Brazil and Argentina will forever debate futbol and the best way to serve steak. But an unsung rivalry between the South American superpowers is which side has better claim to the continent’s most spectacular waterfall—is it Iguazu Falls Argentina or Brazil?
Before we battle Iguazu Falls Argentina or Brazil, it bears mentioning that this is really one giant, borderless waterfall range made of roughly 275 individual falls winding through both countries. Here’s how Iguazu Falls (Argentina and Brazil) stacks up against other famous falls.
Taller than Niagara Falls
Carries more water than Victoria Falls
Wider than both Niagara and Victoria (although Victoria is wider than any of Iguazu’s single falls)
Legend has it that Eleanor Roosevelt took one look at Iguazu Falls and exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”
The views from each country are two sides of the same coin. Whether you’re looking down at Cataratas do Iguaçu in Brazil or gazing up at Cataratas del Iguazú in Argentina, chances are you’re ogling one set of Falls through the mist of the other. Pitting the two against each other is like pitting wine against cheese—why?
Experiencing the Falls: Argentina
In Brazil, an air-conditioned charter bus delivers you at the doorstep of Devil’s Throat. Your fist view of the Falls is also the most epic. It’s cool, but for us it felt a little too much, too soon. Things get more interesting (and decidedly wetter) when you walk the platform mid-way down Devil’s Throat, the most famous individual waterfall within Iguazu.
We prefer the romance of riding the open-air train and then walking winding wooden trails to earn your views in Argentina. Both sides are obviously well-oiled machine parks system (there are hotels IN both parks), but a little mystery and delayed gratification is well worth a short hike and a little humidity.
20% of Iguazu Falls flows through Brazil, 80% flows through Argentina. The numbers fall in Argentina’s favour and the park makes the most of its advantage with three multi-tiered trails that let you roam above and below the Falls.
Both sides are teaming with incredibly tame—if not fully domesticated—wildlife. Butterflies swarm like they’re auditioning for a Disney movie, and the trees are alive with everything you’d want in a jungle (we didn’t see any monkeys, but signs say they’re out there). More walking trails on the Argentina side means more opportunity to get to know the locals. For us that included a Toucan and a giant member of the catfish family.
But the real scene stealers on both sides are the ravenous coatis. These raccoon relatives should be considered armed with cuteness and dangerously hungry.
Wikipedia lists “hog-nosed coons” and “snookum bears” among coatis alternate names. J. K. Rowling could write an entire series on the magic that occurs when they wiggle those “hog-noses” to smell you. They travel in packs. On the trails they’re cute as hell. While you’re lunching, look out—they are shameless. At the café where we had empañadas in Argentina (surprisingly tasty, points there too) they actually employe someone to chase them off the tables.
Brazil wins this one on the sheer number of things to do. You can raft, repel, zip line, canopy walk and helicopter (banned by Argentina for environmental concerns) your way through the park.
For us it was all about the boat ride. Brazil’s Macucu Safari gets top marks. Both Macucu Safari and the Gran Adeventura in Argentina put you RIGHT under the falls for a proper drenching. Macucu Safari uses smaller and speedier boats and lots of donuts to make the ride more than just the falls. The “jungle safari” to and from the river is a bit of a time-suck, but it does allow for a perfect opportunity to drink an ice-cold beer.
Rainbows: Tie, everyone wins with rainbows
Yes, this is a category. And yes, it is very important. Luckily even in off-season weather both sides deliver.
Iguazu Falls Argentina or Brazil Verdict: Make Argentina your Focus with a Day Trip to Brazil
Cataratas del Iguazú Argentina delivers more of what we like in an outdoor adventure. If you’ve only got one day, get up early and drink in every drop of Cataratas Iguazú in Argentina. That said, both sides truly compliment the other. You’ve come all this way, and it’s absolutely worth spending a full day on each side to get the full Iguazu Falls experience (do the free island ferry in Argentina and the Macucu Safari in Brazil).
We recommend staying in Argentina (much cuter town, much for favorable exchange rate). Cabs between hostels and airports on each side (each has one) aren’t totally highway robbery. And the driver will help you get you through Immigration. There are two extra steps for those traveling on a North American passport: 1. You need to pre-purchase a visa for Brazil. 2. To drive into Argentina from Brazil you need to pre-pay and print your “retribution fee” BEFORE crossing the border. Otherwise you’ll end up in a mad dash looking for a printer in your cab—a much more difficult feat than it sounds.
One last shout-out to my brother Nick, thanks for joining us to make Iguaçu and Iguazú an extra special trip.