Ever since I saw Iguazu Falls, other waterfalls that I encounter, pale in comparison. Like the title of this article already reveals: these waterfalls on the borders of Brazil and Argentina are the most beautiful and the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen. Are you considering going to South America as your next destination? Put Iguazu Falls on your to-do list for sure! In this article I will try to answer all practical questions you may have about Iguazu Falls.
Iguazu Falls: the experience
This natural beauty was absolutely one of our highlights visiting Argentina and Brazil for 3.5 weeks. Iguazu literally overwhelms you. Gives you the goosebumps. The sound, the vibrations, it is something you have to experience yourself. It is a fantastic feeling when you just stand there, a few meters away from all the water that rushes past you. It has so much power that it makes you feel so small, so insignificant.
At some point, especially at Devil’s Throat, I just stood there and could not stop staring, admiring the forces of nature. And you secretly say a quick prayer that the bridge won’t collapse and you won’t fall in! OMG. It’s very cool you get to see these amazing, massive waterfalls from all kinds of perspectives, from above and beyond. Hello paradise! Trust me, this place will leave you in awe.
The pictures will never do justice to the beauty and impressiveness of Iguazu Falls. The power and the scale of the waterfalls, the tropical flora and fauna… Amazing! You just walk there in the middle of the jungle, the smell and the sounds of the tropics, fantastic! We saw several toucans and other exotic birds up in the trees. A once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. After seeing 60+ countries, Iguazu Falls is still top 3 material of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Trust me, you must see this for real.
Have you also been to Niagara Falls and thought it was impressive? Iguazu Falls are more than twice as wide and almost twice as high! When visiting Iguazu Falls, Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Poor Niagara!”
In this article I will explain in detail what is there to do and see, how to get there, how to avoid crowds, what is the best time to visit, where to stay, which side is the best, etc. At the bottom you will find a map that you can save to your own My Google Maps to use as preparation for your trip and during your visit.
Iguazu Falls: the facts
In 1984, UNESCO decided to list Iguazu National Park as a World Heritage Site. Good idea! Later, only in 2011, Iguazu Falls was named as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. In addition, Iguazu Falls won the Swiss Tourism Awards back in 2007.
Did you know that Iguazu Falls are actually surrounded by three countries? At the three-country point in the Paraná River, the border lines of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay come together. These three cities are located closest to Iguazu falls:
- Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil (largest)
- Puerto Iguazú in Argentina
- Ciudad del Este in Paraguay (furthest)
Iguazu Falls includes between 275 and 300 waterfalls, depending on the season and how much water is going through the Iguaçu River. Iguazu Falls are split over two National Parks, each named in their own local language, as they are split between two countries. Cataratas means falls in Portuguese.
- Parque Nacional do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side with Cataratas do Iguaçu
- Parque Nacional Iguazú on the Argentinian side with Cataratas del Iguazú
Iguazu Falls in Brazil
So Cataratas do Iguaçu is the Brazilian name of Iguazu Falls in Brazil. In below paragraphs I will explain more practical details. My main message: go walk around, explore, discover, get mesmerized and fall in love! On this side of Iguazu Falls, make sure you don’t miss the Brazilian view point of the Devil’s Throat, see map below, an amazing front view! We were also lucky enough to see a rainbow above the Brazilian falls, soooo pretty!
The walking trails in front of the falls here are steel grids. Smart choice with these big amounts of water, but not so great for people with a big fear of heights…
Literally right across the street of Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian side (the actual falls, not the entrance gate) there is a gorgeous, stylish hotel. You can spend the night here (see Where to stay) or at least have a lunch, which we did and enjoyed a lot. Officially this is all part of Foz do Iguaçu, however the city center is about 40 min by car from here, see map below. There is a cool bird park right at the entrance of the National Park, which is worth seeing.
- Opening hours: daily 09:00-17:00h
- Admission fee BRL 100 per person cash or credit card
- Do not forget bringing your ID card or passport
- Skip any potential lines by purchasing your tickets online beforehand
- Several tours include hotel pick-up and entrance ticket already
Parque das Aves (BR)
This bird park is your best chance to see gorgeous toucan birds from up close! Parque das Aves includes many kinds of exotic birds, such as parrots in various colors and sizes, which you get to stand inside their big cage. There are also some very cool huge butterflies which are unlikely to spot in the wild nature. Plus some alligators, turtles, etc.
To conclude, should you have some time before or after visiting the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, or on an extra (half) day to spend, I would definitely recommend to visit Parque das Aves! Very suitable for kids too. It is open one hour earlier and one hour longer than the Brazilian falls’ gate, quite thoughtful.
- Opening hours: daily 08:00-18:00h
- Admission fee ARS 800 per person cash or credit card
- Avoid lines by getting your tickets online in advance
Iguazu Falls in Argentina
As mentioned above, Cataratas del Iguazú is the Argentinian name of Iguazu Falls in Argentina. It is a spectacular and beautiful piece of nature that you should spend at least one full day. While walking through the jungle, following different walking trails, you get to see many beautiful waterfalls and several wild animals, like monkeys, exotic birds, coatis, iguanas, etc. The free train that runs on this side of Iguazu Falls makes it very easy and convenient to get from one main point to another. Have fun!
- Opening hours: daily 08:00-18:00h (last admission 16:30h)
- Admission fee ARS 800 per person cash pesos or credit card (previously only in cash)
- Train included, optional boat ride excluded
- Children, Mercosur Residents (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela) and people with disabilities get discounts
- 2nd day entrance is 50% off!
- Bring your passport or ID card in order to get in
- Skip lines by getting your tickets online beforehand
There are several walking trails on the Argentinian side that you can walk:
- Upper Trail (Circuito Superior)
- Lower Trail (Circuito Inferior)
- Devil’s Trail (Paseo Garganta del Diablo)
- Green Trail (Sendero Verde)
- Macoco Trail (Camino del Macoco)
- San Martin Island (Isla San Martin)
The first three are the main paths. As the name might reveal already, we agree that the Lower Trail was slightly ‘inferior’, somewhat less spectacular than the Upper Trail. The Lower Trail has more stairs too. Nevertheless, I would recommend to do both, as they are both awesome and worthwhile!
The Upper Trail includes numerous fantastic waterfalls such as Dos Hermanas, Bossetti, Bernabe Mendez, Mbigua, San Martin and Escondido. See map below. The Upper Trail took us about 1.5-2 hours (1,750m). Several photos in this article are taken from the Upper Trail, including below panorama.
On the Lower Tail you will find beautiful waterfalls like Dos Hermanas, San Martin, Chico, Ramirez, Devil’s Throat, etc. The Lower Trail took us about 1.5 hours to walk (1,400m).
Camino del Macuco
This less well-known trail includes views on waterfalls like Alvar Nunez and Lanusse along the Iguazu River. The Arrecha Fall is the highlight of this trail. Cai monkeys live here, please do not feed them! This trail takes about 3 hours (the longest) and closes as first, around 15:00h. So if you want to do this one, make sure you do not start too late (before noon).
Get off at Estación Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat Station) and walk for about 10 min (1100m or 1200 yards) on a wooden trail on poles to Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). I promise it will be super spectacular! One of the widest, biggest waterfalls of Iguazu Falls. You can stand right next to it, watching it from the balcony. Wow that power of the water! On the other side of the water is Brazil. Just watch and be amazed by the forces of nature. Wheelchair accessible.
The Green Trail (Sendero Verde) does not include any waterfalls but is an alternative way to go from the Central Station to Cataratas Station, should you prefer to walk instead waiting for the train. Enjoy the jungle and its amazing vegetation, sounds, etc. It talks only about 15 min to walk (600m) so if you are not too tired yet, go for it! You may encounter some coatis here too.
Isla San Martin
Whether or not you can go to Isla San Martin, to walk a short trail there (600m), is subject to conditions of the level of the river. Ask staff about it at 10:00h. We did manage! The walk to reach the island is about 220m.
The path towards and the balcony at Devil’s Throat, the view platform at San Martin, part of the Upper Trail, etc. are all made of this fire staircase kind of material (steel grids). Not ideal when you are afraid of heights, but the best for wet conditions like these, with water splashing from the falls and when the river rises so much it gets close to or even reaches the path.
Coatis for lunch?
You may want to grab a quick sandwich from Subway, which is located right at the trail (see map below). Just eat it somewhere else as the coatis that hang around here might steal it from you, or at least make an attempt. I call them the bandits LOL Be careful because they can attack with nasty scratches and bite marks! If you get bitten, you need to get to the hospital because of Rabies infection risk. There are signs throughout the park to warn you about this.
When you eat at one of the hotels at Iguazu Falls, the coatis will stay out of sight. On the other hand, if you would like to save some money, consider bringing your own lunch and water from your accommodation or a local supermarket. In any case: clean up your own mess! Take your garbage with you back to your accommodation at the end of the day, do not leave it behind in the park.
Which is the best side of Iguazu Falls?
Both sides of Iguazu Falls are beautiful and worth visiting, that is why I would recommend to go for at least two days so you can see both. The main perspective on the falls is different. Whereas on the Argentinian side you mostly watch the falls from above and aside, on the Brazilian side this is often from below, front view or aside.
Out of the two, we found the Argentinian side the most spectacular, impressive and beautiful. But I would not have wanted to miss the Brazilian side either, this is definitely worth seeing as well! The weather was also better while we were on the Argentinian side (sunny with blue skies) compared to the day before, when we visited the Brazilian side (more grey, bit of rain), so that may have influenced our overall experience too, to be honest. The Argentinian side felt bigger and there are more tracks to walk. If for some crazy reason you would only have one day at Iguazu Falls, and you would have to choose between the two, I would go for the Argentinian side. Conclusion: make sure you get to see both!
How to avoid the crowds
It will probably not be a surprise to learn that the Iguazu Falls belong to the three most visited places in Argentina, together with capital Buenos Aires and the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. Being one of the most impressive tourist attractions of the Latin American continent, you may want to avoid facing a crowd at the most popular viewpoints that suits an overcrowded subway better than in a natural beauty like this.
Tips to avoid crowds at Iguazu as much as possible:
- Avoid (national) holidays, high season (Nov-Feb) and weekends
- Start early (arrive before opening) and go to the most popular spots first
- Get your tickets from the machine or online instead of waiting for the ticket desk to open
- Move to the quieter, less popular areas in the second half of the morning or afternoon
- Join one of the guided night tours, which are only held the five days around the full moon (see under Extra activities)
- Spend the night inside the park so you can enjoy the park’s quietest moments
- Walk the less infamous trails around the falls (see below)
- Visit the less known and less popular Itaipu Dam
I must say that on the Argentinian side it is more difficult to avoid the crowds as you will all take the train to get to the falls, but since the setting is wider, it feels less crowded than on the Brazilian side.
Less known trails
There are a bunch of trails close to the falls that are less popular because a lot of people just pick the main trails, do not know about them and/or make time to explore further, not because they are not worth seeing! Consider taking:
- Green Trail (Sendero Verde), see above
- Macuco Trail (Camino del Macuco), see above
- Yacaritia Trail (Sandero Yacaratiá) near Jardin de los Picaflores, Casino Iguazu and Emporio Gourmet in Puerto Iguazú (outside the NP)
- Ask you accommodation for other, less known tracks outside the NP
If you are into hummingbirds, then visit Jardin de los Picaflores in Puerto Iguazu (AR). A bit further out of Iguazu there are several places of interest, should you have more time, such as (see also below map):
- Wanda Mines
- Yabotí Biosphere Reserve and Parque Provincial Mocona (AR) with Mocona Falls
- Parque Florestal Estadual do Turvo (BR) with Yucuma Falls
- Salto Yerbas and Salto Paraiso at the Arroyo Paraiso river and Canal Tuerto (AR)
When to visit Iguazu Falls
As mentioned above, Nov-Feb is high season at Iguazu Falls. I would try to avoid it, although the 1st half of November still felt quite acceptable in terms of crowds, and we had one sunny day. Feb-Oct is mid-season with less tourists, these are the cooler winter months. If you want to visit in summer (southern hemisphere), try to go before mid-Dec, when the tourist flow starts to peak. try to avoid national holidays throughout the year. If you are determined to visit Iguazu Falls around the holidays, or cannot really avoid it, book early (accommodation, flights, entrance) and expect hot, humid weather. Check the weather forecast. If you can, try to visit around the full moon, so you can do that special night tour (see below under Extra activities).
How long to visit Iguazu Falls
I’d say at least 2-3 days, minimum of two nights, preferably longer. It all depends on what you want to do. You can also spend a week here and still not get bored. It also depends on how fast you walk, how much time you will need at the view points and how many photos you want to take. Just do not try to squeeze both sides in one day, I’d say it is too much! Why bother coming all the way here for just one day? That would be a shame, really. How often will you be here in your life? Exactly. Take your time. If you have for some silly reason only one day, be brave and wise, pick one side. Or invest in a private tour and be prepared for a very loooong day.
We spent about 6 hours at the Argentinian side plus back and forth travel time so 2x 1 hour from/to the Brazilian side, total 8 hours (day trip). You can easily spent more time, for example if you add a boat ride, or less if you choose between the Upper Trail and the Lower Trail for instance. If you want to do the boat ride, do this at the latest of your visit because you will get soaking wet. We took a refreshing jump in the outdoor pool of Gran Melia Iguazu to chill a bit after all the walking.
We also spent about 6 hours at the Brazilian side but that included a visit to the bird park and a lazy lunch at the Belmond Hotel as well (photo below). Be aware the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls is open 2 hours shorter compared to the Argentinian side. You could do the Brazilian side as a half-day visit if you skip the bird park and fly in early morning or fly out in the evening (Brazilian airport), but then you are really pushing it. To be honest, I would not mind staying longer…
- Brazilian side: scenic helicopter ride 10 min app. EUR 108 or USD 120 per person
- Brazilian side: visit bird park Parque das Aves (see above)
- Argentinian side: speed boat ride 75 min app. USD 60 per person
- Guided tours
The boat ticket can be purchased along with your admission ticket, so no pre-booking required, or as part of a day tour. There is also a boat ride offered on the Brazilian side, but all people I spoke to who did both, said the Argentinian boat ride is better. The Brazilian boat ride will leave you soaking wet for sure, as it goes underneath or very close to the falls. Everybody came out looking like a drowned cat LOL If you want to save money, I’d suggest to skip the boat ride completely. You will get to see the falls in a way that is very similar to what you can see from the view platforms and walk ways. Up to you!
Should you wish to learn more about the flora, fauna and history of Iguazu Falls and NP, you may want to consider joining a group tour or hiring a private guide. The full moon walking tour, only held five days around full moon, is the most special tour that can only be done with a guide and requires long in advance pre-booking.
What to bring to Iguazu Falls
- Water, snacks, lunch
- Something that protects your camera from the splashing water (like a dry bag), especially when taking the optional boat ride, and something to dry the lens, or a waterproof camera.
- Poncho (purchase on the spot or save money by bringing your own)
- Footwear and clothes that match the weather forecast
- Insect repellant
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat
- Moneyyy (local currency, credit card)
For more holidays stuff suggestions, check out the article 40 travel gear that I like to take with me on a trip.
Do I need a visa for Argentina? Do I need a visa for Brazil?
The answer to that question highly depends on your nationality, how long you wish to stay, what you plan to do (tourist or other), etc. Check for example the website of iVisa to learn whether you need a visa or not.
How to get to Iguazu Falls
Each side of Iguazu Falls has its own international airport:
- Aeroporto Internacional de Foz do Iguaçu (IGU) in Brazil
- Cataratas International Airport (IGR) in Argentina
Check Skyscanner for the flight possibilities and costs to these airports. Flying from Rio de Janeiro to IGU airport takes about 2 hours and 15 min. A flight from Buenos Aires to IGR airport takes about 2 hours. There is 1 hour time difference between Brazil and Argentina, in Brazil it’s 1 hour later. Tip: do you plan to make several domestic flights in Argentina and/or Brazil? It is often much cheaper to link this directly to your international ticket, so combine all flights (international and domestic) in one ticket. This saved us at least 250 euro each in 3.5 weeks.
From the airport to your accommodation you can either take a taxi, shuttle or bus, depending on your accommodation’s location. Uber works on the Brazilian side. For example an Uber taxi between IGU airport and Belmond Hotel at the Brazilian side is R$18-24. An Uber ride between IGU airport and Gran Melia Iguazu at the Argentinian side is R$35-37. There are no Uber rides possible from IGR airport to either one of these hotels. So if you combine Brazil and Argentina, you could do what we did; fly in on the Brazilian side and fly out on the Argentinian side.
Iguazu Falls is one of the most beautiful places around the world I have ever visited. Definitely worth a long flight to explore for a couple of days!
How to get around inside Iguazu National Park
Be prepared to walk a lot inside the park. Especially the Lower Trail on the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls includes several stairs, which can be tiring or a challenge for people with bad knees for example. Howevr, on that same Argentinian side there is the Jungle Train that takes you from one main point to another. This is especially comfortable on hot, humid days, and for people who do not want or cannot walk too much. There is no glass in the window frames!
Tren Ecologico de la Selva (‘Jungle Train’) goes from the entrance to Estación Cateratas with a panoramic view on the falls and then further to the final station Estación Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat Station). The train goes every 30 min, or every 20-15 min during high season, the last train to Devil’s Throat goes at 16:00h. Free of charge.
On the Brazilian side there are big green park busses that ride from the entrance gate to the main viewpoints, a pretty straight forward road. I would suggest to get off at the pretty pink Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, which is right opposite the main path ways and viewpoints of Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian side. You can walk all the way from there. Enjoy!
Brazilian side to Argentinian side (and vice versa)
If you stay on the Brazilian side and want to see the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls, make a day trip out of it. Do not try two squeeze them both in one day. Unless you can afford a private tour, do not mind rushing and missing out on things to see.
The easiest ways would be to take a taxi or a tour that takes you from your accommodation to the park entrance. Make sure your passport/visa is/are valid for both countries. The ride takes about 1 hour from Pousada Guita Pora to the Iguazu Falls entrance in Argentina, for which we paid BRL 130. No worries about not having Argentinian pesos in cash for the taxi driver or the entrance fee; there is an ATM right at the entrance of the park. You can also agree with the driver to bring you back as well and pay in Brazilian Real. If you decide to come by car or motorcycle yourself, you will have to pay for parking too.
A cheaper yet slower and less comfortable option to get from A to B is by public transportation. Should you wish to use the bus around Iguazu Falls, I’d suggest to book accommodation on walking distance of the bus station.
- When you stay in Puerto Iguazu (AR) and you want to visit the Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side, you can take the ‘Cataratas’ bus to Iguazu Falls NP, which goes about every 20 min and the ride takes about 40 min. Costs app. R$3.50 single ride.
- When you stay in Foz do Iguaçu (BR) and you want to go to the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls, you can take the ‘Internacional’ bus that goes a bit outside of the regular bus terminal. Pay attention because there are busses here that go to Uruguay and Paraguay, but the busses clearly state where they are going so you should be alright if you pick the one to Argentina. The bus ride takes about 1.5 hours. Costs app. R$ 6 single ride.
- Please note that there are different bus companies here and that bus tickets are company specific. So for example when you get off to get a passport stamp and miss your bus, you either wait for the next bus of the same company, or get a new ticket (it’s cheap anyway).
Where to stay at Iguazu Falls
Staying inside the park comes with the big benefit to enjoy after the tourists are gone, but also comes with a certain price tag. On both sides there is one luxury hotel inside the park.
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas (BR)
This gorgeous, stylish pink hotel is called Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in Foz do Iguaçu. The Brazilian side of the falls are at the doorstep of this fantastic hotel! Five-stars, very charming and romantic, ideal for your honeymoon for example. Certainly the best out of the two hotels inside the park. Outdoor pool and terrace, friendly staff. If you cannot afford staying here, consider at least having lunch, it’s lovely.
Gran Melia Iguazu (AR)
Right in the middle of Parque Nacional Iguazú, Gran Melia Iguazu (previously Sheraton) recently received a bit of a facelift since it was taken over from Sheraton. This five-star hotel offers the best location on the Argentinian side. With free Wi-Fi and easy to access the pool the ideal spot to cool down a bit after a long walk around the falls. The terrace by the pool is am excellent place to have a stylish lunch or an afternoon drink. Or enjoy a (half) day at their spa, should you have the time (also possible for non-hotel guests).
Pousada Guita Pora (BR)
We found the best value for money at the cheaper yet wonderful accommodation on the Brazilian side, the eco-friendly Pousada Guita Pora. The apartment was spacious with comfy beds and the sounds from outside enhance the feeling of straying right in the middle of the rainforest. It’s surrounded by tropical plants; you can shower while looking at the banana leaves right next to you.
There is an outdoor pool, some walls have cool local art and the restaurant serves dinner every evening (optional). Since Pousada Guita Pora is located about 500m from the entrance of the Brazilian side of Iguazu National Park, the walk should not take more than 5 min (easy along the asphalt road). The receptionist can also arrange a taxi for you to the Argentinian side. We paid about EUR 82 per night and stayed for 3 nights.
Other accommodation Argentinian side
On the Argentinian side there is Yacutinga Lodge, which is a really cool accommodation in the middle of the jungle, worth checking out, but far out (see map below)! Alternatively, you may prefer to stay at Puerto Iguazu, the atmospheric town closest to the Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls, for example because of the bus station and restaurants there. Then I would suggest to have a look at either Iguazu Jungle Lodge, Posada del Jacarandá, Hotel Jardin De Iguazu or for low budget travelers and backpackers Steve’s House, all four with an outdoor pool and great reviews.
Other accommodation Brazilian side
Bourbon Cataratas do Iguaçu Resort is another beautiful resort, a little bit outside of town of Foz do Iguaçu, but only a short taxi ride (5 min) or long walk (35 min) compared to earlier mentioned accommodation on the Brazilian side (14-24 km). Other, budget-friendlier options in or close to the city center are for example Pietro Angelo in the center and Pequeno Paraíso. For backpackers I would recommend Hostel Bambu. All of these accommodation have outdoor pools and excellent reviews.
Map Iguazu Falls
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and more! It is smartphone friendly; you can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. To customize the map to your interests, simply (un)select categories. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
Interested to read more articles about Argentina? Check out the Argentina Blog Archives.
I hope this article was useful for you. Would you like to visit Iguazu Falls? Or have you ever been there already? Share your story or question below!
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