Wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, who visited South America or planning to, the fact that Iguazu Falls are the most known waterfalls on this continent. Going even further, one of the most impressive in the rest of the world, as they can easily and proudly be competitive with Niagara Falls. Having seen “Latino” one, I can confidently say that Iguazu stands out and outshines as way more incredible. They are taller than Canadian one, twice as wide, and are one of the greatest natural wonders of the world, with the area around marked as the UNESCO World Heritage. Iguazu Falls (Portuguese: Cataratas do Iguaçu, Spanish: Cataratas del Iguazú, Tupi: Y Ûasu “big water”) are situated near the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Water falls of the Iguazu River that rises near the city of Curitiba, on the border of the Argentinian province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. The river, for most of its course, flows through Brazil, however, most of the falls are on the Argentinian side. They creates a natural water border between these countries, and they are the largest waterfall system in the world (275 waterfalls). The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, that forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. Falls are set among National Parks, which consist of subtropical rain-forests that are home to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
The falls are very well known to every backpacker traveling through the continent or just around Brazil, Argentina or Paraguay, marking a very important dot on their map. There are two most popular gateways to discover these absolutely magnificent, violent and impressively big waters. First one is a Brazilian city called Foz do Iguaçu. Second, Argentinian town named Puerto Iguazú. Close by Ciudad del Este, in Paraguay, that is separated from Brazilian town just by the bridge named Puente de la Amistad (Friendship Bridge), creates also an easy way to reach our destination. I have seen all three of them, so If you’re in a rush and can pick just one location, you may want to have a look at some comparisons below. I will also write briefly about Argentinian and Brazilian side of the waterfalls to help you pick one, if you can not see both, which in my opinion is ideal, but not always a case for everyone.
Iguazu falls from Brazilian side
- Three possible ways to experience the falls: from the top (but only from the side), from the bottom (Devil’s Throat, please take a waterproof jacket!) and by boat.
- You can book a helicopter ride (only available on the Brazilian side) that cost around 100$.
- This side offers a bus service connecting the falls with other activities. That service runs from the entrance to the end of the park every 10 minutes in both directions.
- You’ll get to see the entire panorama of cascades, and this view cannot be duplicated on the Argentinian side.
- Better Viewpoints, but really only a couple different of them.
- Really cool bird park just outside the gates of the Brazilian National Park entrance.
- As of a smaller area of the park, can be done in half of the day.
- Entrance ticket is cheaper.
Iguazu falls from Argentinian side
- Iguazú National Park is much bigger than its Brazilian counterpart, with more trails to walk along, and some that lead you right into the open water. You’ll need at least a full day (or two) to see it all and walk all of its trails.
- Boat trips available too.
- The Garganta del Diablo, bridge above the falls, literally swallows you up as you walk towards the end. It is probably the most impressive viewpoint where you appreciate the absolute power of the falls. The bridge extends all the way to the edge of the falls, as tons of water plunge aggressively into the far distance.
- Available zip line.
- You can get right on top of the waterfall, not exactly possible on Brazilian side.
- On the Argentinian side of the park, there’s a small train leaving about every half an hour from near the entrance, going all the way to the beginning of the trail to the Garganta del Diablo.
- There are many more options on the Argentinian side, and that is the side where you would want to spend more time.
- 20% falling on to the Brazilian side and an impressive 80% in Argentina
The biggest difference, in my opinion, between Argentina and Brazil was that in Argentina you can see falls from right of the top, giving you the impression of standing on them. In Brazil, however, you have the impression of standing kind of under the waterfalls. Two totally different thing that are possible only on each side. Very difficult to compare.
Foz do Iguaçu (city in Brazil)
- Foz do Iguaçu is a city, and that gives you the opportunity to stuck up on anything you may be missing.
- The prices around are not to high, and probably close by Ciudad del Este participate in this fact too.
- There are few big discount shops around for a budget backpackers. Cheap street food stand can be easily found all around.
- Bus, that goes to the falls, is located in the city center, very close to the big bus station.
- Zoo to visit.
- More hotels, restaurants and other amenities.
- Not as touristic as Puerto Iguazú.
- Foz do Iguaçu is probably the worst city, I have stayed in while traveling around South America.
- Main bus station, that connect cities (arriving from Florianopolis for example), is located far away from the center, which makes it difficult to just walk to your accommodation
- Not many things to do around.
- Not the friendliest people, I have met.
Puerto Iguazú (town in Argentina)
- Pleasant, safe, quiet and cute little town, so It is easy to find your way around.
- Closest to Argentinian side of the falls.
- Loads of travelers around to meet.
- People seems more friendly than on Brazilian side.
- Very expensive prices, as generally in Argentina.
- Not many cash machines around, and some do not accept your cards.
- Nothing really to do in the town.
- Expensive restaurants, set for tourists.
Ciudad del Este (city in Paraguay)
- Very cheap to stay in, eat out, everything really.
- Easy access to Foz do Iguaçu, just by crossing the bridge from where you can catch a bus to the falls. Taxi is cheap to take too.
- Very crowded streets, full of trading locals which give you the opportunity to discover the daily life and environment around Paraguayan people that live there.
- Experiencing amazing, very lively vibrant city, a bit of a smuggling one, with busy streets packed with loads of stands. Well known for its cheap electronic equipment.
- Markets rich of fruits and vegetables at very low prices.
- Loads of cheap street food stands where you can grab a lunch for as little as 1$.
- Extremely cheap accommodation.
- Atmosphere on the streets.
- Least touristic one on our list.
- Very friendly people, very chatty, helpful, easy to interact with, more open to travelers.
- Definitely one of my favorite places in South America.
- The only minus, I found, is an extra time you need to get to Foz de Iguazu to catch a bus to the falls. Having said that, you can get a taxi at a very cheap price to take you to the bus stop in Brazil.
Of course, I will leave the choice to you. However, if I had to visit it not having much time, I would stop in Paraguay (Ciudad del Este), and from there I would travel to the Argentinian side to see it. For whats it worth, whatever side you will pick, you will be blown away by the magnificent diverse nature of the area and the beauty of this violently falling waters.