Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and also UNESCO listed are the huge waterfalls at the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. You can visit from any of these three countries and each offers a different perspective. Most people see the falls from either Argentina or Brazil (or both) and a few see them from Paraguay.
The Iguazu Falls are one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Some are ranked by height, width or volume and different websites give a different answer as to which are the largest… ‘World Waterfall Database‘ ranks them at number 5 according to width…
The Iguazu Falls are made up of over 270 smaller waterfalls which result in a combined width of 2,700 meters. The largest of these falls is called the Devils Throat of which half is in Argentina and half in Brazil! The Iguazu Falls are taller and wider than Niagara Falls (and in Laura’s view are twice as impressive…)
The town on the Argentina side is smaller and is called ‘Puerto Iguazu’ and the city on the Brazil side is called ‘Foz do Iguaçu’. Both have a number of tourist accommodations from which to choose.
The Iguazu Falls are often spelt differently… we’ve seen Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls but for the purpose of this post we’re going with the spelling as printed on our ticket for the Argentine side, i.e. the first side of the falls we visited. (And the WordPress spellchecker keeps wanting to change it to ‘Iguana’ Falls… grrr)
There are two airports; one on the Argentina side and a few miles away the other in Brazil. The tourist infrastructure is set up with the expectation that people will want to see the falls from both countries. Many people visit Iguazu Falls as part of a combined Brazil-Argentina or Argentina-Brazil trip.
Compared with most Central and South American border crossings, moving between Argentina and Brazil and back again was effortless! This makes it convenient to stay in either Argentina or Brazil (in theory… see *below) and cross between the borders to visit both sides of the Iguazu Falls.
The focus of our last blog post was budget… this time it is convenience…
And if you don’t want to trawl through the text, you can skip down to a series of short video clips at the end which we feel bring the falls to life a little more than the photos…
Iguazu Falls: our itinerary
- Day 1: Internal flight from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Argentina airport then taxi from Argentina airport across the border to hotel on Brazilian side for 3 nights
- Day 2: Cross back into Argentina for full day at Argentina Iguazu Falls
- Day 3: Stay in Brazil for half day at Brazilian Iguazu Falls
- Day 4: Internal flight from Iguazu Brazil to Rio de Janeiro
Domestic flights were half the cost of International flights, i.e. it was £100 per person cheaper to fly from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Argentina than to fly from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Brazil.
We found it more convenient to stay in one hotel and cross back to Argentina for a day. As our onward journey meant departing from Iguazu Brazil we decided it would be easier to book our accommodation in Brazil.
There were fixed price taxi’s available upon arrival at AR Iguazu airport. The cost to take us the 27 km through to our hotel in Brazil was $45 (£36). The entire journey took less than an hour and included the taxi driver assisting us with the immigration process.
The convenience at this reasonable cost was a welcome relief as we had been anticipating lugging our baggage on and off buses, trying to figure out where to get the bus, how to get to the border, how to get another bus, where to find the hotel…
We arrived at our Brazilian hotel, checked in and automatically said “Gracias”… “Obrigado” the receptionist cheerfully replied… oh yes… we are now in a Portuguese speaking country!
*We found the border crossings both ways on two occasions to be incredibly quick… from Argentina to Brazil the taxi literally pulls up to a kiosk where the immigration official checks and stamps your passport. The taxi then drives you across a bridge to get into Brazil where we had a short 5-10 minute queue while the Brazilian officials stamp you in to Brazil. *We can only speak from our experiences… there was a huge queue of cars going the other way from Brazil to Argentina at around 4 pm although no queue from BR to AR at 9:30 am…
There is a one hour time difference between Iguazu AR and Iguazu BR.
Iguazu Falls Argentina side
Most of the 270 waterfalls are actually in Argentina so you have a ‘hands on’ experience of exploring the falls more closely.
For a relatively small cost of 200 Reals (for both of us) which is around £45 we organised the transfer to and from our Brazil hotel to the Argentinian Iguazu National Park. We were able to leave the hotel at a pre-arranged time specified by us; again this included assistance with the border crossings both ways and we were later collected as agreed, to return back. The alternative was waiting around and trying to organise three buses each way…
There was no queue at the entrance and we paid the 330 AR pesos (£16.50) each in cash. (We’re not sure if they accept card payments). Inside the park you can pay for drinks and snacks using either Argentinian Pesos, US$ or Brazilian Reals although the exchange rates are not great so best to use Pesos if you can.
We arrived in the park at around 09:30 (10:30 in Brazil) and made our way to the Sendero Verde or ‘Green Trail’. This was a pleasant 1000 m or so stroll and the first thing we noticed was the abundance of wildlife along the trail! We were not expecting to see a toucan sitting in a tree a short distance above us, or hundreds of butterflies or furry long nosed South American coati’s.
This trail led us to the Estacion Cataratas where we waited in the queue for a short time for the open carriage train. This train can accommodate a surprisingly large number of people and it took us around the edge of the park towards the first main waterfall, the Gargantuan del Diablo, or ‘Devils Throat’.
Everyone disembarked the train and had to walk across a series of bridges over the Rio Iguazu Superior for 1100 meters until the huge waterfall finally appeared! Wow… what a magnificent sight! As to be expected, this viewing platform was crowded and you have to be careful not to drop your phone or camera (bye bye) and not being clonked around the head by an unwieldy selfie stick.
After being in total awe for a few minutes we made our way back to queue for the train which took us back to the Cafaratas station. From here (and past a fairly large crocodile in the water) we did the magical ‘Paseo Superior’ trail which lead us right next to and over the top of several of the stunning waterfalls.
Lunch was from the park ‘Subway’ although by now we were finding the coati’s to be somewhat annoying… they were no longer the cute little furry animals scampering around… they were vicious little scavengers which made it difficult to eat our lunch. There are several warning signs around the park showing graphic images of coati bites and scratches and as neither of us fancied an unscheduled trip for anti-rabies shots we had to eat our Sub’s as best we could without being attacked!
But the coati’s are not to be blamed… dim-witted tourists feed them which only encourages them to scavenge for human food instead of hunting for their own. We even saw one astonishingly dumb tourist give a toffee to one of them so they could take photos of the poor thing with its mouth stuck together and its eyes almost popping out of its head…
So, by now we had just enough time for a quick trek down to the ‘Circuito Inferior’ which is the lower trail and from where you can see some of the best panoramic views of the falls.
While there are several signs around the park there isn’t an abundance of them which clearly state ‘salida’ or EXIT which resulted in us getting slightly lost as we made our way back to meet our transfer driver. And it wasn’t just us… two or three other couples throughout the day asked us if we knew where the exit was too…
It’s important to wear comfy shoes and to expect a considerable amount of walking… we estimate that in the 5-6 hours we were at the park we walked around 11-12 km throughout the day.
Iguazu Falls Brazil side
Our trip the following day to the Brazilian Iguazu Falls national park was shorter. For an extra cost there are several additional activities available such as a helicopter ride over the falls, a visit to a bird park or a trip down the rapids.
Again we organised a transfer there and back via the tour desk at the hotel. As the hotel was just a 10 minute drive by car, we paid only 30 Reals (£7) for our return journey.
As we arrived there was a short queue to pay for the entrance tickets. We used one of five ticket machines where we could pay by card (and no queue). The entrance cost was 62 Reals (just under £15) each.
Unless you want to do a helicopter ride as soon as you enter the park you board one of the double decker buses which takes you a few km’s to the first observation deck of the falls. From here you begin a 1 km scenic viewing walk and straight away you also get your first stunning glimpse of the wide spectacle of Iguazu Falls.
As mentioned a few paragraphs above, the majority of the falls are located within Argentina but it is from Brazil where you get the best panoramic views. And these become more spectacular as you progress along the trail, finishing up with an interactive experience (if you wish) of the Devil’s Throat, i.e. the other side of the huge first waterfall we saw yesterday.
You can walk along the bridge which puts you directly in the path of spray exploding from the Devil’s Throat!
You then walk up progressively higher levels which culminate in an impressive overview looking down at the Devil’s Throat!
Unlike the previous hot, sunny and humid day in Argentina, today in Brazil was hot, cloudy and more humid! While we didn’t do the 11-12 km as we did yesterday it was a damp and sticky affair as we walked along the short trail. Particularly with the added spray as we approached the Throat!
Both parks are absolutely captivating. Of the two parks, Laura preferred the Argentine side with its interactive trails, range of views and hands-on experience of the falls. Chris however preferred the more relaxed pace of the Brazilian side.
All in all we had a fantastic couple of days in Iguazu Falls which are easily the most impressive and stunning waterfalls we have ever seen. As mentioned earlier, in Laura’s opinion they are far more breathtaking (in a picturesque sort of way) than Niagara Falls. This is another highlight of our year with a spectacular end to our time in Argentina and equally spectacular entrance to Brazil.
In addition, thanks to the excellent tourist infrastructure, our itinerary was a breeze. We were most grateful for this… coming towards the end of a full-on year of cramming in as much as we physically, mentally and financially can, we are starting to become a little weary of the constant research, planning and organising that is budget travelling… at pace… On this occasion we were glad to be driven around in taxis which were waiting for us at the park’s and borders rather than having to chop and change and wait for buses, trying to work out the bus routes and destinations and figure the time, currency and language difference!
Finally as videos seem to better show off the sheer power and volume of the millions of gallons of water flowing every minute here are few very short minuscule videos from the Argentina side:
And video’s from the Brazilian side: