Iguazu Falls is one of the world’s 7 natural wonders and the widest body of water on the planet. It’s breathtaking and famous for butterflies, birds, and rainbows that seem to burst out from within the falls. Iguazu consists of over 200 waterfalls that are surrounded by lush jungle and brimming with wildlife. Located in both Brazil and Argentina, close to Paraguay, it’s not the easiest of places to reach. Most people are lucky if they get to visit Iguazu once in their lifetime. Here are some tips to ensure that visit is everything you imagine and better.
1. Visit both sides – Argentina & Brazil
On my first trip to Iguazu, I was in my early 20s, on a budget and decided to only visit for one day on the Argentinian side. A decade later I visited both countries and loved the Brazilian side even more. The vantage points are very different. In Argentina, the park is much larger with more trails and viewpoints but seemed much busier than Brazil. We had a special experience in Brazil, staying in the park at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas.
2. Take a boat under the falls
The boat trip is a real highlight. They rip through the river, reaching a dramatic climax underneath the falls. It’s the best way to glimpse the real power of Iguazu and offers a unique perspective you cannot get from land. Prepare to be drenched, while laughing hysterically with your new boat friends. Beware of selfie sticks thanks to some great photo opportunities. Make sure all electronics are entirely waterproofed. Book in advance to avoid long queues. I recommend taking the boat trip from Argentina, there is only one company that does it, Iguazu Jungle ($2500 AR – Nov 2019). http://www.iguazujungle.com/eng/
Pro Tip: Take the boat in the afternoon, unless it’s hot enough to remain drenched for the rest of the day. Bring a hat and wear sunglasses to protect your face from the water. Wear a swimsuit and poncho.
3. Splurge on a stay at the Belmond Hotel
If you have the budget to splurge for one night on your trip, do it for the Belmond. It’s an incredible 5-star hotel located in the park overlooking the falls in Brazil. The Belmond is stylish with great service, tropical decor, a gorgeous pool, rooms with views of the falls, and excellent food, including the best breakfast of my life. What elevates the Belmond beyond a mere luxury hotel is its unique location. Hotel guests have 24-hour access to the falls without the crowds. Bring your glasses of champagne for a private sunset and sunrise viewing. It was $450 USD for one night but that included breakfast and private access to the falls.
It was one of my favourite travel experiences. To read more about it: check out this article: https://www.novatravels.org/worth-the-splurge-a-stay-at-belmond-iguassu-falls/
4. Watch the weather and pick your season wisely
Iguazu is located in a subtropical rainforest and gets a lot of rain. It’s advised to have a little flexibility in the case of rain, heavy clouds or fog. The rainy season is from November to March and is best avoided. Summer (December to February) is hot, humid and busy. The winter (June to August) is when the water level is at its lowest, which can be positive for photos, and the weather is cooler. It’s really something when you catch Iguazu on a blue sky day with those rainbows.
Pro tip: Visit in June, August & September for cooler weather and less spray. Visit in April or May for higher water levels with warmer weather.
5. Beat the crowds
As one of the world’s natural wonders, Iguazu is always busy. The park caps entry at 12,000 visitors and has an average of 6,000 per day. This peaks during the summer months of December through February, and again in July. The months to avoid crowds are April to June, then August to October. We visited in June, in low season, and we were still stuck behind hoards of people at times. It made our private access all the more special when staying in the park at the Belmond Hotel.
Pro tip: Visit mid-week and avoid holidays (December – February, and July).
6. Plan for at least 3 days in the park
Plan for two days on the Argentinian side and 1 day for Brazil. It’s worth giving yourself a few days to explore the falls, there’s a lot to see plus you might have a day with bad weather, so it’s good to give yourself some flexibility. If you have 2 days in Argentina that allows half a day for the boat trip under the falls. It also gives time to do some of the other hikes within the park, like the Macuco trail, which weaves through the jungle to a small waterfall and swimming hole.
6. Stay in a jungle lodge
The jungle surrounding the falls is dense and teeming with life. Stay in a jungle lodge for a relaxing, off-grid stay. The Iguazu Jungle lodge is a 10-minute walk from Puerto Iguazu in Argentina for easy access to town and the falls, yet feels remote and is surrounded by trees. It was $75 USD per night for a corner 1 bedroom apartment with a large balcony facing the jungle. There are many lodges around the area that make for a relaxing stay.
Pro tip: Even if you don’t stay at Iguazu Jungle Lodge, plan on a dinner there, the food is excellent. Especially the steak!
7. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife
There is so much wildlife in the national park. The coatis look like raccoons and are everywhere. Beware as they bite! Our highlight was seeing a tapir, which was huge. We were also lucky enough to spot a crocodile, monkeys, butterflies, and lizards. There are jaguars, but you should get a lottery ticket if you see one. The birdlife was fantastic. We saw two toucans, hundreds of condors, parrots and many other birds. Animal lovers and birders will relish Iguazu.
8. Head straight to Devil’s Throat
The devil’s throat is the main draw in Argentina. Most sites recommend going there in the afternoon to avoid crowds, but I preferred doing it first thing. It requires a train, which often has a long line and comes every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour. I was happy to get the train out of the way, as that was my least favourite part, purely due to the crowds.
9. Use public buses from Puerto Iguazu or Foz du Iguacu
I am all about convenience and have a bad habit of taking Ubers and cabs, but I found the buses to be cheap, easy and efficient. I recommend this option unless your hotel is out of the way. They leave from Puerto Iguazu main bus terminal in Argentina, and from Foz du Iguacu every 30 minutes.
10. Book a driver to take you between Brazil & Argentina
The easiest way to get from Argentina to Brazil is with a private driver or transfer company. We booked a wonderful driver who picked us up at our hotel in Argentina and dropped us off at our accommodation in Brazil, helping us through the border crossing with our passports. He was very friendly and knowledgeable, and was able to give us lots of advice on the journey.
11. Treat yourself to a nice meal
There are a couple of good restaurants in Puerto Iguazu. As previously mentioned, the restaurant at Iguazu Jungle Lodge is excellent and people travel from around town to dine there. Aqva is a great restaurant in the middle of town. The prices are very reasonable given the quality. There are also a couple of craft beer bars in both Foz and Puerto Iguazu. We only stayed one night in Brazil and dined at Itaipu at the Belmond Hotel, which was excellent. It was pricey but was easily one of our favourite meals of the trip.
12. Keep your ticket for 50% off
When you leave the park in Argentina on your first day, get your ticket stamped, then the next day when you bring it back you will receive a 50% discount for entry into the park.
13. Pack a lunch
The food within the park is average and overpriced. Why waste precious time stopping for a mediocre lunch. There are empanadas available everywhere, as long as you’re happy with pastry, meat and cheese! The best food I bought was an acai bowl in Brazil, which we ate overlooking the river. The other decent option in Brazil is a buffet restaurant, which has a nice location with views of the Iguacu River. It’s only good value if you feel like eating a lot.
Don’t wait any longer to go to Iguazu
A sight this beautiful will only continue to get more crowded with visitors who want a glimpse of the divine. Book your trip to Iguazu now! I have been twice, almost exactly 10 years apart. The first time on a budget, the second time we splurged. Both visits were incredible. I hope these tips help you to have the ultimate Iguazu experience!