As soon as I mentioned to people that I was going to South America, those who had been would ask if I was visiting Iguazu Falls. Initially, my answer was no, but in hindsight, that would have been a mistake. Learn about Iguazu Falls, how to get there and more in this complete guide to the Iguazú Falls.
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About Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls is a famous waterfall located on the Argentina Brazil border. It is one of the largest waterfall systems in the world.
The falls are formed by the Iguazu River, which divides into multiple channels and cascades down a series of cliffs. They were added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list in 1984.
Iguazu Falls is made up of about 275 individual waterfalls, which vary in size and shape. The most famous of these is called the Devil’s Throat, a U-shaped waterfall that is about 82 meters tall.
The thunderous sound of the falling water and the mist created by the powerful cascades make it a mesmerising sight.
The falls are set within a lush and biodiverse national park that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.
Visitors can explore the park through a series of well-maintained trails and walkways that offer different viewpoints of the falls.
Boat tours are also available for a closer look at the cascades, but be prepared to get wet!
Fun fact: Iguazu Falls served as a filming location for the movie “The Mission” in 1986. The movie starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons and showcased the beauty and grandeur of the falls to a global audience.
How to experience Iguazu Falls
Since Iguazu Falls are on the border, they can be visited from both Brazil and Argentina. While there is always a debate about which side of the Iguazu Falls is better, I don’t think it matters, and both sides are worthy of a visit.
There is an airport on each side of the Falls, Aeroporto Internacional de Foz do Iguaçu (IGU) on the Brazilian side and Aeropuerto Internacional Cataratas del Iguazú (IGR) on the Argentinian side. It’s very easy to confuse them (I’ve heard more than one tale of people getting it wrong) so make sure you know which one you are flying to/from.
It’s a little over two hours of flight time from Rio de Janeiro and just under two hours from Buenos Aires to get to the respective airports. Check out the flights on Skyscanner.
There are also long-distance buses that will take you to Iguazu, but remember distances are huge and it will be quite a ride. it is more than 26 hours from Rio de Janeiro and 17 hours from Buenos Aires.
If you do choose to take the bus, book one with sleeper seats for more comfort.
On the Brazilian side you will stay in the town of Foz do Iguaçu, and on the Argentine side, it’s Puerto Iguazu.
To confuse matters even more, you could also visit the Iguazu Falls on a day trip if you are staying in the town of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay as it’s directly across the Paraná River from Foz do Iguaçu.
Our visit to Iguazu Falls
My visit to the Iguazu Falls was in February 2023. The date is important because prices are changing quickly in Argentina, so please just use them as an approximate guide.
We flew to Puerto Iguaza from Buenos Aires and stayed for two nights, allowing one full day for visiting Iguazu Falls. We only visited the Argentina Iguazu Falls, but in hindsight, we could have fit in a short visit to the Brazilian side on the second morning of our flight out – but more about that below.
We stayed right in the town of Peurto Iguazu and getting from there to the falls is really simple. Buses leave from the main bus station in the centre of town every twenty minutes and cost 700 pesos each way (less than $3AUD at the time of my visit, but changing quickly). It’s about 30-45 minutes to the entrance to the falls.
Entry to the Iguazu Falls National Park was 5500 pesos (which was roughly $22AUD) if you pay at the gate on arrival. At the time it was 15% cheaper to buy tickets online beforehand, but it wouldn’t accept our credit card.
Not sure if it was an “us” problem, or if it is a problem with all international cards. If you want to have a go getting your tickets in advance, this is the website.
We arrived about 8:45am and while there were plenty of people around, there was no wait to buy tickets or get inside. The park opens at 8:30am
Once inside we had to purchase tickets to the boat ride. This is run by a separate company so two payments are needed. This was 14000 pesos per person ($56AUD).
It consisted of a half-hour truck ride through the jungle, about a one-hour jet boat ride and then the half-hour ride back again.
The boat ride was the first thing we did, and it was pretty fun. It seemed really short, but it probably wasn’t – it was just that we wanted more!
We went about 6km up river, over some rapids (which I thought were quite small) and close to some of the waterfalls for some great photo opportunities.
Then the fun part – we actually went UNDER two of the waterfalls, twice each!
Yes, we knew about this beforehand and were prepared to get thoroughly soaked to the skin, and we weren’t disappointed.
They do provide a dry bag to put anything you don’t want wet into. It leaked a little for us, so I don’t recommend carrying things like passports as we did.
Normally we don’t, but they often require them when using credit cards here in Argentina and we knew we would be doing that at the gates.
Many people wore bathing suits, so that is perfectly acceptable. I wore a very light dress I knew would dry in no time, and Simon did what all the guys did – stripped down to just shorts.
It was no hardship to be wet for the next little while – it was around 30 degrees and very tropical so it was nice to keep cool.
It was around 12 pm when we finished, and before heading off on the walks to the falls, we grabbed a quick snack in one of the food places. Prices seemed reasonable and there was a range of options available.
There are three popular hikes here to see different areas of the falls, each one takes around 90 minutes. During our visit though, the famous Devil’s Throat trail was closed.
There was some flooding late last year and it washed away a lot of the walkways. It opened again in March, so this will not be an issue for you.
We spent the afternoon walking the other two trails – the Lower Circuit (which also has some sections closed) and the Superior Circuit (also called the Upper Circuit).
The are multiple views of the waterfalls, some from a distance so see all the falls, others from right above as they fall over the cliff face, where the power of the falls cannot be missed.
It was a hot, sweaty afternoon, but worth it to see Iguazu Falls.
The Iguazu Falls are in a national park area and there was also a lot of wildlife there. We particularly liked seeing the Coati, little raccoon-like critters that hung around the food areas, as so many other animals do all over the world.
There were also monkeys that we were warned liked to steal things from unsuspecting visitors.
And everywhere there were butterflies. Huge butterflies, small ones, and every colour of the rainbow. I had one take-up residence on my shoulder, and even when I tried to get it off it instead moved to my hand. I had to physically pick it up and put it elsewhere to get rid of it!
It was worth the effort to come and see the falls and I am glad we did, but we did miss out on some opportunities we only found out about later.
The night we arrived was the last night of the February full moon, and we could have gone and walked one of the trails in the moonlight. One couple staying at the same place did it and said it was great.
I also didn’t consider just how easy it would be to visit the Brazilian side of the falls. After asking a few people, I was told crossing the border on the bus was very easy.
We had definitely been spooked when we saw the huge line of cars on the way in from the airport, but the buses bypass the line.
We could have squeezed a trip across to the Brazilian side in the morning before we left. Some other people at our accommodation did exactly that with a helicopter flight over the falls.
We didn’t see them afterwards as they went straight to the airport from there to fly out, but it sounded like an awesome thing to do!
Resources for Visiting Iguazu Falls
We all like to do things a little differently, so my way of seeing the Iguazu Falls may not be the way you want to do it, so in this section, I will give you a few more options. Most will be for the Argentinian side because that is what I know, but I will include some information for the Brazilian side too.
We flew into Aeropuerto Internacional Cataratas del Iguazú (IGR) and had pre-arranged our airport transfers. We were happy with a shared transfer for the incredibly cheap price on offer.
It was easy to find the bus & driver outside the doors and the ride into town was uneventful (we did have to stop and let a family of coatis cross the road!). Our return pick-up was arranged in advance by WhatsApp with the local driver and he arrived on time.
If you prefer a private transfer, this looks like a good option.
If you are looking for transfers on the Brazilian side, try these.
One tour to do it all
If I was to do it all again, then this tour has all of the things I would include. It’s perfect if you don’t want to organise everything yourself and you want to have a memorable visit. The tour runs over two consecutive days from Puerto Iguazu, and includes
- Argentinian side with boat ride under the waterfalls
- Brazilian side with helicopter above the falls
Getting to the falls
If you just want to get to the Iguazu National Park entrance and then go on from there here are some of the options to get to the Argentinian side from Puerto Iguazu
- Public bus: as mentioned above, this is the most cost-effective option. The tickets are just a few dollars and the bus leaves from the main bus station in Puerto Iguazu every twenty minutes or so. The return buses leave from right outside the ticket office (go to the right as you walk out)
- Taxi: you can easily call a taxi, or ask your accommodation to do it for you. I hesitate to give a price estimate because of the rapid changes occurring, but ask your accommodation for the latest when you get there.
- Private transfers: this is a popular option because it can be organised in advance at a time to suit and it’s relatively cheap.
Day tours from Puerto Iguazu
These day tours from Puerto Iguazu cover a few different options to see Iguazu Falls Argentina & Brazil sides. Note that most of the tours do not cover the national parks entry fees, so take that into consideration
- Full-day tour to the Argentinian side which includes the boat ride
- Full-day tour to both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of Iguazu Falls
- Half-day tour to the Brazilian side
- Helicopter flight over the Brazilian side with pickup
Day tours from Foz do Iguaçu
Here are some Iguazu Falls tours you can book if you are staying on the Brazilian side of the falls. Again, national park fees may not be included.
- Full-day tour to the Argentinian side without the boat ride
- Full-day tour to the Argentinian side including the boat ride
- Full-day tour to both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of Iguazu Falls
- Half-day tour of the Brazilian side
- Helicopter flight over the Brazilian side with pickup
About Puerto Iguazu
I didn’t expect much from Puerto Iguazú, because we were there solely to see the Falls, but I found quite a nice little town. It is very tropical, and it was like we were back in South East Asia, which is not a bad thing.
It’s nestled on the southern side of a junction where two rivers meet, and those rivers are the borders between Argentina and Paraguay and Brazil. There is a viewpoint in town that I recommend visiting at sunset, called Hito Tres Fronteras which gives great views over the rivers converging and the bridge that connects Brazil and Paraguay.
We walked to the viewpoint, about a 3km round trip from the centre of town, but there is a lot to see along the way too. It’s a circuit, and it’s best to walk along the riverfront on the way out and the road away from the river on the way back. This means more downhill walking and less steep climbs than in the opposite direction. Of course, you can drive there too or catch a bus, but we enjoyed the walk.
There are two main areas for visitors in town – affectionately called Drink Street and Food Street, they are actually located on Brazil Street and Cordoba Streets respectively.
On our way to the viewpoint we made a quick stop in Brazil Street for a drink while waiting for it to get closer to sunset. We picked a random bar called Lecker.
While it was quite empty at that time of day, we had fun interacting with the staff (who spoke only a tiny amount of English, but enough to laugh at each other about how bad were all were in the other language), and enjoyed a drink in the air-conditioning.
The bar was decorated with some great murals and other funky bits, like cassette tapes and CDs stuck to the walls.
For dinner, we ate at two restaurants recommended by our host – Restaurante La Ruenda & Aqva Restaurante Iguazu.
Both are full-service restaurants and offer the local specialty of river fish and many other options.
Dinner each night for two, including a bottle of wine, cost us around 11000 pesos ($45AUD) which was a good price for what was included. It would be at least double at home.
There’s really not much else to do here, but I did see some things like horse rides in the jungle and an eco-tour offered by the local tour companies.
There is a lot of wildlife around – cheetahs, coati, monkeys, tapirs, a small native deer, and probably more I’ve forgotten about.
So, all in all, I would suggest a stay of 2-3 nights here, mostly to see both sides of the falls.
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about visiting Iguazu Falls
How many days do you need to see Iguazu Falls
If you are pressed for time, a single day at Iguazu Falls will give you a good overview of everything there is to see here.
If you want to go a little slower and perhaps include an extra activity, like the helicopter ride or the full moon walk, then I recommend two full days to see both sides of the falls, with either two or three nights depending on flight times.
Can you visit Iguazu Falls in one day?
If you are in Buenos Aires and only have a single day to visit the Iguazu Falls, then yes, it is possible. In fact, the cruise I was on offered this as a day trip the day we were in port, and it’s a great idea for those who are pressed for time.
The day trip includes flights to and from Aeropuerto Internacional Cataratas del Iguazú (IGR) where a guide will meet you and take you to visit the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls. It’s a private tour, so you can arrange the day however you wish. Find all the details here.
What are the best months to visit Iguazu Falls?
Thankfully, the Iguazu Falls have plenty of water in them year-round, so a visit at any time will prove to be spectacular. There are some months that you may prefer though.
Over the summer months of December to February is when the falls tend to be at their peak, but this time of year also tends to be the wettest and most humid.
I was there early in February, and I can confirm it is hot (it was around 30 C or 86 F when we were there) and very tropical.
If you don’t like the heat or humidity, this may not be the time for you. It didn’t rain during our visit, but it is common in these months.
Summer is also when those of us in the Southern Hemisphere (including the Brazilian and Argentinian locals) take our holidays, so this is considered peak tourism season and hotel and flight prices tend to be higher.
Winter has the opposite issue – it is when all the Northern Hemisphere people take their holidays, and in July the locals have their winter holidays so it can be very crowded. The weather is cooler though, you may just need to pack a jacket.
The best months are the shoulder months in between, so April/May and September/October. Crowds are smaller and the weather is mild without being cold. It’s a good idea to avoid Easter if you can because this is another time the locals travel.
How much does it cost to go to Iguazu Falls
This is really complicated on the Argentinian side due to the inflation in Argentina and the steady increase in prices.
My visit in February 2023 with the boat ride cost around $80AUD ($55USD). Note that this can change depending on the payment method used. Tickets for the full moon walk start at $138USD per person.
Entry into the Brazilian side of the national park costs 86 Real, so approximately $17USD
What time are the Iguazu Falls open?
The Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm. The Brazilian side is open from 9 am until 6 pm. There is no entry after 4:30 pm on both sides.
Is it worth going to Iguazu Falls?
Of course, this is subjective, but I loved my visit to Iguazu Falls. I included it on my itinerary after I was told by multiple people that it was one of the best things they did in South America and I shouldn’t miss it.
Thankfully, I was not disappointed and to me, Iguazu Falls were worth it!
Even though we couldn’t go to the Devil’s Throat, I still felt it was value for money, especially with the fun boat ride. I mean, how often do you get the chance to go underneath a waterfall?
Which side is better in Iguazu Falls?
I can’t answer this one as I did only visit one side, but again, I believe this is subjective. Some people love the Brazilian side, others love the Argentinian side. My recommendation is to visit both if you can, but if not, whichever side you are on will still be spectacular.
Where to stay when visiting Iguazu Falls
This was probably my favourite of all the places we stayed in South America!
In Puerto Iguazú we stayed at Rincón Escondido B&B, and I would happily recommend this place to others. It’s a small family-run hotel, with maybe seven rooms. It felt like a little oasis.
Rincón Escondido B&B is located right next to the river in town, about a ten-minute walk from restaurants, bars and the bus station.
It looks like a very residential area, but it is actually dotted with small hotels and B&Bs. Most of the big hotels are out of town so would require transport to get into town.
The communication before we arrived was great, with offering to arrange airport transfers and other things for us. We did not take them up on this as I had organised something else, but it was great to have the offer.
The rooms were basic but clean with everything we needed. Importantly, they had air conditioning as it was a tropical 30 degrees during our stay. They also had a pool and some lovely outdoor areas to use.
Breakfast was included. We let them know the night before what time we wanted it and it was made on demand. It was a tasty bowl of fruit, some bread and pastries and eggs, with coffee, tea and juice available too.
TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs
Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.
Hire a rental car – RentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.
Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.
Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.
Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.
Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.
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