A pair of boats navigating the waters below several waterfalls at the famous Iguazu Falls.

Iguazu Falls Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts
A pair of boats navigating the waters below several waterfalls at the famous Iguazu Falls.

Iguazu Falls Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts

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Overview

The splendor of the Iguazu falls far exceeds its Guarani namesake – the title “great water” somehow doesn’t capture the true essence of this fantastic sight. Mist from the thundering water often cloaks the area in mystery, adding even more color to an already vibrant landscape in the form of rainbows in the billowing spray. This is surrounded by the natural grandeur of the subtropical jungle, resplendent with lush flora and fauna, including orchids, begonias, flocks of colorful parrots, toucans, cacique birds, and a cornucopia of butterflies. And a “big waterfall” it indeed is: the area is 1.68 miles wide, encompassing 275 distinct falls, which cataract 65 feet farther down than those at Niagara.

A pair of boats navigating the waters below several waterfalls at the famous Iguazu Falls

The falls make up part of the border between Argentina and Brazil with the Paraguayan border lying not far to the west. Consequently, the falls can be seen from either the Brazilian or Argentine side. It is advisable to see both: the Argentinean side allows for a much closer inspection, while the Brazilian side gives a more panoramic view of the falls.

The town of Puerto Iguazu is the most convenient entry point to the falls on the Argentine side of the border. Although it is a small town, Puerto Iguazu makes the perfect resting point for those going on an excursion to the falls.

Geography and Climate

Puerto Iguazu is located in one of the last remaining sections of the Atlantic Forest, a subtropical forest with a rich diversity of flora and fauna which ranges from native bamboos to birdlife such as toucans and hummingbirds. This unique wildlife often encroaches into the town itself; canals within the city are full of freshwater aqualife such as the knifefish, catfish and even eels. It is on the northern border of Argentina, close to the borders with Brazil and Paraguay which are lineated by the Río Parana (with Paraguay) and the Río Iguazu (with Brazil, the site of the famous Iguazu falls)

The climate of Puerto Iguazú is classified as “Humid Subtropical” meaning that there are no particularly “dry” or “wet” seasons. The city is usually hot and sunny throughout the year due to the low altitude although this can change quickly: rainfall is present all year round as well. November is the wettest month receiving over 200mm of rainfall which is sometimes concentrated in thunder storms. This abundant rain of course gives growth to the rainforests that surround the falls, and, indeed, fuel the falls themselves.

Iguazu-Falls weather guide

Perhaps the best times to visit the Iguazu falls are during spring (September-November) or Autumn (March-May) when there is a good balance between the temperature and the level and pressure of the water, which can drop in winter. Nevertheless, the Iguazu Falls can be visited year round in amiable temperatures; the average annual temperature is around 75º F. In the winter, it rarely gets colder than 60 F and in the summer, the average temperature is around 79º F, though this can reach as high as 95º F on the hottest of days.

Geography & Map

Iguazú Falls or Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná.


Elevation
162 m (531 ft)


City Population
82,227

map of Iguazu Falls

Transportation

Getting to Iguazu

Puerto Iguazu is about 825 miles from Buenos Aires, and can be reached easily by plane or bus. The city is served by its own international airport, Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport, which is operated by Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 S.A.

If you are planning to visit during July or Easter, be sure to book your accommodation in advance as these are the peak times during which Argentines travel. It is also advisable to avoid the parks on Sundays when there are numerous helicopter tours of the falls from the Brazilian side which can be quite noisy and bothersome.

Getting to Iguazu Falls from Puerto Iguazu

On both the Argentine and Brazilian side, the falls are within the boundaries of national parks, both with the same name but in Spanish and Portuguese respectively (Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil). If you do not see the whole park in one day, or get tired, you can present your ticket stub the next day and enter at half price.

The park on the Argentine side is about 32km from the City of Fos do Iguacu, from where buses to the park run every 45 minutes between 7:00am and 8:00pm, with a roughly 30 minute travel time.


History

The first peoples to inhabit the lower Amazon are thought to be the Humaitá and Umbú hunter gatherer tribes who came from the north. These groups were incorporated by the Tupí-Guaraní between around 4000BC and 2500BC. The Tupí-Guaraní became dominant in central South America, developing agriculture and expanding before diversifying into a number of different ethnic groups.

It was the Guaraní people who were the principal group in the Misiones area at the first point of European contact; the Spanish explorer Álavar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to set eyes on what is now called the Iguazu Falls in 1551. He first noticed the thundering noise of the falls from kilometers away and soon followed the noise to discover its magnificent source.

The impressive Igazu Waterfall surrounded by a green forest area

European development in the area did not come until much later after this initial exploration and the Guaraní remained dominant in the area with the occasional visit from Jesuit missionaries throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, most of who were met with a violent reception. This period inspired the popular 1986 movie “The Mission” with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons.

Into the 19th century, a series of wars were fought by an alliance of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay against the newly formed state of Paraguay, who had declared independence from Buenos Aires in 1811. This was in order to repel Paraguayan attempts to gain control of a route to the Atlantic through the region. With heavy loss of life, Paraguay was finally defeated by the Triple alliance in 1864 and in the 1876 Treaty of Argentina Peace the country vowed never to attempt occupation of Misiones again. The territory south of the falls – including the site of Puerto Iguazu - was given to Argentina while the north was given to Brazil.

In 1881 – after the region had opened up to settlement and immigration - several investors became interested in the natural resources of Corrientes and Misiones. The site of Puerto Iguazu changed ownership on three occasions in just 2 years. At the same time, further exploration and scientific expeditions up the impenetrable Iguazu River were made. The first tourists were also to accompany such expeditions at the end of the 1800’s.

In 1901 a permanent settlement was founded and was named Puerto Aguirre, which would later become Puerto Iguazu. The economy of the area flourished, including the tourist economy, paved by a roadway to the falls which was funded by Victoria Aguirre. In 1906 the first hotel was constructed and several social services were subsequently established in the town, including a police station, postal and communications services and a school.

The Iguazu National Park was developed in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. Closely following this, Argentina and Brazil were united by road for the first time in 1985 with the unveiling of the Tancredo Neves International Bridge which was the first to cross the river-border between the two countries.


Attractions and Activities

The Iguazu Falls are undoubtedly the main reason for people traveling to Puerto Iguazu in this far corner of Argentina. Known in Portuguese as Foz do Iguaçu and in Spanish as Cataratas del Iguazú, the Iguazu Falls lie on the Argentina - Brazil border and are recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site.

2 Tourists walking across a bridge overlooking the Igazu Falls on the Brazilian side.

This complex system of waterfalls is a magnificent sight and has become one of the must-see attractions on the entire continent of South America. The sheer scale of the falls is what makes them so breathtaking and they are regularly compared to the Niagra Falls; even Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “poor Niagra” when she laid eyes on Iguazu. In fact, the Iguazu Falls are four times wider than their North American counterpart and some of the waterfalls are even taller.

The source of the Iguazu river is in the Paraña state of Brazil. The river travels through 1200km of smooth plateau before it accumulates in cracks and layers that have formed in the sandstone and basalt, a result of a volcanic eruption.

It then plunges into an 80 meter canyon at an average rate of 553 cubic feet of water per second feeding the various waterfalls. All around the crescent moon shaped edge of the canyon the river simultaneously flows around islets and over cliffs and into 275 different cascades. The largest of these is the thundering Gargantua del Diablo, or “Devil’s Throat”; other significant falls are the San Martin, the Bossetti, and the Bernabe Mendez.

The tropical location of this wonder of nature makes the Iguazu falls all the more compelling for travelers. The falls are surrounded by the natural grandeur of the subtropical jungle, resplendent with lush flora and fauna, including orchids, begonias, flocks of colorful parrots, 5 different species of toucan, cacique birds, and a cornucopia of over 100 species of butterfly. Bird and nature lovers are advised to arrive at the falls early in the day so that they can fully appreciate the falls without the larger crowds who arrive in the late morning and afternoon.

The Argentinean side of the Iguazu Falls contains around 2 thirds of all of the waterfalls. From the visitors center here there are various trails and routes that around the complex.

The two basic circuits are the upper path and the lower path. On the lower path the bases of the different falls can be explored and these emanate large clouds of gentle spray. It is possible to travel to some of the islands downstream and even to go swimming in the lake, though this is not advisable without expert local advice - problems with parasites are not uncommon for swimmers.

The upper path offers wonderful panoramic views of the entire system and from here the might and grandeur of the falls can be fully appreciated. Closer to the falls there are a series of catwalks can be taken over the water rushing into the Devil’s Throat - necessary protective waterproof gear is provided.

A black, orange and white toucan at the Iguazu Falls Bird Park, a great place to see exotic birds

Various tours can be made into the virgin rainforest, protected within the boundaries of the national parks on both the Brazilian and Argentinean sides of the border. In particular there are various Safaris and Birdwatchingtours that capture the best of the natural sights on offer. The Macuco Trail is one such option: ask our expert and highly trained travel advisors for details of available tours.

Boating is another popular leisure activity for travelers in the area, made all the more exciting by the backdrop of the Iguazu Falls. There are plenty of options on offer, from a tranquil look at wildlife from a rowing boat to a full blown rafting experience. One of the highlights is taking an Iguazu Falls “Baptism”; in other words taking a boat underneath the continuous torrent of water from one of the falls.

There are a few other things to see and do in the city that would be of interest to travelers. The Tríplice Fronteira (Triple Frontier) is the point where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay all meet, delineated by the fork between the Parana and Iguazu Rivers – just downstream from the Iguazu Falls. Each country has constructed a monument in their section with their national flags to recognize this congruence of the three different countries and the intertwined history between them.


Hotels

There are a number of hotels to choose from in Puerto Iguazu, ranging from the moderate Hotel Saint George, to the Hotel Cataratas and the expensive Sheraton Internacional Iguazu, which is the only hotel located in the park itself; all of which offer different and unique experiences. If you want to stay on the Brazilian side, the larger town of Foz do Iguacu has equivalent accommodations in terms of comfort, and due to its size, a livelier night life.

A beautiful view of the exterior of Hotel Cararatas, the only hotel located inside Iguazu National Park

5 star

Ideally located minutes away from Iguazú Falls and downtown Iguazú, Loi Suites Iguazu is surrounded by the characteristic lush vegetation and wildlife of this tropical region. Indulge in a luxury stay at this excellent 5-star hotel where attention to detail and personalized service are the rule. With more than 160 luxurious rooms available, all fully-furnished with a minibar, wireless Internet access, and a security deposit box, no expense is spared to make your stay as comfortable as possible. After a long day of visiting the falls or the jungles of Puerto Iguazú, guests are invited to use the 800 square meter swimming pool, the recreation lounge or have a delectable dinner at one of the hotel's two exquisite restaurants.

4 star

Combine relaxation and nature with a stay at the Aldea de la Selva hotel for an unforgettable Argentina vacation. Nestled in the green Paraná rainforest, this lovely hotel was entirely built with local materials. All comfortable rooms are spacious and include a private balcony with a hammock overlooking the rainforest. They are also fully equipped with modern amenities such as a mini-bar, cable TV, air conditioning, and safety box. Aldea de la Selva features a delicious restaurant, El Nido, accessible by footbridge, as well as three swimming pools and two Jacuzzis. Guests will also find customized environmental activities at their disposal, such as bird watching, zip-lining, and guided tours in the rainforest.

3 star

Located in the heart of Puerto Iguazú, a few blocks from Avenida Costanera, Jardin de Puerto Iguazú offers guests a great range of excellent services. Featuring 30 comfortable and fully equipped rooms, some dotted with views of the garden and swimming pool, Jardin de Iguazú strives to make guests feel at home. This beautiful hotel is complete with free wireless internet, bar service, and swimming pool where guests can enjoy relaxing hydro-massages. The hotel's central location makes for a short walk to shops and restaurants, and the city's main attractions to enhance your Iguazú travel adventure.


Food and Drink

Alongside the tropical fruits that could be expected of any such rainforest region, Iguazu’s cuisine is generally characterized by the typical parrilla (outdoor barbeque) fare, with succulent grass-fed Argentinean meat prevailing alongside a healthy dose of other national favorites, notably the Italian staple foods of Pizza and Pasta. Nevertheless, the cuisine of the region has at least to some extent both been infused with the traditions of the Guarani peoples and influenced by the geography of the region. Below are a few unique ingredients that may be sought out by travelers enjoying an Iguazu Falls vacation.

A plated piece of meat, a common part of Argentinian cuisine known as asado

Mandioca - known in English in various forms as manioc, cassava or tapioca used as a substitute for potatoes in fish and meat dishes in boiled or roasted form and can also be fried to produce mandiocas fritas (similar to a potato chip). Flour ground from this plant also makes delicious baked goods.

Batata – known in English as sweet potato or yam. This usually accompanies barbecued meat roasted or grilled.

Chipás – Round bread rolls with a warm stuffing of cheese and cassava flour. Available fresh out the oven from bakeries, supermarkets and street vendors and often accompanied with regional fruit jams and a cup of maté tea.

Surubí – This river fish is extremely popular option on restaurant menus in the town: a type of South American catfish that can be caught in the Iguazu or Parana rivers. It can grow to over one meter in length, up to 50kg (110lbs) in weight, and its high quality of flesh is revered in the region. Although it can be expensive, this should definitely be tried by fans of fish dishes. Ensure with the restaurant you choose that the fish has been caught fresh.

Pacú – Related to the man-eating Piranha, this is another type of river fish that is an even more adventurous option than the Surubi, though it is not so easily found on the menu.

Sopa Paraguaya – This “Paraguayan Soup” isn’t technically a soup, nor is it necessarily Paraguayan, but it is delicious none the less. It is a type of rich cornbread soup containing cassava flour, eggs, cheese, milk and onions.

Tropical fruits – various fresh fruits add tropical flavor to the Iguazu palate; papayas, mangos, pineapples, kumquats maracuyas, avocados, and small bananas are all in abundant supply.


Nightlife

Between the two towns on the Argentinean and Brazilian side of the Río Iguazu, Puerto Iguazu is not the liveliest in terms of nightlife. Nevertheless, there are a handful of bars and discos located on and close by to Brazil avenue.

Placeres, Perito Moreno 244, Puerto Iguazu

This is a pleasurable bar to hang out with a beer and cocktail and watch the world go by. There is good selection of quality cocktails that can be sipped in a casual and tranquil atmosphere. There are also some late night snacks served up such as tapas, sandwiches and tortillas – a tasty addition to a relaxing tipple.

The Cuba Libre bar, Corner Avenue Brasil and Paraguay,

Cuba Libre is the quintessential club on the Argentinean side with a good local crowd after midnight and a lively vibe further into the night. The place to head for a few drinks and some dancing with disco and dance music prevailing later on, though there are also salsa lessons earlier in the evening.


Restaurants

The parrilla (outdoor barbeque) is top choice as with other Argentina destinations, with steak and wine flowing from the restaurant doors and patios. Nevertheless – there is more on offer for those looking for another option. River fish fresh from the Ríos Parana and Iguazu are in abundance and make for a very tasty seafood experience. As per usual, the Argentinean take on Italian food is also a popular serving, with flavorsome Pizza and Pasta of all types, a tempting option for travelers. The majority of restaurants are very well organized with nice atmospheres and well prepared food.

A grill cooking pieces of meat with fire and smoke, a common part of Argentinian cruise known as asado

El Quincho del Tío Querido
Bonpland 110, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, $9-$13 Tel: +54 3757 420151
www.eltioquerido.com

This is a warm and friendly traditional restaurant in the heart of Puerto Iguazu that has now been open for 20 years. It serves an excellent and tender steak straight off the parrilla alongside a variety of fish fresh from the nearby rivers that include dorado or surubí. The various barbeque sauces must be sampled and, naturally there are some eminently quaffable Argentinean wines to be enjoyed with the menu. To top it off there are lively music shows held in the evenings which include classic Latin beats such as tango and folklórico.

Aqva Restaurant
Av. Cordoba, Puerto Iguazu CP3370, Argentina, Tel: +54 3757 422064
reservas@aqvarestaurant.com

This is an abundant seafood/fusion restaurant making full use of local river fish such as the surubí to supply its creative menu. The owner is very friendly and welcoming to guests and is most attentive – he makes sure every guest is enjoying their meal and has a worldly knowledge of both tourism and cuisine. The decoration is bright but the atmosphere remains comfortable – it is styled as a log cabin adding to the warmth and coziness of the place. The seafood is a delectable choice with excellent flavor and texture and a nice alternative to Argentinean beef restaurants.

Garganta del Diablo, Sheraton Iguazu

Located on the interior of the Sheraton Hotel this restaurant is perhaps the best in town. It is famous for its outstanding view of the largest waterfall in the National Park, and has indeed been named after this marvelous spectacle. The menu includes the popular river fish of the area, including sumptuous grilled surubí, or a cous cous dish with delicious and tender spider crab. Argentinean Malbec naturally features on the wine list alongside some other national and international favorites.

Parrilla Pizza Color, 15 pesos to 50 pesos

This lively little joint is a popular pick amongst the locals in the center of town. It is a spacious and fresh atmosphere with an outdoor area underneath trees and ambient lighting. It has a warm and hearty menu that not only has all the Argentinean favorites but has that Italian food that the country does so well as well. Quality juicy steak, fine wine, river fish, pizza and pasta all feature. This is all to the backdrop of good music including the occasional live house guitarists who always give a most pleasant tone to the evening.

La Rueda, Av. Córdoba 28, Puerto Main courses $15-$20 Tel: 3757/422-531

La Rueda is a well organized and pleasant dining experience with friendly and attentive service. The building is constructed from local materials and has a relaxing outdoor patio to sit and enjoy the abundant menu options. Pasta, steak and riverfish all feature; the surubí brochette is a delectable entrée with a combination of the popular local river whitefish, bacon, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, with a side of potatoes and green rice. Other options are most meaty; naturally wine and steak is a popular choice, everything using the best and freshest local and regional ingredients. Quite busy during high season – reservations recommendable.

Gusto del Litoral, Avenue Misiones 209, $5-$10

Although this restaurant is on the lower end of the price scale, travelers should not be put off. The chef is an absolute master of invention cooking up a storm of regional Argentinean cuisine with various other influences from across the borders. He blends together the myriad spices and flavors of the region in excellent combination; the result: delicious and succulent platters to suit all tastes. Service is most attentive with friendly staff.


Health and Safety

It is best to drink bottled water while traveling in Puerto Iguazu as with anywhere through South America to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. If no bottled water is available, be sure to travel with water purification tablets or boil water for 15 minutes to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

Although it is considerably smaller than nearby towns and cities, travelers should remain wary of thieves in Puerto Iguazu as with any city in South America. Some choose to deploy the usual tricks against tourists, creating a distraction while an accomplice robs an unattended bag or slips a hand into your pocket. To avoid theft, travelers should keep their money and credit cards concealed in an unobvious place. Credit cards should be used sparingly – it is not unknown for shops and restaurants in the area to run up large bills when paying by card.

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