Iguazu Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, definitely deserve to be at the top of any South American destinations list! If you enjoy Ecotourism, you will be delighted by the lush beauty and leisure options of Iguaçu National Park.
Iguaçu National Park
First things first: it is important to make it clear that Iguazu Falls, as we informally refer to them, consist of 275 waterfalls on the Iguaçu River. They are located on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
These waterfalls are distributed in a huge area which is protected and preserved by both Iguaçu National Park (in the state of Paraná, Brazil) and Iguazú National Park (in the province of Missiones, Argentina).
This is one of the reasons why I emphasized so much the change of a single letter in a name, in the inaugural post designed for first-time visitors in the region.
The incredible subtropical forest, which is the home for the waterfalls, also received the title of Natural Patrimony of the Humanity, granted by UNESCO. The Brazilian park received the title in 1984 whereas the Argentinean one received it in 1986.
Although both parks have independent administrations, in both sides of the border, there is a huge effort to preserve the fauna and the flora of the region. Needless to say, the rich diversity of animals and plants is exuberant, regardless the side of the border you visit!
Iguaçu National Park was inaugurated in 1939, five years after the creation of the Argentinean one. In 2011, Iguazu Falls was elected one of the New Seven Wonders of the Nature; and that alone makes the region worth visiting.
Iguazu Falls: Brazil or Argentina?
Well, as a Brazilian, it’s really hard not to pick a side and suggest that you choose the Brazilian park in case you don’t have much time.
And although I do think that the Brazilian side is quite superior in many aspects, I really enjoyed the Argentinean side of the waterfalls.
Furthermore, the Argentinean national park is approximately 75% larger than the Brazilian one. It also offers a greater variety of paths and tracks.
However, I will have the opportunity to share my impressions about Iguazú National Park in another post. Meanwhile, it’s important to point out that it will be a pity if you have to choose between them as the full experience is only possible if you visit both of them.
My trip to Foz do Iguaçu was way too short. I had little time to explore the region, as I only stayed there for three nights. So, I decided to sacrifice other activities in order to prioritize Ecotourism. Honestly, it was the best choice I could have made!
Iguazu Falls: how to plan the visit to the Brazilian side?
If you want to optimize your day, start your activities with a visit to the Bird Park. Once you’re finished, head to Iguaçu National Park. This sequence will save you time and money, since the two parks are very close to each other.
However, if you decide to combine the two parks in a single day, be aware that a short period of 2-3 hours is enough to visit the Bird Park, but the rest of the day might not be sufficient to enjoy all the options Iguaçu National Park has to offer.
Moreover, Iguaçu National Park is really big. Just to give you an idea of its size, the distance between the entrance of the park and the most famous spot is 10 kilometers.
But, don’t worry … you won’t have to walk such a big distance. There is a shuttle bus that continuously runs the itinerary (included in the ticket price).
I read some reviews of other bloggers who said that they had to wait for a long time to get the transport from the entrance to the point where the trail begins.
I think I was lucky the day I visited the park, since I didn’t have to wait that long in line. However, a series of events may have contributed to that. It was an unstable cloudy day. I arrived at the park after lunch and it was neither a holiday nor a weekend.
Nevertheless, I advise you to do two things: buy your ticket in advance, in order to avoid at least one of the queues. Go to the park early in the morning, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy everything.
How to get to the Iguaçu National Park?
The entrance to Iguaçu National Park is located at km 18 of BR 469 (better known as Rodovia das Cataratas). It is just 400 meters from the Bird Park.
It was very easy and cheap to get a bus to go to the park. For those who stay in Foz do Iguaçu city center, the line 120 leaves from Pedro Antonio de Nadai terminal. It’s the same line that connects the city center to the airport. The ticket can be bought directly from the driver at a cost of R$3.50 (values of Nov/2017).
Returning to the city center is also easy as the first and final stops of the bus are at Pedro Antonio de Nadai terminal.
If you choose to use your own vehicle, there is an ample parking for up to 900 cars at the entrance of Iguaçu National Park. You must pay for the fee when you buy your ticket to the park at the Visitors Center.
Iguaçu National Park: how to organize your visit?
Your visit will start at the Visitors Center, where the information desk and the box office are located. There are also several services to facilitate your visit. Among them, there are restrooms and souvenir shops. You can also buy some of the optional tours there.
As soon as you pass the entrance with your ticket, you may go to the hop-on / hop-off boarding platform used to cover the route between the reception and the waterfalls.
The bus route includes 4 departure points: Poço Preto Trail, Macuco Safari, Cataratas Trail and Porto Canoas Station. You decide the sequence of what you want to do, as you can hop on and hop off as many times as you want.
Of course, if you have bought tickets to some extra attraction, you will have to make sure that you are at the meeting point on time for the activity. Otherwise, you will miss your tour.
Iguaçu National Park: practical information
The park runs daily (including Sundays and holidays) from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
You can buy your tickets in advance through the park’s official website. There are reduced prices for Brazilians and Mercosur residents. Children and the elderly also pay a reduced rate. Tourists in general pay a regular fee.
If you decide to buy your ticket at the Visitors Center, a credit card can be used to purchase them. Note that in the Argentinean park, only payment in cash is possible.
However, for the most up to date information, it is always good to double-check the website of the park.
For a nice and relaxing day, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Caps and hats are also ideal complements!
Make sure you bring some sunscreen and repellent with you. Remember: you will be in the middle of the Atlantic Forest. Mosquitoes are part of the experience!
Iguaçu National Park: park attractions
The park has countless leisure options for all tastes, budgets and ages. Of course, some of them imply an extra cost. However, even if you decide to enjoy only what is included in the regular ticket, you will have a great experience, anyway.
Trilha das Cataratas (Cataratas Trail)
Trilha das Cataratas is one of the attractions included in the ticket price. It’s a 1.5 km trail, with several lookouts for the waterfalls and access to the cherry of the cake: the lookout from where you can take the most awaited photo of the visit: the Devil’s Throat waterfall.
It is important to emphasize that it’s not a difficult trail at all, since it is paved and flat almost all the way.
There are, however, some stretches with steps. So, for people with reduced mobility, it may be easier to go straight to Porto Canoas Station and from there, enjoy the great spectacle of the waters.
By the way, you might find some wild animals along the way such as the Coatis (Nasua).
Resist the temptation to get too close or feed them. They do not usually attack humans, but they are quite audacious and are usually attracted by food. Also, they can bite when disturbed.
Porto Canoas Station
Porto Canoas Station offers an excellent infrastructure for visitors, including Porto Canoas Restaurant and a souvenir shop. In addition to the restaurant overlooking the waterfalls, there are restrooms and the departure point to return to the Visitors Center.
There are also two lifts that allow anyone to access the walkway from where visitors can closely watch the Devil’s Throat, the largest of the 275 waterfalls that form the Iguazu Falls.
Its 80 meter height provides a breathtaking view.
Honestly, the visit to the Iguassu Falls is not complete if you skip this attraction. Well, it’s true that you’ll have to pay for it separately and it’s pricey. But I swear, it’s worth every penny.
I’ll tell you all the details of this incredible adventure in another blog post. For now, I can tell you that Macuco Safari is a combination of a relaxing ride through the forest with a thrilling boat ride which takes you very close to the waterfalls. Pure adrenaline!
Trilha do Poço Preto (Black Well Trail)
Trilha do Poço Preto is an ecological safari that gives the visitors the chance to walk the same path that the native Indians used to get around the falls. It is an attraction paid separately and lasts about 4 hours. The route is 9 km long. Visitors can walk, cycle or take a ride aboard an electric car. Unfortunately, I won’t be able share any experiences, but it seems to be very interesting.
Trilha das Bananeiras (Banana Trees Trail)
On this 1.5 km trail, the visitors can closely appreciate the fauna and the flora of the region. In addition, the tour combines a boat ride on the Iguaçu River, with a visit to a 10-meter-tall bunker from where it’s possible to observe the Lagoa do Jacaré (Alligator Lagoon).
If you are lucky, you may even spot a broad-snouted caiman sunbathing. The tour is conducted by two guides and lasts about 2 hours and a half. Due to the lack of time, this is another tour that I will have to leave for the next visit.
Well, this tour definitely wasn’t in my plans. Even though I would love to try the incredible feeling that must be flying over the Iguazu Falls! But beware: getting onto the aircraft I the easiest part; the hard part comes when you have to pay for the ride. The price is as high as the flight!
For those who don’t mind spending the extra money, it might be an unforgettable experience.
Stay in the forest
How about staying in front of the Iguazu Falls? I personally would love to wake up amid the exuberant nature and have a chance to enjoy the park almost exclusively.
Imagine how nice must be to walk on the empty walkway, listening only to the sounds of the nature. It must be a dream!
And it can come true, if you can afford a five-star hotel! That’s the kind of thing you must do at least once in your life if the opportunity comes.
Well, unfortunately I could not check the interior of the hotel. But, if it is anything like the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro , just by its facade we can already imagine how luxurious Belmond Hotel das Cataratas must be on the inside.
Oh, my… both already included in my wish list!
Come back whenever you can to Iguaçu National Park
Okay, but now back to my reality, visiting Iguazu Falls was the realization of an old project. It was a great experience which overcame all my expectations. However, I still feel like I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had wanted.
After my half-day experience, I think that the first visit to the park enables you to have a good overview. However, it is necessary to reserve a full day or visit it twice, so that you can calmly enjoy all the activities that are available. I left the park with that unpleasant feeling that I didn’t explore it enough.
The park is a perfect place for nature lovers. It also has more challenging trails for the most enthusiastic ones.
Alternatively, it’s also the ideal setting for those who want to relax and escape from the crowded streets of the big cities.
Foz do Iguaçu and its many attractions
And if you enjoyed this post and want to know more about Foz do Iguaçu and region, be sure that the Iguazu Falls are not the only attractions in Foz do Iguaçu. There are many other activities to enjoy the city. I have much more to share and I invite you to follow the other posts about this region!
The trip overcame all my expectations, which were not small by any means. Living all these experiences in Foz do Iguaçu was only possible thanks to the credibility and the efforts of Turista FullTime’s partners. So, our most thankful words go to the staff of the Iguassu Convention & Visitors Bureau, Ticket Loko team and the Hotel Foz do Iguaçu staff.