Iguazu Falls Brazil – Everything You Need to Know
About the Iguazú Falls
Iguazu Falls Brazil – Everything you need to know to make the most out of your visit to this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let’s get started.
Brazil is a huge country! It has several large world-class cities but it also has incredible natural beauty. The large distances between parts of the country can often require 4-plus hours of travel time by plane. So careful planning is definitely recommended. So where does visiting the Iguazú Falls fit into a Brazil itinerary? We’ll share how we did it.
We covered Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Iguazú Falls in a week. Iguazú Falls is one of those locations that is rarely prioritized, especially for first time visitors to Brazil. We decided to include it as the first stop in our trip because it was the hardest to get to. We weren’t sure if the trek would be worth hit and wanted to end strong with some of Brazil’s most famous cities.
How many days?
Our first full day in Brazil was spent at the Iguazú Falls (Foz do Iguaçu). The falls are located in a massive natural preserve that is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Iguazú Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu in Portuguese or Cataratas Del Iguazú in Spanish) are waterfalls that straddle the Brazilian State of Paraná and Province of Misiones in Argentina along the River Iguazú. It divides the river into upper and lower Iguazú River.
There are two sides to visit
There are two “sides” from which to visit the falls – the Brazilian side and the Argentinian side. Essentially these are two different entrances to the part which reside in the respective countries. Each country operates a portion of the park along with their respective visitor areas and waterfall access points. It is quite common for visitors to visit the park twice, once from each country. From Argentinian side the vantage points look down from the waterfall edge and are among the best vantage points for one of the biggest drops known as the “Devils Throat”.
On average, the park had 400,000 gallons falling per second, and the roar at the Devil’s Throat — Iguazu’s most famous waterfall, shaped like a horseshoe — can be deafening. From October to March, the water volume goes up to 2.2 million gallons. The record was 12 million gallons, in 2014 — so much water that the park was closed for safety reasons
The Brazilian side has direct river access and is best for vantage points that observe the entire waterfall expanse from the bottom up. It also has more variety in the access and type of vistas to the falls. These include viewing areas right next to some of the falls, river boat access and you can also overlook the falls in a different area that is not quite as steep as the “Devil’s Throat”. Both sides offer exquisite views of the falls so it’s hard to go wrong, which is why many people decide to visit the park over two days.
The Brazilian side
On our trip we visited a single day and picked the Brazilian side, simply due to ease of access. It was amazing. For our second day, which started with a bit of drizzle, we decided to skip the Argentinian side and visit the Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam. An amazing structure and tour in its own right. More info on that part of the trip is below.
Visiting the Brazilian side in a day
But back to day 1. We arrived at the São Paulo Guaruhos International Airport, often referred to as GRU. From there we hopped on a local airline for the four hour plane ride to Iguazú Falls. We arrived at the Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU) which is the airport serving Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. It is named after the Iguazú Falls and provides air-connections to the Falls located in Iguaçu National Park.
Once at the airport you can grab a taxi or shuttle bus to the local hotel, depending on your specific travel arrangements. We arrived in the late morning and luckily our hotel was just walking distance from the park entrance. The distance between Iguazú Falls and Iguazú Airport (IGR) is 8 km. The Iguazú Falls are a UNESCO heritage site
Getting to the park was surprisingly easy. Entry tickets can be purchased in person at one of the tellers located in the massive park entry. Friendly guides will give you information about how to navigate your way through the park. We found the easiest approach was to hop onto one of the park buses that follow a loop circuit with multiple different stops throughout the park. The buses are hop-on hop-off style and operate throughout the day during park hours (8am – 6pm).
Iguazú National Park
The semicircular waterfall at the heart of this site is some 80 m high and 2,700 m in diameter and is situated on a basaltic line spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil. Made up of many cascades producing vast sprays of water, it is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The surrounding subtropical rain forest has over 2,000 species of vascular plants and is home to the typical wildlife of the region: tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and caymans.
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Waterfall Speed Boating
An activity that is worth considering is the boat excursions that are offered at the falls. This is quite a unique experience and you WILL get wet. Don’t worry, the park provides lockers, phone protectors and towels for visitors. Basically they operate a fleet of powerful and large speed boats. They are open top and can seat about 20-25 people. The trip begins by zipping you around the river visiting several observational spots to get amazing vantage points of the falls. A guide provides some context and information along the way.
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Then about halfway through the trip they begin to inch the boat ever closer to the roaring water. You will get sprayed here! Just when you think that’s as close as you will get, the boat zips to another part of the fall structure. In this area the boat attempts to pass directly by the falls, several times. You feel as though gallons of water will fall directly on top of you, but the force of the falls keeps the boat away just enough to avoid direct contact.
Still, this is quite an exhilarating and unique experience. It really makes you feel the power of the water up close. While it may be hard to believe that this activity is a safe family activity, it is actually quite safe. As mentioned previously, the speed boats are incredibly powerful and able to navigate quite easily in and around the falls. They are big enough to not be easily tossed around by the falling water, even if it feels quite the opposite when on board. Trust us, this activity is totally worth it!
Points of Interest
- With more than 275 falls, the Iguazú Falls are the most majestic of water falls. The most scenic is the ‘Devil’s Throat’ which has 14 falls that drop from a height of 350 feet.
- The rain forest delta surrounding the falls boasts a whopping 2,000 species of plants.
- Iguazú is wider than Lake Victoria on the Zambian/Zimbabwean border. However due to the outcroppings that interrupt the falls, it is not considered a single continuous waterfall..
- Iguazú’s surrounding forest is home to the opossum, the only marsupial that is found outside Australia.
- The rainy season of November through March sees a surge in the water level that can spike waterfall volume to as high as 450,000 cubic feet per second.
- There is a point in the waterfalls that an observer can stand and get enveloped by about 260 degrees of waterfalls.
- Legend has it that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, upon seeing the immensity of Iguazú Falls, said “Poor Niagara” feeling pity at the comparison with the American Niagara Waterfalls.
- The best time to see the waterfall is during spring and fall. The summers are extremely humid and hot and during the winters, the waters will have receded.
If you’re still looking for more information you can check out the Brazil Travel Guide. They do a pretty good job providing tips for those visiting the Iguazú Falls region.
Iguazú Falls is second only to Victoria Waterfalls in size. However, in terms of beauty, it is among the best in the world.. If you’re a nature buff or just want to experience natural wonders in person, you need to consider putting these majestic falls on your bucket list.