“Before going to Iguazu I wasn’t humble , definitely not the religious kind of person, but when I was standing in front of that marvel of the nature I understood that I was small, and that there was something bigger than us”. Anonymous
It is difficult to explain because I think there are not many places in the world that will astonish you in that way – just imagine that the biggest waterfall within the Iguazu Falls National park is moving 1 million liters of water per second.
Now try to imagine not only the amount of water but the fury with which the water is moving in just 1 second.
In this text we will give a Full Iguazu National Park Itinerary with tips for organizing your trip, practical advices on choosing the tours, accommodation, transportation and anything else you might need to know before going to Iguazu.
About Iguazu Falls National Park
Iguazu National Park is actually composed of 2 independent parks – one on the Brazilian side of the border and another on the Argentinian side.
It happened that the border between the two countries goes straight through the falls area so the both countries got their piece of the one of the most famous waterfalls in the world and one of the 7 new wonders of nature.
There is even a third country that come into the picture – Paraguay. In the park there is a confluence of 2 rivers – Parana River and the Iguazu River, making the natural border between the 3 countries – Brazil – Argentina – Paraguay.
Unluckily for Paraguay, it stayed out of the touristic part of the deal as the majority of the falls are within Argentina and Brazil.
The whole region, nowadays a big tourist attraction (and consequentially a potential danger for the biodiversity of the jungle) , once was a home of the Guarani culture which still has its roots in the area and is historic connection between Brazilians , Paraguayans and Argentinians.
Argentinian part of the National Park Iguazu is located in the province of Misiones in Argentina while Brazilian part of the national park is located in the department of Parana.
The whole National Park area covers 677 km2 spreaded between the two countries.
It’s one of the 7 new wonders of Nature and also a part of the protected UNESCO Heritage.
The park has about 270 waterfalls, enormous subtropical jungle that surrounds the scene and the wildest animals living around.
Since the park extends through 2 different countries as a tourist, you can visit both sides and experience different perspectives.
Unfortunately the double experience will come with double price so you will have to pay the entrance fee two times – once in Argentina and once in Brasil (if you decide to visit both sides of the park).
Although most of the Iguazu Falls are within Argentinian borders (2/3 of the falls) maybe the best panoramic views you will get from Brazilian side.
If you talk to any Brazilian or Argentinian about the topic they will both claim the best waterfalls to be in their country.
To avoid having doubts, include in your itinerary both Argentinian and Brazilian part of the National Park.
Once you are already there, you should not miss visiting both of them – they are both unique and, even thought the main thing are waterfalls, there is a lot of different things to see and do in both parks.
How to arrive to Iguazu National Park (Brazil & Argentinian side)?
Independently if you want to stay on the Brazilian side (Foz de Iguaçu) or in the Argentinian side (Iguazu), you can reach both of that cities by plane , bus or private car.
Considering that most of the people will come from Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro or São Pablo probably the best option will always be to take a plane. Buses or private car will mean a very long trip (cca. 15/18 hours on the road).
From Buenos Aires the distance to Iguazu is 1,282 km from Rio de Janeiro 1500 km. That gives quite solid arguments for taking a plane. Direct flights from the capitals of Argentina and Brazil are not expensive and are the most convenient ways.
- Buenos Aires – Iguazú = ~40-50 euros
- Rio de Janeiro/São Pablo – Foz = ~35-50 euros
For organizing your trip to Iguazu National Park, there are few options:
- Fully organized trip by an agency (hotel + flight + tours)
- Partially organized trip by an agency (hotel + tours – buy flights by yourself)
- DIY (book your flight, accommodation and tours by yourself)
If you will book your flight and hotel by yourself don’t worry about tours – you will find plenty of options in your hotel/hostel , in the street and in the surroundings so you can book it on the spot or just grab a taxi and ask them to drive you directly to the park.
Although it can be organized by yourself, due to the complexity of crossing the borders, considering that the location of the park is quite isolated and far from the capitals, booking a fully or partially organized trip with a touristic agency might be the best option.
How Long to Stay?
You will need at least 2 days to visit only the parks from both sides – one full day for the Argentinian part of the park and another day for the Brazilian side.
Besides the national parks that are the main attraction, there are several other activities to do and few other places interesting to visit once you are done with the waterfalls.
All in all, 4 days should be enough – more than that is also fine, you will definitely not be bored.
Where to stay when visiting Iguazu Falls National Park? What about tours? Transport?
We assume you are staying in Argentina. That was our itinerary so we will talk mostly about that option.
Normally, accommodation in Misiones region of Argentina (where the National Park from Argentinian side is located) offers 4 or 5 stars hotels with included food, transport from and to the airport and to and from the National Park.
Even though majority of the accommodation options are a bit more expensive hotels, you can also find guesthouses and other budget options.
Depending on your budget and your preferences you can spend for 4 days and 3 nights from 30 euros up to 350/400 (obviously you can always go for more expensive options).
There are even hotels within the national park itself but the range of prices goes much higher than the average.
The town of Iguazu is not really big but with enough options to eat, grab a taxi, drink a cocktail and buy what you need in a grocery store. There are plenty of souvenir shops as well.
Generally when you book your accommodation, pick up and drop off from and to the airport will be included in the price. Nevertheless always check first. If that is not the case you can easily get taxi at the airport.
In case you book your tour to the National Park through some agency they will always pick you up from the hotel and also drop you off after the tour finishes so you don’t need to worry about transport, buying tickets etc.
The distance between the National Park and the area where the majority of hotels are located, is not short, so pick up and drop off service is something you really need.
Since the location is quite remote, there is no many options for public transport so, in case you don’t want to book a tour, you will have to move around by taxi (which is not so bad option neither), or a bus (the worst one but still an option).
Normally, you can get a taxi at the airport or at your hotel and the prices are negotiable.
Moving around using public transport is definitely not the best idea – it is not impossible but you will waste lot of time.
When it comes to crossing the border between Argentina and Brazil in order to see the other side of the park, it is also a recommendation to do it with an organized tour since they are familiar with the necessary paperwork and everything will be done quickly.
Same goes for taxi drivers – they are familiar with the procedure and they will help you. In both cases they will pick you up from the hotel and also drop you off after the tour.
On the contrary, if you would decide to do it on your own, using public transport options, you may face difficulties and lose lot of time since the border crossing is normally very crowded and messy.
Saying this, for going from Brazilian to Argentinian side and vice versa, here are the DIY options:
From Foz de Iguazu (Brazilian side) to Argentinian Waterfalls by BUS:
- Take the bus from Foz de Iguazu to Iguazu Port.
- Consider that, on the border crossing, you will need to get your passport stamped. The bus won’t wait for you in case you are taking too long but they will give you a kind of extended ticket so when you finish with the paperwork on the border crossing, in case the bus leaves without you, you can take the next bus that arrives each 40 minutes.
- The bus companies that do this route (Foz de Iguazu to Iguazu Port) are CELESTE , CRUCERO DEL NORTE Y VIAÇAO ITAIPU.
- Prices are around 13 euros per way. For time details visit the webpage of Transporte Colectivo Foz Iguazu
- From there (Iguazu Port) take another bus to the Iguazu National Park – there operates another company – Compañía Río Uruguay de buses. (average price per way is 4€), it goes every 20 minutes and it will take you around 40 minutes to arrive to the National Park.
An alternative to all this mess is a private taxi driver who waits for you and costs around 40 € per way or organized tour with will include entrance tickets to the park, guided tour and transport from and to the hotel.
From Iguazu (Argentinian side) to Brazilian Waterfalls by BUS:
- If Staying on the Argentinian side then the best DIY option to arrive to Brazilian side of the park by bus is the company Compañía Río Uruguay de buses. Service starts at 8.00AM and finishes at 8.ooPM.
- The bus that goes from Iguazu Port directly to the Brazilian side of the waterfalls. It stops in the border while everyone get their stamp.
- There are 4 buses to go (8h; 10h, 12h, 14h) y 4 buses for return (11h, 13h, 15h, 17h). Price is around 5 €.
- We always suggest to check the schedule because it may vary from 1 year to another or season.
In any case, we really suggest organized tours or taxi for hassle-free experience.
Inside de Iguazu National park – Visit solo vs. Guided tour
Can you do the visit by yourself? The answer is yes, you can.
However, from the logistic perspective, not hiring a tour or a private driver at least, will increase the complexity, you will not be saving much money and you will, for sure, lose some of the precious time on figuring the things out.
Standard entrance ticket for Argentinian park is around 13 € (Open daily 9.00h AM to 5.00h PM)
Standard entrance ticket for Brazilian park is around 15 € (Open daily from 9.00h AM to 6.00h PM). Only access to Trilha das Cataratas
With tour or on your own, you will need to wait in a quite long queue to enter to the park.
Why to book the tour with guide instead of going alone?
Well, I guess this is a personal opinion but I would agree that visiting cities, or museums can be done by yourself with all the information there is around in books, internet and magazines.
However, going to natural places (especially this big) could be more interesting when some local introduce you the place and share some of the personal stories related (considering the fact that all tourist guides are locals who grew up in the area).
Another reason – if you decide to visit the National Park on your own (without a guided tour) you might get lost – it`s basically a huge jungle so getting lost is somehow possible.
On the contrary, with the tourist guide you will get the main idea of the Park, where is what, in which direction you should move and what are the main points of interest.
Normally, the groups are quite big (some 20+ persons with one tour guide) but you are not obliged to move all along with the group – the tour guide will give you all the necessary information and timeline so you won`t get lost, you won`t lose time and you will not miss the best spots in the park.
Guided tour will cost you just slightly more than going by yourself so, if you are not on a really tight budget, it is definitely worth it.
Besides the entry ticket to the park which will allow you to explore it on foot, you can add some extras to make it even more fun.
This will add some cost of course, but also some extra fun.
Some of the activities that you can do inside the park (at extra cost):
The Iguazu Falls Boat Ride (Gran Aventura): available in the Argentinian side of the Park. This one is probably the best activity you could do inside the park hence we highly recommend it. The tour starts with a short safari jeep ride that brings you to Port Macuco where you will take a little motor-boat that will bring you straight under the waterfalls. The boat will go through the big canyon of the inferior Iguazu River so basically you will be under the waterfalls. There is no better place to see and feel the waterfalls. Be ready to get totally wet as you will be occasionally splashed as the boat come closer to the falls. The whole activity lasts about 2 hours and it cost around 45 euro per person (well worth it).
Photo Safari: available in Argentinian side of the Park. The tour takes around 2 hours and some 20km of a slow ride in a big open safari jeep through the jungle. The jeeps are tall and fully open so you will get great views and amazing opportunities for photos. During the trip you will have several stops to observe and learn how to read the wildlife (how to identify certain types of toxic plants, insects, animal`s footprints…). For this adventure you will be provided with repellent, raincoat, prismatic, guide to identify birds, mammals and blueprints. The price of the tour is around 14 euro per person.
Trilha da bananeira: available in the Brazilian side of the Park. Similar as the abovementioned Gran Aventura, it is a boat trip but in this case you go through the top part of the Iguazu river arriving to a port in the Brazil side. Again, you will get the most spectacular views of the waterfalls and you will also be able to feel the power of the falling water and feel the adrenaline for being that close to the falls. The price is around 46 euro per person.
Most of these tours can be booked online, with some tourist agency, or directly in the Park once you are already there.
Here you can check some of the options and book tours online – Iguazu National Park Activities Off-Ticket
From the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls National Park it is possible to book a quick tour on helicopter from where you will get amazing views of the area, however, it is not the most eco-friendly idea so we are not really encouraging to do this.
Inside the parks you will find quite a decent amount of options to eat and drink at not so high prices.
Another important, fun and useful information for the inside of the Park – beware of the wild animals.
By that I mean, bring a repellent (jungle mosquitoes are really wild) don`t touch any funny-looking insect or any other animal. Besides some quite big lizards, you will surely see the strangest little animals (well, not so little) called COATI.
They are of a size of an average dog, living in the wild but since there is a lot of movement (and food) around they are quite domesticated and regular visitors to the public parts of the Park. Apparently, petting them is not a good idea. Apparently, they will bite you if you try to do so. Some of us could not resist and we are aware it was not a correct behavior. Don’t touch coatis!
Iguazu National Park (Argentina side) – Main Points of interest
If you are visiting the Park with a guide they will surely indicate you in a good direction and explain you which are the main points and best things you should see in the park.
If you are going on your own, here are some of the main points of the Park and some of the places you don’t want to miss on the Argentinian side of the park:
Devil’s Throat – the name kind of describe it well – it is the highest, the deepest and the most powerful of the falls.
You will have the chance to come really close to one of the most amazing and voluminous waterfalls in the park. Being that close to something that powerful will make you think about many things. Don’t forget to take photos.
Upper walking trail: it’s a walk of about 75 minutes that will bring you to some great panoramic spots from where you can see some of the most famous waterfalls in the park – Bosetti waterfall, Adan y Eva, Bernabe Mendez, Mbigua, Dos Hermanas and San Martin. It’s a great walk to get the top views of the falls (you will be walking on the high part of the river) and you will get the best panoramic photos from this trail.
Lower walking trail: is probably one of the softest and easiest paths to go through (it takes around 1 hour to do it). In this path you will be in the lower part of the river so now it will be more difficult to have a good panoramic view but, on the other hand, you will be face to face with the waterfalls so it will give a great perspective of their size and power.
The Ecological Train: the train runs between the main points of the park and is fully ecological (and included in the entrance ticket price). It goes not faster than 20km/h in order to not disturb the animals in the surroundings and give you a great opportunity to enjoy the surrounding. More about the train ride – here
The Macuco Trail and Arrechea Fall: this one is the toughest of all the trails (3km to go till the end and the same 3km back). The path leads through the forest and ends up at the only waterfall where swimming is allowed – Waterfall Arrechea. This trail goes through the homeland of the Cai monkey, for which is not strange to see them all around together with some other animals. Remember, you should not touch or feed them. The entrance to the trail is kind of difficult to find so ask the staff around to indicate you. Also, note that you can enter to this trail until 3pt the latest. In some occasions the trail is closed for visitors. This trail is much less visited than the others in the park so you will not see so many tourists around. Take into account that you will spend 3 or more hours doing it so you will not have much of the remaining time to see the rest of the Park. In case you will have 2 days to visit the park, this might be a good option to try.
The green path: this is a beautiful short path (only 600 meters long) where you go through a small habitat of coatis and Cai monkeys. Generally, here are kept recovering animals and to be let free later on when they are healed. The same advise apply here, don’t touch the animals, don’t feed them and don’t disturb them.
In case you want to see it all, you might not be able to do it all in one day with calm. You can select in advance the trails and activities you want to do in the park and go for these, or you can speed yourself up and give a quick overview of all. Or you can simply buy another ticket for one more day and enjoy it to the maximum.
Map of the National Park – Argentina
Iguazu National Park (Brazil side) – Main Points of interest
The Brazilian side of the National Park is kind of smaller – the visit is much shorter so in case of the guided tour, they normally include visit to the Bird Sanctuary as well. In addition, many tours also include visit to Itaipu dam – a huge hydro-electric shopping center located close to the Brazilian side of the Park.
Going with lot of calm it will take you not more than 3 hours to see the Brazilian part of the Park – the path is more straight forward. As predominant background you will have the view of the above mentioned Devil’s Throat waterfall through all the way which will give you a great panoramic perspective.
You are not going to see much of a different landscape than in Argentinian part of the park, but, you will see it all from a different angle hence it will be just as interesting.
Map of the National Park – Brazil
What to bring to the Park?
Considering that you are in the sub-tropic environment it is going to be really hot almost always.
Some rain is possible depending on the season of the year but that will not cause you much problems because you are getting wet anyway.
During summer, temperatures could reach around 40 degrees Celsius.
Since most of the activities you could possibly do in the National Park or in the area of Misiones in general, is happening outside, you should have with you:
- Comfortable (sports or trekking) shoes. Avoid to wear flip-flops in the National Park, it is wet and slippery.
- Waterproof Jacket – in case that getting wet bothers you (since the temperatures are really high, in my opinion, some splash of water here and there actually plays in your favor)
- Waterproof case/bag for ID, money, phone… (normally, you will get splashed more or less depending on the trail you take, excursion or how much you come close to the waterfall but you will hardly avoid getting wet so good idea is to protect at least personal documents, money, phone, camera…).
- A change of shirt/shorts/socks will be a good idea for the return (you can change your clothes after the tour so you are not in wet clothes in the bus – again, personal preference)
- Mosquito Repellent (there is a very effective one that is easy to find called “OFF”). In case you really hate mosquitos wear long sleeves and long pants (light ones or you will be really hot)
- Sun cream with high factor protection
- Bottle of water – drink a lot of it
- Hat – you will be walking in the sun the whole day
- Umbrella – if you are really afraid of burning and getting wet (otherwise unnecessary)
In case you forget to bring any of these, don’t worry, all of the mentioned items are sold at the entrance to the park so you can buy there whatever you need (at higher prices obviously).
What else to see and do after the National Park?
Waterfalls inside the Iguazu National Park (both in Argentinian and Brazilian) side are definitely the main attractions in the area and the main reason of your visit.
However, the whole area of Misiones (we are speaking about Argentina) is interesting, beautiful and offers some other attractions to a visitor.
Zip line and Rappelling Adventure Tour
Besides the visit to the National Park, this tour was one of the best, maybe ever.
It is a half day tour which involves safari-ride through the jungle, rappelling down the waterfall and 3 zip-line rides in the middle of the forest.
It is really fun and, even though is very active one, it is suitable also for elders or the ones who are not very fit. The only condition is adventurous spirit.
Archeological area of San Ignacio
San Ignacio is a small town some 260km (not so close) far away from Iguazu waterfalls. The main attraction of San Ignacio are Jesuit ruins that are one of UNESCO World-Heritage cites.
This tour is usually offered as one-day excursion from Misiones or in combination with some other tour. Even though is not so close to the waterfalls, it is certainly worth of visit and interesting for anyone who likes history, archeology and would like to learn about Guarani culture.
The Wanda Mines
This is another interesting tour offered in the area. The mine is located some 55km away from Iguazy Waterfalls so it will not be a long ride.
If you are into caves, gemstones, geology, or jewelry you will like this tour a lot.
Normally, a local guide will walk you through the caves and explain the story behind it, and at the end of the tour you will have the chance to buy some of the stones and other souvenirs in the gift shop.
Also, you will get to know about the village Wanda, it’s history and traditions.
This tour is guided by the local people from the ethnic group of Mbya Guaraní who live in the area of Misiones.
Normally, you will be taught about their traditions, way of life in a community, you will learn about traditional food they prepare and about their history in general.
These are just some of the side tours that are offered in the vicinity of the National Park.
Once you are in Misiones, besides the waterfalls, you should definitely take the profit and explore a bit more – the whole area has incredible sights, amazing nature and it is still one of those not very visited destinations which gives it some extra value.
Food in Iguazu
We all know that the main thing about Argentinian food is barbeque (parilla). It is said that Argentina has the best grilled meat (asado) in the world. So far, no doubts about that.
In Iguazu, besides the typical asado, we can find some delicious and authentic local food coming directly from Guarani culture:
Mbeyú is a typical guarani fried pancake made with cassava starch, milk or water, salt, cheese. eggs, fat and cornstarch. Normally it is eaten for breakfast or as a snack.
Chipá o paraguayan cake made of milk, cheese, eggs, salt, fat and cassava starch. It´s similar in preparation to Mbeyu but Chipa is made in the oven so the final product is more dry and spongy.
Paraguayan soup – that is not actually a soup – it´s a cheesy corn bread made of flour of white corn, onion and cheese and baked in the oven.
Pacú o Tararira (Grill River Fish) – simple but delicious, local grilled river fish. Generally will be presented with fry cassava or yuca.
Rapadura – sugar cane desert.
Mate – is something like a holy drink and widely consumed today mostly in Argentina, Uruguay & Paraguay. It’s a mix of herbs soaked in a hot water – something like a very strong and concentrated tea. A version with cold water is called “Terere” and normally consumed in summer.
All the restaurants in the area will have all of the abovementioned dishes, so dare to try some of them, you will not regret!
More less, this would be all (or almost all) you should know before traveling to Iguazu. It is one of those (nowadays rare) places where the mass tourism still didn’t take over – Iguazu is still what could be called ”off the beaten bath” destination.
Even though there is a lot of domestic tourists or the ones from the surrounding countries, there are no so many foreigners.
The location is quite remote and far from the capitals so the most of the visitors to Argentina or Brazil decide to stay around capitals and big cities.
If you are into nature, outdoors and active tourism a trip to Iguazu might be one of the best decisions for your next trip.
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