The Iguassu Falls – or Iguazú in Spanish / Iguaçu in Portuguese – are a highlight of many people’s tour to Latin America, but we often get asked which side of the Falls to visit. The stock answer is “if you have time, visit both sides – Argentina and Brazil”.
Iguassu, meaning ‘big water’ in the local Guarani language, is not actually one fall, but rather 275 falls spread across 2.7 km of the Iguaçu River.
At their highest point, the Devil’s Throat, the drop is 269 ft (82 m) with most of the falls being around the 200 ft (60 m) mark. You get a very different view from each side, but if you only have time for one, it will still be amazing.
Lying on the border of the Parana state of Brazil, and the Missiones province of Argentina – and very close to the border with Paraguay – these spectacular waterfalls were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
Iguassu Falls are served by two airports in two separate countries which facilitates access: Puerto Iguazú on the Argentina side and Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side. This means most travelers will choose to combine a visit to Iguassu Falls with a visit to either Buenos Aires, with its tango and style; or Rio de Janeiro, with its world famous landmarks.
Both Rio and Buenos Aires are major airline hubs with connections to cities all over Latin America and the wider world. Buenos Aires is an hour and a half flight from the Falls, and Rio is around an hour and a quarter.
With flight connections being so good, you could visit three of South America’s outstanding highlights as part of our 3 World Wonders Tour. It is reasonably time-efficient to visit Machu Picchu near Cusco in Peru, then follow with Iguazu Falls, before ending in Rio de Janeiro, home to the world famous Christ the Redeemer statue, another one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
As we said earlier, if you have the time, we recommend you visit both sides of the falls on subsequent days as the experience is somewhat different.
From the Brazilian side, many clients choose to take a thrilling boat ride to the base of the falls. It is a fantastic experience, but be sure you protect your camera from the water. There are a number of gentle walking trails that take you to the bases of the various falls and also above the falls. There are also the options of a ride through the jungle or a boat ride above the falls. Just hope your captain does not fall asleep!
From the Argentinian side you get a better overview of the whole set of falls, and can really appreciate them in all their majesty. A trail out to the Devil’s Throat gets you to a point where you stand whipped by the spray rising up from the falls and stare down in awe at the power, as the river disappears into a steaming cauldron.
At the time of writing, US citizens require a visa to enter Brazil or Argentina, and must secure this before leaving home. Travelers of other nationalities should check which rules apply to them.
Please make sure you do have travel documents arranged before you leave home as you cannot do so at the borders and the falls are too good to miss!