I expected the falls to be beautiful and to be a highlight of our trip. But I was unprepared for just how amazing they are. The falls are magnificent! It is not their height or width that will stun you, but the sheer amount of falls (small and large) in such a small area. Everywhere you turn you see waterfalls, rainbows, and green. It was truly spectacular. If you fly, make sure to look out the window as you land to see the expanse of the green canopy as far as the eye can see. You want to see the falls from both sides, but if you only have time for one, then do Brazil.
You can stay on the Argentina or Brazilian side of the falls. The Argentina side is a unique very small town (really more of an outpost) that provides basic services for tourists and locals. There is a walking street with a dozen or so restaurants, the bus station and a grocery store or two. We were repeatedly warned not to be out at night and to be careful on the Brazilian side; however, we were out past ten and never felt unsafe. It may just be a friendly competition between the two economies. Foz do Iguacu on the Brazilian side is a robust and bustling border city, that while it lacks any charm, it has industry beyond just tourism and the falls. I don’t know that I recommend one over the other. It probably depends on your flight/bus schedule and whether you are coming from Brazil or Argentina.
The Argentina side of the falls is open from 8-5. The Brazil side is open 9-5. Remember, Brazil is one hour ahead of Argentina.
In Argentina, a taxi from the airport to town is $350AR. This was the only time on our trip that we felt both annoyed and ripped off. But other than the bus at $120AR per person there were not any options. Additionally, be prepared to pay an Ecotourism tax on the road into town on the Argentine side ($20 ARS per person).
The most affordable and common way to get to the falls on the Argentina side is to take the bus. The bus station is in the middle of town and leaves frequently. Tickets on Rio Uruguay are $130AR per person for the round trip. (There are also hourly buses to Brazil). There is a Shell station next store to the terminal if you want to stock up on water before your trip to the park.
The falls alone are well worth the side trip to Iguazu but there are also several adventure options to fill your time while here – boat trips under the falls ($450AR or $800AR), sky diving, ziplinning, and rock climbing ads were everywhere.
You need cash for the bus and park entry. We were told once inside the park, all of the food establishments take credit cards, but they were all inoperable while we were there. Cash in Argentina was very stressful. While on the Argentine side of the falls, we only found one working ATM. We were not alone because we met several tourists there with the same problem. If you have not already read it, take a look at my recommendations for cash in Argentina.
We also ran into a snag getting money on the Brazil side of the falls. There were no functioning ATMs near the hotels but there is a shopping center about 9 blocks along Ave Republica Argentina and they a working ATM that gave enough cash at once for our entire three days in Brazil.
You want a full day to explore the falls on the Argentina side. There are four primary walks around the park. Start with Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) first thing in the day before the tours become overwhelming. Take the train up. It is a 3km uphill climb to Devil’s Throat. You will still get plenty of steps in walking around the rest of the park. The train fits more people than it looks and the line moves quickly. I almost opted out and walked instead of waiting in line, but one train fits at least two full rows of the line. The park is more “developed” than I expected with paved paths and frequent food kiosks and bathrooms with running water. It does not feel like exploring nature. That said, the falls are phenomenal and unlike anything you have ever seen!
Similar to Niagara Falls, one side of the falls is perfect to get up close and personal (Argentina) and one side is best for the overall view and big picture (Brazil). I was doubtful that anything could be better than Argentina and because we were short on time we almost skipped it the Brazil side. You don’t need a lot of time (two hours is more than enough) but you don’t want to miss it. These two hours are worth the cost of your $160US Brazilian visa (need to arrange ahead of time). The views are spectacular!
If you have the funds and are looking for something special, check out the Sheraton Iquazu Resort and Spa. I did not stay here but may consider it on my next trip. The hotel is in the park, has a view of the falls and means that you can be out viewing the beautiful scenery without the hordes of tourists.
****If you have time, stop at the Guiraoga Refuge (Argentina side) which is in between town and airport. Our flight arrived mid-afternoon so we went directly from the airport (last entry is 4:45). They have a room where they allowed us to store our bags. The entrance fee is $150AR and they have tours in both English and Spanish where they will discuss their work of their mating and their release programs as well as their struggle against traffickers and increasingly endangered habitat. As they talk they will their resident animals such as parrots, toucans, crocodiles, monkeys, coatis, ocelots, and turtles. There is a taxi stand about two blocks away to catch a ride back into town.
***La Rueda (Argentina side). Our group had mixed feelings about this meal. I had pasta which was fabulous and I would go again in a heartbeat. My friends were not as crazy about their meal and did not love their fish, veal or steak. But the outdoor patio was beautiful and they take credit cards … and since we were always low on money in Argentina this was a huge plus.
****Brasa Burger (Brazil side) is one of the highest rated meals on the Brazil side of the falls for a reason. They are cheap, fast, good, have outdoor seating and large beers. They have both lamb and beef burgers and we all agreed the lamb was better.
****Jasy Hotel (Argentina side) is back off the busy streets and feels like you are deep in the jungle. The rooms are large and perfect for a big group (sleep 6-7 pers). Rooms have balconies and there is a nice pool. The staff was nice. There was no Wi-Fi in the rooms and the shower was disappointing but I will stay here again on my next trip (if I don’t spring for the Sheraton).
***Del Ray Hotel (Brazil side) felt more like a dorm than a hotel but they had a good breakfast (but no black tea), a great shower and an exceptionally helpful staff with a “travel agent” on sight that was able to help us make the most of our limited time and tight connections. For $35USD, they arranged a transfer for four people to the Brazilian side of the falls (with our luggage), waited while we spent two hours in the park and then drove us to the airport to catch our flight to Rio. They also arranged a transfer for us several days later that picked us up at the airport at midnight, transferred us across the border and dropped us off at our Argentina hotel for $44USD. (Triplice Tour (45)9121-5314).
While planning my trip, I really wanted to venture into Paraguay for a couple of days. I could not figure out how to do it and it just felt too hard and probably not worth the $160US visa that had to be arranged in advance. However, once we arrived, it appeared it could have been done very easily. On the Argentina side we saw several ads for day tours. And while in Brazil, our cab driver told us he takes tourists across the border all of the time.
Travel Tips: The border between Brazil and Argentina is open 24 hours. Both times we crossed it was both fast and easy. If you need to do laundry, there is a laundry on the Argentina side (located near the bus terminal). It is $130AR per bag regardless of weight. You can drop off and pick up in the same day and Jasy hotel delivered it for us. Give yourself some time at the airport. We were told we would not need more than an hour on the Brazil side, but it took us over an hour to get from the curb to the gate due to the line at security. The airport on the Argentina side was smaller and much easier to navigate.
Recommendation: 2 ½ to 3 days at the falls!
Side note, all of these photos were point and shoot with my 30 month old phone. They do not do the falls justice. In a few weeks, I will post some photos from my good friend and professional photographer, Walter Dedrick. Prepare to be amazed!!