A Complete Guide To Visiting Iguazu Falls
Visiting Iguazu Falls, one of the most jaw-dropping waterfalls in the world, from either Argentina or Brazil is a must when traveling South America. Read our complete guide to visiting Iguazu Falls from Foz do Iguazu, Brazil.
We must say it aloud. After visiting Iguazu Falls, one of the world's most amazing and powerful natural wonders we've been spoilt for waterfalls. In the future, it will be hard to get excited over an otherwise beautiful waterfall when we've seen the largest waterfall system in the world located right on the border of Brazil and Argentina (and very close to Paraguay).
In the past, we saw a nice share of cascades - the highest waterfall in New Zealand, stunning falls in Wells Grey Provincial Park in Canada or Salto Monday close to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay - but all of them for now faded away and were overshadowed by Iguazu Falls. Hope we'll gain a desire to see another falls soon!
When wandering around South America, we perhaps did not meet a single traveler who did not have Iguazu Falls on his or her list of must-visit places, even when traveling to Brazil or Argentina was not on their itinerary at all. Simply put, people fly across the world only to witness this massive natural wonder, and we don't blame them, although visiting either Argentina or Brazil (or both in the best case scenario) is the most advisable.
Since time immemorial, there's always been a discussion which side of the falls is better to visit - Brazilian, Argentinian or both. Although an idea of visiting both sides of Iguazu Falls sounds interesting, it is often not an option for budget travelers, and we also think that seeing the waterfalls once is enough as it just can't be that overwhelming for the second time when you kind of know what to expect.
It is hard to decide on in what country should you visit Iguazu Falls, but we are not afraid to say that no matter what side you'll choose, you won't be disappointed.
Someone once said that Brazil has the views, but Argentina has the waterfalls.
What does it mean? From the Brazilian side, you will get the best panoramic view, but this part does not have that many walking paths, so you can allocate approximately three hours for your entire visit. On the other hand, on the Argentinian side, you will be walking in the falls and will be able to appreciate the individual cascades, while enjoying extensive walkways where you can easily spend all day long.
After a couple of days of thinking and planning our route, we decided to visit the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls and here you can read our guide on how to do it.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT IGUAZU FALLS
- 80 % of Iguazu Falls are falling on the Argentinian side while Brazil keeps only 20% of it
- Iguazu Falls split into 275 distinct waterfalls (more or less)
- Iguazu Falls are 2700 meters wide, and the hight of all individual falls vary between 60 and 82 meters
- the falls are not shared between two countries, but also between two UNESCO designated national parks: Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguacu National Park in Brazil
- Iguazu Falls are the largest waterfall system in the world: taller than Niagara Falls and wider than Victoria Falls
BEST TIME TO VISIT IGUAZU FALLS
Good news. Iguazu Falls is a destination you can visit all year round. This is very similar to most of Brazilian popular travel destinations, such as Paraty, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America.
You can experience two distinct seasons in the triple borders area, wet and dry, but because of humid subtropical climate, plentiful precipitation and high temperatures are common all year round. You must always consider what do you prefer to see. Do you want to enjoy blue skies, mighty waters or empty walkways? Seasons at Iguazu Falls go hand in hand with the number of visitors, so if you hate being pushed or wait for a photo, rather opt for low season.
Generally, the most visited time of the year is summer from December to March, although it is also the rainy season. During this time Iguazu Falls are in their best, there is a big chance to have nice weather, but cloudy skies are common too (it usually rains at night or sometimes in the afternoon comes a storm or torrential rain for a day or two which can exceptionally close the path).
The downside of visiting the park in the summer is that people in South America have their holiday, and the place is crowded, and also it is too hot and humid in this region. Probably the worst time to visit Iguazu Falls is during the Easter holiday when it is extremely busy, and accommodation prices are skyrocketing.
March, April, August, and September might be more convenient for travelers who don't want to share the place with that many people. Temperatures are more comfortable, it does not rain that often, but falls also are not at their peak so the flow can be lower.
The rest of the year (May-July and October-November) can turn either way. You can experience blue skies, fewer visitors, but sometimes the falls can be in very low flow conditions which can negatively affect your experience.
VISITING IGUAZU FALLS
Once you pay your entrance ticket, head to the boarding area and wait for the bus which will take you closer to Iguazu Falls. There are several stops along the way such as at the bird park or near the closest and most luxurious hotel in the national park on the Brazilian side, Belmond Hotel das Cataratas.
There are two main places where you can get off the bus when you want to see Iguazu Falls: near the hotel where is also the first viewpoint over the falls or at the bus' final destination. We recommend you to get off at the first viewpoint as this is what most people do and you won't have to fight your way in the opposite direction. Sometimes it's just easier to go with the flow.
Once you take enough pictures from the first viewpoint, continue on the narrow path down to the highlight of the Brazilian side, a bridge leading inside the falls where you can spend as much time as you want (understand it depends on how wet you want to be).
Then, you can walk through the restaurant and shops to elevators which will take you to another viewing platform (it is better to walk as there is a line for the elevator, unless, of course, you don't have limited mobility issues). Once you get to the top, wait for the bus going back to the entrance gate, where you must wait for public bus 120 which will take you back to the town.
HOW TO GET TO IGUAZU FALLS
The most budget-friendly way how to get to the entrance to the falls is by public transport.
Go to the bus terminal Rodoviario Urbano and take bus number 120. The bus goes via the airport as well in case you will need it later. The first bus leaves around 8 AM and goes every 20 minutes, so it is not necessary to buy a ticket in advance.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST
As of February 2019, prices of visiting Iguazu Falls were following.
We took a regular direct bus from the bus terminal to the entrance for R 3.25 one way per person. The entrance fee to Iguazu Falls cost R 70 per person and includes admission, conservation fee, and the bus within the park because of the next 10 kilometers on paved road from the entrance to waterfalls.
When you arrive at the entrance to the part, you can either line up and pay at the ticket office cash, or you can go to self check-out counters and by your ticket with your credit or debit card.
THINGS TO DO AT IGUAZU FALLS
Apart from walking the boardwalks to get the best view of the falls from various angles, you can also take a boat ride to get even closer (be ready to get wet), visit a bird park, or participate in a helicopter flight over the falls, but this activity is available only on the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls.
The national park where the falls are located is also home to many native animal species such as howler monkeys (we heard them howling in Pacaya Samiria Reserve, and must admit the sound they make is pretty scary), toucans, capybaras, and even jaguars.
But as all those animals are shy, your best bet is to see coatis, because they are everywhere around, especially at places with a vast concentration of food. Coatis belong to a raccoon family, so they look cute, but make sure they don't get too close to you as their claws are sharp.
No matter how adorable they look, we hope that it goes without saying that you should never feed them!
FOOD AT THE FALLS
Unsurprisingly, the food within the park is expensive - there is a buffet restaurant, so in case you are traveling on a budget, it is smart to bring own food. When visiting from the Brazilian side, the entire visit including transport should take you around five hours, so bring only your snack and eat when you return to Foz do Iguazu.
WHAT TO PACK
It depends on the season when you are visiting the falls, but most of the time the weather in the region is hot and humid, so wear a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts.
Do not forget to pack a camera and a waterproof backpack or at least waterproof bag where you can store your valuables. Bug spray is optional we did not find mosquito situation that terrible.
Lots of people wear rain poncho (you can bring your own or by at the bus station or by the park's entrance one) because at some point you will get close to the waterfalls and the water will spray you, but it was so hot at the time of our visit we did not find wearing rain poncho necessary.
From Foz do Iguazu, you can easily cross borders to Argentina or Paraguay. There are frequent public buses running between those countries, to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina or Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and crossing borders is pretty much straightforward.
Make sure the bus driver knows you need to get a stamp to your passport because locals travel freely here, and it is not uncommon that the bus doesn't stop at borders at all.
WHERE TO STAY IN FOZ DO IGUAZU
Budget | Suite Cardoso - Basic hostel, close to the bus station is nothing you would write home about, but in such a touristy place, it is relieving to find cheap accommodation.
Mid-range | CLH Suites Foz do Iguazu - Modern hostel offers both dormitories and private rooms, is centrally located and features free wifi.
Luxury | Continental Inn Hotel - One of the best picks in Foz do Iguazu has outdoor pool and sauna, jacuzzi while it is still close to all important points in the town.
You can also search for all hostel options using HostelWorld.
HOW TO GET TO FOZ DO IGUAZU
Being such a popular tourist destination has some advantages and one of them is good infrastructure. Iguazu Falls are located quite off the beaten path, but the distance doesn't put travelers off visiting although they often have to cover thousands of kilometers only to enjoy a couple of hours in the presence of this massive natural attraction.
It does not matter where are you coming from, the easiest and the quickest way how to reach Foz do Iguazu is by plane, for example from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. The airport in Foz do Iguazu is very close to the entrance to the falls, so you can take public transport or taxi right to the gate. If visiting Brazil only for two or three weeks, taking the flight would be the only way of travel we would be considering.
But Foz do Iguazu is also well-connected with other destinations by bus. For example, we arrived by bus from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and continued from Falls to magical island of Florianopolis, Brazil by taking an overnight bus from International Bus Station.
If you're planning on visiting both sides of the Iguazu Falls, it easy to catch a bus from Foz do Iguazu, Brazil going to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, but do not forget your passport to cross borders and also keep in mind that some nationalities like citizens of the USA, for instance, must pay entry fee.
IS PARK TOO CROWDED?
We visited Iguazu Falls in the high season at the beginning of February and did not have any problems to find the last minute accommodation. The bus to the main entrance was not full at all as most of the people arrive by rental car or by taxi.
We found paths in the park too narrow, clearly not built for that many visitors, so there were places where we had to walk slowly in a line or where we were elbowed by people from one particular nation.
Overall, the situation was not that bad as we mentally prepared ourselves for the crowds and did not picture ourselves being alone at Iguazu Falls.
FACILITIES IN FOZ DO IGUAZU
Foz do Iguaza has many shops, hotels, and restaurants, but when we arrived, we were struggling to find an ATM to withdraw money. To find one, head to Muffato supermarket close to the Rodoviario Urbano.
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