One important tip for those who want to visit Iguazu Falls for the first time is good planning. Not only for the famous national park, but also the city and the region where it’s located. In short, one thing is certain: you’ll go back home dreaming of the next trip there!
Yes, I know I’m being repetitive, but you WILL want to return to Iguazu Falls. Believe me; when I started planning my trip, I sort of knew what to expect already, based on the reviews of other bloggers and published pictures.
What I couldn’t predict, though, was my broken heart when I had to say good-bye to the place. I would love to return here one day!
It was 4 days of pure delight. Honestly, I thought that would have been enough to enjoy all that the city and the region have to offer.So, I took advantage of an extended holiday to go there.
Sweet illusion! Such a short stay left a bittersweet taste in my mouth – knowing that two days more would have been just perfect. I need to go back.
A glimpse of Foz do Iguaçu
Foz de Iguaçu is a small to medium-sized city in the South Brazilian state of Paraná. There are only 260 thousand inhabitants (data of 2013).
However, its numbers are surprisingly good when tourism and the development of the region are in discussion.
Moreover, it attracts a huge number of tourists every year since the city is home to the Iguaçu National Park and its wonderful waterfalls.
According to a research conducted by Embratur (the Brazilian Tourist Institute), the city is among the top destinations in the country. Although Foz do Iguaçu is a pretty small city, its infrastructure is comparable to the ones found in bigger centers.
Firstly, the city is connected to the rest of the country through modern highways. In addition, Foz do Iguaçu has an international airport, which serves not only the Brazilian side of the border, but also its closest neighbors in the region: Argentina and Paraguay.
Secondly, Foz do Iguaçu is the fifth in the country in number of hotel bedrooms, falling behind only to some of the most popular destinations such as São Paulo, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis (also, according to 2013 data).
Although the waterfalls may be the main reasons why people visit Foz do Iguaçu, there are many other important attractions in the city.
Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant, which is responsible for 17% of the total energy consumed in Brazil as well as 76% of the total energy consumed in Paraguay, is among them.
Iguazu Falls: hot tips to visit for the first time
First and foremost: the name. Iguazu, Iguazú, Iguassu or Iguaçu Falls? Well, it’s up to you to pick the name as different sources and languages treat the name distinctly. Henceforth, I will refer to the waterfalls using the ones I believe are more comprehensive according to the situation.
In practical terms, it is important to mention that the waterfalls are located on the borders between Brazil and Argentina.
So, basically, Iguaçu Falls usually refers to the Brazilian side while Iguazu Falls refers to the Argentinean side.
This little detail is very important when you plan your visit to the parks, as they are very distant from one another and both require at least half a day to be enjoyed properly.
What is the best time of the year to visit Iguazu Falls?
I would say that every time of the year has advantages and disadvantages. If you go to Foz do Iguaçu in the spring or in the summer (September to March), for example, you will catch the rainy season. That’s what happened to me, when I visited the town mid-November.
On the other hand, during the rain season the water volume of the waterfalls increases significantly, which consequently enhances the beauty of this natural attraction.
If you go during the autumn and winter months (April to August) you are less likely to encounter rain. Meaning that the water flow of the waterfalls also decreases. Essentially, it’s up to you whether to go during the dry or wet seasons since both will have their charm.
I won’t lie to you: there were quite a few moments of heavy rain during my stay there and I have to confess that it was rather inconvenient during the city tour, for instance.
One way or another, when you are visiting the waterfalls, you will be soaked from top to bottom, regardless the season!
How to get to Iguazu Falls?
The first is located in Foz do Iguaçu, on the Brazilian side of the border, while the second is located in Puerto Iguazú, a city in Misiones, an Argentinean province.
Foz do Iguaçu International Airport receives direct flights from the main Brazilian airlines and from different capitals. Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport receives direct flights from Buenos Aires.
Foz do Iguaçu is about 650km (404 miles) from Curitiba and 1060km (659 miles) from São Paulo. As I live in Rio de Janeiro (1492km – 927 miles), the best option was to fly.
How to get from the airport to Foz do Iguaçu downtown?
Foz do Iguaçu has a public transportation system that works very well in case you’re travelling on a low budget.
The bus line 120 connects Foz do Iguaçu International Airport to Foz do Iguaçu downtown for R$ 3.50 (one-way-price of 2017).
It’s the same line that serves Parque das Aves (Bird Park) and Iguaçu National Park. The journey airport-downtown takes around 30 minutes.
There is also a shuttle which does the itinerary for a reasonable price.
As soon as you leave the landing area, there are some tourist shops. Among them, you will find Falls Vision office where you can buy your tickets for the shuttle to and from the city center.
The great advantage is that the company will leave and pick you up at the entrance of your hotel.
This is the option I chose. The one-way ticket costs R$15.00. The round-trip ticket costs R$25.00 and you will be already scheduled to return to the airport.
This package covers several tourist attractions, as well as the airport transfer. Also, it can be used for a period of one week. For more information, see the company’s website.
You can opt for a regular taxi whose cost for a ride to the city center may cost around R$60.00 depending on the region of the hotel and the time of the day.
Finally, you can use the Uber app which is available in Foz do Iguaçu.
Where to stay in Foz do Iguaçu?
With over 20,000 hotel beds distributed around the city, finding one that fits your expectations and budget won’t be a difficult task.
Of course, if you book your accommodation in advance throughout a reliable website, the chance of a bad choice is pretty small.
I always make my reservations through my partner Booking.com and I’ve never had problems or unpleasant surprises.
This time, however, besides picking a nice option, I ended up making an excellent partnership, but this is a topic for another post.
I stayed at Hotel Foz de Iguaçu, which is located at the beginning of Avenida Brasil, one of the main avenues in the city center. Its location could’t be better.
The hotel is very close to some good gastronomic options. In addition, the bus terminal (from where I took buses to various places) is very nearby. Not to mention that Ticket Loko, a sales office that sells tickets for the major attractions in Foz do Iguaçu and region, is just across the street.
Must Do Attractions in Foz do Iguaçu and region
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, only 4 days turned out to be insufficient for everything I wanted to see and do.
I couldn’t go shopping in Paraguay, for example. But fortunately, I was able to enjoy most of all the cultural and ecological tours.
Ecotourism and Adventure
Reserve a full-day for this combo, which includes nature and adventure: Bird Park, Iguaçu National Park and the Macuco Safari.
Start your day with a visit to the Bird Park, which offers a very unique type of experience. If you are the type (like me) that frown on zoos, aquariums and the like, you will be surprised by the concept of this park.
Once in there, you will be allowed to get into the house of those beautiful birds and enjoy them with the condition of interfering as little as possible in their routine. You will feel almost like a guest.
After this stop, head to the entrance of the Iguaçu National Park, which is located about 400 meters from the Bird Park.
The Iguaçu National Park is huge, but there is a bus (included in the ticket price) that will leave you very close to the waterfalls.
If you’re the type who likes to get the adrenalin going, you must go on Macuco Safari.
During your boat ride, you will get very close to the waterfalls, which comes with a free refreshing bath! But if you don’t want to get wet, fine … there’s a lighter version of the ride!
Guess which one I chose? Hahaha…
Knowledge and Technology
Start your day by getting to know Geography and History and the most important points of Foz do Iguaçu.
City Tour in Foz do Iguaçu
The tour offered by Ticket Loko is done on a tour bus and lasts around 3 hours. Along the way, you will pass by the city main streets and avenues and will make three very interesting stops.
The most impressive of these will be the Three Borders Landmark, from where you can see, at the same time, portions of land from three countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant
Reserve your afternoon and evening to visit the world leader in clean and renewable energy production: Itaipu Binacional.
There are two types of activities, among other attractions. You can take the Panoramic Tour and check only the external parts of the power plant.
Alternatively, you can also opt for the Special Circuit, which will give you access to some of the plant’s internal sectors. This tour gives you a more complete picture of the plant’s processes and the opportunity to see it in full operation.
Catamaran Tour by Lake of Itaipu
Forget about Technology and surrender to the pleasure of navigating the waters of Lake Itaipu.
There are several rides available from 10:00 in the morning. However, the best arrangement is to catch the last tour (at 7:00 p.m.), since you will have a chance to watch the sunset aboard a super comfortable boat.
Illumination of the Dam
The last tourist activity of the day at Itaipu Binacional is the illumination of the dam. From the Central Lookout, you will enjoy a spectacle of sound and lights.
In order to give you an idea of what you will witness, a total of 747 reflectors and 112 gigantic lamps are needed to illuminate the forced conduits of the dam.
Once the lighting show is over, you’ll be able to enjoy the nearby dam onboard the bus tour of the plant.
Gastronomic Experiences in Foz do Iguaçu
There are several gastronomic options in Foz do Iguaçu, which range from thematic dinners with traditional shows to simply good food in the city’s varied bars and restaurants.
Most of the good options in town are centralized at Juscelino Kubitscheck Ave. (Avenida J.K. for the locals).
There you can find all kinds of cuisine. I checked Taj, an eastern restaurant recommended by a cousin. I confess that other three establishments have entered my wish list. I just did not have time to check it
Tours around Foz do Iguaçu
For many people, Foz do Iguaçu is also a shopping destination. After all, Cuidad del Este, famous for its excellent retail prices, is just across the border.
Thus, almost every tourist that goes to Foz do Iguaçu, makes a quick trip to Paraguay to overload the suitcases.
Unfortunately, I could not go shopping spree. It was not for lack of will, but for lack of time! Iguazu natives say that you go to Paraguay and come back full of pairs of socks. Simply, due to the insistence of the sellers, lowering the prices every time you say “no” to their offers.
I just came back with the three pairs I took … LOL!
There is also the Duty Free Puerto Iguazú in Argentina, a real paradise for those who want more sophisticated brands.
There are many good stores there, including Dior, Coach, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci … just to name a few.
Again, I passed it by on the way to the Argentinean waterfalls, but I couldn’t stop. I cried rivers!!! 🙁 My husband, on the contrary, was smiling from ear to ear. 😉
The Argentinean side of the waterfalls: Iguazu National Park
Golden tip for your trip: do not make the mistake of choosing just one of the parks to check the waterfalls. Visiting both parks is truly essential if you wish for the full experience.
Each park has its peculiarities and one complements the other. I’ll tell you more about each of them in other posts, but visiting both sides is a MUST!
Believe me: you will miss out on a lot if you decide to visit one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature but only get to see half of it…
Come back whenever you can to Foz do Iguaçu
You probably noticed that this is a post based only on the fundamental tips for a debut visit to Foz do Iguaçu.
However, it’s the type of city that demands a return trip. Quite simply, because there is a huge range of possibilities that one trip simply cannot give you a chance to fully explore.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post and want to know more about Foz do Iguaçu and its region, you can rest assured that this one was just a summary. I have much more to share! Thus, I invite you to follow the sequence of posts that will be out there soon!
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 efforts of Turista FullTime’s partners. So, my most thankful words go to the staff of Iguassu Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Ticket Loko team and the staff of the Hotel Foz do Iguaçu.