After finishing my Peru trip in Lima, I hopped on my afternoon flight to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil (6 hrs direct). A taxi to Centro cost R49,00 and took about 20 minutes.
Note: US citizens must get their Brazil visa prior to entering the country as you cannot get one on arrival at the airport. However, you can apply for a Brazil visa from the Argentina side in Puerto Iguazu but this will take a day or two.
Foz do Iguaçu is located in the region of the triple frontier between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. There has been archaeological evidence of human presence in the area since 6000 BC but the Iguazu waterfalls were first “discovered” in 1542 by the Spanish. The area became a national park on 1916 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
I spent 2 full days exploring Iguazu Falls. The first day I saw the Brazilian side and the Bird Park, and then I crossed the border to spend a night in Puerto Iguazu. The second day I did the Argentinian side of the falls and then crossed back to Foz do Iguacu for one more night before my flight to Rio de Janeiro the following morning.
The falls are absolutely stunning and I think worth the touristy stop. I have visited Niagara Falls before, but I have to admit Iguazu is a lot more impressive (Niagara is about a third shorter). I hope to check out the Victoria Falls next in Africa!
Land Border Crossing:
The borders are very lax here but it is your personal responsibility to ensure you have all your proper entry/exit stamps. Most buses will stop at the Argentinian border and wait for you when you go through immigration. However, this is not the case for the Brazilian border. You must ask the bus driver to let you out at the border to get your exit stamp (the driver didn’t actually stop, he just rolled slowly). Here the bus won’t wait for you so you will need to wait the next one (buses come every 15-20 minutes). The driver will give you a voucher for the next bus so you don’t have to pay the fare again.
From the main bus terminal of Foz do Iguaçu, take the 120 bus to the last stop which is the Parque Nacional (R2,90). Park entrance tickets cost R41,60 which includes transport around the park via bus. The park is open from 9am to 5pm.
I took the park bus from the entrance and got off at the first waterfall viewing platform (it’s across from the only hotel in the park). From there, I followed the Cataratas Trail up towards the Devil’s Throat, which provided spectacular panoramic views of the falls along the way.
Depending on the volume of water of the Iguaçu River, the number of falls can exceed 300 (which it probably did when I was there). It was pretty cool seeing all the waterfalls pouring out amid the subtropical forest.
I was already pretty wet from the rain but when I went out to the end of the balcony at the Devil’s Throat, I got a good soaking from the spray of the falls. Normally, I think you can easily manage to stay dry on the Brazilian side but the wind and rain that day made that impossible.
The Brazilian side only took me a couple hours as I only walked one trail. There are plenty of other activities to do at the falls, including rafting, kayaking, biking, boat rides, and even helicopter rides but the weather didn’t make these options very attractive that day.
After the waterfalls, I decided to check out the Parque das Aves (Bird Park) that is located just across the road. Several travellers had recommended it and I figured my body could manage another couple hours of the cold rain.
The park was a lot bigger than expected and took me a good couple hours to walk through it. There are some 900 birds plus butterflies, alligators, snakes and diverse fauna to see. I loved going into the many large aviaries, which allowed you to get super close to the birds.
I was able to see all the birds and reptiles that I missed during my time in Amazon Basin, such as toucans and anacondas, so I was pretty happy with that! After saying goodbye to the birds, I hopped on a bus to head to the Argentinian border.
I stayed at the Marcopolo Inn which was conveniently located directly across the bus station. Inconveniently though, there were no hot showers (a common issue on my trip).
While the Brazilian side offers beautiful panoramic views of the falls, the Argentinian side allows you to get much closer to the falls. The Argentinian side is also much bigger with about 80% of the falls. Park admission is 170 pesos and hours are 8am to 6pm. A round trip bus ticket from the bus terminal to the park costs 60 pesos.
It had finally stopped raining the day I visited the Argentinian side of the falls and the sun brought out beautiful rainbows all over the falls. However, because it had rained so much prior, the dangerous water levels had closed a lot of the key attractions such as the Devil’s Throat balcony, San Martin Island, and the boat rides to the Lower Falls. I was massively bummed. I did see some boat rides still operating but they were only from the Brazilian side… such daredevils.
So the only activities open were the trail walks which bring you to various levels of the falls. The park was pretty crowded especially as it was a holiday weekend in Argentina, so the trail walks were more like stop-n-go shuffles. The long lines to the viewing balconies reminded me of waiting for rides at an amusement park, except instead of a roller coaster it’s just a photo opportunity.
Still, the waterfalls were gorgeous and mostly worth fighting through the crowds of people.
After walking some of the trails twice (there was not much else to do), I headed back across the border to Brazil. I was so happy for a hot shower back at the Iguassu Guest House. They even had hair-dryers in all the bathrooms to assist with drying any wet stuff.
I left early the next morning to catch the bus to the airport (same 120 bus that goes to Iguaçu Park stops at the airport just prior). I hopped on my flight (2 hrs) to Rio de Janeiro to begin my next adventure!