Iguazu Falls are an incredible sight to see right on the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Watch as 450,000 cubic feet of water rush over the edge every second, and hundreds of rainbows arch amongst the falls. One of the most impressive sets of waterfalls in the world, it’s no question that Iguazu Falls should be part of any traveler’s trip to South America. But there are a few things you should know before you go to help you get the most out of your visit and to avoid any unexpected complications.
The international border runs directly through the falls, so half of the falls are in Argentina and half are in Brazil (and the water comes from Paraguay). This means the two national parks that they fall within, although very similarly named (Iguazú National Park in Argentina, and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil), are totally separate, as are the tickets, rules, tours, prices, and everything else within them.
From the Brazil side, you’ll get a panoramic view of all of the falls on both the Brazilian and Argentine sides. You can get close, but on the Argentine side you can get closer to more of them (but then you lose the panoramic view). For this reason, the discussion over which side is better is an endless one, and visitors who want the full experience should visit both. If you can only visit one, you can’t go wrong. Neither is better, they’re just different!
Because the border runs through the falls and the parks are separate, you cannot simply hop from one side to the other, unfortunately. If you are traveling to Iguazu Falls from within Brazil, you will already have the visa for the Brazilian side, but, dependent upon your nationality, you may have to get any required visas for visiting Argentina to see the Argentine side (and vice versa). For many nationalities, this won’t be an issue, but for those that do require a visa, unfortunately, there are no exceptions even if you are only entering the country to see the falls.
You should also check regarding immunization requirements. Australian residents, for example, require yellow fever shots if returning to Australia within 6 days of visiting Brazil. Brazil also requires Yellow Fever immunization prior to entering if your passport shows that you have visited some specific South American countries, such as Guyana.
Since the parks are separate, you will need to exit one park and then cross the international border to enter the other country in order to see the other side of the falls. This ends up taking quite some time, and it can be hard to anticipate lines at the border. If you plan to visit both sides of Iguazu Falls, you should allow at least one day for each side.
Within both expansive parks, tours run that offer a range of activities! From hiking to bird watching to animal sanctuaries to soaking wet boat tours at the base of the waterfalls, there is no shortage of ways to experience Iguazu Falls.
There is no bad time to visit Iguazu Falls with the temperature and climate being fairly consistent throughout the year, but those coming during the rainy season (South American summer, December through February) will see the maximum amount of water rushing over it.
If you come during the dry season (South America’s winter, April-June), then the bright sun against the waterfalls is sure to create plenty of the famous rainbows (and you can count on sunny skies!).
Try to avoid weekends and local holidays, especially Easter week, to avoid excessive queuing.
In both parks, you can find some incredible flora and fauna, including several rare and threatened animal species: the jaguar, ocelot, anteater, harpy eagle, and yacare caiman included. You will also be able to see magnificent birds like the great dusky swift and toco toucans and a rich variety of butterflies.
In addition to the more exotic species, the coati is a well-known Iguazu resident. For visitors from other countries, it may seem exotic just the same, but the coati is a common creature in these parts playing a similar role to the raccoon in North America. You won’t be able to miss them, as they aren’t afraid of anyone and will stand around idly for tourists to snap photos of. Be careful if you have any snacks in your bag though- they also aren’t afraid to climb on up and jump right into your purse or backpack to get that bag of chips or half a sandwich you were saving!
There’s no escaping it, you will get wet (and besides, that’s half the fun). Make sure you wear waterproofs and protect your camera as it can get quite wet on some viewpoints. Some people even visit the waterfalls in swimsuits in the summer (Jan – Feb)!
Visitors in wheelchairs or with physical difficulties may prefer to visit the Argentina side as 90% of the Iguazu National Park in Argentina is accessible to people with disabilities.
The city on the Brazilian side is Foz do Iguaçu, big and reasonably safe by Brazilian standards, but we recommend staying in the small and pretty Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu which has some of the best hotels and spas in the country.
Two of the great things to do near (and over) the Falls are a visit to the Parque Das Aves (Bird Park) and taking a spectacular helicopter ride over the Falls. For those after either a view of a bird or two (1400 to be exact) or a bird’s-eye view of the Falls via helicopter you should head to the town of Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side.
If you’ll be visiting a few destinations, you may find it easiest to include a trip to Iguazu Falls with Rio and Buenos Aires. Due to the smaller airport in Iguazu, you’ll have to connect through one anyway, so why not make a trip out of it? Flights are most regular (and the cheapest) between Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro, but all of these cities are popular jumping-off points. You can also travel by land, but anticipate bus rides of about 24 hours.
Hopefully, with these travel tips, you now feel a little bit more prepared for your visit to Iguazu Falls. Our destination specialists are on hand should you need any further information.
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