When visiting Brazil or anywhere in South America, Iguazu Falls on the border with Argentina is a must see destination. Located just outside the cities of Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, the falls are on the list of the new, seven natural wonders of the world.
They are the largest waterfall system in the world. There’s only one word to describe them, spectacular. The falls are so expansive that you really have to experience them from both Brazil and Argentina to get the full experience.
Visiting Iguazu Falls
From Foz do Iguacu, you can take the local bus from the bus station for about US $4 which takes you right to the entrance of the national park where the falls are located. It’s a little over US $50 to get in to the park. From there, you take a bus to where you can see the falls in all their glory. There is a walking trail where you get so close that you get drenched by the water.
On the Brazilian side, you are positioned mostly beside the falls where you can hear the noise of the water as it tumbles down into the river. From most of the vantage points you are looking up at the falls. The view is amazing and the sound deafening.
There is also a boat ride (an extra US $60) you can take, which I highly recommend, where you go right into the falls. There’s no need to worry about coming prepared for the boat ride either as there are lockers where you can leave your personal belongings before you board.
Do take advantage of the service as you will get wet. I also recommend taking a towel with you to the park. Did I mention that you will get wet? It is a full day experience, but you could do it in a half a day if you are pushed for time.
On the Argentina side, the cost to get into the national park to see the falls is about $40 and you have to pay the fee in cash. There is a cash machine at the entrance if you only have a credit card. Like on the Brazil side, you can take a local bus from town, Puerto Iguazu, to the entrance. It will cost you a couple of dollars. There are also plenty of door to door tours available which you can organize on both sides of the border.
The feel on the Argentina side is much different than the Brazil side. There were fewer people when I was there and it looked a little run down. It’s lovely nevertheless. An old fashioned-styled open train takes you to where you can walk to the falls.
One of the few modern things in the national park is the Subway sandwich shop. On this side of the border you are above the falls looking down at them. At some points you are standing at the point where millions of gallons of water are going over the edge at once. There’s even a platform in the middle of the famed Devil’s Throat where the mist is ever present. Most of your time is spent walking on platforms above and along the water. There’s also a boat trip on this Argentine side. Seeing both sides is an absolute must. Spending some time in both cities is also worthwhile.
In Puerto Iguazu, with a population of 82,000, you will find a quaint downtown core. The many new, modern, restaurants and bars look like they could get busy and loud on the weekends or during high season. A bit beyond this area are a handful of older style Argentine eateries. Enjoy amazing food at very reasonable prices. The local vibe includes a charming market.. The traders sell olives, coffee, cheese and other Argentine products. The area rocks well into the night. Many small and cozy bed and breakfast hotels to choose from can be found in Puerto Iguazu.
Foz do Iguacu is the biggest city in the area with 265,000 inhabitants. It’s the hustling metropolis where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. It’s also a university town so there a few prominent bars along Avenue Jorge Schimmelpfeng.The area comes to life at night.
The Food Truck Festival takes place in August in a space on Avenue Jorge Schimmelpheng between R Alm Barroso and Mal. Floriano. There are food and souvenir stalls as well as live music, with a seating area where you can people watch.
One of the happening restaurant/bars on the Avenue is Capitao Bar. Another, one block away, is Rafain Chopp. The gas station across the street from Capitao Bar is worth a visit if you want to buy beer. It has a walk in beer freezer. A gas station with a walk in beer freezer. Who would have thought?
Foz do Iguaco
Stroll the downtown area in Foz do Iguaco with its various tourist and souvenir shops. I found two restaurants worth trying. First, Churrascaria Bufalo Branco on R. Eng Reboucas. It’s an upscale meat buffet restaurant where the cuts of meat just keep on coming until you can’t eat anymore. bufalobranco.com.br
Second, Charrascaria do Gaucho. It’s also buffet style with endless portions of meat and it’s less expensive. Both feature Brazilian cuisine at a great value. churrascariadogaucho.com.br
Other things you might want to put on your list include Parque das Aves, the largest bird park in Latin America, located close to the entrance of Foz do Iguacu National Park. Take in a tour of Itaipu Dam, which has the largest functioning hydroelectric power plant in the world.
Another interesting thing to do while you’re in Foz do Iguacu, walk over the bridge to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. The city of 223,000 people markets itself as a duty free area. The quirky thing about going there is that you don’t need your passport to get there even though you’re going into a different country. Although there is a customs office, you just walk right by it. The city contains hundreds of market stalls selling anything and everything you could imagine. There are also many restaurants.
There is not a lot to do other than browse through the market stalls, but it is worth a look. Just going into another country without your passport is worth the trip. That, in itself, is a unique experience.
Nuts and Bolts
Where to stay – The San Rafael Hotel in Foz do Iguacu, is great value for money. I booked it on Expedia.co.uk for about £31 a night. It is located in the perfect location; walking distance to the bus station, to Avenue Jorge Schimmelpheng where the happening restaurants and bars are located and just a couple of blocks from main downtown area. The hotel amenities include a swimming pool, bar area and a restaurant. The price also includes breakfast. The travel desk will organize your tourist activities if you don’t want to organize them yourself. I thought the hotel a very good find.
Getting to town from the airport – you can either get a taxi into town, about $15, or you can take the local bus for a couple of dollars. The bus takes a bit longer, but takes you close to most of the hotels.
However you choose to spend your time, you will not regret visiting Iguaza Falls.
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