Iguazu Falls is one of those places that’s impossible to convey in photos because it encompasses all senses, from the sweet scent of the native orchids to the thundering roar of the famed Devil’s Throat pierced by the squawks of toucans overhead. It is truly one of South America’s most awe-inspiring natural phenomena, visceral and jaw-dropping in its magnitude. 

The falls are located within the Atlantic rainforest in Iguazu National Park, which straddles the border of Argentina and Brazil. While not the largest falls in the world, what’s so remarkable about Iguazu is that it’s made up of 275 individual falls covering a nearly 2-mile (3 km) long horseshoe-shaped formation. These falls are surrounded by multi-level walkways that bring visitors as close as possible to this spectacular display of the sheer power and force of nature. It’s said that when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu Falls in 1944, all she could utter amidst her awe was “Poor Niagara!” 

As impressive as they are, the falls themselves are just one part of all this region has to offer. Atelier can work with you to design a custom-tailored experience to explore not only the falls, but the region’s native wildlife, endemic flora, and local indigenous communities.

How to get to Iguazu

Both the Argentina and Brazil side of Iguazu each have their own airport. Those who are coming from another destination within Argentina will fly into Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR) and those coming from cities in Brazil (and even certain international destinations like Lima) will fly into the Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU). Aerolineas Argentinas offers daily direct flights to IGR from Buenos Aires (about 2 hours), and LATAM has direct flights to IGU 4 days a week from Rio de Janeiro (2.5 hours) and daily direct flights from Sao Paulo (about 1 hour and 45 minutes). IGR and IGU are each only about 20 minutes from the entrance to the national park. Your travel specialist at Atelier will help you choose the best logistics for you based on the rest of your corresponding itinerary.

When to go

Iguazu National Park is a fantastic year-round destination. Since it’s located in the subtropical rainforest, visitors can experience rain and humidity all year, though the hottest and most humid months are December through February, when temperatures average 90°F/32°C. This is also when the flow of the falls is at its heaviest. June through August are a bit cooler, with an average daytime high of about 70°F/21°C, so it can be a very pleasant time to visit for those interested in more active hiking and biking excursions. The falls can be lighter then, but this is all relative – Iguazu is powerful, impressive, and torrential year-round, and it’s extremely rare for drought to affect the experience. For the best balance of temperature and level of water, the shoulder seasons of March through May and September through November are recommended.

What to do

Exploring the Falls

Iguazu Falls is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in South America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and so for many travelers it’s the main focus.

Explore the network of trails throughout the national park

Each side of the national park has its own trail system that stretches along the canyon of the hundreds of falls, with views at different angles and from different levels and distances. Each side offers a unique experience – the Brazil side has sweeping panoramic views of hundreds of falls, while the Argentina side allows visitors to see them closer up and from different angles. 80% of the falls lie on the Argentina side of the national park and the remaining 20% are on the Brazil side. It’s recommended to plan one full-day to explore the three main trails throughout the Argentina side, while the Brazil side has just one path that takes less than half a day to hike.

The Ecological Jungle Train

This natural gas-powered train departs from the central station located near the entrance to the Argentina side of the national park, and travels  25 minutes along almost 9 miles (14 km) to Devil’s Throat. The train is quite quiet and the cars are open-air, so passengers can enjoy the sounds and smells of the jungle along the way. At the end of the route, passengers can disembark and continue along the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) trail to witness arguably the main highlight of the falls and the highest point at 269 feet (82 m).

Boat rides up close to the power of the falls

Each side of the falls offers a boat tour that takes visitors up close to several of the falls, and even right under them. The boat from the Argentina side is called the Gran Aventura and the one from the Brazil side is called the Macuco Safari.

Getting deeper into the Atlantic rainforest 

Hike, bike, or kayak throughout the national park, which is home to over 400 species of birds, many of them endemic to the Atlantic rainforest. The region is also home to beautiful flora like native orchids and ferns, and abundant fauna, like tapir, monkeys, and pumas.

Immerse yourself in local community

The Iguazu region is also an important cultural destination. On an excursion to visit the local Guaraní community, visitors can learn about their traditional hunting techniques, medicinal plants, and artisan crafts.

Support the native fauna

Visit Güira Oga, a rehabilitation center for injured and rescued native fauna, to support and learn about the wildlife conservationists who work to rehabilitate the wildlife and reintroduce them to their natural habitat. The Bird Park (Parque das Aves) on the Brazil side is another conservation center that works to protect over 100 species of birds. Atelier can arrange a special Backstage Tour option where you can access areas normally restricted to the public and interact with some of the wildlife.

Visit the Itaipu Dam 

The Itaipu Dam, located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay,  is the one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world, at 4.5 miles long (7.2 km) and 65 stories high. It’s maximum flow is up to 40 times more powerful than Iguazu Falls itself.

Take a look at these Famili Friendly Travel Tips in South America

Where to stay

There are two hotels inside the national park, the Belmond Das Cataratas on the Brazil side and the Gran Melia Iguazu on the Argentina side. Each hotel offers views of the falls from some of the rooms as well as the dining areas. Staying at one of these hotels allows guests quick and easy access to the trails within the national park.

Another highly recommended option is Awasi Iguazu, a 5-star luxury boutique hotel located along the Iguazu River about 20 minutes outside the entrance to the national park. Each of its 14 villas has a private plunge pool, and a dedicated private guide and vehicle for the duration of guests’ stay. A variety of excursions are included as well, and upon arrival guests meet with their guide to discuss the options and design an itinerary.

Loi Suites is another lovely upscale option nestled in the jungle outside of the national park on the Argentine side of the falls, about 20 minutes from the town of Puerto Iguazu and from the entrance to the national park.

What to pack

For those who plan on taking one of the boat rides up close to (and under) the falls, a change of clothes is important to bring in a waterproof daybag. Sun screen and insect repellent are also very important here. Iguazu can be quite hot and humid, so quick-dry pants, shorts, and both long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts are very helpful.

Where to eat

For those staying at one of the hotels in the national park, the hotels’ restaurants are often the most convenient option for dinner. 

For lunch within the national park, Porto Canoas Restaurant, along the Iguazu River on the Brazil side of the park, is a good option for traditional Brazilian cuisine. On the Argentina side of the falls, La Selva and El Fortin offer buffet lunches with Argentine-style grilled meat.

In the town of Puerto Iguazu, about 20 minutes from the Argentine entrance to the national park, top-recommended options are Aqva Restaurant, which specializes in dishes made with regional ingredients and fish from the Parana and Iguazu Rivers, as well as Patanegra, a steakhouse & tapas bar with a wide selection of local beer and wine, and Jungle Restaurant, a fine-dining restaurant with both local and international cuisine and al fresco seating options. Locals also recommend traditional “asados” at Quincho del Tío Querido, Italian food at Trattoria De la Fonte and international food at J Alta Cocina. If your schedule permits, we strongly suggest a passionate and energetic performance at Madero Tango.

In the town of Foz do Iguazu on the Brazil side, Bufalo Branco is considered one of the top Brazilian churrasco (BBQ) restaurants in Iguazu. Meanwhile, Rafain Churrascaria & Show offers a buffet dining experience with a diverse range of flavors from Brazilian and international cuisines. Guests can indulge in a delightful culinary journey while being mesmerized by live performances showcasing traditional music, dance, and cultural spectacles. For food enthusiasts seeking a cozy and meaningful culinary experience, nothing beats a “Cozinha Brasileira” session by Fabio Del Antonio at Casa do Chef, a truly high-end epicurean journey for your senses. 

For those seeking caipirinhas and entertainment, Rafain Chopp and Capitão Bar are prime choices to experience the lively local nightlife. These establishments provide a vibrant atmosphere with live performances of Brazilian Pop Music and other genres, ensuring a memorable and fun-filled evening.

Tips to design a unique program

– Iguazu Falls is one of the most popular national parks in South America but there are plenty of ways to create a unique and special experience.

– Staying at the hotels inside the national park means guests have the opportunity to be one of the first visitors to the falls in the morning, before the crowds and tour buses arrive. Just you and the sheer power of nature is pretty magical.

–  The five nights a month surrounding the full moon are a rare opportunity to experience the jungle at night. During these five days only, visitors can purchase an evening ticket to take the train to see Devil’s Throat brightly lit up by the light of the moon.

– Whether staying inside the national park on the Argentine side or closer to town, head into Puerto Iguazu one evening to take part in the Argentine Experience, an interactive culinary and cultural workshop. Visitors learn all about Argentine customs, culture, and classic Argentine dishes, while enjoying a 5-course meal and learning how to make empanadas, alfajores, and mate.

– For those who are interested in archaeology and history, Iguazu can easily be combined with a visit to the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis, some of the most well-preserved Jesuit ruins in South America. They are located in San Ignacio, Argentina, just a 3.5 hour drive south from Puerto Iguazu, close to the Paraguay border. These ruins, built in the 17th century by Jesuit missionaries from Spain, are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, revered for their beautiful and ornate baroque architecture and carvings.

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