Cataratas de Iguaçu in Portugese or Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, Iguazu Falls are incredible waterfalls on the Iguazu River, straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, and also very close to Paraguay. You can visit from either Brazil or Argentina. We did both, and I much preferred the Brazilian side (although I am sure many would disagree!). Note – if you plan to visit the Brazilian side, US citizens need a Brazilian VISA (see end of post for details).
For some unknown reason, I expected the Argentinian side to be far superior to the Brazilian side. SO WRONG.
The Brazilian side was clean, gorgeous and reminded me of a Disney World-like attraction. I liked this, a lot, especially after spending the night in the worst hostel/hotel in which I have ever stayed in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina. Those who fancy themselves “hard-core” explorers may not like the fact that the Brazilian side is this way. Regardless, I found the Brazilian side to be the easiest experience and have the best view of the falls as a whole. Per my next post, I found the Argentinian side to be the best for exploring the forest and river surrounding the falls and getting off the beaten path.
The Brazilian experience starts with a big, colorful entrance about 10 minutes from the Argentinian/Brazilian border. We took a cab from Puerto Iguazú and pre-arranged for cab to come back and pick us up a few hours later (and then take us to the Argentinian side). We purchased tickets using our credit card and promptly got in line for the bus to take us to the falls. If you have time to kill, the entrance area has a nice-looking cafe and a gift shop.
The bus is double-decker and has four stops; you want to get off at the third stop, at the hotel.
Walk opposite the hotel to get the first view of the falls. SO GORGEOUS!!
From the first view, there is a wall-marked and well-kept trail taking you closer to the falls, culminating right at the falls. The trail is sprinkled with views of the falls and contains wildlife – we saw a toucan!
When we finally reached the falls, there is a walkway leading right out to them. Read: super close! This was a great experience, and a wet one. We brought our own ponchos and used them here. People were selling ponchos, too. Whatever you do, be sure to keep your passport and camera dry.
After taking a number of pictures at the falls, we walked up to restaurant/visitor center area, which is also stop # 4 (the final stop and turnaround point) on the bus route. This center has a few fast-food spots, a small gift shop and a sit-down buffet restaurant. Even though it was a little pricey for lunch (about $25 USD/person), we opted for the sit-down buffet lunch. The food was good for a tourist-buffet and we got some fancy Brazilian drinks! When in Brazil, right?!
The best part of this restaurant is its location, literally on the Iguzau River. If you’re eating here, try to go at an off time (we went at 11:15 – before the lunch rush) and ask to sit right on the river. SO SO PRETTY!!
After lunch, we caught the double-decker back to the visitor center and found our pre-arranged cab driver to take us back to Argentina. We spent about 4 hours actually in the Brazilian park (including lunch) and could have stayed a bit longer had time allowed.
The bus route has two other stops – a safari and some sort of nature walk. Neither of these are included in the entrance cost. The helicopter tours of the falls also leave from Brazilian side, just up the road from the main entrance.
To get into Brazil from Argentina, US citizens need a Brazilian tourist VISA. Brazilian tourist VISAs cost $150+ a person, but are good for 10 years. We already had a Brazilian tourist VISA, so we did not have to worry with this requirement. Our cab driver took us right through the border crossing, with the Brazilian official only quickly looking at our VISA. If you do not have a VISA, there appeared to be agencies (or more so locals with “connections”) able to obtain Brazilian tourist VISAs on short notice. This seemed to be quite the process to say the least and somewhat shady. If you are planning to see the Brazilian side of the falls, I recommend getting the VISA before you leave the US and re-use it within the next ten years to cut down on the cost.