Visiting Iguazu Falls is a must-have experience when you’re in Brazil. I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of the planet’s most breathtaking sights. It’s the kind of place that leaves you speechless and makes you forget about everything else in the world. A place where mother nature demonstrates its incredible power and puts on a spectacular show.
I’ve visited a good share of waterfalls during my travels but the grandeur of Iguazu Falls was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. I remember thinking to myself “How is this place even real??”. It felt like I had arrived on the set of the Avatar movie. I must admit, after seeing Iguazu it’s a bit harder to get excited about other waterfalls.
In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know to visit Iguazu Falls in Brazil, including how to get there, the best time to visit, which tours to take and where to stay.
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About Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls is one of the largest waterfall systems in the world and stretches for 2.7km (1.7 mi) along the border of Brazil and Argentina. It consists of approximately 270 individual waterfalls with heights between 60 and 82 meters (197-269 ft). Not only has Iguazu Falls been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site but it was also named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
I only had the chance to visit the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls but if you can, definitely visit both sides because they offer a completely different perspective.
There’s an age-old debate over which side is better and there’s obviously no clear answer to that. The Argentina side of Iguazu Falls has more walking routes that allow you to get closer to the individual cascades whereas the Brazil side offers more impressive panoramic views of the falls.
No matter which side you choose for visiting Iguazu Falls (ideally both), I have no doubt that your mind will be blown.
Best time to visit Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls can be visited all year round and there is no definitive best time. It all depends on what you prioritize highest: seeing the falls at their fullest, having the highest chances of clear blue skies or avoiding crowds.
December to February (the Brazilian summer months) are typically the rainiest months but this also means that the water level of the river will be the highest and the falls look the most impressive. With that said, I visited Iguazu in January and the weather was nice and sunny with only a few short showers during our stay.
For higher chances of clear sunny skies, visit Iguazu Falls between April and September, which are the driest months. However, June, July and August are also the coldest months so you might want to bring a light jacket.
If you want to dodge the crowds, keep in mind that Iguazu Falls receives the largest amounts of visitors in January-February (when the locals have their summer holidays), during the Easter week and in July (when the locals have their winter break).
As you can see, it’s tricky to say what the best time for visiting Iguazu Falls is since there are several factors to consider but the key point here is that you can’t really go wrong with any time of the year.
How to get to Iguazu Falls
In order to get to the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls, you need to fly to Foz do Iguaçu, which is the gateway town to the falls. The local airport is called Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU).
There are many daily flights to Foz do Iguaçu from São Paulo and they take around 1h 40 min. If you’re traveling to Iguazu Falls from Rio de Janeiro, the options are a bit more limited but you’ll still be able to find some direct flights, which take around 2h 15 min.
If you’re staying at a hotel in Foz do Iguaçu town (where most of the hotels are located), you can take a taxi, a private transfer or a bus to get from the airport to the town. Or you can rent a car if you want more flexibility during your stay.
To visit the falls, you need to go to the Visitor Center of Iguazu Falls which is the entrance point to Iguaçu National Park. It’s about 20 km (12 mi) from Foz do Iguaçu town and just 4 km (2.5 mi) from the airport.
If you don’t plan to rent a car, here are your options to get to the visitor center:
- Take a guided tour – If you don’t want to deal with the logistics, the easiest option is to take a guided Iguazu Falls group tour or a private tour that includes transport from your hotel to the Iguazu Falls Visitor Center and back.
- Take a public bus – Bus number 120 departs frequently from the main bus terminal in Foz do Iguaçu and the journey to the visitor center takes about 40 minutes. You can also use this bus to go to the visitor center straight from the airport if that’s what you prefer.
- Take a shuttle or a taxi – There are a lot of shuttle options available and your hotel will be able to assist you with that.
Visiting Iguazu Falls from the Brazil side
Once you’re at Iguazu Falls Visitor Center, you need to buy an entrance ticket, unless you are taking a tour where it’s already included in your price. For Brazilians and visitors from Mercosur countries the ticket costs 91 BRL and for everyone else, it’s 100 BRL. Children up to 6 years old get in for free.
After buying your tickets, you have to take a shuttle bus to get to the waterfalls, which are about 11 km (6.8 mi) from the visitor center. That shuttle bus ride is included in your ticket.
The shuttle bus makes three stops – Macuco boat safari, waterfalls trail and the food court. I recommend getting off at the second stop (waterfalls trail aka ‘Trilha das Cataratas’). This is the starting point of the walking trail along the waterfalls.
As soon as you get off the bus, you’ll get your first glimpse of the waterfalls which will probably make you jump in excitement, but remember, this is just the beginning! As you walk along the 1.5 km (1 mi) trail through the jungle, you’ll see several jaw-dropping panoramic views of the falls, each more impressive than the previous one.
Eventually, you’ll reach a footbridge that allows you to walk over the gushing waters and rewards you with an unbelievable view of Devil’s Throat, the most awe-inspiring part of Iguazu Falls. Being surrounded by these thundering waters is truly an experience to remember!
At the very end of the trail, there’s an elevated viewing platform that gives you yet another perspective of the waterfalls and allows you to admire them from above.
Due to all the mist from the waterfalls, it’s very likely that you’ll get soaked when visiting Iguazu Falls so take care of your camera and phone, and bring a waterproof poncho if you mind getting wet. I didn’t mind at all since it was 30°C (86°F) outside.
Take a look at this short video I made of our visit to Iguazu:
Wild animals you can expect to see
There’s a high chance that you’ll see some animals when visiting Iguazu Falls as the surrounding national park is home to a variety of wildlife.
It’s very common to see coatis (raccoon-like furry creatures) that are not shy at all and will try to snatch your food when you’re not looking. Even though they are adorable and very curious, do NOT feed or touch them since they might bite or scratch you and carry diseases. The park is full of signs reminding you of this.
Surprisingly, we didn’t spot any coatis during our visit to Iguazu (we did see many of them in Costa Rica and Guatemala though). However, we did see a howler monkey, some gorgeous blue morpho butterflies and a couple of huge lizards. If you’re lucky, you might even see toucans!
Other things to do at Iguazu Falls in Brazil
Macuco Boat Safari
Besides exploring the walkways and viewpoints, you can also take the Macuco safari boat tour during your visit to Iguazu Falls national park. It’s a thrilling experience which takes you as close to the waterfalls as you can possibly get. Be ready to get completely drenched!
You can book it either at the visitor center or you can book this combined tour that includes both the visit to the waterfall viewpoints on the Brazilian side as well as the boat ride. If you’re traveling during the high season (January-February) it would be a good idea to book your boat tour at least a few days in advance.
Parque das Aves (Bird Park)
Located next to Iguazu Falls Visitor Center, Parque das Aves (Bird Park) is a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation and rescue of Atlantic Rainforest birds. Not only is it a meaningful way to spend your tourist dollars but it’s also a really fun place to visit since you can walk right into the large aviaries where the tropical birds like toucans and macaws live and see them up close.
You can easily visit the bird park on your own but if you prefer an organized tour with hotel pick-up and drop-off, take a look at this tour option.
If you’re interested in technical attractions, consider visiting Itaipu Dam – the second-largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. Located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, a 20-minute drive from Foz do Iguaçu, this engineering wonder covers a whopping 90% of the energy needs of Paraguay and 15% of the energy needs of Brazil.
You can visit the dam on your own or you can book this Itaipu Dam tour that includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.
Three Frontiers Landmark
The Three Frontiers Landmark is the place where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. Here you can enjoy a view of the Parana river and the Iguaçu river (which I’ve heard is especially nice at sunset), snap a photo with the three borders sign and have dinner at one of their restaurants.
Every evening at 6.30pm there’s a cultural show about the legend of the Iguazu Falls as well as performances of the traditional dances from each of the three countries – Argentinian tango, Brazilian samba and Paraguayan polka.
What not to do: A helicopter ride above the falls
When you arrive in Foz do Iguaçu, you’ll probably see many ads promoting helicopter tours above Iguazu Falls. While it might sound like an unforgettable experience, I do not recommend doing it. The noise pollution created by helicopters is a large disturbance to the wildlife that lives in Iguazu National Park.
Hearing the whirring sound of a helicopter at the falls was also quite annoying for me as a visitor because I think it takes away from the feeling of being in nature.
Due to ecological reasons, Argentina already banned helicopter tours at Iguazu Falls more than a decade ago whereas on the Brazil side they are unfortunately still allowed.
How many days do you need
You need at least two days to visit both the Argentinian and Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls. It is possible to do both sides in one day if you’re in a hurry and there are tours that offer that, such as this 8-hour tour. However, to be able to properly experience the falls and enjoy the beauty of this place without rushing, I recommend allocating one day to each side.
If you’d also like to do some of the other activities I listed above, you might need an extra day.
In case you’re wondering how to plan the rest of your Brazil trip, take a look at my Brazil itinerary post, where I’ve outlined three different 10-day itineraries.
Where to stay near Iguazu Falls
The majority of the accommodation options near Brazilian Iguazu Falls are located in Foz do Iguaçu town, about 20 km (12 mi) from Iguaçu National Park. There are also a few hotels near the national park entrance and even one in a very privileged location inside the park (we’ll get to that in a bit!).
Here are the hotels I recommend and the place where I stayed:
BUDGET: Hotel Holiday Foz
A small budget-friendly hotel with a nice pool area, simple but clean rooms and a varied breakfast buffet which is included in the price. The hotel is in a good location close to the center of Foz do Iguaçu.
MID-RANGE: Del Rey Quality Hotel
This is where we stayed. The hotel is located in the center of the town and offers excellent value for money. Our room was nice, the service was great and the breakfast was abundant. Also, there’s a rooftop with a pool and jacuzzi – the perfect spot to enjoy the view over the town with a cocktail in your hand.
LUXURY: Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
This is the one and only hotel that’s situated inside Iguaçu National Park and it even has a view of the waterfalls. With its amazing colonial architecture, pastel-pink facade and beautiful pool area, this 5-star hotel looks like an absolute dream. If you’re willing to splurge or you’re celebrating a special occasion, it might be worth staying here!
Iguazu Falls map
On the map below, you can see the location of all the main points of interest and hotels I mentioned in this post. Click on the top left corner of the map for more details.
I hope this Iguazu Falls guide has convinced you to add this magnificent place to your bucket list. It’s undoubtedly one of the most amazing natural wonders of South America and deserves all the hype in the world!
Be sure to also read my other Brazil travel guides to find tips and inspiration for the rest of your trip:
- How to spend 10 days in Brazil: 3 itinerary options
- How to visit the Amazon rainforest
- Guide to visiting Alter do Chão in the Amazon
- Best things to do in São Paulo
- Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro
- Hiking in Chapada Diamantina
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