Iguazu: everything you need to know before your visit
My first visit to the Iguazu falls took my breath away. I was astonished by the insane amounts of water that kept pouring down as if it was the most normal thing in the world. The noise was overwhelming and left me and my fellow travellers speechless. Read everything about Iguazu, plan your visit and find out why you should always hide your food when you visit Iguazu falls.
When you travel around Argentina or Brazil you don’t want to miss out on a visit to Iguazu falls (Spanish: Iguazú, Portuguese: Iguaçu). The collection of an estimated 270 waterfalls spread out over 2.7 kilometres are hidden in the Atlantic rainforest on the border of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. The majority of the waterfalls are located on the Argentinean side of the border, but in Brazil you have the best panoramic views. Therefore the best way to visit the waterfalls of Iguazu is to visit the Argentinean and Brazilian side. After your visit you can decide which side is your favourite.
Iguazu falls are listed in the top 3 biggest waterfalls in the world. The name Iguazu is very suitable, since Iguazu translates to ‘big water’. The word Iguazu derives from the native language Guarani or Tupi. The sizes of the waterfalls vary from streams that gradually drop down to waterfalls that plunge from 70 to 80 metres.
Planning your trip to the waterfalls independently is fairly easy. You can take a flight from São Paulo or Buenos Aires to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil or Puerto Iguazú in Argentina. From both villages there is the possibility to reach Iguazu by public transport. There is no need for a guide in the park Iguazu. Moreover, the border crossing between Argentina and Brazil is safe to pass by public transport.
If you are looking for a cheaper and sustainable alternative for flying there is the possibility to take a bus from Buenos Aires. I had a positive experience with this bus trip. The bus trip takes about 24 hours. Meals are provided and if you are willing to pay a little more for your bus ticket you will have a comfortable seat.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
In my opinion you can visit Iguazu every month of the year. On the official website of Iguazu Argentina you will find an overview of the climate for each month in Iguazu. Take into account that the summer holidays in Latin America are in December, January and February. The visitor numbers will be higher during these months and therefore I recommend you to visit the park in the early morning to avoid the crowds.
IGUAZU IN BRAZIL
You will visit the waterfalls in Brazil from the village Foz do Iguaçu. Your visit to the Brazilian side will not take a full day because the majority of the waterfalls are located in Argentina. However, your visit will be worth it as Brazil has strategically constructed platforms with spectacular viewpoints.
PARQUE DAS AVES
There is the possibility to combine your visit to Iguazu on the Brazilian side with a visit to Parque das Aves. Parque das Aves is a bird park located right across the entrance of Iguazu park. Parque das Aves supports the conservation of the Atlantic rainforest and aims to protect the high diversity of bird species in the Atlantic rainforest. In this park you will encounter over a variety of bird species in spacious habitats. The park is also a rescue centre for birds that have been saved from illegal animal trading.
IGUAZU IN ARGENTINA
Your visit to the waterfalls on the Argentinean side starts in the village Puerto Iguazú. To observe the waterfall from every angle you need an entire day. The park on the Argentinean side is significantly bigger than on the Brazilian side. You can explore the park by foot or by the Rainforest Ecological Train. The park features two hiking trails: the Upper Circuit and the Lower Circuit. Both hiking trails take approximately two hours. The key difference is the angle of the views you encounter on these hiking trails. The Upper Circuit mostly offers viewing points on top of the waterfalls, whereas the Lower Circuit features frontal views. My advice? Make sure you enter the park early so you have time to do both, it is definitely worth it! Just make sure you bring your poncho to the park on the Argentinean side, as you will get very close to the waterfalls on this side.
GARGANTA DEL DIABLO
The highlight of Iguazu is Garganta del Diablo (devils throat). The clashing water is unbelievably noisy and incredibly beautiful. I cannot describe the amount of water plunging down. Every once in a while you will be blinded by the watery fog rising up as a result of the immense clashing waterfalls. Don’t let that stop you, take your time to take it in and don’t forget to wave at the tourists on the Brazilian side when you are on the edge of Garganta del Diablo.
HIDE YOUR FOOD
It is very likely you will encounter iconic South American coatis at Iguazu. Usually the coatis are already waiting for you at the entry. The truth is that they coatis are not really waiting for you, but they are waiting for the food inside your bag. Please read the warning signs in the park and do not feed the coatis. Make sure you pack your food carefully and check your surroundings before you take food out of your bag. Coatis spy on you, then wait for the perfect moment to creep up on you and snatch your lunch. This might seem like the behaviour of domesticated animals, but do not forget coatis are wild animals. It is very unlikely industrialised food is healthy for coatis. Therefore, try to prevent coatis snatching your lunch for your own safety and for the health of coatis.
Your visit to Iguazu is definitely worth two days in your travel itinerary. The Argentinean side is more popular but I guarantee you that you will love the Brazilian side too. I visited the Brazilian side twice because I was astonished with the breathtaking panoramic views. On a final note, enjoy your visit to these great falls and take your time to take it all in.