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Iguazu Falls

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide South America Iguazu Falls

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Introduction

These amazing and famous waterfalls are truly one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Bordering Brazil and Argentina, the Iguazu Falls comprise of 275 waterfalls which cascade along the cliff edges for some 2,700 metres, falling from heights of up to 80 metres.

The falls can be viewed from both Brazil and Argentina, however with more than 70% of the falls located within Argentina, visitors are advised to allow more time on the Argentinean side to appreciate this spectacular sight. While the Argentinean side of the falls allows you get "up close and personal", the Brazilian side offers spectacular panoramic views.

The falls are jointly located in the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and the Iguaçu National Park (Brazil) and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and 1986.

The biggest attraction at the falls is Devil's Throat, right at the top of the cliffs 70 to 80 metres above the river. Here the largest volume of water passes with a strong and impressive roar that can be heard several miles away. Stroll the 2.2-kilometre dirt track and then walk along the board walk over the swollen river to view this part of the falls from only a metre or two away. There is also a free passenger train from the lower part of the falls to reach the board walk.

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Opening Hours

The Brazilian side of the falls opens daily at 9:00am and closes at 5:00pm during the winter and 6:00pm in the summer. The Argentinean side can be visited between 8:00am and 6:00pm.

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Cost

On the Argentine side the admission to the park depends on where you are from. US, European, and Asian visitors pay the top price of ARS500. Residents of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela pay less. No credit cards accepted - only Argentinean pesos to enter the park, with second day for half price if you get your ticket stamped before leaving on the first day. There is one ATM near the main entrance, but it is often empty. Most of the food and souvenir shops inside the park do accept credit cards, but insure you have enough pesos for the day. Subsequent days to the park are free if you tell them you are staying at the Sheraton.

The Brazilian side costs BRL65 (cheaper for Brazilian, Argentinian, Paraguayan, Uruguayan and Venezuelan residents).

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Sights and Activities

The Iguaçu Falls are an awesome sight as tonnes of water throw themselves over cliffs and the mist rises amongst the jungle. They are taller than Niagara Falls, and twice as wide, for which Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed on her first sight of the falls: "Poor Niagara!" It is well worth spending a day on each side of the falls, especially if you plan to do any of the boat rides or other activities offered. Don't just rush past the main viewpoints and leave. It's important to get a good perspective on the park overall to appreciate this awesome sight. Whilst the majority of the falls are in Argentina, a better overview is had from the Brazilian side.

Argentine Side

The park is fairly well organized: they have a train line so you can get from the entrance to the main circuits (Circuito Superior, Garganta del Diablo, etc. See bellow). They also have food stands inside the park close to the train stations, but food and drinks are very expensive there. It is a good idea to bring some food and water if you are going to spend the day on the park. Luggage storage is available at the entrance to the park for ARS100/150 for a medium/large bag respectively. Garganta del Diablo is the main attraction on the Argentine side - do not leave without having seen it. Occasionally trails will be closed to access because of puma sightings.

There are five main tracks all of which are paved and well marked with the exception of Sendero Macuco:

  • Circuito Superior - is a short walk to some nice viewpoints along the upper rim of the waterfalls
  • Circuito Inferior - is a longer walk on the bottom end of the falls with the main attraction being the lookout to watch Salto Bossetti and Dos Hermanas. This pathway leads also to the free ferry service to Isla San Martin (that may or not be closed), and the tour operators.
  • Isla San Martin - has two main lookouts to different sides of the falls. There are also a lot of birds. Access by boat only (free). This may be closed when the river level is high. You can always ask the park authorities or watch the information TV sets within the park to see if the access to the island is open.
  • Garganta del Diablo - The main attraction of the Argentine side. There is a free train running up to a 1-kilometre-long walkway across the river to stand just back from the main horseshoe of falls where the roar and spray are most tremendous.
  • Sendero Macuco - is the trail through the rainforest to the Arrechea waterfall and is a good way to get away from the crowds. It's about 7 kilometres return on an unpaved but easy path starting at the Estacion Central. Swimming is possible beneath the fall, so consider bringing a bathing suit and towel. An informative brochure for the trail is available from the park information desk. It is recommended to do it in daylight, so don't start it if it's after 15:00.

Brazilian Side

On the Brazilian side you get an excellent overview of Devil's Throat (from afar) and the rest of the falls.

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Getting There

Lots of private tour companies offer transport to and from the falls, or alternatively both the Brazilian and Argentinean public bus system offer stops at the falls.

By Air

The airport at Foz do Iguaçu is served by flights from Curitiba, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The falls are located approximately 4 kilometres from the airport. Cataratas del Iguazu airport (IGR) has flights to and from Buenos Aires multiple times a day.

By Bus

Local buses run from Foz do Iguaçu city to the falls on a regular schedule. Buses cost 1.85 reals and run every 20 minutes from Centro. The bus terminus on Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek has a Tourist Information Office where they speak excellent English.

From Sao Paulo to the Iguazu Falls will cost approximately USD $79 leito (sleeper bus - Pluma). Conventional or executive buses will cost approximately US$49. Travel time - 16 hours. From Sao Paulo, buses normally depart in the evening and arrive the next morning.

If you are planning to come to the Iguazu Falls by bus from Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, try to take an Argentinean bus as they are more comfortable and have more legroom.

Frequent bus connections from Puerto Iguazu exist to and from Buenos Aires (18 hours), Cordoba (Argentina) (23 hours), Corrientes (9 hours), Posadas (5 hours) and San Ignacio (4 hours). Many more cities are served though, just ask around. Buses also go to Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

By Car

Taxis from the center of the city to the falls should cost around 40-50 reais.

The main car rental companies have offices at the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu airport. Make sure that you mention at the time of your reservation that you intend to cross into the Argentine side to visit the park. You need a special authorization from the rental car company for that. Insurance bought on the Brazilian rental car is not valid in Argentina. You need to buy a special "carta verde" while still on the Brazilian side. It is sold at lottery stands. A three-day pass costs BRL45. If caught without a "carta verde" on the Argentine side you are liable to be charged very heavy fines.

Renting a car gives you a lot of flexibility in exploring both sides of the cataracts.

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Getting Around

Both sides of the park are well served with foot trails.

On the Argentine side of the park there's a small train leaving about every half an hour from near the entrance going all the way to the beginning of the trail to the Garganta del Diablo.

On the Brazilian side, there's a bus service connecting the falls with other activities. That service runs from the entrance to the end of the park every 10 minutes in both directions.

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Eat

On the Argentine side, the Sheraton hotel right in the park provides a good alternative to the junk food stalls located throughout the park. There's a nice terrace you can rest from which you can see the mist coming out of the falls and also generally see toucans and other birds flying around. In Puerto Iguazu you can have a cheap meal on the different buffet restaurants.

On the Brazil side, there's a buffet that stands right next to the throat at the Porto Canoas station at the end of the walking trail. The food is not good but the view of the river makes for a surreal sight as you know the falls are really close by but you can't really see them other than the mist and the noise.It's a nice place to eat. In addition to the buffet at BRL40 you can grab a (burger) combo meal at one of the outlets right in front of the buffet restaurant for around BRL10.

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Drink

On both sides of the falls there are enough opportunities to buy a drink.

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Sleep

There are only two options to stay inside the park within walking distance to the falls: Sheraton in Argentina and Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil. Both are a bit pricey and take advantage of their position.

There are possibilities of staying very near to the falls, but those are generally expensive upmarket hotels. It's better to stay in either Foz do Iguacu on the Brazilian side or (much better) the Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu, which might be smaller than Foz, but is a great place to stay with less problems regarding safety. Here you will find a list of most budget accommodation in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

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This is version 19. Last edited at 10:54 on Aug 10, 17 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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