5 Things You Should Know About Iguazú Falls

A UNESCO world heritage site since 1984, but a natural wonder since time immemorial, Iguazú Falls (Spanish: Cataratas del Iguazú) is shared by Argentina and Brazil (known as Cataratas do Iguaçu in Portuguese or Iguaçu Falls) at the tri-border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

1 Iguazu Falls in Parque do Iguaçu
Iguaçu Falls in Parque do Iguaçu (DSCN7024) – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr

The Falls are shared by Argentina and Brazil and can be visited from either Iguazú National Park in Puerto Iguazú (Argentina) or from Parque Nacional do Iguaçu in Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil). It’s safe to say that no trip to South America can be complete without a visit to Iguazú Falls.

So, without further ado, here are five things you should know before heading out to Iguazú Falls.

1. Money

For those on the Brazil side, expect to pay about R$52 (almost USD$17) for entry, which you can pay with either cash or credit card. On the Argentinean side the entrance fee is AR$260 (or about USD$30) and can only be paid in cash. Also, make sure to bring your passport (and, if you needed to pay for one, a printed copy of your reciprocity fee), especially if you’re crossing from one side to the other.

2 Iguazu Falls
Iguaçu Falls – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr

2. How long should I stay?

In general, for the Brazilian side you’ll only need half a day but on the Argentinean side you’ll need the entire day to explore everything. For myself, three hours was enough to see all of the cataratas (waterfalls) on the Brazilian side, whereas 6-7 hours was not nearly enough to explore and see all of the cataratas and walk to trails, let alone all the activities on the Argentine side. If you were diligent, you could potentially see both sides in one day but I would strongly urge against it. Instead, try to stay at least one night on each side in order to properly explore each park.

And this time schedule is only if you want to see the waterfalls. If you want to explore the rest of the park (on either side) you’ll need at least a full day, and there’s plenty to see and do besides seeing the waterfalls, including boat tours down the rivers, panoramic helicopter tours (available only on the Brazil side) and plenty of animal watching to go around.

3 Iguazu Garganta do Diabo
Garganta do Diabo – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr

3. To poncho or not to poncho?

You may have done your research before heading out towards the Falls, but allow me to emphasize that you will get drenched with water whether you wear a poncho or not. Well, that’s not exactly accurate since you can always walk around the waterfalls and view them all from a distance.

But where’s the fun in that?

You can purchase a poncho for AR$30 but let’s just say that they’re not exactly waterproof. In any event, if you want to get up close and personal with the ‘Devil’s Throat’ wear your bathing suit (which many people do), bring a waterproof camera or GoPro (if you have one) and a plastic Ziploc bag to place all your valuables inside (passport, wallet, phone, camera, etc). Trust me, you won’t need no stinkin’ poncho once you’re here.

4 Iguazu Our Furry Friend In Puerto Iguazú
Our furry friend in Parque Iguazú – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr

4. See it to believe it.

Imagine standing meters away from an 85-meter high waterfall, as 450,000 cubic feet of water rushes past you per second, and the deafening ferocity of the water is so loud you can barely hear yourself think. If you can’t then that’s all right because words can only fail to adequately capture the intensity of this awe-inspiring natural wonder. With over 275 individual waterfalls, covering a distance of almost 3km, Iguazú Falls has the greatest average annual flow of water than any other waterfall in the world. Carved into the earth as a result of a volcanic eruption, Iguazú Falls is taller and twice as wide as Niagara Falls, which explains Eleanor Roosevelt’s remark upon first sight of Iguazú Falls, ‘Poor Niagara!’.

5 Iguazu View From Above Of Garganta del Diablo In Puerto Iguazú
View From Above Of Garganta del Diablo In Puerto Iguazú – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr

5. Which side is better?

It’s the question most people tend to ask and, after visiting both sides, I can confidently say that the answer is unequivocally both! Each side is unique and offers something that the other side cannot: if you prefer to get up-close and personal while being enveloped by cascading waves of falling mist then you’ll love the Brazilian side, or if you prefer to explore and discover dozens of kilometers of trails while soaking in a panoramic view that will surely take your breath away then the Argentinean side is where you’ll want to be. To put it even more simply, Brazil offers the opportunity to get as close as possible to the Garganta do Diabo (Spanish: Garganta del Diablo), which is the primary attraction of the Falls, while Argentina offers an overhead view of the same falls that is without equal and absolutely worthwhile.

There are many travelers who opt to skip the Brazilian side in favor of the ‘better’ views often associated with the Argentinean side, but I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. The biggest deterrent for most travelers when opting for the Argentinean side only is the visa requirement for Brazil (especially if you’re a US, Australian or Canadian citizen) and time constraints. But, regardless of the visa, I would gladly pay the USD$160 fee again just to view the cataratas from the Brazilian side. It really depends on your budget and itinerary, but a visit to each side is certainly worthwhile.

6 Iguazu Pathway In Puerto Iguazú
Pathway In Puerto Iguazú – Jerry Alonzo Leon/Flickr 

Jerry Alonzo Leon


Jerry's favorite country to travel to is Spain. When he's on the road, he keeps it real simple with a pen and a pad. His travel style is spontaneous, easygoing, and always in search of a great adventure.

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