Iguazu Falls, also known as Iguassu Falls and Iguacu Falls, is a well deserving honoree on the list of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. If you have any apprehension about the time and cost to visit Iguazu, let me assure you that it’s worth it. The 275 waterfalls span over 1.7 miles and straddle two countries. An in-person visit is the only way to truly appreciate the wonder of the falls.
Parque Nacional Iguazú on the Argentina side in Puerto Iguazu is the more extensive park that can take two days to visit. On the Brazil side, in Foz do Iguaçu, is Parque Nacional do Iguaçu. The parks and trails are well designed to handle the crowds and the waterfalls are one most impressive things we’ve ever seen in our travels. Each of the trails will lead you to stunning vantage points to witness the beauty and power of Mother Nature. An abundance of butterflies and rainbows make this park pinch me perfect. The only thing missing are some unicorns!
Below is the information we learned based on our visit to the Argentina and Brazil sides of the park over three days in August 2016.
Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Getting There by Bus
In Puerto Iguazu, make your way to the Terminal de Omnibus which is the bus station in the center of town.
At the bus station, look for the Rio Uruguay tickets office. There is a ticket window inside the station but we used the office at the corner of the mini-mall where they spoke English as was advertised on the door. Purchase a round trip ticket to Cataratas. If you forget the name, you can ask for a round trip ticket to Iguazu Falls.
A round trip adult tickets cost 130 Argentine Pesos and you will receive two tickets, one for the way there, and one to present on the return trip.
Enter the bus station, turn right to find the walkway that brings you to the bus gate, and look for the bus marked CATARATAS. They leave about every 15-20 minutes and take about 35-40 minutes to reach the park.
As of August 2016, the adult ticket price for non-residents was 330 Argentine Pesos. Below shows the full price list. Please note, only cash payment is accepted at the ticket window.
You should bring your passport with you in a waterproof pouch should you need to present it at the ticket window. We were just asked where we were from but for discounted resident rates I would expect you would need to show credentials.
Tip: If you are going to the park two days in a row, make sure to visit the ticket office at the end of the day to have your tickets validated. Doing so will save you 50% on admission.
Use the ticket windows to the left when exiting. They will take your name, instruct you to bring your passport the next day, and mark the back of the tickets. Make sure to bring these tickets with you the second day.
We saw two ATM machines on site. One was before entering the park, the other was in the service area before Central Station. Our foreign issued bank card worked here with no issues.
There are bathrooms all over the park, look for the “Banos” signs. You will find one before the entrance, more by the shopping area, and also at every train stop. The two I visited were in decent condition. They had plenty of toilet paper. One was missing a toilet seat as is common in South America, but no problemo, I found a stall that had one.
Many of the souvenir shops sell snacks and drinks. In addition, each train station has a restaurant that consists of a Subway restaurant and a counter selling empanadas, quiche, and mini pizzas. The stores have plenty of snacks, drinks, and candy as well.
The hot tea called mate is an Argentinian obsession and you will see many people carrying around mate cups and thermoses. If you are looking for a hot water refill, we spotted a machine outside the bathrooms behind the gift shops after the Iguazu Jungle ticket stand.
Caution: Be careful of wildlife when eating. Raccoon-like animals called coati patrol the picnic area in packs looking for food, as do a few monkeys. We saw a monkey steal half of a man’s sandwich right from under his nose.
Tip: The busiest eating area was the Cataratas Station. We waited over 20 minutes to order our food here. The Gargantua Station is nearly empty and relatively pest free.
If you are looking for tee shirts, hats, postcards or other souvenirs there are a handful of shops on the way to and from Central Station. All of them have mailboxes to drop a postcard back home. They should all accept credit cards, as well as, Brazilian Real, Euros and American Dollars at the posted exchange rates.
What to Wear and What to Bring
We ended up not doing the boat ride and did not need any waterproof clothing to view the falls. Some viewing platforms get more of a spray than others when the wind blows but if you are not doing the boat ride under the falls and it’s not a windy day, you will not need a change of clothes or waterproof gear.
If you choose to do the boat ride under the falls, which I saw was highly recommended, plan to get completely wet and bring a change of clothing. If not, here are the must haves:
- Mosquito Repellent
- Non-slip sneakers
Make the Most of Your Visit
Getting around the park is fairly easy but I recommend getting familiar with the park map prior to your visit. We took two days to explore the Argentina side of the falls which took about 5-6 hours each day, stopping less than 30 minutes for lunch. If you are planning on seeing it all in one day plan on getting there as soon as the park opens.
On our visit, we did the Upper Circuit and Garganta del Diablo trails the first day and did the Lower Circuit the second day. This worked out really well and would recommend the same for other two day visitors.
No matter what trail you are visiting you will want to take the Rainforest Train from Central Station. When you pass through the ticket gate follow the sidewalk past the gift shops and you will arrive at Central Station.
Hop on the Rainforest Train here and take it to either Cataratas Station (starting point of Upper and Lower Circuit and San Martin Island) or Garganta Station (starting point of Garganta del Diablo).
Lower Circuit (1,700 Meters)
This trail leads to the boat docks. To get to the docks, look for the stairs just before the Jungle Boat ticket window, they are easy to miss. This trail has many stairs and is largely shaded so it’s better for a hot day. Each trail offers many stunning lookouts and I found the panorama views from this trail to be some of the best for pictures.
Tip: If you are short on time you can cut out two of the minor waterfalls by turning right on the trail by the picnic area.
Caution: If you are planning on going to the boat dock be warned that the path has many stairs carved from rock. The path and some smaller sets of stairs that are wet and do not have handrails. We witnessed one gentleman wearing flip flops slip right off the path onto the rocks below which could have been life-threatening. Luckily he was not injured. This is why I stress the importance of wearing sneakers at all times.
San Martin Island
If you wish to visit the island head here early and be warned that there are a lot of stairs to climb. Look for the signs at the train stations to see whether the boats are still operating as the last boat leaves for San Martin Island at 3:15pm, and possibly before, based on passenger load. These boats are free with the park ticket and simply cross the channel, they do not get you wet or go under the falls.
Upper Circuit (1,750 meters)
I’d recommend this trail first, while there are still plenty of photo opportunities, it doesn’t have the best vantage points when compared to the other trails. The trail is flat and easily navigated. It is all raised platform and is wheelchair accessible, we saw several on our visit.
Garganta Del Diablo Trail (2,200 meters)
This trail leads to the Devil’s Throat, an unforgettable look at the power of the falls. You do not want to miss this. This viewing platform gets a little spray from the falls when the wind blows, so if you have a waterproof camera or case use it here.
Keep an eye on the water as you take the trail leading to the falls. You may spot some of the massive catfish.
This stop was also the best in the park for viewing butterflies. There were water faucets at the trail head where I saw about one hundred butterflies of all colors and sizes.
This trail is the longest in the park but is a flat, easy walk and wheelchair accessible.
Tip: Stop for a snack or lunch when you get off the train. Trains run every 30 minutes and there is only one trail from this station so if you want to have more space for pictures let the crowd get ahead of you by about 15 minutes.
Other Tips for your Visit
- If you are worried about the mosquito threat don’t be. We coated ourselves in DEET before leaving home and weren’t bothered by mosquitoes at all.
- If you want to save some money bring your own lunch and beverages, our bags weren’t checked so I believe this would be fine to carry in.
- Two days is an ideal amount of time to visit the Argentina side.
- Many of the park employees spoke English.
- Plan to visit on a weekday if possible, weekends were noticeably more crowded.
- The park closes at 6pm, however, tickets sales stop at 4:30pm. Make sure to take note of when the last train leaves your station.
- The ticket for the speedboat that takes you into the falls is sold by Iguazu Jungle. There are several stands throughout the park. Tickets for a 12-minute ride into the Devil’s Throat Canyon were 450 ARS (~$30 USD).
- Pick up a park map from the information stand or at one of the Iguazu Jungle ticket booths.
- Vain as it may be, ladies you may want to pack a brush or comb to style your hair for photos with the falls. The backdrop of waterfalls and rainbows is incredible and you don’t want to let a bad hair day ruin the moment.
Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
Getting There by Bus
Bus line 120 originates at Terminal de Transporte Urbano near the zoo. If you are not staying near the terminal you may be able to pick the bus up along the route, ask at your accommodation. The fare is 3.20 BRL (~$1 USD). The gate is to the left after you pass through the ticket booth and is well marked.
The bus will fill with locals along the route and makes several local stops including the airport and the bird park. It will take about 50 minutes to get to the park.
Tip: You won’t receive a ticket for the return trip. Instead, there will be a person inside the bus to pay and allow you to pass through the turnstile. Plan on having small change for the fare. They pick up a few hundred yards from where you are dropped off.
Adult ticket prices at the time of our visit were 57.30 BRL (~$18.20 USD).
Below is a picture of the full price list.
After purchasing a ticket you will board a double decker bus that will drive about 10-15 minutes to the falls. Look at your admission ticket for the bus group number and refer to the signs to see what group is currently boarding.
There is some brief multi-lingual translation (English included) that will call out the 2-3 stops along the way that aren’t included in the admission price. These are for jungle treks and boat rides. Research before your visit if you think you might be interested.
There are several ATM Machines located to the left of the ticketing area.
The bathrooms at the entrance are clean and have many stalls.
Lockers are also available at the entrance pavilion.
You will find fast food available at the park entrance, across from the ticket windows, and at the exit of the falls. At the exit there is an outdoor seating area overlooking the river. There is also a more formal option of the buffet restaurant called Porto Canoas which has a patio overlooking the river.
Gift shops are also located near the ticketing area and at the exit of the falls.
What to Wear and Bring
The Brazil side has a viewing platform that extends out into the water near several falls in the Devil’s Throat Canyon. Here you will need rain gear as you will get wet from the constant mist.
You will also want to stick with non-slip sneakers on this trail and we found it to be wetter than the Argentina trails. There are a few steps to negotiate along the way but nothing strenuous.
- Poncho or rain jacket
- Waterproof case for phone and/or camera
- Mosquito Repellent
Make the Most of Your Visit
Getting around the Brazil side of the falls takes little planning and a map isn’t needed. Get off the bus when it stop in front of the Belmond Hotel which you can’t miss because it is pink. The trail follows along the river banks and is easy to follow from one lookout spot to the next.
The highlight of the trail is at the end. Here, you can walk out over the whitewater to stand in the spray of the falls. Before walking out on the boardwalk you can suit up with your waterproof gear.
The trail ends with an elevator to an upper deck viewing area where you can get a professional souvenir picture.
Our visit, stopping several times for pictures, only took an hour from the time we bought our tickets to the time we finished the trail.
Other Tips for your Visit
Argentina/Brazil Border Crossing: If you are traveling from Argentina to Brazil you can take a taxi like we did. It was 300 ARS (~$20 USD) and they stopped at both immigration checkpoints. Argentina was a drive through where we stayed in the car and handed over our passport. In Brazil, we had to go into the office and fill out the entry forms. If you are on a tight budget you can also go take a Rio Uruguay bus for 20 ARS (~$1.35). Our understanding is that they didn’t stop at the Brazil border control unless requested. Make sure you stop at both borders so you are not in the country illegally!
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