THE ULTIMATE IGUAZU FALLS GUIDE: ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL
If you've got a thing for waterfalls, the world-famous Iguazu Falls in South America should definitely be on your travel bucket list! Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Igauzu Falls is made up of 275 cascading drops. The sheer size and scale of these waterfalls is unlike any other on the planet! To put this into perspective, Iguazu is nearly twice as tall and nearly three times as wide as Niagara Falls. But here in Iguazu, it's pure nature and pure magic.
Igauzu Falls straddles the border of Argentina and Brazil, giving visitors the option of admiring this beauty from either country. The falls are located in the Atlantic Rainforest and are surrounded by two very lush national parks.
Which side should you visit?
Well, if you have the time: I highly recommend you see both. After exploring both the Argentine and Brazilian sides, I can confidently say that it is totally worth spending at least one full day at each, since each side offers a different perspective. However, if your time in Iguazu is limited: use this guide to help you decide which views interest you most and choose accordingly.
Here's everything you need to know to navigate the falls and plan out your time in Iguazu:
CATARATAS DEL IGUAZú IN ARGENTINA
Cataratas del Iguazú (in Spanish) is located in Argentina and contains two-thirds of the falls! This side of the falls allows you to get up close and personal with the waterfalls! One of my favorite photos and views was from this side, because you can really scale how grand the falls are and feel the power of the water rushing down. You should allocate one full day here to see the three different parts of the park: the Upper Trail, Lower Trail and Garganta del Diablo (aka "Devil's Throat"). We easily spent 6-7 hours here exploring the falls by following the walking trails and stopping for photos.
FOZ DO Iguaçu IN BRAZIL
Foz do Iguaçu (in Portuguese) is located in Brazil and features a breathtaking panoramic view of the falls! This side of the falls can be done in as little as a few hours. We only spent about 4 hours here and ended up seeing everything we wanted to! The Brazilian side is structured as one long trail along the river that takes you to along the boardwalk over the top of the Devil’s Throat. What I loved about this side was the numerous rainbows we spotted!
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before traveling, make sure to check the visa requirements for your nationality before crossing borders.
- Argentina - US citizens traveling into Argentina do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days for tourism/business. At this time, the Argentina Government has suspended the Argentina Reciprocity Fee for US citizens, so crossing the Argentine border is free!
- Brazil - US citizens traveling into Brazil must obtain a visa beforehand. I applied for mine 2 months prior to my trip.
HOW TO GET TO IGUAZU FALLS
There are two international airports near Iguazu Falls:
- Argentine side - fly into Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR)
- Brazilian side - fly into Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU)
I flew with Delta from San Francisco to São Paulo, Brazil. After allocating a few hours to clear customs, I flew with Avianca (no bag fee!) into Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU). Since my hotel was on the Argentine side, I took a taxi from IGU to my hotel in Argentina. It was more cost effective to fly within the country and drive across the border into Argentina.
There are public buses that run to both the Argentine and Brazilian side. Check with your lodge or hotel to find out where to hop on from! If you are staying on the Argentine side, make your way to Terminal de Omnibus de Ciduad de Peurto Iguazú.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodations are available on both sides of the falls. I chose to stay on the Argentine side in the town of Puerto Iguazú, because there are more options to choose from + cheaper accommodations! Shahzeb and I spent three nights at La Aldea de la Selva Lodge , and though it wasn't the most glamorous place we've ever stayed, we mostly just used our room to sleep in and rest up each night of the trip! Our room rate included a great breakfast to fuel up every morning and the property also had the cutest hammock and a nice 3-tiered pool to unwind in the evenings. We even ended up having dinner here one of the nights and it was so good!
You must purchase tickets separately for each national park when visiting both sides of the falls. Tickets were available at both entrances - you do not have to purchase them ahead of time. Prices listed are for foreign visitors as of 2018, and I have linked official sites for both parks below (you can translate them in Google Chrome):
- Argentina (Iguazú National Park) - 500 ARS (~$25 USD). Cash only, no credit cards are accepted. Hours: everyday from 8am - 6pm, and the last entrance time is 4pm.
- Brazil (Iguaçu National Park) - R $62 (~$19 USD). Credit cards and cash are both accepted. Hours: everyday from 9am - 5pm.
what to pack
- Insect repellant - Since Iguazu is located in a rainforest, you are sure to encounter some bugs. Make sure to apply some kind of insect repellant when out and about.
- Comfortable shoes - There are several trails within the parks, so make sure to bring a pair of comfortable (and/or closed-toed shoes) to keep your feet protected!
- Water - To stay hydrated! You can also purchase some inside the park if needed.
- Snacks - The food inside the park leaves much to be desired, so bring along something to munch on. But be careful: coatis (raccoon-like animals) are everywhere and are known to scavenge for food and can potentially bite. While on the Brazilian side, we encountered a ton of them and surprisingly saw a many tourists getting way too close for comfort. As Shahzeb was eating a snack, a coati came aggressively close, almost jumping on him to take it out of his hand!
- Raincoat / Poncho - There are times where the mist from the falls is SO intense you'll get soaked! There are some vendors that sell ponchos on the Brazilian side, but save yourself the trouble and $, and bring one along!
- Sunscreen & Sunglasses - The sun can be quite strong, especially in the afternoons, so make sure you apply and re-apply sunscreen and protect your eyes as needed!
- Camera - You are going to witness some amazing landscape views and stunning cascading falls. Bring a camera along to capture the memories. And if you're a photo enthusiast, a wide angle / zoom lens or full frame camera will allow you to capture even more!
If you love chasing waterfalls as much as I do, you must add this mesmerizing natural wonder to your bucket list. And no matter which side you choose to explore, your trip to Iguazu Falls is sure to be an unforgettable one!