On the edge of the world at Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls is the largest waterfall system in the world, made up of 275 cascades, drops, and falls. Standing at the edge of the Garganta del Diablo, which translates to the Devil’s Throat, a visit to Iguazu Falls truly feels as though you are perched on the edge of the world.
Straddling three countries in South America, Iguazu Falls has been named one of the Wonders of World due to the magnitude and force of its cascading water. Located in Misiones, Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, the waterfall is split by the Iguazu River. Known as Iguazú Falls (Argentine Spanish), Iguaçu Falls (Portuguese), and Iguassu Falls (old Portuguese) the word Iguazu originates from the Guarani or Tupi language and translates to Big Water.
Where to stay when visiting Iguazu Falls
There are many factors to consider when visiting Iguazu Falls, including which country to stay in. As the falls reside in both Brazil and Argentina, you will need tickets for each country’s national park and at least two days to visit all the beautiful spots the falls and their surroundings have to offer.
The Brazilian Side of Iguazu Falls
Foz do Iguaçu is the Brazilian town that is home to Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, located in the south of Brazil in the state of Paraná. It is a more commercialised town than its Argentinian counterpart, with larger and more modern infrastructure, home to many hotels, shopping malls, and family attractions.
Due to the geographical location of the falls, the Brazilian side is smaller, with more of the cascades falling on the Argentinian side. These are all still visible from Brazil; however, the view is from across the river, meaning you get to enjoy a more panoramic perspective.
Getting to the falls is straightforward in Brazil, as they are conveniently located on bus routes, and taxis and Ubers are abundant. Once you’ve arrived at the falls there is a bus that takes you down to the opening of the trail, which you can walk along at your own pace, taking in the incredible sights and sounds of the landscape and wildlife.
As you wander through the lush green forest, you are greeted with an abundance of wild animals roaming around, ready to steal your sandwiches! Coatis are among the most prevalent animals you will encounter along the trails in the national parks. They are medium-sized mammals, similar to a raccoon but with a longer snout, and can be found in masses wherever food is near.
Although you could spend hours taking in the peaceful yet dauntingly destructive water, the Brazilian side of the falls can be completed comfortably in just a morning or an afternoon.
The Argentinian Side of Iguazu Falls
Puerto Iguazu is a small town located in the Misiones province of Argentina. Less commercialized than Foz do Iguaçu, Puerto Iguazu has a more traditional feel to it. If you are looking for a more authentic travel experience, I would recommend staying in Puerto and visiting Foz on a day trip. However, it is important to note, crossing the border between the two countries does require some navigation and can become quite costly when going by cab. Uber is only available in Brazil, so if you are planning to cross from the Brazilian side, taking the bus is advisable.
When deciding on your mode of transport across the border, it largely depends on your budget and how much time you have. If you are short on time and don’t mind spending a bit extra, a state-run cab is the way to go, but if you are looking for a more cost-effective route and don’t mind waiting for the rather unreliable bus schedule, then the bus is a perfect adventure. This route includes getting two buses. You’ll need to hop off at the border to get your passport stamped to leave the country, and then back on another bus through to the border of your destination country to collect another stamp for entry. This bus will wait for you here as all passengers need to get their passports checked to enter.
The Parque Nacional Iguazu is much larger than the Brazilian side and has three different trails you can take to explore the lush landscape. You definitely need a full day here to get the most from the breath-taking sights the park has to offer. There is also a boat tour that takes you out into the Iguazu river, across the rapids, and then for a surprisingly warm shower in one of the falls — an experience not to be missed if your budget and schedule allow!
As the Argentinian side is home to most of the cascades, this is where you’re guaranteed to get up close and personal with the magnitude of the falls. There are three trails in the park: the circuito inferior, the circuito superior, and the land train to the awe-inspiring Garganta del Diablo. The two circuits follow the same path along the falls, but each gives a completely new perspective. Don’t be fooled by the Spanish translations for the trails, as the inferior circuit is anything but inferior. It simply means lower as the trail is located lower down than the superior trail and allows you to see uninterrupted views of the water rushing down over the cliff face. You may even spot an enormous iguana lunching on unsuspecting crab beneath the sheets of flowing water. Neither trail should be missed, as the superior circuit takes you along the top of the cliff edge, with views stretching wide across to Brazil and beyond.
Garganta del Diablo
Then comes the main event, which is hard to comprehend after experiencing the sheer beauty and wonder so far but crossing over the wooden and steel platforms across the Rio Iguazu and onto the Garganta del Diablo is like looking over the edge of the world. Standing on the platform peering over the 150-metre-wide curtain of thundering water is both exhilarating and intimidating; it is truly an unforgettable and somewhat humbling experience, embodying the force of nature to the fullest.
The wildlife here is also plentiful, with coatis climbing everywhere, monkeys eating empanadas, butterflies filling the skies, and spiders the size of your fist building webs across the trees — not to mention the caiman basking in the river! Then there’s the weather, ranging from suffocating humidity to torrential downpours; it’s everything you would expect standing in the middle of a subtropical rainforest and more.
When choosing the itinerary for your visit to Iguazu, I would recommend visiting the Brazilian side first. It is worth saving the train ride to the Garganta for last so you can experience the build-up of complete wonder, as each awe-inspiring view just gets better!
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Devon Older is a PR and Marketing professional from London, England, with a flair for writing and photography. Devon discovered her adventurous nature and wanderlust on a solo trip to Bali whilst studying for an English degree. From there her passion grew as she left the 9-5 in London to tackle freelance life and travel the world. Follow her adventures at @devonolder