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Iguazu Falls in South America are the largest waterfall system in the world and one of the most impressive natural wonders you’ll ever see.
The falls are divided between Brazil and Argentina, allowing visitors to get up close from both countries. So most people have the same question when visiting, which side of Iguazu Falls is better?
I had that same question when I went, and since I had the opportunity, I decided to visit both sides – the Brazilian and the Argentinean.
The falls are divided by about 20% on the Brazilian side and 80% on the Argentinean. But once I saw each side, I realized that both have something unique to offer.
So when at Iguazu Falls, visit both sides for an unforgettable time. And let me not forget how you’ll be making friends along the road left, right, and center – especially if you’re staying at the hostels nearby.
I love dealing with travel logistics, so I went to both sides alone, including the border crossing, which I’ll explain below. But if you prefer not to deal with any planning logistics, I highly recommend you book this tour on Viator which takes you to both sides of the falls.
Since I first arrived in Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, I decided to visit this side first.
From the town’s Terminal de Transporte Urbano (bus station), I took the public bus that goes all the way to the Iguazu National Park.
It took about 40 minutes to reach the park’s entrance, where I bought the ticket and hopped on a panoramic bus that took me to the main mirador walkway of the falls.
Along the way, the bus made a few stops for people interested in hiking in nature along the Iguaçu River. Since I only had the afternoon and the weather was dubious, I decided to skip the hike and headed straight to the falls.
Although the weather wasn’t ideal for me, I recommend joining one or two hikes along the way. They do come at an additional charge separate from the park entrance fee, but from what I’ve heard, they are breathtaking.
However, the 9 km (5.6 miles) of walkways on the Brazil side of Iguazu National Park offer more than enough exploring opportunities.
Once I hopped off, I was just a few steps away from witnessing Iguazu’s immense and natural power. It is said that upon seeing Iguazu, the United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”
While I’m yet to see Niagara Falls in person, Iguazu is as impressive and powerful as you can imagine.
The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words y, meaning “water,” and ûasú, meaning “big.” According to legend, a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe.
In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.
Whether by a deity or not, there’s no denying that some great forces created this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I followed the walkway along the canyon, stopping at every viewpoint to admire every single fall on the other side of the river.
After about an hour or so of walking and sightseeing, I reached the culminating point of the walkway. The extension to the lower base of Iguazu Falls Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese)
Its quite distinctive U-shape is 82 meters high (269 feet), 150 meters wide (492 feet), and 700 meters long (2,297 feet).
I stepped on the aluminum walkway and went deep into the fast-flowing horseshoe-shaped curtain of mist created by the powerful cascade, which at this point, was mere meters away from me.
On one side of the walkway, I had a curtain of water flowing from above; on the other, I could see water flowing even deeper on a vertigo-inducing fall that seemed to have no end.
It was on that walkway that I realized that I was somewhere in the middle of a stepped waterfall.
From the end of the walkway, I enjoyed the fresh mist and the gorgeous views of Devil’s Throat – in addition to getting soaking wet.
Seriously, it might even be a good idea to bring a change of clothes after visiting Iguazu’s Brazil side.
To end a spectacular stroll along the Brazilian Iguazu Falls walkway, I took the glass lift to the top of the viewing tower. From here, I could see at eye level the flowing Iguazu River before it took the thunderous plunge.
To avoid travel logistics, a walking and boat ride tour of Iguazu Falls is perfect. For one of the best options around, book on GetYourGuide.
The next day I woke up early to spend the entire day at Iguazu Falls, Argentina side. Crossing the borders between Brazil and Argentina was easy.
The process only took about two hours – from hopping on the bus in Foz do Iguacu, passing immigration, and reaching the bus station in Argentina.
Since I was staying in Argentina that night, I quickly checked-in at my hostel, and then returned to the bus station to take the next bus to the Argentinean side of the national park.
Note: The best place to stay on the Argentine side of the falls is Puerto Iguazu, which is 25 km (16 miles) from the park. There are plenty of options, from high-end hotels to affordable hostels. If you’re traveling on a budget, read about how I find the best hostels for my trip.
Once at the entrance, I bought my ticket (yes, another one) and took the Jungle Train to “Estación Garganta.”
This was the last stop of the train and the entry point to have an up-close look at the Devil’s Throat from the Argentinean side.
From the train stop, it was a 1.2km (0.75 miles) walk on catwalks until I reached Devil’s Throat. For the largest portion of this walk, the river flowed smoothly under my feet. That’s how wide this part of the river is!
Once at the Devil’s Throat, I simply stood there for about half an hour, admiring the water rushing down the 80 meters drop (262 feet). The chasm below seemed to have no end due to the blur created by the dense mist.
Compared to the Brazilian side, I was right at the mouth of the most powerful fall in Iguazu here. To me, it was incomprehensible how much water could flow through that space in such a short amount of time. But the thundering roar of the water quickly put things into perspective.
The thunderous sounds, the mist, and the visual of water breaking into millions of drops and splashing in disparate ways were overwhelming. Yesterday I saw the Devil’s Throat. Today, I was feeling it.
I loved spending time here, but there was much more to see ahead, so I took the train again to reach “Estación Cataratas” to see the rest of the smaller falls.
The Argentinean side has about 80% of the falls, many of which can be seen up close through a series of walkways known as the Upper Circuit and Lower Circuit.
The former is 650 meters long (2,132 feet) while the latter is 1,400 meters long (4,593 feet), so combined, they take a few hours to walk through. And besides, you’ll want to take your time to snap some unforgettable photographs of the falls.
Speaking of, when you’re done here, read my guide on how to improve your travel photography to take some excellent Iguazu Falls shots.
I started with the Upper Circuit, passing above falls like Salto Bossetti, Salto Adán y Eva, Salto Mbiguá, Salto Chico, and others.
At every viewpoint, I stopped to look down over the falls’ edge. There were moments when a rainbow adorned the mist flowing up from the fall.
But, beyond seeing falls, this walk was a lovely immersion into nature since there were moments in which I was surrounded by dense sub-tropical rainforest.
It was a quick 12-minute ride. And while I enjoyed it, I can’t say it’s truly necessary. It was fun, though! You can get a similar deal when you book a tour on Viator — this one includes a boat ride, jungle truck, and train ride.
I enjoyed seeing both sides and believe they both offer unique views and experiences. The Brazilian side gives you a panoramic view and lets you see how immense these falls are.
On the other hand, the Argentinean side gives you a closer look at the falls and the opportunity to feel some of these majestic waterfalls.
I’m glad I saw the Brazilian side first since I got the overall picture of what I was seeing and got a taste of feeling some of the power of the Devil’s Throat.
Then, on the Argentinean side, I experienced the falls up close and almost individually and witnessed the “grand finale” of being right at the mouth of the Devil’s Throat.
In Argentina, there were points at which 260 degrees of waterfalls surrounded me.
Both parks offer lots of information along the way, so there’s no need to hire a guide.
If you’re continuing your trip across the border, I recommend exploring more of both
If heading south, Argentina has plenty to see, from enjoying Buenos Aires to exploring the glaciers at El Calafate.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip to Iguazu Falls
Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Brazil) – Official Site
Entrance: 78 Reais ($14)
Take the public bus L120 (costs 5.46 Reais each way/$1) to reach the National Park from Foz do Iguaçu.
Minimum time to spend there: 3-4 hours (if you don’t hike)
Parque Nacional Iguazú (Argentina) – Official Site
Entrance: 4,675 Argentinean Pesos ($26)
Take a bus with a local bus company (costs 1,070 pesos roundtrip/$6) to reach the National Park from Puerto Iguazú.
Minimum time to spend there: 5-7 hours
The boat tour operator in Argentina is Iguazú Jungle, and it costs 14,000 Argentinean Pesos ($76).
Important note: The park entrance on the Argentinian side of the falls only accepts cash payments in Argentinian pesos. They do not accept credit cards or debit cards, nor do they accept Brazilian Reais (or U.S. dollars or any other currency). Make sure to exchange your money before taking the bus to the park. Also, keep in mind that due to the inflation of the Argentinean peso, prices in pesos change from day to day. But expect the USD conversion to be closer to what’s mentioned here.
Update: You can also purchase tickets online via the park website linked above.
Locals and Mercosur residents pay a lower entrance price on both sides of the park.
Be aware of the possibility of needing a visa to enter either Brazil or Argentina. Check this site to see if you need a visa to enter Argentina and/or Brazil. If you need help arranging your visas, I highly recommend using iVisa to expedite the service.
BUSES TO CROSS THE BORDER
There are hourly scheduled buses crossing the border between Brazil and Argentina. Depending on which company you take, you will take the bus at the bus station and be dropped at the border and pass through immigration.
Then, you’ll take another bus with the same ticket on the other side of the border to reach the other country’s bus station. Other companies drop you, wait for you at immigration, and take you to the bus station with a single bus.
I took the cheapest bus from the Terminal de Transporte Urbano in Foz do Iguaçu and paid only 4 Reais ($1.50) for the ride to the border, and it included the ride on the Argentinean side with the other bus.
Alternatively, there are two-day tours that take you to both sides of the falls. This way, you don’t have to plan anything or worry about transportation across the border.
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Kayak. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness. I use HeyMondo and highly recommend it.
If you’re a nomad and travel often or long term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend you book a tour on Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities worldwide.
BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway offers the easiest and most accessible way to book transportation with local operators. Be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers, Bookaway will have you covered.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
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