Iguazu Falls or cataratas do iguaçu in Portuguese, lies on the border of Brazil and Argentina and is regarded by many as the most impressive waterfall in the world, but how many days should you spend here? Iguazu Falls is one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World and for very good reason, and absolutely no trip to Brazil and Argentina is complete without experiencing this beauty! If you are planning your travel itinerary and are not sure of how much time or how many days to allocate at Iguazu, not sure which side of the falls you should visit, or are simply intrigued to learn more about the falls as they’ve been on your bucket list since forever, then you have come to the right place! Read on to discover how long you should spend at Iguazu Falls and your complete itinerary for what to do there!
Forget Niagara Falls, Iguazu Falls literally blew my head off. It was breathtaking and is hands down the most spectacular waterfall I have ever witnessed. Iguazu Falls is actually made up of many waterfalls, the highlight being The Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) – the largest and most impressive falls with an 80 metre drop.
On one side of the falls is Brazil, on the other side is Argentina, and so to really see the falls you will need to spend 2 days there – one day on the Argentinian side and one day on the Brazilian side. But perhaps you’re wondering is it really worth it to cross the border to see the falls from both sides, I mean, how different can a waterfall really look from the other side? And surely one side must be better than the other I hear you say, but which one: Brazil or Argentina? Let’s look at what both sides have to offer:
Now the Argentinian side is much larger than the Brazilian side, and with 5 trail paths here you’ll find there is so much to see and explore and it will definitely take you a whole day to do this! The paths wind through the forest, offering several different unique and spectacular panoramic viewpoints of the falls. One trail even takes you over the top of The Devil’s Throat, so you can look down at the drop as the path takes you right over the top of the falls. You’ll get an incredible aerial view of the falls and the sound of the water crashing down the falls from here is so loud and so incredible to witness! You will really get a sense of how powerful the waterfall is and the spray is pretty strong – you are bound to get wet!
The Brazilian side is absolutely beautiful with incredible views too, though with only one trail on this side, you’ll find there is less to see and so you won’t need as much time here – most people see it in half a day. Even though there is less to see, you definitely don’t want to miss this side! Here you can walk the 1km trail that offers you sweeping views of the falls, and the trail ends literally in The Devil’s Throat, about halfway down the 80metre falls. It is so amazing and you get so close to the water crashing down – you are practically right in the falls and the spray is very strong here so you will get quite wet. Take care with any camera equipment you have. I would advise to buy a waterproof cover for your smartphone at the shop there for about $10 – it works like a treat and your phone stays completely dry in the sealed bag but you are still able to take photos: it’s a winner! Alternatively, bring a GoPro if you have one.
Which side is better?
People will always ask which is the better side to visit, the Brazilian side or the Argentinian side? Well honestly in my opinion you have to visit both! You get such a different perspective from each side: the views and experiences from both sides are very different but equally incredible.
Many people will often say the view on the Brazilian side is better and you get really nice panoramic views there as the falls look bigger and more impressive from this side, but they have a more enjoyable time on the Argentinian side as there is more to do there. Yes the views on the Brazilian side are stunning and provide panoramic sweeping views of the falls, but the views throughout the whole trail remain fairly unchanged so all of your pictures will look fairly similar (remember there is just 1 trail on the Brazilian side compared to several trails on the Argentinian side).
On the Argentinian side however, each trail offers views with a different perspective, meaning you’ll be able to get lots of pictures from many different angles, plus you will always see rainbows when you are on the Argentinian side, and well, who doesn’t love a rainbow?! Another great thing about the Argentinian side is that even though it is just as busy as the Brazilian side, with more trails and viewpoint places to stop at and enjoy the view it means it doesn’t feel as crowded and it is much easier to get photos without other people in them, even in the middle of the day.
Overview of the falls:
The map below shows the falls: on the left you will see the Brazil side, then to the right of the river is the Argentinian side – you can see that there are a lot more things to do on the Argentinian side, and most of the Devils Throat falls (about 80%) actually lie on the Argentinian side. I don’t know about you, but seeing it on a map sure made it a lot more easier for me to visualise and plan. I picked this map up at the falls, and I recommend you pick one up too so you can navigate your way around easily.
As you can see from the map, the Argentinian side has more of the falls, more trails (so more walking), more varied photo angles, and you can see the falls from the top. The Brazil side has just one trail so less walking, awesome overall sweeping views of the falls, and you can walk right into the falls. You’ll spend about half a day on the Brazilian side, whereas there is more to see and do on the Argentinian side so naturally you will spend more time there, typically most people spend a full day there.
Itinerary for Argentinian side:
You won’t have time in one day to do all the 5 trails, so just do the ones with the best views (I have ticked and underlined them on the map above). I would suggest to do the Upper Trail (1.7km) in the morning, then take the train to the top of Garganta del Diablo just before lunchtime so you are not walking in the midday heat (trains leave every 30 minutes). After lunch do the Lower Trail (1.4km), then finish off with the boat ride. You take the boat from the Lower Trail – see the red dotted line on the map for the start point of the boat ride and what part of the falls the boat goes under.
Itinerary for Brazilian side:
You’ll only need to spend a half a day on the one trail here in the falls, then once you are done you can do some optional activities (more about them below), including a helicopter ride over Iguazu Falls and a trip to Paraguay.
So, how long should you spend here?
We had planned 2 days to visit the falls – 1 day on each side, although before we arrived I was very sceptical that 2 days at a waterfall would be an insanely long time to stay, but when I was there I was in absolute awe of the place and any less time and I don’t think you are able to truly appreciate the beauty of these falls. It’s not like you are spending 2 whole days just staring at a waterfall, you’ll be walking along beautiful trails, plus there are a few activities that you can do whilst you are there which I DEFINITELY recommend:
Activities to do at Iguazu Falls:
Boat ride: (do on Argentinian side)
I really recommend you to experience the boat ride if you don’t mind getting wet and are up for a bit of adventure! The boat ride maybe lasts only 20 minutes but it is SO worth it: the boat goes right underneath the falls a few times, and feeling the sheer power of the water was so fun I felt like I was at a water park! You will get totally drenched, so again, look after any photo equipment you have! If you bought the waterproof phone cover that I mentioned earlier, great! Even going right under the falls several times my phone stayed completely dry in the cover whilst we were getting soaked.
*Top tip*: there are boat rides offered on both the Brazilian and the Argentinian side, but the boat rides on the Argentinian side are $30 compared to $70 on the Brazilian side, so definitely make sure to fit it in when you are on the Argentinian side to save yourself some cash!
Helicopter ride: (do on Brazil side)
On the Brazilian side you can take a 12 minute helicopter ride above Iguazu Falls that costs about $120. We used the company Helisul, click here to be directed to their website. You will need to book it at least a day in advance as they can get quite busy, so don’t leave it until the last minute if it is something you really want to do. Whilst it is such a lot of money to pay, the views were absolutely out of this world and I was so glad I did it, it was really an unforgettable experience!
Take a day trip to Paraguay!: (from the Brazil side)
We got on a collectivo (local public bus) bound for Ciudad del Este in Paraguay after we had visited the falls on the Brazilian side. It is just over the river from the Brazilian town we were staying in, Foz do Iguacu and takes maybe 20 minutes to get from one to the other. Now, crossing the border here can be a bit dodgy and we didn’t even get a stamp in our passport (when we really should have) as it is an open border for locals, but remember to bring it and try and have someone with you who speaks Spanish if you are not fluent, just incase you come into any troubles, especially when coming back into Brazil. To read more about crossing into Ciudad del Este from Foz do Iguacu CLICK HERE.
Ciudad del Este was certainly an interesting experience: the whole city made you feel like you had taken a wrong turn and ended up in the dodgy part of town where all the knock-off shops are. Except all these shops had security guards with shotguns outside them. We just stayed for a couple of hours to have lunch and walk around. The shops are famous for being ridiculously cheap and there are stalls absolutely everywhere selling everything you can imagine: it felt like some kind of weird bazaar. So many people come across from Brazil each day into Paraguay to buy things from the black market and avoid paying the expensive taxes on the products, so be prepared for the traffic coming back into Brazil as the customs authorities check everything being brought over the border into Brazil is for personal use only.
When to visit:
Year round the falls are incredible, but high season is between December to February when the weather is warmest and the water is the most powerful (and also the most people are here at this time!). December to February is always a busy time in Latin America as this is when it is the summer holidays and so many people use this time to travel. Visit during other months if you wish to visit when there are less crowds.
Where to stay:
There is only one hotel located inside the park but it is very expensive, so the majority of people choose to stay in the town of Foz de Iguazu on the Brazilian side, or at Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian side where the accommodation is much more reasonable. Both towns are a short bus ride away to the falls and buses run every 20 minutes starting from 07.10am. These towns are both a long way away from the main cities in Brazil and Argentina (we took a 16 hour bus to get here), so you are best off flying into Iguazu airport from Rio, Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires.
- The falls are quite busy so you’ll want to get there early: the park is open from 8am-6pm.
- It costs around $16 to enter on the Brazil side and $20 to enter on the Argentinian side.
- Make sure to pack insect repellent – you’ll need it!
- Dress appropriately and don’t forget your suncream as it does get very hot here.
- You absolutely don’t need a tour guide, you can just walk around at your own leisure.
- Bring food and water as it is very expensive to buy inside the park (and most of the food available is just fast food)!
- There are a lot more places to stop for lunch and souvenir shopping on the Argentinian side compared to the Brazilian side, which has only one cafe and a few shops, whereas the Argentinian side has many more shops and options for food and places to sit.
So after all that, my advice? Don’t choose between which side to visit, but visit both and decide which one you like the best! Many people prefer the Brazilian side, whereas many others prefer the Argentinian side, and I really believe you shouldn’t miss out on seeing either of them. If you are tight on time you can allow 1 day and a half, but absolutely don’t think you’ll be able to pop across easily from one side to the other and see both sides on one day. Ideally you should plan to spend 2 (or even 3!) days at Iguazu Falls so you can really explore both sides of this incredible National Park.
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