You can hear them from far, way before you can get a glimpse of them. A constant throb, deafening. More than 1.700 m3/second. More than 270 falls spread over 2.700m (almost 2 miles) in a semi circular shape. Iguazu Falls are a gigantic nature wonder. At the border of Brazil and Argentina, the falls have everything to get on every traveller’s bucket list. Here are my tips to get the best out of your visit to the cataracts.
Be ready to be amazed
I remember really well my visit to the Iguazu Falls. They say the falls spread ions which have a positive effects on visitors, I am not sure if it true but I just kept a big smile on my face for the all day. The falls are impressive, but what I didn’t know was the National Park is also a little wonder of itself. It’s a pristine forest where absolutely everything seems to be taken over by vegetation. It’s a luxurious jungle where toucans, iguanas, butterflies, coatis live together with more shy anteaters, tapirs, caimans or jaguars (rarely seen).
It’s the subtropical forest as you have it in your mind (maybe because the falls where featured in one of the Indiana Jones movie). You will remember the humidity, the heat, the splashes and the raindows. And as weather changes quickly in this region you can’t really know what to expect: between the exceptional precipitations of 1983 where the debit of water was 20 times the usual one, and the droughts of 1987 or 2006, the falls can take a totally different appearance and some trails can be inaccessible.
How long do you need to visit the Iguazu falls?
- Plan a full day to visit the Argentinian side, there is so much to see! If everything is open and you want to take a boat tour, you may want to take opportunity of the second day at 50%.
- Half a day visit is enough to cover the Brazilian side. Even if you walk tall trail and go to all the view points you will have enough with 4h.
- Save time and stress by staying 2 nights in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina). From there there are regular shuttle to both sides, allowing you to take a day trip to the Brazilian side (don’t forget your passport!).
- Avoid week-ends if possible to enjoy a calmer visit.
So… should you visit both sides?
I visited both sides of the Iguazu Falls. And I loved the Argentinian park, it’s vast, there are many viewpoints and trails to the main falls and some smaller and you really feel in the middle of a tropical park. A few hours on the Brazilian side, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to get closer and inside the Garganza del Diablo (Devil’s throat).
On the Argentinian side, it’s by going on the Isla San Martin and on the last part of the upper trail that you can have a similar experience. Both of these are frequently closed due to the level of water. If they are not, they ensure you a fantastic experience… and you may as well skip the Brazilian side.
On the Argentinian side you should not miss the Macuco trail . This 3.5km trail -one way- reaches the Arrechea Stream, a gem of the park less frequented. According to the scientists, this is where the falls were located 1.000 years ago before moving back with the erosion. For you, it’s the occasion to take a swim in a paradisiac natural pool with a 20m waterfall in the background. Note also that there is a chance to see monkeys on the side of the park. The trail is open 08.00-15.00, allow 2h30-3h
Set up your budget
- On both side, the entrance prices are different for national residents and foreigners. For the ones who don’t live there it will cost you about US$28 Argentinian side (payable only in cash in Argentinian pesos), US$18 Brazilian side
- Transfer to the park: around US$11 return
- Be ready to get wet! Take a boat trip and get closer to the bottom of the falls (US$35).
- The spectacular 10min helicopter tour over the falls will cost you US$120 – from the Brazilian side only
What to pack:
- sun block
- plenty of water
- mosquito repellent
- rain coat: if you don’t use it for the rain, you will use it for the Brazilian side (you may want to pack a waterproof camera pouch as well)
- swim suit: if the weather is good, you will be happy to have a refreshing swim on the Argentinian side
- a picnic: food is really expensive on site (watch out for the hungry coatis!)
A few tips about Puerto Iguazu (Argentina)
Where to stay: Hostel Garden Stone in Puerto Iguazu (Argentina): a great swimming pool, an open kitchen, a relaxing garden, nice rooms and helpful owner. I can highly recommend Garden Stone which one of the best hostels where we stayed in South America!
One more tip: There is a great bakery opposite the bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu, perfect to get a picnic before leaving for the falls.