A visit to Iguazu Falls has been on our bucket list for years. If you haven’t noticed yet, we love waterfalls! We trek for hours to see a little trickle cascading down a mountain and get elated at the sign of big gushing streams, hoping to snap the perfect long exposure shot.
But there is more to our love for waterfalls than Max’s obsession with long exposure photography. There is something really magical and grounding in seeing Mother Nature’s work, at feeling it’s power and strength from up close.
When a trip to Brazil was added to our 2016 plans, there was no question about whether Iguazu Falls was going to be on the itinerary. The only question was, how long do we stay and how do we see the best of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
We gave ourselves 3 days in Foz Iguazu, a small town that serves as a gateway to the falls. One day to arrive/depart, one day to explore the Brazilian side, and another day just in case we wanted to check out anything else in the area.
Visiting Iguazu Falls from the Brazil Side
We arrived in the park mid-morning giving ourselves lots of time to explore the area. But once inside, we quickly discovered that while there was certainly lots of activities available (kayaking, boat ride, bird watching, jeep tours through the park, etc) the admission price of $17 would essentially only allow us access to Trilha das Cataratas.
Trilha das Cataratas is a 1km loop trail with sweeping views of the falls that winded right into the Devil’s Throat, where Rio Iguazu plunges down splitting into dozens of waterfalls. And it was, without a doubt, the one unmissable thing to do in the park.
There were about half a dozen of stops and designated viewpoints along the trail, each one with its own line up of tourists waiting to take the perfect selfie with the falls in the background.
The crowd caused a bit of a delay, (as did everyone’s interest in the furry coatis that ran around the trail stealing food from the gawking tourists) but exploring the trail didn’t take more than 2-3 hours.
The views were really spectacular, the photos turned out great and we were overall very happy with our day at the falls. Until… well until we realized how much better it was on the other side.
Visiting Iguazu Falls From the Argentinian Side
The following day we made our way across the Brazil/Argentina border, somewhat unsure whether the visit was going to be worth it. (How much different could the falls really look from the other side?)
That day we realized that it wasn’t just about how different the falls look from the other side, it was about the whole experience that made for a much more enjoyable visit. Here are our reasons why.
Parque Nacional Iguazu is More Developed on the Argentinian Side
There was nothing wrong with the Brazilian side of the park. It had trails, a few souvenir shops, a small cafe and some tables at the end of the main trail to grab a bite to eat and relax after the walk. But the Argentinian side offered so much more. There were lots more shops, more food options, cafes, lots of rest areas, picnic areas, and tables (albeit infested with the cute furry coatis).
There were just as many people visiting the falls from the Argentinian side but the park absorbed the crowds well, managing to keep access to viewpoints and trails line up free.
The Treks are Better on the Argentinean Side
The $22 admission to the park on the Argentinean side gives you access to not just one but 5 different trails, ranging from just 600m to 7 kms in length. We had just over 6 hours inside the park, but even that wasn’t enough time for us to check out every single trail.
One of the trails winds around Isla Grande San Martin (a small island accessible by boat) offering unique views of the falls, another one takes you over the top of the Devil’s Throat, allowing you to look down at the drop. The rest take you through the forest offering views of the falls from multiple viewpoints.
The Brazilian side allows you to see the bigger picture, but it’s the Argentinian side that lets you get really really close and feel the power of Iguazu Falls.
Boat Ride to the Base of the Falls is Cheaper in Argentina
Nothing helps you feel the power of the falls better than a boat ride into the area where dozens of falls empty into the Rio Iguazu.
We looked into doing a boat ride on the Brazilian side, but heard a tip that’s it’s significantly cheaper to do it in Argentina. And it was! $70 for a boat in Brazil compared to the $30 it cost us to do it in Argentina.
The ride lasted only 15 minutes but we were completely drenched in the end. The boat took us to a drop on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, getting us sufficiently wet under each set of falls.
Iguazu Falls Look More Spectacular from Argentina
Brazil may offer a more sweeping view of the falls, but all along the main Trailha Das Cataracas the view remains pretty much unchanged.
In Argentina, on the other hand, each trail offered a completely different perspective, offering views framed by a permanent rainbow that straddles the two sides of the river.
At the end of the day, our advice is…
If you are planning a trip to Iguazu Falls, don’t put yourself into a position where you have to choose between the two sides. Plan to spend at least 2-3 days at the fall giving yourself plenty of time to explore both sides of the National Park. Getting a chance to experience the falls from both sides will allow you to get the true feeling of the greatness of one of the World’s Top Natural Wonders!
Essential Travel Info:
Getting in: Foz Iguazu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazu in Argentina both act as a great base for exploring the Iguazu National Park. The park is located just outside of the towns but is easily accessible by bus from Foz Iguazu town centre or from Puerto Iguazu town centre). The best way to get into the towns is by flying as both are located rather far from the main cities of Argentina and Brazil. If you book flights in advance you can find return tickets (Rio to Iguazu, Sao Pauli to Iguazu, or Buenos Aires to Iguazu) for around $200 return.
Where to stay: There are plenty accommodation options in Foz Iguazu and Puerto Iguazu. We stayed at the Nadai Comfort Hotel e Spa in Foz Iguazu. It was a great centrally located hotel with a good restaurant on site that served as the perfect base for our time in the area.
Need to know:
- When visiting the Brazilian side of the park, bring snacks to tie you over while you explore the Trilha das Cataraca , as there aren’t that many restaurant options along the way.Wear a good waterproof jacket or a buy a disposable poncho in town before you go (they charge $8 for them inside the park and only $2 in town).
- Wear waterproof pants or bring a change of bottoms along with the raincoat, as you will definitely get wet top to bottom while walking across the Devil’s Throat walkway or if you plan on taking the boat ride to the base of the falls (do it, it’s totally worth it). Take shoes off in the boat and keep them inside your bag if you don’t want to keep them dry.
- Watch out for coatis. They are cute but vicious (like monkeys in Bali). We saw them chasing people around the park to steal food from their backpacks.
- You don’t need more than 4 hrs on the Brazilian side (unless you want to do any of the extra activities like kayaking, keep tours, etc). Give yourself 8+ hours inside the park on the Argentinean side.
- Don’t forget that crossing the Argentina/Brazil border means you have to deal with visas. Many nationalities will require a visa to cross over to the Brazilian side (this includes US, Canadian, and Australian passport holders. British Citizens get visa free access) and Canadians as well as Australians will need a visa to get over to Argentina (and it’s not cheap! $80!) Argentinian Visas can be purchased at hotels in Brazil on the day of the crossing, but Brazilian visa may need to be obtained ahead of time.