Visiting Iguazu Falls has been top of my travel wishlist for years, because along with Victoria Falls, Iguazu is considered the most spectacular waterfall on Earth.
The size of Iguazu Falls is mind-boggling– no wonder it‘s the highlight of the journey for many travellers to South America. I can honestly say that gazing at the thundering rush of water in front of me, the sight of the falls left me speechless; the beauty, size and mass of water are simply incredible. No photograph can do justice to the experience you have in person, but let me do my best to explain!
Iguazu Falls is the world's largest waterfall system, on the border between Brazil and Argentina and near the border with Paraguay. Overall, the gigantic waterfall system consists of over 200 distinct falls of between 40 and 90m in height, separated by several larger and smaller islands. To put this in perspective, they’re about twice as high as Niagara Falls.
There are two correct spellings; in Spanish Iguazú and in Portuguese Iguaçu. In the indigenous language of Guaraní, Iguazú means "big water".
It’s advisable to visit both the Brazilian and the Argentine side, but the question of which is better is controversial! All in all, you get a better panoramic view from the Brazilian side, while you get closer to the individual cascades on the Argentine side.
If you have time, I’d recommend two or three days in the area, but if you‘re here for one day, you should see the Argentine side for a close-up. However, with good organisation and a (very) strict schedule, it is also possible to visit both sides in just one day!
On the Brazil side, a beautiful panoramic path leads along the edge of the gorge and there are plenty of viewpoints along the way. The Garganta do Diablo (Devil's Throat) at the end of the trail is a spectacular U-shaped, 150m wide and 700m long gorge. The roaring of the falls is deafening here! Through the spray, you can often see a rainbow form, which makes a great photo opportunity – just watch out for your camera, because you‘re guaranteed to get wet!
To comfortably explore the Brazilian side, you’ll need about half a day and the best time is either very early in the morning (directly after opening) or in the afternoon. Mid-mornings on the Brazil side usually have a rush of large groups visiting, so if you want to avoid the crowds, arrive earlier or later.
Most of the falls are in Argentina and three different paths (partially accessible for the disabled), lead you close to the cascades. On the lower path, you can see the falls right in front of you and on the middle path you get a clear view of the waterfalls from above. You can even look down over the cliffs which is a breathtaking feeling!
You can take a short train ride inside the park to reach the third, upper path which offers views over many small islands until you reach the highlight of the falls – the Devil's Throat.
With motorised, inflatable boats you can get right up close to the rapids to just below the falls. Both the ride and the (rather warm!) shower are a special kind of experience. A ride usually takes about 15 minutes and is offered by both sides, but on the Argentine side, you‘ll get closer to the falls.
The area around the falls is protected jungle, one of the last remnants of the Atlantic Rainforest. It has incredible biodiversity, with 2000+ species of plants, many butterflies and many endangered species of animals and birds, including the Toucan.
Look out for capybaras, wild boar and even jaguars, plus large populations of monkeys and South American coatis who roam the entire national park. Don‘t forget - as cute as these animals are; they‘re considered wild and capricious, so keep your distance!
Behind the waterfalls and cleverly out of sight of natural predators, many great dusky swifts breed in the rock. If you’re interested in bird watching, I recommend a visit to Parque das Aves on the Brazilian side, where you can see many native South American birds such as Nandus and Hummingbirds.
The peak visitor season for Iguazu is from late November to mid-March (summer in South America). However, it is pretty sultry and hot during this period. I believe that the best time to visit is between May and June because temperatures are a little lower and the falls can be enjoyed in a more relaxed manner, without the large crowds. Later in the South American winter, it rains more often, and it can be quite fresh at night (down to 10 ° C), so definitely pack warm clothes!
There is a good selection of accommodation in the Argentine town of Puerto Iguazú and Brazilian Foz do Iguacú, but staying inside the park is particularly special! In Brazil, you can stay at the luxurious, colonial-style "Das Cataratas", and on the Argentine side, the Sheraton Iguazu Resort offers unparalleled views of the falls. Best of all – because you’re so close, you can have the waterfalls all to yourself before the park opens for visitors if you head out early in the morning!
Because the falls are pretty remote, reaching them by bus can be long and tiring. From Buenos Aires, Florianopolis or Sao Paulo it takes about 15 to 20 hours to travel by bus.
A better suggestion is to skip the bus in favour of frequent, daily flights to of the two Iguazu airports (one on each side), from key cities including Buenos Aires, Lima and Rio. Landing at one airport and flying away from the other saves a double border crossing – but we will happily advise which option is best for you.
If you’d like to plan a trip to South America and include the falls, we can plan every aspect of your trip! We can show how to include Iguazu on a multi-stop ticket, and we can tailor make your Brazil or Argentina holiday to include a visit. Our well-travelled team can advise on the best value way for you to get there, and make sure you don't miss the highlights. Call us today on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.