Iguazu falls is one of the great natural wonders of the world, and truly is magnificent in person. The falls lie on the border between Argentina and Brazil with over 270 individual waterfalls that stretch for 1.5 miles. The falls are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Safe to say, if you are heading to Brazil or Argentina on vacation you should definitely add a trip to Iguazu falls to your itinerary.
Where is Iguazu Falls located?
The falls are located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. In both countries the falls are out of the way, not nearby to any big cities you will probably be visiting. You will likely be detouring to make a special trip just to see the falls.
You can enter from either side but do be aware that both sides offer VERY different experiences. Check out this article on just how different the two sides are.
Best time to visit Iguazu Falls?
It is hard to pinpoint the best time to visit Iguazu Falls since temperatures do fluctuate a lot. The most important consideration is traveling there in the wet or dry season and visiting during the high or low season. We visited the falls in late September/early October.
December through March is considered the wet season at Iguazu falls. It is also the summer months (remember they are in the Southern Hemisphere). Most would assume you would want to avoid the falls during wet season but this isn't really true. These months have higher temperatures and because of all the rain, the falls are at their most impressive. There is an increase in the water power and spray radiating from the falls. Of course, you do run a risk of closures due to heavy rain - especially San Martin Island and the Devil's Throat.
First off, Iguazu Falls is extremely close to the equator and therefore has a tropical climate. It rains year-round at Iguazu Falls. But, May through August, are considered the dry season. It rains slightly less and you'll notice a drop in humidity. From June through August (winter in the Southern Hemisphere) the temperatures also drop slightly. This makes visiting the falls much more enjoyable while walking the trails on either side of the falls.
January and February are considered the high visitation season. Both Brazilians and Argentinians are on holiday. During the summer (remember Jan/Feb is summer because you are in the southern hemisphere), the water levels are high and most importantly the weather is usually clear with blue skies throughout. The downside is the heat and humidity are extremely high. As are prices for hotels.
My recommendation: September and October will give you the best opportunity to visit the falls. Temperatures are lovely while hotel prices are more reasonable. There will be fewer visitors there as well.
How to get to Iguazu falls?
Getting to the falls is relatively easy, especially if you are flying in from a major city in Argentina or Brazil.
Because the falls lie exactly on the border each side of the falls has its own airport. Because these airports are small domestic flights into both airports are much cheaper than international flights. What does this mean? If you are touring Brazil and traveling in from, let's say, Rio de Janeiro you will pay FAR less to fly into the Brazilian side. The same holds true for Argentina.
The two airports on either side are Argentine Cataratas del Iguazu International Airport (IGR) and the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU). Notice they have similar airport codes - be extremely careful when researching and booking flights.
Once you land, Argentina’s airport is 25 km (16 miles) from the city of Iguazu, while Brazil's airport is located in between the falls and the town.
Brazil side or Argentina Side?
Both sides offer a once in a lifetime experience yet are completely different. Because there is so much to explain, I have a full article that explains the benefits and downsides to each side. Remember that if you have the time you can always visit both.
How many days do I need to see Iguazu Falls?
If you only plan to see Iguazu falls from one side I would recommend allocating at least two days. I do suggest, if it's possible, visiting both countries to see both sides. Each side offers a very different perspective. If you plan on seeing both sides, stay for 3-4 days. Again, an article comparing the two sides can be found here.
Let me say one more thing: I've touched on this above, Iguazu Falls are in a tropical region - it rains...a lot. It is also insanely unpredictable. It can rain hard for a few hours or a whole day. My best tip is to err on the side of caution and give yourself a couple of days’ leeway if you can. This gives you the best chance of seeing the falls on the sunniest day possible. I will say though if you arrive in awful weather don't lose all hope. When we landed, our weather app said it was going to be awful weather the ENTIRE time. Literally nonstop rain for two days. We got lucky (or the weather is just too hard to predict at Iguazu) and although it was overcast the entire time it ended up barely raining during our 3-day stay.
Do you need a visa to visit the falls?
If you are American (holding a US Passport) you will definitely have to pay a bit of money to enter Brazil. Since March of 2016 Argentina has dropped their mandatory reciprocity fee - it is now free to enter (and no visa is required ahead of time). Brazil requires a visa in your passport and it must be obtained before you arrive. It is relatively cheap at only $45.
Be sure to check what visa requirements are needed for your nationality before trying to cross borders. Also, make sure your passport is stamped when you enter AND exit the bordering countries or you’ll have problems leaving from any airport.
Thank you to one of my readers for reaching out about the new Brazilian visa system.
As of yesterday, June 17, 2019, a visa is no longer required to visit from the US.
You can read more here.
Once at Iguazu Falls (Brazilian Side)
Admission to the national park also comes with transportation. Your ticket will come with a boarding group/time to get on the bus. There is an option to pay for more activities but let me talk about a standard ticket first. Exit the bus at "Trilha das Cataratas" (a large pink hotel will be on your left). Most people will be getting off here as well - I doubt you will miss it. Follow the trail that runs alongside the falls. It is pretty self-explanatory and you only have one way in and out.
Usually, along the way will be someone selling official Iguaçu Falls rain ponchos for R$15. I suggest packing one from Amazon before you leave - much cheaper. Either way, definitely don't forget to bring water protection if you want to explore the walkway under the falls for more than a minute. Do be aware that even if you have a poncho, the lower half of your body may still get very wet depending on the wind that day. At the end of the "hike" is a Panoramic elevator. If the line is long you can skip it - the walk back up to the street is only about 5-minutes long.
Cost: R$57.30 per person. Reduced rates can be found for Brazilian residents.
What to pack for a trip to Iguazu Falls
Since temperatures can fluctuate during the day, we recommend dressing in layers and bringing a towel or change of clothes if you're planning to explore the wet areas of the trails or take a boat trip. You also won’t want to forget insect repellent and sunscreen.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a travel guide for Brazil along with you. Here are some of the best travel guides I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).