Foz de Igaucu Falls is the largest waterfall system in the WORLD and borders both Argentina and Brazil. Igaucu translates to “Big Water” and it’s no surprise why as it spans 2.7 Km and currently stands at 6th place in the world for the greatest annual flow rate with an average of 1746m3/second! Eleanor Roosevelt famously visited and uttered ‘poor Niagra’ which at 165m is a 1/3 shorter.
It can be visited from both sides, each offering a unique perspective of the stunning natural phenomenon and if you can, I suggest you visit both sides. A day in each should be sufficient for most people to get a good feel for the area. However I suggest allowing a few extra days for your visit just in case you are not so lucky with the weather.
I also suggest keeping an eye out for the local wildlife. You may see monitor lizards, monkeys and birds of prey but mostly you will see coati’s – a member of the racoon family. They have absolutely zero fear so don’t be surprised if they strut right up to you and steal the food straight out of your hands! Bags are also not safe around them as they will happily rummage through for food!
Top Tips for visiting the Falls
- You will get soaked. I mean absolutely drenched. At times it’s like stepping into a power shower! You will need a poncho and a change of clothes. Keep cameras and important possessions inside a dry bag! I just took a waterproof the first day and ended up having to use it to protect my bag and my camera so my outfit got soaked through. Even in Brazil’s tropical heat I was shivering with the cold! I learnt my lesson in time for the next day packing a change of clothes, dry bag AND a poncho!
- You will be out most of the day so bring plenty of suncream and bug spray if you intend to stay until late afternoon when the mozzies start to make an appearance.
- Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife and don’t leave food unattended.
- If a coati makes for your food, don’t try to fight it – the coati will win and you may end up injured. Remember they are wild animals and treat them with respect.
- You do not need guides for the park although many will try to persuade you otherwise. If you arrive in a group they may even insist on a guide so I suggest splitting up and arriving in 2’3 and 3’s. The exception to the rule is if you are passing from Brazil to Argentina in a group of more than 8 people – they will only let you through with a guide which is very annoying. Try to travel in smaller groups if you can.
- There aren’t many places to get drinks etc on the way so bring plenty of water with you!
The Brazilian Side
The Brazilian side consists of a walkway which leads you up to the Devils Throat where 50% of the water passes through in a raging powerful torrent! The views get ever more impressive and you will be fine getting your camera out for most of the walkway though stick to waterproof cameras only for the walkways right beneath the falls – this is where you get soaked!
There is also the opportunity to take a helicopter ride for 430BRL. The ride lasts only about 10 minutes but does 2 loops of the falls. I chose not to do it but I’ve spoken to many people who raved about their experience. It’s important to note that each helicopter takes 6 people so there is no guarantee of a window seat.
The waterfalls walk will take a few hours allowing for plenty of photos so you should have plenty time to visit the bird park near the entrance of Igauzu falls. It costs 40BRL for access to the bird park or you can pay 200BRL for a behind the scenes up close and personal tour of the park.
The park can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours to explore depending on your interest in birds. Personally I loved the park and would highly recommend it. It was the best bird park I’ve been to and the birds generally seemed really healthy and well cared for. The exception would be the flamingoes as I felt there were too many for a smallish enclosure. But otherwise, I thought it was a brilliant experience and such a great opportunity to get up close and personal with striking toucans with their bright yellow beaks and the even more colourful macaws which will fly and swoop around you within their enclosure. It was really impressive!
The Argentinian side
Where Brazil gives you amazing panoramic views, Argentina is more about getting up close to the water – so bring your waterproof cameras or keep yours in a dry bag! Here you will truly appreciate the magnitude and power of the falls – especially at the top of the devils throat where the water just thunders past.
You can take several walks at the park so I’d recommend allowing yourself the full day, arriving at the park when it first opens – this will also mean you can do some of the walking before the sun gets scorching! Each walk gives you a different perspective and view of the falls. One which is un-missable is the boardwalk to the top of the falls at Devils Throat. You will need to take the train up there but it’s worth the long queues. It’s best to do this one early before the park gets too busy. The best time to see the falls is in the hot, wet season (december to march) when the falls are at their most impressive but occasionally the board walks will get closed during this season if it’s deemed unsafe.
It’s worth taking a speedboat ride on the Argentinian side – it gets you much closer and much wetter than the Brazilian side! You will get drenched through but it is so much fun! Only here can you appreciate the full force of the water as you speed through the spray and go beneath the falls themselves. The walk down to the boat was also the prettiest walk in the park in my opinion! The boat trip costs 550 ARS ( about £22) and lasts about 12 minutes. They will give you a dry bag but I’d recommend only bringing the minimum of possessions and definitely have a change of clothes with you. Even wearing a poncho here seems pointless as the water just pours into the neck and soaks you through! Just embrace it and have fun!
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