Iguazu Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world.
It is huge, and sits across three countries – Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
It’s easy to visit both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of the falls.
Both are very different experiences, so it’s worth visiting both. The Brazilian side is known for sweeping views of the falls, whereas on the Argentinian side, you can get “closer” to the falls.
Try to go on a sunny day to maximise your chances of beautiful weather. You will also see more butterflies.
THE BRAZILIAN SIDE
How much time do you need?
At least half a day will give you enough time to walk along the paths, and take a few photos.
You can also do a boat trip, and a mountain bike excursion, or visit the Bird Sanctuary which is a popular attraction. (The Bird Sanctuary is pretty cool if you want to see macaws and toucans up close).
How can you get there?
Bus 120 leaves the bus terminal in the centre of Foz in Brazil. It takes about an hour to get to the Brazilian side of the falls from Foz.
The same bus stops off at the airport so it is possible to go straight to the Falls from the airport. We saw big lockers for you to store large rucksacks on the Brazilian side but none on the Argentinian side.
The last public bus to leave the park leaves around 6.30pm.
THE ARGENTINIAN SIDE
How much time do you need?
The Argentinian side is bigger than the Brazilian side, so you ideally need a full day to make the most of your time there. There are lots of walking trails, a train, and different viewpoints, including the island in the middle of the park.
We walked one way to the Devil’s Throat rather than take the train and saw lots of wildlife birds, small mammals, and butterflies. The walk took about 20 minutes.
Although Brazil is generally more expensive than Argentina, food and drink was a lot more expensive on the Argentinian side. Take water and some snacks, or a packed lunch if you want to save money.
The Argentinian side is less developed than the Brazilian side. The paths are dirt tracks, so wear proper shoes (i.e. no Havaianas) if it’s wet.
How can you get there?
The journey from either Foz or Puerto Iguazu’s bus stations to the falls takes around 30-45 minutes.
If you are in Foz and want to avoid changing buses in Puerto Iguazu, and don’t want to take a taxi, Hostel Katharina (near the bus station and next door to the Best Western) can arrange transport directly to the Argentinian side of the falls. It leaves at 8am and returns at 6pm. The journey takes about an hour, so you have a full day at the Argentinian side of the falls. The guy at the hostel will also give you tips on how to structure your day which was useful. The cost of the transfer was 35R. This is more expensive than taking public buses but will save you a lot of time. (The first public bus to puerto Iguazu leaves at 7am). We were forced to buy the Argentinian side of the falls entrance ticket when we paid for the transfer. We paid 65R which turned out to be about $8 more expensive than buying the ticket yourself. Try to just buy the transfer ticket if you can.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO DO THE BOAT TRIP – ON THE ARGENTINIAN OR BRAZILIAN SIDE?
If you want to take a boat trip, do it on the Argentinian side. Both sides offer exactly the same boat trip, but it’s cheaper in Argentina.
There are two options for the boat trip, a 45 minute version, or a 12 minute version. The 45 minute journey is double the price of the 12 minute journey.
The only difference is that the 45 minute trip includes a boat ride down some “rapids” and you get a jeep ride through the park and a bit of a talk about the animals. For me this was not worth double the fare.
The 12 minute ride takes you as close to the falls as the 45 minute one. That was the main reason for us taking the boat trip – to get wet and close to the falls.
In hindsight, getting wet was fun, but a bit theme parkish.
You do get to take photos of the falls from the boat. But, unless you have a waterproof camera, the photos you take are not that much different than the ones you take near the docking point opposite San Martin Island.
The boat staff tell you to put away your cameras as you get closer to the falls, so you have plenty of time to put things away. Large heavy duty waterproof dry sacks are provided so you don’t have to worry about your valuables getting wet.
You are going to get extremely wet so take your swimwear and change in to it when you’re there. There are changing rooms set up for that purpose.
If you don’t have swimwear and havaianas (or similar), take a complete set of dry clothes for you to change in to and take off your shoes. Don’t be an idiot and walk around in soaking wet jeans and trainers all day.
People on the sides and maybe the front of the boat tend to get a bit more wet so stick to the middle of the boat if you want to maximise your chances of getting less wet. Beware of having anything in your pockets and waves coming in over the edge of the boat whatever is there will get soaked too. (Passports and fading visa stamps don’t dry out too easily…)
WHICH SIDE OF THE IGUAZU FALLS IS BEST?
The Argentinian park is a lot bigger but less developed and less modern than the facilities on the Brazilian side.
Most people we met preferred the Argentinian side of the falls but I preferred the views from the Brazilian side.
Despite the signs, don’t expect to see jaguars or caimans at the falls. Apparently monkeys and toucans are often seen while walking in the forests.
Coatis (a bit like raccoons) are plentiful. You’ll see them in the trees as well as on the walkways. Beware of carrying any rustling plastic bags which can summon them over to you.
Coatis are a bit like ferrel monkeys on crack. They love junk food and go crazy when they see or hear any. We saw lots jumping at people who had food in their hands.
Although we saw some people letting their kids stroke and feed the coatis, it’s not recommended. Coati’s claws are sharp and they can be aggressive, so be careful around them. The marketing on the Argentinian side is much better than on the Brazilian side in that regard – lots of graphic wound photos.
Getting from Puerto Iguazu to Foz
A bus goes between the main bus stations in both cities. Make sure you tell the driver to stop at the border for you to get your passport stamped.
At the Argentinian border, you will have to get off the bus and catch the next bus. You won’t have to pay for the bus again, just make sure you get a token from the driver confirming you’ve paid once.
If you’re on your way to Brazil, the Argentinian bus should wait for you. Just get the next bus coming through if it doesn’t.
The journey between the two towns takes around 45 minutes.
There are no public buses which go from the bus station direct to the falls on the other side. For example, there is no bus that goes from the bus station in Foz to the Argentinian side of the falls. You have to get to the bus station at either city and change there for a bus to the falls.
You can get long distance buses to other places in Argentina from the bus station in Puerto Iguazu. Some operators offered cheaper bus prices if you pay in cash at the Puerto Iguazu station. There is an ATM down the road in town.
The Brazilian long distance buses leave from a bus station out of town, a short taxi ride away. This is a different bus station to the one you will come into from Puerto Iguazu so factor in time to get to it.
There are also long distance buses run by Cruz del Norte that will take you from Brazil to Argentina and vice versa. These are useful if you want to go direct from Foz or Puerto Iguazu to your next destination, for example Rio/Buenos Aires. These buses will wait for you at the border.