Travel Tips for Iguassu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Travel Tips for Iguassu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

  1. Foz do Iguassu or is one of my top favorite places to visit in Brazil. I have already been there twice and enjoyed it very much. The first time I visited on honeymoon with my Brazilian wife. Fifteen years later, we took our teenage children there for a visit.

    I would highly recommend this destination for families with older children. Smaller children and strollers with infants is not recommended given the amount of walking required. There are also areas with many steps and some steep grades that you will need to negotiate.  However, there are hand rails in some of the difficult areas, and a person with some challenges walking can still get around adequately. 

    The parks containing the Falls are located on both the Argentine and Brazilian sides and are visited by thousands of tourist each day, so are well maintained to handle the foot traffic across the bridges, observation decks and walkways.  To get the most of Foz, you need to spend the day walking around all the paths on both sides of the border to take in all the incredible views. There are dozens of waterfalls and fantastic views besides the main falls at the Devil’s Throat.

    First, let’s start with a general overview of what Foz is all about.  It is the worlds’ second largest waterfall complex after the Victoria Falls located in southern Affrica on the Zambezi River.  Located on the border of the Brazilians state of Parana and the Agentine province of Missiones, the area is dominated by the presence of the Parana and Iguassu rivers.   Looking on a map, this area is located near several interesting attractions; the Itaipu dam and the tri-border point of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The center of population in this area is the city of Foz do Iguassu that is bordered on the east by the Parana River marking the border between Brazil and Paraguay. A very interesting area from a geo-political standpoint, at is has been historically contested for the vast amount of fresh water flowing through it.

    To get to the city of Foz do Iguassu, you can catch a flight out of Rio or Sao Paulo and be there in several hours.  There are several Brazilian airlines such as TAM that fly into Foz do Iguassu.  Many of the regional airlines in Brazil operate like the discount airlines here in the US, and you can book flights online at different price points. If you have the ability to do this depending on the method of payment, it may save you some money over using a travel agent here in the US.

    I would highly recommend that you find a small hotel in the city of Foz do Iguassu for your stay. By searching some of the travel review sites on the web, you can check out the reviews of travelers who have been there and see what they have to say. The nice thing about staying in town is that you can get access to all the local restaurants, competitive tour rates and shopping. I have been tempted to stay at the large resort hotels located by the Falls, but after several visits concluded that they are not worth the cost and are not convenient for getting access to all the other attractions in the area. The small hotels in town are very eager to get your business and your good reviews online, so they will treat you well. In addition, they will set you up with their tour guides who they know well. The town very tourist friendly and there shouldn’t be any concerns for safety if you follow common sense.

    Folks are somewhat confused by the Yellow Fever precautions for this area. The CDC “recommends” vaccinations for Yellow Fever for this area. The Brazilian government does not require it. It is recommended that you check with the CDC’s website to see the current status prior to your planned trip. The best time of year to visit this area is June and July, as it will be typically in the dry season with moderate temperatures. With some DEET spray and appropriate dress, there shouldn’t be any problem with mosquitoes during the daylight hours when walking around the paths of the Foz parks.  If you plan on getting into the forest and doing some hiking and camping, then you may want to get the vaccinations.

    You should plan on staying in this area for about three to four days to take in all the different attractions. One or two days should be spent entirely on the Foz paths of both Brazilian and Argentine sides. You can take in both sides easily in one full day, as the local tour guides will set the timing take care of the transportation between the parks located on each side of the Falls.  Again, the infrastructure of the parks on both sides is excellent and it is easy to move quickly around the area and take in a lot sights. Having good weather is important, as the views of the water and green forest are fantastic on a good sunny day. Also, there are many areas where rainbows form above the mist from the falls. Another option is to take a river boat excursion up to the Falls. These tours put you on a power boat up stream right up to the falls close and personal with all the wetness that goes with it.

    Another day should be spent visiting the Itaipu dam complex. It is the largest hydroelectric dam in South America. Quite an interesting tour is available of the complex taking about three hours including travel.  The tour is well organized and tourists are provided with CD players in their language of choice to accompany the walking and bus tour through the complex.

    A quick point of interest located a few minutes from downtown Foz do Iguassu is the tri-border point where the rivers Iguassu and Parana meet. It’s really one of those, “I’ve been there” moments, as there is just a monument with the flags of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and a nice view of the converging rivers.

    For the brave at heart, a shopping excursion into Paraguay across the bridge from the city of Foz do Iguassu may be your thing.  This is the equivalent to crossing into Mexico to shop in Tijuana from California. Be prepared to see lots of soldiers with guns at this crossing point as it is a major smuggling area between Brazil and Paraguay. Once into Paraguay, it is very much like entering a large flee market with all sorts of goods being hawked on the streets. It is highly recommended that you take a guided tour. The guides will take you to all the shopping areas that are frequented by Brazilians looking for good deals. Don’t expect to buy anything cheaper than what you could buy in the US, but it’s an interesting experience in a wild border town for those who are looking for something a little edgy.

    It is also worth checking out the ruins of Misiones at San Ignacio in Argentina. This is a full day’s excursion including the travel time from the city of Foz do Iguassu. San Ignacio Mini was one of the missions founded by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century. Besides the ruins, there is a nature reserve that offers opportunity for those interested in hiking and getting close to the local fauna and local Guaraní tribes.

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