, if electronics are okay to bring, and what you can add to your tour would have been helpful. We added Parque das Aves to one of our days after our guide told us about it, which cost a little extra and would have been nice to know as an option before.
LODGING, DINING, ENTERTAINMENT
You go to Iguazu for one main reason: the falls. Each side has one hotel located inside the parks and both are very nice. On the Brazil side is the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. On the Argentina side is the Sheraton. Both hotels serve breakfast and have on-site restaurants so you really don’t have to leave if you don’t want to.
We stayed in Foz de Iguazu on the Brazil side at the Viale Tower Hotel, which our tour company set up for us. It was centrally located and had all we needed. It was also just a mile down the road from La Mafia- a cute little Italian restaurant with great reviews where we had dinner the one night we stayed. We were very tired after an early morning flight and a day of walking all around the falls, so our night ended with gelato at Oficina do Sorvete and an early bed time. Should you find yourself wanting to go out there are a few bars in town and a Wood’s, a popular Sertanejo club with locations throughout Brazil.
- Stay one night. If you want to spend a night on each side of the Falls, then plan for two. I can’t imagine you’d need more than this.
- See one side of the Falls each day. You can definitely see both sides in one day, but you’ll be pressed for time and any small line could set you back. You only need a few hours to see the Brazil side, as the walkway providing views is less than one mile long.
- Take the boat ride under the Falls. I’ll admit it, being soaking wet and cold and then walking around all day is not usually my idea of fun. However, this was such an amazing experience! Do it.
- What to wear: I wore dry fit workout pants, sneakers, a tank top, and a rain jacket during the day. On the boat I zipped up my rain jacket, put my hair under the hood, then put a poncho with a hood on over that. I was double layered and walked off pretty dry. Take your shoes and socks off once you get on the boat and throw a pair of sandals in your bag to wear off the boat until your feet are dry enough to put your socks and shoes back on. Walking miles in wet socks and shoes is not a nice feeling. Keep your poncho, as it comes in handy if the wind is blowing the water towards you on either side.
- Go to Parque das Aves. It only takes an hour or two and who doesn’t want to form a friendship with a parrot?
- Stear clear of the coatis. These animals look like a mix between an anteater and a raccoon and they are EVERYwhere. While they are not scared of you, you want to be cautious of them. They will do anything to steal your food including biting, scratching, or becoming aggressive. I looked away for about two seconds while eating an empanada and one was leaning up on my leg. They are funny to watch initially for a few minutes from a distance, but that is where you want them to stay.