Perhaps one of the most breath-taking complexes of waterfalls in the world, Iguassu Falls are a true marvel of nature, and not to be missed on a trip to Argentina or Brazil. Choosing between the two or just curious as to what you will see on each side? Humboldt specialist Ellie explains the difference between each.
At Iguassu, on the border between Brazil and Argentina, thousands of gallons of water tumble over the steep edges of these rugged jungle cliffs every day, creating hundreds of individual falls, which together cause a deafening roar and thick clouds of spray. This magnificent sight is often scattered with rainbows as the tropical sunlight filters through the ever-moving cascades. Forming a magical focal point along the divide between Brazil and Argentina, each side offers a different perspective.
Iguazú Falls (as it is known in Argentina) or Iguaçu Falls (as it is known in Brazil) – also spelled the neutral way halfway between Spanish and Portuguese (Iguassu Falls), are waterfalls of the Iguazú River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones. The falls are composed of over 250 separate cascading drops spanning over 2700m, making them the largest waterfalls in the world.
It is not really a question of which side of the falls is better because if you are visiting, it is very easy to see both sides and decide for yourself. We absolutely recommend that you do so! Instead, this blog will explain the differences, so you know what to expect before you travel.
Over two thirds of the falls are on the Argentine side of the border, meaning that there are more falls to see in the National Park here. The Argentinian falls are multi-faceted and offer a truly visceral experience as the spray from the cascades rises and drenches you as you observe them.
A network of walkways allow you to get right up to the water and offer you different angles and perspectives of the falls. The walkways lead you to the Devil’s Throat, a horseshoe shaped curtain of waterfalls with a number of spectacular cascades. The water here is so powerful it sounds like thunder and the spray forms an incredible cloud of mist so be sure to pack a good waterproof for this day out!
Another fun experience is to take the Gran Aventura speedboat which takes you along the river, underneath the falls and down some white-water rapids. The trip is akin to the iconic Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls and is a must do for anyone visiting the falls who is eligible for the ride!* Be prepared to get even more wet for this one – it’s quite a thrilling experience!
*The Gran Aventura does not accept under 12s or over 65s.
Where to Stay? – Awasi Iguazú
Located just 15 minutes from the impressive Iguassu Falls, this 14-room lodge opened at the beginning of 2018 and is Awasi’s newest project. Situated on the banks of the River Iguazú, each of the luxurious private villas is assigned with a private guide and a 4WD vehicle, allowing guests to explore at their own pace, visiting where they want, when they want, and for however long they want. The hotel works closely with biologists to create activity options that go beyond the falls and give visitors the opportunity to experience the wonderful and oft-forgotten nature of the area. A unique concept in this region, Awasi is the perfect place to stay for those who wish to spend more time at the falls. Over the course of a three- or four-night stay (we recommend four!) you can visit the falls, learn more about local indigenous Guaraní communities, kayak on the river, go birdwatching, enjoy a mountain bike tour and much, much more!
What the Brazilian Falls lack in size compared to their Argentinian equivalent, it makes up for with fantastic views and photo-ops. While you won’t get as close to the falls here, you do get a wider, clearer and uninterrupted view of the stunning cascades. Here, there is a top viewing deck for observation and a small boardwalk, where you can walk along the edge of the panoramic pours. The Brazil side therefore might offer less ‘adventure’, but its more laid-back and less-busy vibe allows you to really be able to take in the falls and take some amazing photos to take home with you.
For an even more impressive view of the falls, you can also take a helicopter ride over the falls in Brazil. This will really allow you to appreciate the grandeur of Iguassu and give you an intimate, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Brazil’s answer to the Gran Aventura is the Macuco Safari, which does a similar thing, albeit on a quieter route, and thus accepts younger children and over 65s as passengers.
Directly opposite from the helipad is the Parque Das Aves, a fabulous bird park that gives you a close-up of a variety of Brazilian birdlife. This will introduce you to the plethora of exotic bird species that call the National Park home. Most of the birds in the bird park were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, or from places where they had been mistreated. A backstage experience here will give you closer contact with the birds where you can meet newly hatched babies, witness the rehabilitation and physio programmes of some of the birds as well as get involved with feeding them.
Where to stay? – Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
The Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel situated within the Iguaçu National Park on the Brazilian side of the falls. It is the place to stay while on holiday to Iguassu Falls. The hotel is directly in front of the falls enjoying an unrivalled location where guests can experience exclusive access to this magnificent sight in the evening and at dawn, when the park is closed to other visitors. If staying here we always recommend that you wake early to explore the falls before other tourists enter the park and have them all to yourself. The wooden walkways which take you to the falls are directly opposite the entrance to the hotel and you can take stunning photos here in the soft light of the beginning and end of each day.
Of course, if you want to soak up everything Iguassu Falls has to offer you should always see both sides. No matter which side of the falls you choose to stay on, a day tour to the other side is easy to organise and an essential experience to ensure you take pictures at all the key viewpoints. Make sure you do your visa and immigration research for both countries as the requirements vary for each nationality. For British Citizens, no visas are necessary for Argentina or Brazil, although US, Canadian and other countries’ citizens may need a visa or to pay a reciprocity fee. To make the most of your time at Iguassu Falls, we recommend spending at least two nights in the region for a comprehensive tour of both sides but there’s so much to do…why not spend more?