From the helicopter we looked down on the lazy Iguaçu River as it meandered its way through the dense jungle. In the distance, spray was shooting high above the trees letting us know where we were going. Then all of a sudden, the river became a torrent, crashing over the cliffs in hundreds of spots. Seeing so many waterfalls coming from its source was one of the most spectacular things we’ve ever seen. Visiting Iguaçu Falls is a must on anyone’s trip to Brazil.
Iguaçu National Park
Iguaçu River shapes a part of the border between Brazil and Argentina. Near its end, it falls off a tall, horseshoe shaped canyon to make one of the most magnificent settings in nature, Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu). Although most of the falls are actually in Argentina, Brazil is said to have much more spectacular views, and we have to agree.
As we walked down the ramp toward the first waterfall viewpoint I had nervous butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t want to expect too much, but I couldn’t help it. As it turned out, my high expectations were too low. The view from the first lookout is spectacular. I was speechless. Richard had seen them before, and he was still stunned by their beauty.
In front of us was a large c-shaped cliff with dozens of waterfalls picking their way down the two tiered drop. Dense vegetation and rocky outcrops made it look like the water was desperately trying to find a way down. The scene was so perfect. And then I looked down the boardwalk and realized this was just the beginning.
The walkway follows beside the falls for a remarkable 1 ½ km. We walked slowly, stopping often to take in the scenery that changed as we made our way along the falls. A dozen waterfalls turned into 100 and then a staggering 275. Water was cascading at random intervals. Some were large and ferocious; others were narrow streams of water. Each on their own would have been a gorgeous site but all of them together makes Iguaçu one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful waterfall in the world.
If I were a judge in a competition of most beautiful waterfall in the world, Iguaçu would get an A+++ for setting, design and execution.
At first we were almost too distracted by the many waterfalls falls to notice the large amount of colourful butterflies around us. Purple, red, blue and orange wings were fluttering around us as we walked down the path.
The highlight of the waterfall is a long narrow, horseshoe shaped gorge where water gushes from both sides. The Devil’s Throat (Garganta do Diabo) has so much power that you actually can’t see inside because of the amount of spray of blocking the view. After spending well over an hour walking the length of the Iguaçu we walked down a set of stairs and on to the long board walk that takes you close the mouth of the Devil’s Throat.
We were soon soaking wet from the mist, but it didn’t matter, the view is much better than the mist is annoying. From the platform you are surrounded by Iguaçu and you can really feel its power.
It was amazing to watch daredevil swallows as they darted in and out of the powerful falls . They have nests in the rocks behind the cascades.
A view point above the falls gives a better view of Devil’s Throat, but you still can’t see it fully. We knew we wanted a better look.
To fully realize the breadth of this waterfall you must see if from above. It was from a helicopter that we were finally able to get a full view of this amazing natural beauty. The 10 minute helicopter ride began by following the calm, flat river as it gently flows through the dense jungle. In the distance we could see high sprays of water letting us know where to find it.
Suddenly, the gentle river meets the canyon and much of it drops straight down the 80 m tall cliffs. Other parts of the river though look as if the water is desperately trying to avoid the canyon, going further and further down stream, seeking another way. Eventually the river finally cedes to its outcome creating a waterfall that is 2.7 km long with 275 individual falls.
From the helicopter, the view was incredible. We could see how the light plays with the spray forming colourful rainbows.
Foz do Iguaçu
The city Foz do Iguaçu (Mouth of Iguaçu) is a busy, but nice city 20 km from the waterfall. Even though it’s the closest access to the falls in Brazil, its downtown does not feel touristy. It has clean, tree-lined streets with lot of restaurants and shopping malls. There’s not a lot to do in town, but on its outskirts is the confluence of Iguaçu and Parana Rivers which forms the borders between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.
When we were waiting for the bus we noticed the courteous city workers cutting the grass. They had a portable wall between them and traffic. We think it was to protect cars from debris from their weed-eaters.
How to visit Iguaçu Falls
The Brazilian side of the falls can be seen from Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Iguaçu National Park) 20 km from Foz do Iguaçu. The park is open daily from 9 am until 5 pm. To get to the falls you can hire one of the many tour agencies in town or on-line, but it’s very easy to go on your own. Taxis or Uber can drive you to the ticket counter. It’s also easy to take the public bus. Ask your hotel where the stop is for Bus 120 (R$5/$1USD). It leaves downtown every 20-30 minutes.
Your park ticket includes a bus that takes you to the walking trails. The first bus stop is for boat tours. We got off at the second stop which is across from Belmond Hotel das Cataratas so we could walk the entire length of the falls. If you don’t want to walk you can stay on the bus all the way to Devil’s Throat. Entry fee is R$83 ($16 USD) for foreigners.
Other ways to see the falls include a helicopter tour or boat rides. We highly recommend taking the helicopter tour.
You can also visit the Argentina side which is what we intended to do. It is supposed to have the best view of Devil’s Throat. Unfortunately two trails, including the one to Devil’s Throat have been damaged and are closed. (Note it is spelled Iguazú in Spanish).
How to get to Foz do Iguaçu
The city of Foz is very accessible by plane, car or bus. The international airport is 14 km outside of town and the bus depot (Rodoviária) is 6 km away. If you’re driving or taking a bus it is 13 hours to São Paulo and 6 hours to Curitiba.
When to visit
Rainy season is from December to March so this is when the falls will have the most water, but the skies are more likely to be cloudy. Blue skies are more common between April and October. We visited in December and had a mix of rainy days and blue skies.
Where to stay
Most people will stay in downtown Foz do Iguaçu. There are many restaurants and hotels in the area. If you want to splurge though, stay at Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in the National Park. It’s right across from the first viewpoint so would be able to visit the falls multiple times and more easily go during the best weather.
Coming Next – Top Places To Visit In Brazil
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To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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Absolutely stunning! I’ve never seen falls like this.
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Neither had I!! They’re amazing! Maggie