After traveling for 6 months through South America, we’d seen so many incredible mountains and waterfalls that we started to become a little numb to it all. That is, until we got to Iguazu Falls. I don’t care how high you set your expectations or how many waterfalls you’ve seen, you WILL be blown away by the grandeur of this natural wonder! We had a ton of questions before our visit, that’s why we put together this post of all our Iguazu Falls tips!
Visiting Iguazu Falls is a MUST if you’re in South America. Keep reading for tips plus a perfect one day itinerary!
What/Where is Iguazu Falls?
Iguazu Falls is a massive waterfall that sits on the border of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It is considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, and visiting is a MUST for any long-term South America itinerary. A couple highlights about Iguazu Falls:
- It’s up to 270 feet tall
- It contains 275 individual waterfalls
- It’s almost 2 miles wide
Intrigued? You should be. Here’s what you need to know about the towns from the three different countries in this area.
The town on the Argentine side is called Puerto Iguazu. For visiting the falls, the Argentine side has the most developed infrastructure, allowing you to get up close, get soaked, and feel their power. That’s why we recommend visiting the falls from the Argentine side. Puerto Iguazu also has an airport and bus terminal.
The town on the Brazilian side is called Foz Do Iguaçu (yes, it’s Portuguese). It is a larger city than Puerto Iguazu and has more restaurant and accommodation options. As for visiting the falls, the Brazilian side has more limited infrastructure, with only one viewing platform offering a good view of the entire falls. Foz Do Iguaçu also has an airport and bus terminal.
The town on the Paraguayan side is called Cuidad del Este, though generally do not go unless it’s to day trip. Paraguay does not have infrastructure set up to experience the falls, and it also requires US citizens pay $160USD to enter the country. We quickly crossed Paraguay off our list.
How Long Should I Stay?
We recommend visiting Iguazu Falls for 1 day and only on the Argentine side (from Puerto Iguazu). Arrive to Puerto Iguazy in the afternoon or evening, spend the next day at the falls, and plan to leave via bus or plane that night. You should devote 7AM to 3PM to visiting Iguazu Falls, which includes transport to the national park.
After visiting the falls, you can catch a bus or plane from either the Argentine or Brazilian side. We bussed into Brazil after visiting the falls. If you are doing this, allow at least 3 hours to get from the terminal in Argentina to the terminal in Brazil. This includes travel time and potential delays at the border.
Which Side Should I Visit?
You should visit the Argentine side!! The Argentine side allows you to get much closer to the falls and has many more trails and viewpoints. It feels like you’re at a theme park. You get a big park map and there’s even a free train to take you to different paths.
The Brazilian side supposedly has a better view of the overall falls but it is much smaller so it gets very crowded! Everyone tries to squeeze into your personal space to get the very best shot.
As a rule of thumb, the Argentine side takes just over a half day and the Brazilian side takes 2-3 hours. Expect a bus or taxi transfer between the Brazilian/Argentine side to take around 2 hours.
When Should You Go?
Summer is when the falls are flowing at their highest rate. Summer in Iguazu is roughly November through February. We went in early January.
What Should You Bring?
Be prepared for rain and humidity as Iguazu Falls is in a tropical environment. You’ll feel it the second you step off the plane or bus. For your visit to the falls, in addition to normal day trip supplies, you will need:
- Passport – needed to purchase your park entrance ticket
- Dry-bag for phones, wallets, passports (Ziploc bags will work in an emergency)
- Snacks – you can bring food into the park
- Optional: Rain Jacket / Poncho (you will get soaked regardless)
1 Day Itinerary
Start as early as you can. The best view point on the Argentine side (La Garganta del Diablo or “Devil’s Throat”) gets very crowded in the middle of the day. You get there by taking the free train from inside the park.
- Take the bus from the bus terminal in Puerto Iguazu to the national park.
- Enter the park and walk straight to the train (there’s only one) that takes you to La Garganta del Diablo.
- Take the train to and walk the Upper Circuit of the falls.
- Take the train back to and walk the Lower Circuit of the falls.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do. If you start early in the day, you can expect to leave the park around 2PM. If you want to stay longer, the park contains a 1-2 hour nature walk to a smaller waterfall. This trail gets very muddy when it rains and it rained when we were there, so we skipped it. Besides, we didn’t come all the way to Iguazu Falls to see a smaller waterfall! You can also re-do your favorite circuit (we walked the Lower Circuit twice)!
How much does it cost?
The cost for one person to visit the Argentine side from Puerto Iguazu is:
- Bus to/from: $360 Argentine Pesos (~$6USD) round-trip
- Park entrance: $800 Argentine Pesos (~$12USD)
- Snacks: $400 Argentine Pesos (~$6USD)
The total cost for a day trip to the Argentine side of Iguazu Falls is roughly $1600 Argentine Pesos (~$24USD).
We went in January 2020 at a time with very volatile exchange rates. Although Argentina tends to raise their prices with the dollar, it’s worth confirming that these prices are accurate for your visit. You can confirm the park entrance cost here.
How Do You Get There?
The most popular way to get to Puerto Iguazu is by domestic flight. Check flights about two weeks before you plan to go. The prices for domestic flights in Argentina are often close to that of overnight buses. We chose to fly to Puerto Iguazu due to the cost and convenience.
Puerto Iguazu can also be reached by bus from Northern Argentina or Buenos Aires. But, don’t forget, Argentina is huge and this journey will take some time. From either location, expect the journey to take over 20 hours.
If you’re in Buenos Aires, you’re looking at a direct 18-20 hour overnight bus. Compare the flight versus bus prices to see which option works better for your budget and timeline.
If you’ve just crossed the border from San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile and arrived in Salta, Argentina (largest city in northern Argentina), you will need to take a 15 hour bus to Corrientes. After a ~2 hour layover in Corrientes, it’s a 9 hour bus to Puerto Iguazu. If you are short on time or don’t want to plan ahead, then it is an option. Here’s a link to the bus company.
Foz do Iguaçu
Flying to Foz do Iguaçu is a recommended option if you are coming from within Brazil. If you’re interested in flying to/from the Brazilian side, be sure to book your flights a couple weeks in advance as everything in Brazil is generally more expensive than Argentina.
If you are continuing on to Brazil from Foz do Iguaçu, it’s easy to take an overnight bus to your next destination. From Foz do Iguaçu, a few options:
- São Paolo (13 hour overnight bus): This is the largest city in all of South America. We were on a time crunch, so the thought of attempting this mega-metropolis was just too much.
- Curitiba (10 hour overnight bus): Never heard of Curitiba? I hadn’t either. It’s a 3 million plus person metropolis in the southern half of Brazil. The world is really big. It’s known for its parks and its botanical garden. Worth a day if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Florianopolis (15 hour overnight bus): Known for it’s 40+ beaches and laid-back vibe, Floripa is a must for any Brazil itinerary.
Do You Have More Time?
If you have more time, you can move from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina to Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. There’s not much to do on the Argentine side besides visit the falls. In addition to having the option to go to the Brazilian side of the falls, Foz do Iguaçu also has a popular bird park that you can visit.
Where Should You Stay?
Stay close to the bus station on the Argentine side. We stayed at Tucan Hostel and it got the job done. They will provide you a park map and talk you through any remaining questions you may have prior to your visit!
Can You Do Both Sides in One Day?
It was definitely our plan to do both sides in one day but…
Although you technically can do both side of the falls in one day, it is difficult logistically since it takes over 2 hours to get from the Argentine side to the Brazilian side. Customs is always mystery – when we crossed the border to Brazil it took ~1 hour. Plus, if you’re staying on the Argentine side, you will need to cross the border again to get back. If you’re staying on the Brazilian side, you will need to factor in time to pick up your backpacks.
We really struggled with this decision as we prefer to do as much as possible in one day. However, we decided to only do the Argentine side and are glad we did. In our opinion, the Lower Circuit walk on the Argentine side captures the entire view of the falls really well, and it didn’t seem worth the extra hassle to try to fit in the Brazilian side.
There you have it, our Iguazu Falls Tips posts! From us to you, happy traveling!
All prices in this post are current as of January 2020.