With 275 different cataracts over a total width of 2,7 kilometers, the Iguacu Falls amazes the most experienced travelers – no surprise why this is one of the seven wonders of nature.
Located right on the border between the state of Parana in Brazil and the Misiones province of Argentina, the Iguacu Falls not only divides geographically two nations, but also it has been a catalyst for a fair fight in a simple question: which side has the most beautiful views of the falls?
This uncertainty pops up in everyone who wants to visit Iguacu and although the answer may depend on whom you ask, the easiest reply would be to visit both. Each side has an exceptional beauty and after visiting the Iguazu Falls in several occasions from both sides and in separate days, I think a trip to Iguacu won´t be fulfilled without seeing it all – particularly since it´s easily reached from either side of the border as well as from nearby Paraguay.
Iguacu Falls from Brazil
I reached first Foz do Iguacu, the city closest the Brazilian falls, after a five‐hour bus ride from Asunción, Paraguay. Here, I started a journey to one of the places I had in my bucket list for a long time. Although Brazil has only 20% of the 275 waterfalls, this side is known for its incredibly beautiful views.
Reaching the Iguacu National Park is very easy: public buses depart constantly from the main bus station, but there are also several private transfers taking you for a fair price.
Unfortunately, the way the national park is being managed is way too similar to Disney World or Universal Studios: large 4k screens showing information and maps of the area, a considerable amount of souvenir stores selling all kinds of unnecessary and overpriced gifts, as well several food courts offering fast food and sodas. Still, I think the natural beauty of the park was not completely lost and after ignoring these commonly hated tourist traps, I was able to marvel the spectacle that are the falls.
The scene was majestic and simply left me speechless – well, to be honest, it made me laugh of amaze. I´ve visited several waterfalls all over the world in the past years, but there was nothing as marveling as Iguacu. These might not be the highest or biggest waterfalls in the world, but they are by far the most beautiful and impressive in this planet.
I could completely comprehend why Eleanor Roosevelt said, “poor Niagara”, right after she visited Iguacu.
The Brazilian side has unfortunately one single path and visitors can walk it in way less than a day. The surroundings around the Iguacu Falls are protected areas and the zones which visitors can step in are limited. However, short doesn´t mean less worth, as visitors in the Brazilian falls will not only get the best views, but they can also experience the might of the waterfalls in a first-class seat.
Several walkways around and below the cataracts take visitors right at the heart of the falls. Here, I got completely soaked and was able to get a proper sample of the power of nature.
If you arrive early enough (right after opening), you can easily avoid the tourist crowds in the park. This is one of the seven natural wonders in the world and mass tourism is almost unavoidable.
For those who can´t get enough of the falls, Helisul, a tour operator at the Brazilian side, offers 10-minute helicopter rides over the falls. It costs 100 USD and it takes you to see the falls from a completely different perspective – there are definitely no better views than these.
Iguazu Falls from Argentina
At the Argentinian side conservation laws are way stricter. Helicopter flights are not allowed, and the main goal of the National Park has been to keep the area as natural and raw as possible.
The surrounding subtropical rainforest has over 2,000 species of plants and is home to many species of wildlife. Due to mass deforestation and tourism in the past decades, the ecosystem is changing extremely fast and the Parque Nacional de Iguazu started taking these changes very seriously.
On the bright side, the Argentinian side offers a better connection to nature. Three different walking paths are available to the public and are located in the middle of a jungle. For that reason, the sensation of exploring an isolated world surrounded by waterfalls felt way more palpable than in the Brazilian side.
The highlight in this side is the intimidating Devil´s Throat: A u-shaped, 82 meters high, 150 m wide, 700 m long cataract. Here, about half of the river’s flow falls into it and it´s by far the most impressive and popular section of the falls. To reach this massive waterfall, I had to get to the furthest path of the park. At the end of its walkaway visitors get the chance to be right at the edge of the Devil´s Throat and get a perfect view of its magnificence.
Although the view from the top of the Devil´s Throat is very impressive, I enjoyed way more the other views of the falls. I encountered a certain charm in admiring several groups of smaller cataracts instead of just a massive one – there is even a small island where visitors can get in and marvel a 360° view of the falls, as well there is an area where it´s possible to take a swim.
Although there aren’t aerial tours from this side of the border, Argentina also offers a little treat for those who can´t get enough of the falls. The Parque Nacional de Iguazu organizes night tours every month during the three nights around full moon. It´s an amazing experience for those who fell in love with this natural wonder and want to see it again in a completely different way.
Once inside the plane on my way to Buenos Aires, I was a little bit sad for not getting even more of the falls. Yet, minutes after the aircraft took off, I got a last look at Iguacu from above. It was the permanent cloud of mist coming out of the Devils Throat and a last view to be happy. Only after this little and last delicacy, I was able continue without fernweh.