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In fact, the Iguazu Falls are taller than Niagara Falls in Canada and wider than Victoria Falls which is on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. It’s truly one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world and lives up to all the hype! Eleanor Roosevelt famously claimed “Poor Niagara!” when she first saw the Iguazu Falls.
If you’re traveling through South America, you really can’t miss the chance to visit this natural wonder. However, there is some key information that you need to know before you don your waterproof jacket and head to the Iguazu Falls.
We’ve put together this guide to ensure that your visit is as smooth and easy as possible, so you can spend less time stressing and more time appreciating this beautiful waterfall. Here’s your complete guide to visiting Iguazu Falls!
1. About Iguazu Falls
One of the most important things to know is that Iguazu Falls straddles the border between Argentina and Brazil.
Around 80% of the falls are on the Argentinian side, while the remaining 20% is on the Brazilian side. It’s also pretty easy to cross between sides, but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The falls are 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) wide and consist of 275 individual waterfalls. In terms of height, the falls range between 196-270 feet (60-82 meters) tall.
Basically, they’re pretty huge! In fact, in the Guarani/Tupi language, Iguazu means “big water”.
The falls are also famous, having appeared in several Hollywood movies, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Miami Vice.
And of course, like any great natural feature, there’s an interesting legend behind Iguazu Falls.
The Guarani-Tupi people lived around the Iguazu Falls long before the Spanish arrived in South America. They believed in many gods, and one of their most important deities was M’Boi or the Serpent God.
In one of the villages that surrounded the falls, a young couple was destined to be married. Naipi, the bride-to-be, was very beautiful and the Serpent God fell in love with her. He demanded that instead of marrying her fiancé, Taruba, she be sacrificed to him.
Terrified, Naipi and Taruba decided to run away together. However, M’Boi chased them and made new curves and chasms in the falls as he did so. Eventually, he transformed Naipi into a giant stone and Taruba into a tree on the other side of the falls, so that the lovers would forever be separated.
A rainbow often forms from Taruba’s tree on the Brazilian side to Naipa’s rock on the Argentine side, which is said to symbolize their love. Aww.
However, the Serpent God is believed to still jealously watch the lovers from one of the deepest parts of the river, which is also known as the Devil’s Throat – one of the best waterfalls to visit at Iguazu Falls, in our opinion.
2. Where is Iguazu Falls?
On the Argentine side, it can be found in the Misiones province, and on the Brazilian side, it is located in the state of Paraná. You can visit the falls from either side and it’s possible to cross over once you’re there.
Of course, being so close to the border means Iguazu Falls is located in a very remote area, making the task of traveling there difficult to justify on a short holiday.
With that said, this is the most beautiful waterfall Bailey and I have ever seen in person, and we liken not visiting to skipping Machu Picchu in Peru!
3. How do you get to Iguazu Falls?
Well, that all depends on where you’re coming from.
Rio de Janeiro to Iguazu Falls
If you’re visiting the falls from the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro, then brace yourself for a pretty long journey, as they’re roughly 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) apart.
Since it’s so far away, it is possible to fly. A flight from Rio to Iguacu Airport costs anywhere from $65-$300 USD, depending on your dates, how far in advance you book, and whether or not you fly direct.
The flight lasts 2 hours and from the airport, it’s only a 5-minute taxi ride to the Iguazu Falls, or there’s a bus to the Foz do Iguaçu city.
Alternatively, there’s the overnight bus if you’re looking to save some money. The bus from Rio de Janeiro to the Iguazu Falls takes between 23-26 hours, so prepare yourself for a long journey. Ticket prices start from $70 USD and there are several companies that offer this route, including Catarinense and Pluma Internacional.
To be honest, with the rise in popularity of budget airlines, the bus doesn’t save you as much money as it used to, so unless you really hate flying, we’d recommend that you do that.
Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls
You can also fly between the two for as little as $40 USD for a direct one-way ticket. Then, from the airport, it’s just 10 kilometers/6.2 miles to the falls. You can take a bus from the airport to the falls for around $8 USD.
Again, you can take the overnight bus from Buenos Aires to the falls if you prefer but to be honest, we recommend that you fly. The bus was a cheap option before budget airlines really set up shop in South America. A bus ticket costs around $45 USD – $60 USD for a one-way trip, so you’re not really saving that much money, and you’re losing quite a bit of time.
Foz do Iguaçu
Foz do Iguaçu is the town on the Brazilian side of the falls, and one of the two main bases for visiting.
Once you’ve arrived in Foz do Iguaçu, the entrance to the falls is 30 minutes from downtown or 15 minutes from the airport. From either the airport or downtown, you can take a bus or book a private shuttle to the falls. Or, to make things easier, you can book a guided tour (more on the best tours below.)
Puerto Iguazú is the main base on the Argentine side of the falls. It takes around 20 minutes to get to the falls from Puerto Iguazú by taxi, or you can take a bus from the main terminal, which takes around 35 minutes and costs around $8 USD.
4. Which is the best side of Iguazu Falls – Argentina or Brazil?
Each side has its merits but overall, we’d have to say Argentina.
The Brazilian side offers the best overall view of the Iguazu Falls and is amazing for taking photos, but on the Argentinian side, you can get much closer to the waterfalls themselves. There are more boardwalks along the waterfalls, and there is just so much to see. On top of that, the majority of the falls are on the Argentinian side, so you certainly get to explore more.
We do recommend doing both sides, though.
You’ll need to bring your passport with you if you want to cross the border as you’ll need an entry stamp, even if you’re only crossing over for a few hours. The best way to cross the border is in a private vehicle, as the local buses don’t automatically stop at checkpoints and this could land you in trouble! Taking an organized tour also ensures a smooth and quick border crossing.
5. How much is the Iguazu Falls entrance fee?
The Brazilian side of the falls is generally cheaper than the Argentinian side. For non-Brazilian nationals, the entrance ticket costs roughly $20 USD when you’re arriving from Foz do Iguaçu. On the Argentinian side, it costs $30 USD per ticket.
On either side of the falls, Brazilian and Argentinian citizens receive a 40-50% discount when entering their respective sides of the falls.
6. What is the best time of year to visit Iguazu Falls?
There’s really no bad time to visit the Iguazu Falls, as they’re spectacular all year round.
January, February, and Easter are very busy times at the falls as this is when the majority of locals tend to visit. During these months, expect lots of crowds.
April to October are the most comfortable months in terms of temperatures and humidity, but from June onwards the water flow dwindles somewhat and so the falls aren’t at their most impressive.
During the rainy season, which runs from December to March, the water flow is super impressive but you also may well get caught in a monsoon, which is less than ideal.
So all in all, April and May have the best balance between good weather, high water flow, comfortable temperatures, and relatively few crowds.
7. What are the Iguazu Falls opening hours?
On the Argentine side, Iguazu Falls are open from 8 am to 6 pm daily, with the last entry at 4:30 pm.
On the Brazilian side, the falls open slightly later at 9 am but close at 6 pm with the last entry at 4:30 pm, just like the Argentine side.
This is the same every day of the year, including Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter Sunday.
8. What are the best things to do at Iguazu Falls?
Jet boat tour
A jet boat is an amazing and adventurous way to experience Iguazu Falls. This is a thrilling ride that takes you through the rapids and even under the cascading water. It’s an amazing way to get as close as possible to the falls – just remember to bring a change of clothes if you’re planning on doing this because you will get wet!
You can book a jet boat ride on the day at the park, or you can book a combined jet boat tour and jungle safari. You’ll get to hike trails near the falls, jet boat under the water, and go off-roading in the jungle nearby. It’s $92 USD per person and doesn’t include the entrance fee to the falls which you’ll have to pay separately.
See the Devil’s Throat
The Devil’s Throat is at the heart of the Iguazu Falls, right in the middle of the Argentine and Brazilian sides. It’s a steep drop into a large frothing pool that’s fed by 14 cascades.
Earlier in this post, we regaled you with the legend of how this deep pool was formed, but long story short, it’s said to be a result of the Serpent God’s jealousy over a beautiful young bride.
You can visit Devil’s Throat from the Argentine side of the falls. There’s an open-air train that runs every 15-20 minutes that will take you to the entrance of a short walk to Devil’s Throat. You can catch the train from the Argentina visitors’ center or the Cataratas station, which is in the middle of the park.
Cruise along in an open-top jeep and learn about all of the incredible flora and fauna that the Iguazu Falls have to offer. You’ll get to ride through the jungle in the national park and catch incredible views of the falls. Plus, you can combine this activity with a jet boat tour for even more adrenaline-fueled fun.
Go on a scenic flight
There are few things we love more than a scenic flight, and nothing can beat soaring over the magnificent Iguazu Falls. This 10-minute helicopter ride from Foz do Iguaçu will give you amazing aerial views of some of the falls’ most spectacular features, including Devil’s Throat.
Your pilot will hover right over the falls and circle several times so every passenger gets that amazing view (and incredible photos!). The flight isn’t cheap at $202 USD per person, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime view!
Visit Parque das Aves
Parque das Aves is a bird sanctuary located in Foz do Iguaçu which, as you may remember, is the base town on the Brazilian side of the falls. Here, you’ll come into contact with a huge range of tropical birds and learn more about local wildlife.
Enjoy a meal at Restaurante Porto Canoas or Fortin Cataratas
Exploring certainly works up an appetite, but fortunately, there’s a restaurant on either side of the falls where you can grab a bite to eat.
Restaurante Porto Canoas is a buffet on the Brazilian side where you can grab lunch for around $20 USD per person.
Fortin Cataratas is an Argentinian barbecue restaurant that’s open from 11.30 am until 6.30 pm, with a grill and a buffet for sides and salads. It’s a little pricier than its Brazilian equivalent but has a wider range of options.
Stay at Hotel das Cataratas or Gran Meliá Iguazú
There are some pretty nice hotels on either side of the Iguazu Falls, so if you’re looking for a luxury stay, you’re in the right place.
Hotel das Cataratas
The Hotel das Cataratas is on the Brazilian side and features traditional, colonial Portuguese-style rooms that really transport you back to another era.
There’s a big focus on wellness here, and there’s a luxury spa where you can indulge in a treatment or two after exploring the falls. There’s also a large pool which is perfect for a dip at the end of the day.
It’s the only hotel that’s actually inside the national park, and it’s so close to the falls that you wouldn’t believe it. You walk straight out of the hotel and BAM – there they are!
Gran Meliá Iguazu
The Gran Meliá is on the Argentine side of the falls and is another luxury property with views for days. You can even see the falls as you lounge by the super sleek infinity pool, or you may be able to see them from your room, depending on which one you choose!
All in all, it’s a gorgeous and romantic property that will make your time at the Iguazu Falls even more unforgettable.
9. What are the best tours to Iguazu Falls?
As we’re sure you’ve gathered by now, Iguazu Falls are pretty popular and there are plenty of tours available. Some of the best ones include:
Private Iguazu Falls tour – Argentine side
Experience all of the highlights of the Argentine side of the falls with this private, full-day tour. You’ll get to see the upper and lower circuits, as well as the famous Devil’s Throat.
Since this is a private tour, the itinerary is flexible and can be tailored to suit your needs, and you can even add a boat ride to go under the cascades if you want to! If you’re booking for 2 people, it’s $92 USD each and an additional $150 USD each to add on the one-hour boat ride.
Private day at Iguazu Falls from Buenos Aires with airfare
If you’re visiting the falls on a day trip from Buenos Aires and want all of the details handled for you, then this private tour is a great option. In addition to a guide who’ll show you all of the highlights of the falls, this bundle includes return airfare to Buenos Aires, all transfers, and even admission to the falls.
Everything is handled, from the moment you’re picked up to the moment you’re dropped off again. It’s really one of the best tours from Buenos Aires and super convenient for anyone who’s short on time. It’s $950 USD per person for 2 people, but like we mentioned, this takes care of absolutely everything for you!
3-Day Iguazu Falls trip with airfare from Buenos Aires
Ideally, you want to experience both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the Iguazu Falls, and this 3-day, 2-night tour from Buenos Aires allows you to do just that.
You’ll see all of the highlights, stay in a 4-star hotel, and all of your transport will be handled for you as soon as you arrive at Buenos Aires airport.
Entrance fees to both sides of the falls and daily breakfasts are included too. You won’t have to worry about anything except enjoying the falls! For an incredible add-on to your trip, this is $1,015 USD.
Private tour: 2 days to both sides of Iguazu Falls
Skip the queues and maximize your time at the Iguazu Falls with this private, 2-day tour. Although accommodation is not included, the flexible pickup and dropoff options mean that you won’t need to worry about transfers to and from the park or airport.
You’ll get to experience both sides of the Iguazu Falls and you can add a boat or helicopter ride as an optional extra. Basically, this tour offers a lot of flexibility and customization while ensuring that you have a smooth and hassle-free experience when you visit the falls. The tour starts at $175 USD per person.
Day trip: Both sides of Iguazu Falls
If you’re short on time but want to experience both sides of the falls, this day tour can make it happen! It includes airport pick-up and drop-off, as well as a special pass to skip the line at border control so you don’t waste time waiting for your stamp when you could be exploring.
The $150 USD price doesn’t include the park entry fees, but all of the transport and logistics are taken care of. You’ll see all of the highlights including the most popular trails, Devil’s Throat, and the Bossetti Waterfall, which is one of the park’s most impressive cascades.
Related Read: After seeing Mother Nature’s show at the falls, take in one of the top tango shows in Buenos Aires!
10. What to bring to Iguazu Falls?
The most important thing to remember when visiting Iguazu Falls is that you’re probably going to get wet! For that reason, a towel (we had our small travel towel), a waterproof jacket, and a change of clothes are a must (we just had a shirt and shorts).
Sunscreen and bug repellent are also essential because the falls tend to be hot and humid and thus the chances of bug bites and sunburn are high. A sun hat, sunglasses, and light, loose clothes are also helpful.
Your passport is also a must, especially if you’re visiting both sides of the falls because you’ll need it to cross the border.
If you own a good quality camera, then make sure to bring it as you’ll definitely want to capture the stunning scenery. And if not, well, smartphone cameras are pretty good these days!
A visit to Iguazu Falls tends to involve quite a lot of walking, so comfortable, closed-toe shoes are a must.
Cash is also always a good idea, especially because not all tours include the park entry fees.
Last but not least, it’s best to keep everything inside a dry bag because, as we say, you run a pretty big chance of getting wet when visiting the falls. You don’t want your passport or phone to be drowned!
11. Is Iguazu Falls suitable for children?
Overall, yes, but it’s not stroller friendly. Most visits also involve a fair amount of walking, so it’s important that your kids can cope with that.
Most of the tours we’ve listed welcome children of all ages, but the jet boat and jungle safari tour has a minimum age restriction of 12.
I think the most important thing to prepare for when visiting Iguazu Falls with kids is a long day with lots of walking. Make sure you take breaks, bring snacks, and plenty of water. We saw a ton of kids enjoying the falls just be sure to keep them close and when eating, keep them away from the wildlife, which can become aggressive.
12. How many days do you need to see Iguazu Falls?
Really, you need at least 2 days to see both sides of the falls.
However, if you’re super pressed for time and only have one day, then I definitely recommend booking a tour so that you still get the full experience.
You won’t have time to see both sides of the falls on your own, because tours get fast-tracked through the entry gates and passport control. Plus, they know exactly where to go and sort all of the transport out for you.
Related read: If spending time traveling is high on your bucket list, check out our tips on how to afford long term travel!
13. Is visiting Iguazu Falls worth it?
Absolutely. Iguazu Falls is 100% worth visiting!
Iguazu Falls is the most beautiful waterfall we’ve ever seen – and we have seen a LOT of waterfalls. It really is spectacular and totally worth all of the time, money, and effort that it takes to get there.
Oh, and if the photos above haven’t got you excited, I don’t know what will!
Where to Stay near Iguazu Falls
Because Iguazu Falls aren’t really close to a major center in Brazil or Argentina, it’s best to stay as close as you can in one of the two towns nearby – either Puerto Iguazú on the Argentina side or Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazil side.
Staying nearby means you can arrive at the falls first thing in the morning, spend a couple of days exploring and not rush. Trust me – you’ve traveled this far to get here, the last you want to feel is rushed once you arrive!
Depending on which side of the falls you’re going to stay on, these are our top picks!
Foz do Iguaçu
For the best bang for your buck, we recommend Iguassu Eco Hostel. You’re a 5-minute walk from the Brazil side of the falls and the bird sanctuary we mentioned earlier. The rooms are clean and comfortable and the wildlife is so close – there are monkeys in the trees outside! Rooms start at an unbelievable $20-30 USD per night when booked on Booking.com.
Mid-range travelers will appreciate the JL Hotel by Bourbon with its modern rooms and free breakfast. You’re right in the center of town, close to lots of restaurants and across the street from a shopping center. It’s about a 20-minute drive to the entrance to the falls and there’s a free shuttle service from the airport. Check availability online here!
And of course, Hotel das Cataratas deserves another mention. This stunning luxury hotel is located inside Iguaçu National Park. This means you can visit the falls outside of normal opening/closing hours because you’re already in the park – that’s VIP if you ask me! Book your incredible getaway to this hotel now.
Backpackers and budget travelers can enjoy a stay at The Host Bed&Meeting Hostel with its warm and welcoming vibe. It’s a cheap option with dorm-style rooms and common areas to meet fellow travelers. Breakfast is included and you may just find yourself invited to a dinner party with the other guests! Book your stay through Booking.com or HostelWorld.com.
Hotel Amayal is an excellent mid-range option in the center of Puerto Iguazú. It’s super handy as it’s directly across from the bus terminal where buses to the waterfall, airport, and Brazil leave from. It’s also close to lots of restaurants and cafes. Breakfast is included and there’s a nice rooftop pool! Check availability for this hotel on Booking.com.
For a truly unforgettable experience, Gran Meliá Iguazú deserves another mention. This five-star hotel has location locked down as the only hotel in the national park on the Argentine side. You can get a room with a view of the falls and can wake up to see the fog lifting from the jungle. Plus, you’ll be one of the first at the falls in the morning! Book a room at the Gran Meliá here.
Thanks for reading!
Iguazu Falls is totally worth seeing during your trip to South America. Sure, it takes a little extra planning and travel time to get here, but the moment you see the falls, you’ll understand why you NEED to see it in person. Hopefully, this guide has helped you plan your visit to this incredible spot.
If you’re planning on backpacking through Brazil or exploring the best places in Argentina, make sure to check out our other South American blogs. We’ve traveled extensively around here and have lots of tips and fantastic destinations for you to discover.