The final stop of our short 2-week Brazil trip were the well-known Iguaçu Falls, which we traveled to from Rio. After a full 25 hour bus ride and 2 more inter-city ones, we arrived to the Brazilian side of the falls. That's right, these waterfalls are so immense that they spread across both Brazil and Argentina. Lucky for us, we got to enjoy both sides.
We spent that afternoon enjoying the Brazilian side, Foz Do Iguaçu, which is known for its panoramic views.
Only 1/3 of the falls are situated in Brazil so you can imagine why the views are so good: you're looking out at the other 2/3 from this side! Iguaçu is made up of 275 separate falls with some of them reaching up to 82 meters high (269 ft) so looking out at them is quite impressive. In fact, when walking along the path, there is nothing else, or hear for that matter, for as far as the eye can see.
In addition to the panoramas, the Brazilian side also offers direct views of the Devil's Throat, the most impressive of the falls at Iguaçu. Marking the border between both countries, the U-shaped waterfall, reaches 82 meters high, 150 meters wide (490 ft) and 700 meters long (2,300 ft). The walkway on the Brazilian side leads you right up to it, which means getting a little bit soaked.
We embraced it, especially since it cooled us down from the humid heat that day. The falls have the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall worldwide so picture standing anywhere near them. The volume of water flowing down gets so loud, it's almost impossible to carry on a conversation!
In total, we spent a good two hours walking around on the Brazilian side. In comparison, we took 8 hours to complete the Argentinian side, known as Cataratas del Iguazu. Most people actually prefer visiting the falls in Argentina as it offers more to the visitor. The park even offers you a second day half price if you get your ticket stamped before you leave. There's that much to see! What we found most appealing were the close-up experiences one gets with so many different waterfalls. As mentioned earlier, you still get to experience the one and only Devil's Throat. But rather than seeing it from the front like in Brazil, you stand right on the edge of it.
What's cool is that you also get the chance to walk up close to, around, above many other, smaller, waterfalls and even swim under some.
In some ways, it feels more intimate visiting the falls in Argentina. The park is bigger but you get to experience it more hands-on. To top it off, you still get those superb panoramas...
So which side is best? There are tons of articles and posts out there covering this exact question so I won't go into too much detail. Along with most people, we felt that the Argentinian side offered more. There is more to see with five main walks, some panoramic views (though fewer than Brazil) and swimming beneath falls. Plus, if all you're doing in Brazil is visiting the falls, we don't think it's worth the $160 visa U.S. citizens require.
- We felt that the full day we spent on the Argentinian side was enough to see everything. However, when we were there, the Isla San Martin was closed due to high river level. In addition, we did not do any tours whether it be by boat or helicopter.
- We took an overnight bus from Rio to Foz do Iguaçu. Once we got to Foz do Iguaçu, we took two more inter-city buses. One from the station we got dropped off at to the main bus terminal in the city centre. The other (bus #120) from the main terminal right to the national park. For some reason, we only had to pay for the first inter-city bus, which cost us 2.85 Reais/person.
- From the Brazilian side of the falls, we caught the bus to Argentina (cost 30 Reais/person). It runs every hour until 5 pm and will take you to the center of the city of Puerto Iguazu.
- To get to the Argentinian national park, we took a taxi on the way out that we split with our two travel buddies since it was cheaper that way (cost 25 Pesos/person). On the way back from the falls, however, all taxis were asking for more money so we just took the bus that leaves every half hour (cost 35 Pesos/person).