Every travel guide book and website suggests to visit Foz de Iguaçu during a trip in Brazil and there are no questions, why it was chosen as one of the world’s new wonder. The Iguazú (or Iguaçu in Portuguese) Falls are the biggest waterfall system in the world, shared by Brazil and Argentina and should be visited from both sides. The cataracts stretch to an incredible 2.7 km width. It was discovered by a Spanish colonist in the 16th century while he was looking for El Dorado – a worthy finding instead! In this post you’ll learn how to visit the Iguazú Falls in Argentina.
The Iguaçu / Iguazú Falls National Parks
The spot of this natural wonder is near the meeting point of 3 countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and the waterfall itself is visible from Brazil and Argentina, forming the border between the countries. Travellers are advised to visit it from both sides, as the Argentinian side gives a closer look with views from more angles and the Brazilian side the grand overview. The 2 sides have built their own national parks around the falls with entry price in their own currency (see at the bottom) and complicated, connecting public bus lines between them – leaving tour operators to make a living by operating direct connections. The town at the Argentinian side is called Puerto Iguazú, and Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side.
Iguazú Falls in Argentina and in Brazil are national wonders and thus there’s a lot of tourism in both towns.
Accommodation at the Iguazú Falls in Argentina
Accommodation tends to be less expensive at the Argentine side, so even though we travelled from Brazil and would continue our trip in Brazil, we opted for a hostel in Argentina. We stayed at “El Guembe Hostel House” which included a nice breakfast in the price, had hammocks in the garden and a pool to bathe. The staff was helpful with giving advice on visiting the falls from both sides and on border crossing. Despite Puerto Iguazú being a small town with the cataracts being the single top attraction, locals are friendly and we didn’t feel so much in a touristy place. The empanadas are grand at “Empanaderia Cataratas Del Iguazú“! The only annoying part about staying in the Argentine side is that we had to withdraw Argentine Peso to pay the hostel, the national park and other expenses – which meant queuing at the cash machine.
The Iguazú National Park Argentina
At the Iguazú Falls in Argentina we spent a full day. The national park offers 5 routes to see the falls:
- La Garganta del Diablo – “The Devil’s Throat”: this trail goes up very close, to the top of the water where one can feel that immense energy the plunging water creates – in my opinion offering the most majestic view. Bring a poncho or enjoy the water drops from the waterfall! To reach this view point, you need to take a free train from the entrance – get a ticket that is issued at a desk and wait for your time slot.
- Circuito Superior: it gives a bit more distant view of the upper part of the cataracts, perfect for panorama pictures! The end of this trail gets close to the water and you’ll get wet.
- Circuito Inferior: similarly to the Circuito Superior, this trail allows a view a bit further of the bottom part.
- The Iguazu Falls Boat Ride (Gran Aventura) : it’s a boat ride that goes to an island in the Iguazú river, in front of the falls (this was closed off when we visited).
- Macuco trail: one that goes to a small, separate fall, an hour hike in the forest.
All but the last 2 routes are mostly on a metal structure that leads visitors over the incredible delta of the river, leaving a super sensation of walking on the water. Where the water falls down to the river, there’s a huge mist, like a constant small rain. The viewing platforms go that close to the falls that visitors come back wet. The cataracts consists of many bigger and smaller waterfalls in a step-like layer.
There are many animals in the park that are not afraid of people: colourful birds, coatis, butterflies, toucans, monkeys. I found it amazing that these animals live at a national park that is so popular!
It was a beautiful day and we were amazed by this work of nature. The weather was quite bad, raining and grey sky most of our stay, just clearing out for the day of our visit of the cataracts on the Argentinian side.
The Iguaçu National Park Brazil
Since there’s a different view of the Falls from the Brazilian side and every travel guide advises, we set off to the Iguaçu National Park Brazil. The thing that we didn’t calculate in is the terrible waiting times for transportation at the border and the massive queues at the Brazilian side in the natural park. In the end we couldn’t see the falls from the Brazilian side (we had to turn back before getting the lift to the falls) because we would have missed our bus to Florianopolis! It was a big shame and we were angry but at least there’s something we need to come back for. Lesson learnt: leave plenty of time to visit the Brazilian side!
Anyways, we read that there’s only one viewing point on the Brazilian side which takes less time to visit, compared to Iguazú Falls in Argentina side.
Crossing border between Argentina and Brazil
The way of travelling between Puerto Iguazú and Foz do Iguaçu is by public bus that will take you through the border. You can catch it at the main bus terminal – there are various bus companies operating at this route, all at the same price. When one exits the country, needs to get an exit stamp at the border (this is normal). The public bus that brings people from the Brazilian to the Argentine side, full of people, locals and tourists alike, doesn’t stop at the Brazilian border, only at the Argentine – this is not normal! So we were a bit worried about paying a fine upon returning to Brazil when border agents would see the lack of exit stamp but in the end we got through it with “only” an hour waiting time for the next bus at the border. The public bus doesn’t wait while passengers are at the immigration, so take all your belongings and after you’re cleared, wait to catch the next bus – your ticket will be valid for the same bus company, but just in case, ask when purchasing.
Hito Tres Fronteras, the point where the 3 countries meet
In the Iguaçu towns there’s not much to see apart from the cataracts. A nice walk leads up to the point where the 3 countries meet (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay). It’s here where the Iguaçu river falls into the Paraná river.
At the Argentine and Brazilian side there is tourism built around it (street sellers, monuments, fun fair) but the Paraguay side is painfully empty and undeveloped.
At the Brazilian side there’s a bird park, Parque dos Aves, where exotic birds fly free in a closed space where visitors walk (we didn’t visit it).
Crossing to Paraguay
There are regular bus connections to Paraguay’s border city, called Ciudad del Este. It’s advertised as the place to shop as all goods are cheaper than in Brazil and Argentina. We didn’t go there, but we heard that the bridge between the countries is dangerous to walk at night.
Entry to Iguazu National Park, Argentina: 2000 ARS (open 8am-4:30pm) – more info on the park’s website
Entry to Iguaçu National Park, Brazil: 102 BRL (open 9am-5pm) – more info on the park’s website
For those who’d like to visit the Argentine side again two days in a row, there’s a 50% discount on the 2nd day!
Have you visited any of the world’s big waterfalls? Can you describe the feeling you had there? Share your story with us!