At the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu river widens and then drops to create one of the biggest watterfall systems in the world. In total, the Iguazu Falls complex has 275 waterfalls spread over 2700 meters. The height of the water drop varies between 60 and 82 meters.
The area surrounding the falls, a subtropical rainforest, is equally important, as is home to many species of animals and plants. To conserve it, each of the two countries created a national park. Iguazú National Park is located in the Misiones Province in Argentina, and the closest city is Puerto Iguazú. On the other side of the border is the Iguaçu National Park, located in the State of Paraná, with Foz do Iguaçu as the closest city.
The Argentinians will say their side is more spectacular because you are inches from the water. The Brazilians will argue that their side is more spectacular as you get the panoramic view of the entire complex. We can only recommend that you visit both sides and decide for yourselves!
We visited Iguazu Falls as part of our 3 weeks trip to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. We stayed overnight in Puerto Iguazú and had one day on each side, to enjoy this amazing sight.
There are quite a few things to do and see on this side, and you need about 6 hours to cover most of them. The park opens at 8am and closes at 6pm, with the last entrance at 4:30pm. It's better to get there as early as possible, to avoid the crowds.
You can go to the falls by taxi, as it's roughly the same distance as to the airport. Also there are buses every 20 minutes from Terminal de Omnibus De Ciudad de Puerto Iguazú. Once you get to the entrance and buy your ticket, you have the full day ahead of you to enjoy the beauty of the falls.
There are two main circuits: the lower and upper circuit and a bunch of other smaller trails. As their name suggests, the lower and the upper circuits cover different parts of the falls. From the lower ones, you get to see a panoramic view of the falls complex. From the upper circuit you get to experience the waterfalls from above. The main attraction on the Argentinian side is the trail to Devil's Throat, where you get within a few meters from the main drop of Iguazu.
The beauty of the waterfalls is revealed right from the beginning of the lower circuit. Then, you get closer to the water and get to see smaller falls that, in a lot of places, would be the main attractions on their own. Dos Hermanas (eng. Two Sisters) is such an example, along with Bossetti waterfall. The latter can be admired from both circuits.
On the upper circuit, you get really close to the water. There are a lot of walkways built right before the water drop. You hear its roar and can almost feel its power. This prepares you for La Garganta del Diablo (eng. Devil's Throat).
The panoramic viewpoint next to the Devil's Throat is a bit further in the park. Yet, there is a train running every 15 minutes that you can take both ways for free to make the hike shorter. Keep in mind that temperatures of 40°C are not uncommon throughout the year and humidity is always above 75%.
This area is always crowded, and it's easy to understand why. You are on top of an 80 meters fall, so close that you immediately get wet from the rising vapors. You can easily spend half an hour looking at the waterfall and admiring the multiple double or even triple rainbows below you.
While the entrance to the Argentinian side was quite fast, it took us a bit more to get inside the Brazilian side of the park.
The first step is to take a bus from Puerto Iguazu. There are a lot of them, every 10-15 minutes, but you can't buy tickets in advance. Make sure to get there as early as possible, as it gets crowded later in the day. The bus crosses into Brazil, so make sure you have your passport with you. Also, check in advance if you need a visa. The process of crossing the border, although a bit confusing, goes quite smooth, and in about an hour you are at the entrance of the "Cataratas do Iguaçu" Park.
There, you need to buy a ticket, then wait in a line (quite long when we were there) for another bus that takes you closer to the waterfalls. We had to wait for about an hour for the bus, but it was worth it in the end, as the weather was hot and the entire trip (one way) is of about 15km. When you get off the bus, you are right at the start of the single circuit on the Brazilian side.
Walking around takes about 2 hours, and the highpoint of this side is getting to see the Devil's Throat from below. You also get really close to the water, so you'll most probably get wet (again).
Without too many things to do on this side, and only one main attraction, you can't avoid the crowds. Get your mind ready for this, you need some patience to be able to enjoy the experience.
Parque Das Aves
While you are on the Brazilian side, it is worth taking 1-2 hours to visit the bird park, which is right next to the entrance of the national park. We were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the species inside and by the visiting experience. You enter the huge aviaries together with the birds and other animal species. Totally worth your time.
To visit Iguazu Falls you can either stay in Argentina, in Puerto Iguazú, or in Brazil, in Foz do Iguaçu. You need about one hour to get from one city to the other, and there are a lot of buses between them throughout the day.
We arrived at Iguazu Falls as part of a longer trip in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. We flew to Puerto Iguazú from Buenos Aires, with Latam Airlines. The city itself is rather small and safe, with most of the people working in tourism or related services.
The easiest way to get from the airport to the hotel is by taxi. You pay a fixed price of about 10 euros in cash, in ARS, the Argentinian currency. The drivers are very friendly, and if you speak a bit of Spanish, they will instantly feel connected with you.
We stayed at one of the new(er) hotels in the city, Mérit Iguazú. The services were good, and we also had access to a rooftop swimming pool. It was the perfect way to end a day, after having walking a lot in the heat. The hotel is also 10 minutes away from the main bus station, Terminal de Omnibus De Ciudad de Puerto Iguazú. From there, you can take buses to the National Parks in both Argentina and Brazil.
There are a lot of restaurants in the city. What we enjoyed the most was Bambu Restobar. There are definitely others that are fancier or more high-end, but this one has a very authentic vibe in it. And the food (Argentinian-style pizza) was amazing.
A lot of places in Puerto Iguazú accept only cash, so you need to buy some Argentinian Pesos (ARS). The currency has devalued fast in the past few years. Keep that in mind when you read about certain prices in ARS, as they change frequently. That includes the price for the Iguazu National Park visit - it is kept up-to-date on iguazu-argentina website.
You cannot buy the tickets in advance, but the lines at the entrance are not that long and move quite fast. Beware of the fact that only the cards that support swipe transactions work there (our European cards didn't). Also, there is an exchange office at the entrance, but it's not always open. The cashiers are very helpful, but it's a lot easier if you can pay in cash, in ARS.
On the other hand, in Brazil we were able to pay by card. Also, it's possible to buy the tickets online, in advance.
Besides the amazing views of the waterfalls, inside both parks you also get to see a lot of animals. The most common ones are the coatis. They are used to seeing people, and if you stop to eat, you'll most probably be "surrounded" by a few. It's not recommended to feed them. Even if they might seem friendly, it's also not recommended to pet them, because they might bite and carry all sorts of diseases.
Being in the middle of a sub-tropical rainforest, there are also mosquitos. Use insect repellent multiple times during the day because of the extreme heat and continuous sweating. While walking around the trails, sometimes you are in the shades, but there are a lot of places where you are in direct sunlight. Use sunscreen and a hat to protect against sunburns. Also, make sure to stay hydrated.
Because you get so close to the water, it is a good idea to bring a small plastic bag for money or other valuables that you want to keep dry.
Bonus: Las Tres Fronteras
Before heading out to the airport, we took a short fun detour in Puerto Iguazú to see the confluence of the Iguazu and Parana rivers. The place is called Hito Tres Fronteras and offers direct view in three different countries. You are standing in Argentina and looking at Brazil and Paraguay at the same time. This is quite easy to arrange with your taxi driver.