The Iguazu falls are on the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, approximately a 24 hour coach ride from Rio de Janeiro, or 18 hours from Buenos Aires. The falls lie in two countries, Brazil and Argentina and both sides can be visited easily from either country. We spent a few nights staying on either side of the border, so here are our thoughts on both.
Foz do Iguacu, Brazil
We arrived in Foz after a 27 hour coach journey from Rio. It was meant to be 24 hours but we seemed to gain 3 hours somewhere!? Foz do Iguacu is a fairly large town and has an airport for those who want to save themselves a day of travel. (A 4 hour plane journey from Rio can be purchased for approximately twice the price of the bus ticket.) The town itself is not spectacular and most of the shops seemed to be closed for our 3 day stay….we’re still not sure why. The highlight was by far a pizza place, recommended in the guidebook, that opened our eyes to pudding pizzas! White or milk chocolate or sugar glazed fruit on a pizza base are surprisingly good. Chocolate pizzas aside, there really is only one thing to do in Foz and that is visit the Iguacu falls (Las Cataratas).
The Brazilian side of the falls are very easy to get to. A local bus takes 30 minutes from town to the visitor center, where you purchase your tickets, and then a shuttle bus within the park drives you the last 10 scenic minutes to the falls themselves. We got off at the start of a small paved trail that leads to the falls and were immediately confronted by our first Coati. Whilst these guys look like a cute racoon there are plenty of signs to remind visitors that they are capable of using their large teeth and claws to steal any morsel of food you may have. A short walk later we were surrounded by them, whilst not aggressive, their long exposure to tourists means that the moment you put your bag down they endeavor to find the biscuits, crisps and sandwiches you’ve brought with you, even if it’s at the bottom of your rucksack.
The trail winds along the side of the river Iguacu Inferior and the regular view points give increasingly impressive views of the multiple cascades. The majesty of the Iguacu falls is their scale, it isn’t just one waterfall but lots spread out over a huge area.
On the Brazilian side you can stand at the bottom and get a clear view of the vastness of the river as it tumbles down. At the end of the trail a walkway skims the top of the water and stretches out between a double drop in the falls. On one side you have water crashing from above and on the other it drops away from below, a spectacular sight with the inevitable downside that you get completely soaked.
A quick walk from here and you’re at the cafe at the top of the falls. With the river gently sweeping past and the distant crashing of the waterfall it’s a lovely way to end your trip to the Brazilian side. That is unless you get stung by a wasp. At least Iain now knows he isn’t allergic!
If you have a spare hour after your visit to the Falls, drop into the Bird Sanctuary near the entrance to the park. Here Iain was pickpocketed by an artful Toucan but it was nevertheless worth a visit.
Puerto Iguazu, Argnetina
Local buses run from Foz do Iguacu to Puerto Iguazu throughout the day, so it’s very easy to cross the boarder. (Just be sure to jump off at both boarder controls to get your passport stamped!) In fact this journey is so easy some choose to stay on one side and visit the neighbouring side of the falls just for a day trip.
Puerto Iguazu is by contrast described in the guide book as a much smaller town than Foz. However there seemed to be a lot more activity and we found it a perfectly lovely place to hold up for a few days. Touristy but with plenty of restaurants to suit all budgets.
The Argentinian side of the falls is equally easy to get to from the town and numerous buses can be caught from the main bus terminal in the center. After purchasing your tickets from the visitor center, you have the choice of a short walk or train ride to the start of the first two trails. The first two trails wind through the lush vegetation and stop at various vantage points to give you spectacular views of the falls. Once you’ve tired of these, its a further short train ride to the finale – El Garganta Del Diablo, or The Devil’s Throat. The awe inspiring amount of water cascading down is hard to do justice in words. The raised walkway across the river was also an experience to behold. We thoroughly recommend leaving Del Diablo until last, as its truly is a brilliant end to the trip!
Another highlight for us was the abundance of wildlife on the Argentinian side of the falls. So much so we began to question whether they were animatronics! If it wasn’t Toucans flying over head, or Caimans basking in the sun, it was two Capybaras swimming in the water. See our wildlife photo section for more.
Our final piece of advice….be sure to visit the Jardin de los Picaflores or Humming Bird Sanctuary in Puerto Iguazu. Not in the guide books this place can be a little tricky to find, as its actually just someones back garden, but is well worth the visit. For about 45 minutes we sat mesmerised by hundreds of hummingbirds swarming around the flowers and feeders, just inches from our eyes.