A Travel Guide to Iguazu Falls

“You can’t go wrong” is an overused phrase, but perhaps it’s not that out of place when describing a visit to Iguazú Falls. You go there for one reason: to see thousands of gallons of roaring water drop from a great height – to spectacular effect. You can’t exactly take a wrong turn and miss it. Yet there are some pointers worth knowing to get the most out of your stay. Here’s The Real Argentina’s “all you need to know” guide.

Should I visit both sides of the falls?

Iguazú Falls stretch across protected parkland between Argentina and Brazil, with both sides offering great panoramas. We’re slightly biased, of course, but we think the Argentinian side has the edge, thanks to the walkway that allows visitors to gawp down into the abyss below the biggest drop, the 82-metre high Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo). Do not miss this. Expect something like the video below, but louder, wetter (pack a poncho), and even more impressive:

The Argentinian park is tastefully constructed on the site of the former airport. It has its own eco-train and, admirably, almost all the park is accessible to those with physical disabilities or pushchairs.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian side is the place to head for active add-ons, such as helicopter rides and rappelling with views of the falls. Ideally, it’s best to do both sides and that’s easily achievable. Just be sure to check the visa situation in advance.

How much time should I spend there?

In theory, you can do both sides in one day, but it’d be a rush. It’s better to aim for two, including half a day in Brazil. Beyond Iguazú, Misiones is a fascinating and touristically under-explored province, so add on some days if you can to appreciate the often-forgotten Atlantic Rainforest. Iguazú is not, we repeat not, on the Amazon.

How do I get around?

You can easily hop between the two sides by taxi or an organised transfer, via your hotel/hostel. There are regular public buses too, which cost just a few pesos.

Where should I stay?

In Argentina, the nearest town to the falls is Puerto Iguazú (population 60,000), which is not an attraction in itself, but beats the concrete jungle of the nearest Brazilian town, Foz do Iguaçu, which is over five times as big. Puerto Iguazú has a few bars and chain cafés with outdoor seating, surrounding a crossroads known as Siete Bocas. The best restaurants in town are La Rueda and Aqva. The destination hotels lie on its outskirts, including character-filled La Aldea de la Selva and the luxurious Loi Suites, with its striking pool complex. A good, central hostel is Garden Stone. If you want to pay the premium for falls views by staying inside the park, the Brazilian option – the Orient Express-owned Hotel Das Cataratas – is more attractive than its Argentine counterpart, The Sheraton.

When should I go?

Again, you can’t really go too wrong, but do your very best to avoid Semana Santa (Easter week), when the park has been known to turn people away because it is so full. Capacity – along with humidity and prices – also peaks in high season (January and February). Try to go on a weekday if possible, and don’t forget to check the full-moon calendar to see if you can make the special monthly night tours. On a daily basis, the best time to see a toucan is from around 5pm until park close.

What to pack

Extra camera batteries, a rain jacket, and maybe even a change of clothes, as you will get wet, especially if you take the boat trip. In the winter (July-Sept), it can get surprisingly chilly in the evening, so pack layers.

How will I spend my day in the Argentinian park?

There are two main walking circuits (inferior and superior), plus the walk to the Devil’s Throat, which can all be done in a day. On the second day, you can cross over to Isla San Martín for a different perspective, or take the Macuco trail (a 7km round-trip) that goes away from the main attraction to a small chute that you can bathe under, where the falls originally stood many years ago.

Should I do the boat trip?

Iguazú Travel Guide - Iguazú Falls
Iguazú falls by boat – Photo by Phillip Capper on Flickr

An adventure company onsite offers boat trips on the Argentinian side. The idea is to get as close to the falls as possible, so you get wet (incredibly wet) and somewhat scared. There is also another route, with a longer lead-in through calm waters, where you see the falls suddenly appear from nowhere. It’s a shame they don’t offer the run-up part – where the falls’ dramatic qualities speak for themselves – as a standalone trip. Note that the company also bills the jeep ride – essentially an a-to-b shuttle with a barely audible commentary – as an “adventure”. It is a good ride, but it’s about as adventurous as taking a colectivo in Buenos Aires.

So, that’s it. You’re all set. Enjoy. Or if you’ve already been to this world wonder, feel free to post your impressions and suggestions below.

As a final tip, it’s probably best you don’t take the same approach to Iguazú as James Bond and Jaws:

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Vicky Baker
For five years, journalist Vicky Baker was Buenos Aires's stalker. She randomly turned up on its doorstep whenever she could, kept track of all its movements and felt seethingly jealous if anyone else made a move. Finally in 2008, she took the plunge and made the city her base. From here, she writes for the Guardian, Time Out, Reuters, Sunday Times Travel Magazine and others. In here spare time she also writes a travel blog – www.goinglocaltravel.com – and gets over her inadequacies as a non-steak-eating, non tango-dancing wannabe porteña by drinking lots of Malbec.

3 responses to “A Travel Guide to Iguazu Falls

  1. weinfurtnerp says:

    Regarding this, I have an AWESOME TIP for you! I recently
    discovered special city maps… Locals in cities all over the world share their
    insider tips on a HAND-DRAWN MAPS: http://www.alacartemaps.com

  2. VickyB says:

    Someone pointed out on Twitter that the walkway to Garganta del Diablo was damaged last month following unusually high water levels. I've just spoken to someone at the park and new walkways have now be installed. All is now open again as per usual.

  3. Hey,
    Must say very beautiful sight. I have never been there. After seeing the video and acquiring the travel tips from you, i think i should visit this place with my family and enjoy Iguazú Falls as per your instruction.

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