Iguazu Falls were my second visit to one of the world’s biggest waterfalls. The first was Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2017. The third one would be Niagara, but it’s still on my list. Like their African cousin, Iguazu Falls are on the border between two countries, in this case, Argentina and Brazil. This means if you want to see both sides, you have to cross said border. Cue my first ever and so far only visit in Brazil – lasting half a day.
As I had seen Victoria Falls I must admit I wasn’t expecting to be that blown away by Iguazu. Sure, they would be amazing, but a huge waterfall is a huge waterfall, right?
Wrong. I found the experience of visiting Iguazu to be completely different from Victoria Falls. There were aspects to these waterfalls that I hadn’t seen with the others. Despite my attempt at remaining cool at the sight of such wonder, they completely blew me away and became a highlight of my South America travels.
Starting with the look of the falls that was completely different, to the cute but cheeky little South American Coatis running around everywhere, (honestly, keep far away from them when you’re carrying food; they’re feisty and can bite), to the experience of seeing a Pirates of the Caribbean-like maelstrom – Iguazu Falls are most definitely worth a visit!
To get the best out of your visit, let’s answer some of the most common questions around Iguazu Falls.
Should you visit both sides?
Short answer: Yes!
Long answer: While visiting either the Brazilian or the Argentine side will give you a good idea of the falls and certainly be incredible on its own, I felt visiting both sides was a much more rounded experience. Especially as each side of the falls offers some highlights that the other one doesn’t. I’ll talk more about what those are in the next points.
Which side to start on?
I visited the Brazil side first and then the Argentina side the next day. Which is how I would recommend doing it. On the Brazilian side – where it’s spelt the Portuguese way: Iguaçu – you have a lot more panorama views, giving you a good idea of the incredible scope of these waterfalls.
On the Argentina side, however, you get up really close and personal to the falls. Here, you have the chance to inspect different sections of it in more detail. Prepare to get totally doused in the spray from the masses of water cascading down!
So if you start in Brazil, you basically go from the great panorama down to the close-up experience in Argentina.
What if you really only have time for one side?
Look, I get it. Time can be a valuable commodity when you travel and although I’m thinking a wonder of the world like Iguazu Falls should be worth two of your treasured travel days, circumstances may be so that you really can only do one. In that case, I recommend the Argentina side.
First of all, there was overall more to see on that side, more pathways taking you over and along the falls, more perspectives to share. And while I said that Brazil offers the better panorama views, that doesn’t mean Argentina doesn’t have any. So basically, this side offers you a somewhat fuller and more extensive experience of the falls than the Brazilian side.
What to expect from the visit
No matter what side you’re on, the area around the falls is a national park that you will need to pay entry to. Once inside, there are walkways to take you around the falls.
The Brazil side more or less has one path that you follow from one end of the falls to the other, then head back to the entry on the bus. If you do it at leisure with plenty of photo stops, it will take you around half a day.
The Argentina side is similar, except there’s more than one path here and you’re thus a bit freer to pick and choose where you go. There’s even a little train taking you to Devil’s Throat, the main part of the falls with the biggest flow. Both sides also offer souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes.
If you want to explore it all, plan to spend a whole day on the Argentina side.
What’s the highlight of Iguazu?
The one thing you shouldn’t miss is seeing Devil’s Throat from the top. Devil’s Throat, or Garganta del Diablo in Spanish, is the heart of Iguazu Falls. It forms a half-circle at the end of the chasm where most of the water comes cascading down. More falls then spread along the canyon, but they are smaller.
When you’re on the Brazil side, which I visited first, you get to be inside this chasm and have the falls come down right in front of you. There are pathways over the water, so you can get really close. Be warned though, you’ll get completely soaked from the spray. Not that this is really an issue when it’s 30°C and more, but you might want to take something to keep your camera safe before everything is totally drenched.
As cool as this was, the even better experience was visiting the same spot on the Argentina side. Here, you approach Devil’s Throat from above. As you walk closer, it looks like a giant maelstrom on the water. I was highly reminded of that one of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Anyone remember?
The walkway goes up to its very edge and you can look down at the masses of water cascading down the chasm. It’s breathtaking!
The logistics: Where to stay and how to get to Iguazu Falls
I stayed in Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian side. If you prefer to stay in Brazil, the closest town is called Foz do Iguaçu. Both offer plenty of accommodation options, from cheap hostels to fancier hotels.
In Puerto Iguazu, there were plenty of bus options to get to the falls, on both sides of the border. I assume it is the same in Brazil, but as I haven’t been there I can’t give more details. If you take the bus from Puerto Iguazu in Argentina over to Brazil, it stops at the border so you can go through immigration. Make sure to check beforehand that you have everything you need to cross the border, such as visas. After successfully entering Brasil, you get dropped off at the park entrance. Same procedure on the way back, with a border crossing and theending at the bus station in Puerto Iguazu.
Besides the bus, there are day tours to each side of the falls with guided programs. Personally, I didn’t feel this was necessary, as it was easy to explore the falls on my own. But know there is the option should you want it.
Have you ever been to Iguazu? Or maybe one of the other grand waterfalls? What was it like? Share in the comments!