Because a waterfall such as Iguazu Falls spans two different countries, it’s natural to ask which side is better.
In this case, is the Argentina side better? Or is the Brazil side better?
Now I know there are those who’ll dismiss this question and say, “well Iguazu Falls is good from both sides, but they’re different.” And having been to both sides ourselves, we can say with certainty that’s very true.
So in this article, we’ll break down why that is the case.
Perhaps after our writeup, you can draw your own conclusions and decide for yourself how best to plan and prepare for your trip accordingly…
THE ARGENTINA SIDE OF IGUAZU FALLS
As far as the viewing experience went, the Argentina side encompassed a much larger portion of Iguazu Falls than the Brazil side (at least from an area standpoint).
This included all of the San Martin Island (a large parcel of land that comprised one of the series of islands splitting the falls into its two main components – the Devil’s Throat and then the rest).
The metal catwalks and trails that allowed us to get close-up views of many of the individual waterfalls and cascades that comprised the larger Iguazu Falls network were far longer and more extensive than its Brazilian counterpart.
Among the points of interest included the Devil’s Throat itself, the San Martin Island (which required a short boat ferry to get to), and the upper and lower trails for both a top-down as well as a bottom-up perspective, respectively.
To give you an idea to how extensive the catwalks on the Argentina side were, here’s a quick breakdown.
The Upper Trail (Paseo Superior), which followed the rim of the greater Iguazu Falls network allowing for top down and elevated views, was 650m long and wheelchair accessible. It was said to take about an hour. We probably took longer than that.
The Lower Trail (Paseo Inferior), which allowed us to be at the bottom of some of the waterfalls as well as gain access to the free boat ride across to the San Martin Island, involved stairs and was said to take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover the 2.5km length. I’m pretty certain that we took way longer than the recommended time commitment.
The Devil’s Throat Trail (Paseo de La Garganta del Diablo) was about 1.1km long. It required a short train ride to get to the start of the catwalk, which bridged a chunk of the Rio Iguazu before reaching an overlook area peering right into the awesome Devil’s Throat itself. Signs suggested that this would take about 2 hours to do.
Thus, given the amount of time we spent on the catwalks, it made the most sense for us to stay at the Sheraton Iguazu, which was within the national park on the Argentina side.
That allowed us to experience these walks at will without the additional logistical hurdles of a border crossing to/from Brazil, the 18km distance between Puerto Iguazu (the nearest town on the Argentina side) and the falls, or of the opening and closing times as we had some time to experience the place before the crowds would arrive.
If we wanted to save money (but not time), we could have stayed in the town of Puerto Iguazú, which was more of a tourist town with more restaurants and accommodations to choose from. When we were in the mood to try food that was more local and authentic, we even had the hotel recommend a place in town.
We wound up taking a pretty straightforward bus to get to town, but the restaurant called us a remise (taxi) to get back since bus service ended by the time dinner ended.
Anyways, as for what else you can experience on the Argentina side, below are some additional photos and captions, which will give you a better idea of what it’s like there.
THE BRAZIL SIDE OF IGUASSU FALLS
The Brazil side encompassed a more compact area north of El Río de Iguassu (Iguassu River or Iguaçu River).
The 1.2km (one-way) catwalks and trails on this side were short but sweet.
That’s because in general, we were able to look across the river to enjoy distant panoramic views of the Argentina side (including parts of San Martin Island that we didn’t really get to see from the Argentina side) and more frontal views of the awesome Devil’s Throat.
The section of the catwalks that took us as close to the Devil’s Throat as we could get was perhaps the most dramatic part.
For it was there that we found ourselves walking between drops of the Iguassu Falls and getting to stare directly right into the three-walled torrent of the Devil’s Throat itself, which was a perspective we wouldn’t be able to get from the Argentina side except from a distance by one of the thrilling jet boat tours (I believe both countries offer this option).
Since we only planned and allowed ourselves a half-day at the Brazil side (as we crossed over and back from the Argentina side), we found that it was plenty of time to experience the short catwalks, the overlooks, and even the observation tower.
We managed to do all the walking here as a one-way shuttle because we had a ride that dropped us off at the lower end of the park and picked us up near the busier upper end (near the Observation Tower). So that further made our half-day visit less rushed and more comfortable.
However, in hindsight, if we allowed ourselves at least two nights and or at least an additional full day here, we might have added on a tour of the Saltos del Mocona (another very wide waterfall but shared between Brazil and Paraguay), and time permitting, perhaps the Salto do Macuco as well as the Itapu Dam.
The town of Foz do Iguacu was the nearest one on the Brazil side to the Iguassu Falls. And similar to Puerto Iguazu on the Argentina side, it involved a taxi or bus ride to get between the town and the falls. In this case, it was roughly 20km in distance between the two destinations though the bus transport also had an airport stop along the way.
Anyways, below are some of the photos we took from the Brazil side to give you an idea of what it was like over there.
So obviously, it’s worth seeing the falls from both sides. Clearly, they’re different but beautiful and equally worthwhile.
Unfortunately for us during our August-September 2007 trip, visiting the Brazil side was a bit difficult due to their Visa Requirements for Americans and to a lesser extent their higher cost relative to Argentina due to their currency being stronger at the time.
Prior to flying out to Argentina, we took the trouble to get the Brazilian Visa, which was $110 in application fees per person, and then we paid an additional $90 in expediting fees to ensure we’d have our passports back in time for our trip.
Personally, we’ve gone through the trouble of jumping through hoops and over hurdles to visit the Brazil side for a half day, and we didn’t regret it one bit (except for being a bit lighter on the wallet and patience thanks to the Brazil Visa Process). That said, I understand that Argentina now has a similar reciprocity Visa fee for Americans as well so this aspect may be a wash.
As for where to stay, we opted to stay on the Argentina side since it had the longer trails and thus the convenience of staying at the Sheraton Iguazu really allowed us to get more out of our limited time here. That said, I really wished we had another night or two and spent some of it touring the Brazil side more extensively or even going on more far-flung tours to other waterfalls involving Brazil and Paraguay.
So with all the textual and visual information provided here, we hope you can decide for yourself which side is better and plan your trip accordingly.
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