Iguazu Falls is a stunning and massive group of waterfalls that straddle the border between Brazil and Argentina, near the border with Paraguay as well.
There’s no doubt that Iguazu Falls is worth visiting. The question is, which side do you visit?
The Brazil Side
The Brazil side is, for the most part, farther away from the falls. You’re at the bottom of the falls, and largely across the river as well. This allows you to get a really good wide view of the entire system of waterfalls.
The Brazil side has a boardwalk at the base of the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo). It was definitely the most crowded part of the park. You are right by the falls and it is dramatic and beautiful.
There’s a bus that takes you between the different points of interest in the Brazilian park. We encountered totally manageable crowds and gorgeous sunshine on our visit.
And lots of rainbows!
The Argentina Side
The Argentina side, on the other hand, is much closer to the falls for the most part. It’s also on top of most of the falls.
Instead of taking a bus, you either walk a ways or take a train to the area where most of the trailheads are. There are a lot more walking trails on the Argentina side. There are also more activities.
Included in your park ticket (if the water level cooperates) is a short hop in a boat over to San Martin Island, which we did. We left the crowds behind and got some great views.
You can visit the Devil’s Throat on the Argentina side as well, but you have to take a train there. When we arrived the line for the train appeared to be at least two or more hours long. We elected to skip it.
Our experience of the Argentina side was fun, but we didn’t get great weather (no fault of Argentina’s…) and the crowds were a little surprising (we had thought South American winter would be low season, if any time, but maybe the people visiting for the Olympics only went to the Argentina side?).
I was really glad, in the end, that we went to both sides. Sure, Argentina has a few more draws in more hiking trails and activities. But Brazil has the panoramic views and I enjoyed getting away from huge crowds. Seeing both sides gave me a better sense of the scale and sheer awesomeness of the place.
Luckily, it’s fairly easy to visit both as long as you have two days to spend in the area. Many people stay on the Argentina side in Puerto Iguazu, but we opted to stay on the Brazil side in Foz do Iguacu.
When we visited the Brazil side, we took a public bus straight to the park. You can even catch the bus right at the airport! If you are coming from town simply go to the TTU bus station, and catch bus 120 to Parque Nacional (it also says Cataratas and has a picture of a waterfall by the proper stop – or just ask at the tourist booth). Note that the bus stops at the airport first.
To get across the border to the Argentina side, it’s also possible to take the public bus, but you do have to be sure to ask to be let off at the Brazil border checkpoint, as locals don’t need to do this. Based on my research, you would need to be sure to get a paper ticket and would need to catch the next bus after having your passport stamped, since they don’t wait for you. Note that the Argentina reciprocity fee has now been waived for US citizens (though it still applies for Canadians and Australians).
Since getting off the bus at the border made me a little anxious, I decided we should take a cab to the Argentina side of the falls. As it turned out, though, the cab driver didn’t realize he needed to stop either – luckily we were able to communicate that we needed to be stamped out at the Brazil side, and we didn’t have any issues. The Argentina side requires all cars to stop, so it’s not such a problem. The cab was about 90 reais ($30 USD), so not a terrible price if you have more than one person.
The Argentina part of the falls only accepts cash at the ticket booth (but there is an ATM). I recommend bringing plenty of cash on your day trip over. You will need cash for your cab ride over and back, for your ticket, and for the tourist tax on the way out of the park (10 reais per person, but they take pesos or dollars as well).
Overall, the visit to Iguazu Falls was awesome. I highly recommend checking it out if you find yourself in that part of the world!
Which side of the falls have you visited?