Iguazu: Both Sides of the Falls

The it the biggest, widest, highest volume waterfall in the world? One of the Natural Wonders of the World? A quick google of Iguazu Falls will return a lot of lofty claims, none of which were fact-checked in the writing of this post. One claim we will get behind – the Falls are enormous. And enormously pretty. And should be experienced from BOTH Argentina and Brazil. Here’s how to do exactly that, in one long weekend.

Disclaimer: In this 100% biased opinion of how to tackle a trip to Iguazu Falls, I based myself on the Argentinian side in the town of Puerto Iguazu. Here’s why:
1. I speak some Spanish, zero Portuguese.
2. I was coming from and returning to Buenos Aires.
3. If you’ve read either of the 1 or 2 other posts about Argentina, you know if is a beautiful, magical place full of wonderful people and amazing landscapes, so why not
?

Getting to Puerto Iguazu from Buenos Aires:
Aerolineas Argentinas, LATAM, and Norwegian all offer nonstop service from AEP (Buenos Aires domestic airport, located closer to the city center) to IGR. Tickets run ~$120-150 USD if booked a week + out. LATAM also flys EZE to IGR. If you’re coming from/returning to stay in the city of Buenos Aires, AEP is the way to go. EZE is a longer taxi ride from the city (still only $25 USD), but is good for if you’re hopping off or onto an international flight.
There is a bus option from Buenos Aires, however, the bus ride is 17+ hours and more expensive than flying… If buses are your thing, Rio Uruguay, Crucero del Norte, Via Bariloche, Tigre Iguazu and others will get you there.

Getting from IGR into Puerto Iguazu:
It’s about a 30-minute car ride from IGR to the town of Puerto Iguazu. There are taxis and minibuses available from arrivals. You pay $180 ARS (~$3 USD) for the minibus at the booth inside the airport, and they take credit cards. A taxi into the city will run ~$15 USD, cash. Both the minibus and taxi will deliver you right to the door of your accommodation. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the unnecessary amount of speed bumps and “Cruce de los Animales” signs.

Where to stay in Puerto Iguazu:
Both Nomads Hostel Iguazu ($14/bed) and Tucan Hostel ($12/bed) are located <5 minutes’ walk from both the bus station and the main city center. I opted for Nomads and found it comfortable and reasonably social despite visiting in the off-season.

How to do the falls:
Ideally if you’ve made the trek up to Puerto Iguazu or Foz do Iguacu you’ve given yourself at least a day and a half to spend (we can confirm that 3 days is too much to spend here). You can spend an entire day from park open to park close wandering around the park on the Argentinian side. The Brazilian side will take you an hour, two if you walk really slow – Plenty of time to make it back to the airport for an afternoon flight if need be.

Rio Uruguay buses has services from Puerto Iguazu to both the Brazilian and Argentinian parks, running every 30-60 (peak season v. off-peak) minutes for a return ticket price of $360 ARS ($6USD). If you aren’t looking to spend $10USD for a side of fries, pack a lunch with you on both of your ventures.

Parque Nacional Iguazu (Argentina): The bus service to the Argentinian side begins at 7:30AM, getting you to the park right at their stated open time of 8AM, which can actually mean closer to 8:15/8:30. As soon as they open, most of the line will rush to get train tickets to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), the super high water flow, guaranteed to get wet portion of the day. If you follow suit, you’re going to end up soaking wet on a wood platform over the roaring falls shoulder-to-shoulder with 10, 100-person Chinese tour groups during the coldest part of your day. Not to mention the morning light on the Devil’s Throat is detrimental to your photos. Instead, walk as far into the back of the park as possible, and enjoy some peace and quiet along the Lower (Inferior) Circuit. Despite its name, the “inferior” circuit was easily my favorite of the park. You’re looking up at the falls, compared to the view looking down at them that you get from the Upper (Superior) Circuit. If you’re looking to see rainbows, sleep in and aim to get to the park around lunchtime. On a sunny day, the afternoon lighting will guarantee you dozens of rainbow views from both the upper and lower circuits.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Brazil): The bus service to the Brazilian side begins at 8:30AM getting you to the park entrance right around park open at 9AM after a brief stop at the border crossing. This is your chance to rack up 2 bonus passport stamps in a matter of a couple of hours! If you’re traveling in the off-season, make sure the bus driver knows that you need to stop at the border, or they may not stop which could complicate your entry back into Argentina or onwards elsewhere. After the border crossing, you’ll be the second stop, after Parque de los Aves (the bird park – also highly praised, but not reviewed here). When you get off the bus there are machines where you can buy your park entry tickets with card, then you hop on another bus for a ~10-minute ride down to the entry to the falls walk. Unlike the Argentinian side, there is not much walking to do here. The entire walk through the Brazilian park, with very leisurely photo stops will take you an hour, hour-and-a-half, max. The Brazilian side is set on the northeastern side of the falls, so the morning, as close to sun rise as their late opening time allows, is peak photo time.

How to Entertain yourself the rest of the time:

You’ll spend ~6 and ~2 hours each day traveling to and experiencing the falls but need something to fill the other 10-14 hours of daylight. Enter long walks along the river and Tacopado’s all day everyday 2-for-1 happy hour. For walks in town, we recommend walking along the Iguazu River stopping jut short of the Tres Banderas monument before heading back into town. The Tres Banderas (3 flags) monument marks the point where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet. From a historical and photography standpoint, it is not very impressive, and gave off some not great safety vibes. While I’ve never felt legitimately unsafe in Argentina, making the circle around this monument, I took my strides a little longer, and held my backpack a little tighter.  

When you’re done with your walk, head to Tacopado for 2-for-1 cocktails and cheap Tex-Mex. Your two cocktails will run you $4USD for offerings like margaritas, caipirinhas, and fresh fruit daquairis. The passion fruit daiquiri is worth all the cals for one of your two drink choices. The food is decent, big and will get you out the door for under $6, so less than $10 total for your two drinks and sustenance, great for a budget evening. For your splurge evening ($15 USD/person with wine!), head to Mama Pasta for amazing handmade pastas and sauces that you mix and match yourself. We can 100% vouch for the carbonara and the pesto, but the $10 restaurant bottles of Malbec could probably make us vouch for anything they offered.

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