Iguazu Falls are the crowning gem of the Atlantic rainforest, but there is so much more to see and explore in the neighboring cities. Puerto Iguazu, Argentina; Foz do Iguacu, Brazil; and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay are replete with cultural and tourist attractions fit for everyone. Make the most out of your days (and money) while you visit the falls by checking out these other 10 spots. Here is my all-inclusive guide based on a three-day visit I completed in April 2018. I was not able to see all the sites on my list, but that is just one more excuse to go back!
Find my guide to the waterfalls here.
ARGENTINA (PUERTO IGUAZÚ)
Operating Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM, every day
Est. Duration: 1 hour
Entrance Fee: 110 Argentine pesos (ARS) cash
Any good tourist should learn as much as they can about the local culture. This is the place to go for Iguazu! La Aripuca serves a dual purpose: to preserve nature and the indigenous Guarani culture. All the structures on the museum grounds are built from local rescued and recycled wood, much of which is endangered. The main structure is modeled after a Guarani animal trap because by killing nature we humans are trapping ourselves. Ponder on that!
Message Facebook page for tour hours and fees.
A poor man’s daughter asked him for a dollhouse and since he was unable to purchase one he made his own out of recycled bottles. This triggered a light bulb in his head! A decade later, Alfredo Santa Cruz, lives off the tours of his entirely ecological home. The structure and furniture are all made of bottles, cans, CD cases, and any other recyclable plastic. On the tour, you will be taught how to use this “trash” as construction material. You can also buy one of a kind souvenirs – all made of recyclables as well.
Operating Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM, closed Sundays
Est. Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours (roundtrip)
Entrance Fee: 50 ARS cash
You can get from either Argentina or Brazil to Paraguay via bus, but why take a bus when you can take a boat?! All three neighboring countries still use barges to trade amongst each other and you can take a ride on one of them. Locals use the barge to cross their cars, so its primary function is not transporting tourists. As such it is not the most glamorous activity, but the barge is special in that it takes you right over the intersection of the three borders and provides beautiful vistas of all three nations.
BRAZIL (FOZ DO IGUACU)
Operating Hours: opens at 8:30 AM, daily
- Panoramic Tour (outside); 38 BRL cash or credit; about 2 hours
- Special Circuit (inside and outside); 82 BRL cash or credit; about 3 hours
- Illuminated Tour (outside at night); 22 BRL cash or credit; about 1.5 hours
Just a few miles away from one of the world’s seven natural wonders, you can find one of its modern wonders: Itaipu Dam. Even if the only thing you would get right on an engineering exam is your name, you must pay this place a visit. It is the world’s largest hydropower dam and produces the second largest amount of clean, renewable energy. It provides Brazil with 15% and Paraguay with 80% of all their electricity – which you would need 536,000 barrels of oil to achieve. That is just absolutely amazing! Get there early (lines get very long).
Chen Tien Buddhist Temple
Operating Hours: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM, closed Mondays
Est. Duration: 1 hour
(As there is no official webpage I have no information on operating hours, but it is in the center of town and very accessible.)
90% of Brazil’s population identifies as Catholic and it shows when you walk by a church every three blocks. However, in larger cities and towns you can easily find other religious centers. That is the case in Foz do Iguacu, where you can find a Buddhist temple and an Islamic mosque. Seeing how the culture of the religions mix with the Brazilian culture is fascinating. Just make sure you are respectful of norms and dress modestly when visiting!
Operating Hours: 8:30 AM – 5 PM, every day
Est. Duration: 1.5 hours
Entrance Fee: 45 BRL cash or credit
After a day at the Brazilian falls, you can cool off with a visit to the Birds Park, which is right across the street. With its more than 150 local species, it truly captures the diversity of the Atlantic rainforest. The park is a great way to learn about the fauna of the region.
PARAGUAY (CIUDAD DEL ESTE)
Operating Hours: 8:30 AM – 6 PM
After visiting Iguazu you might be too tired of seeing waterfalls, but if you are not, I have good news! Just a few miles away, in Paraguay, you can find another set of cascades. They are not as large or prominent as their big sibling down the river, but are still worth a visit, especially since they are less crowded.
Ciudad del Este
The second largest city in Paraguay is just one boat or bus ride away. Though it is not as tourist-oriented as its sister cities, Ciudad del Este is bursting with local culture. The city is quick-paced and international but still retains local Guarani traditions. In a one-day trip, you can see the mixture of cultures, try local food, and buy souvenirs for very cheap!
Operating Hours: 2 PM – 11 PM (Brazil only)
Entrance Fee: 23.60 BRL: see website for applicable discounts (Brazil only)
Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet at the confluence of two rivers: the Iguazu and the Parana. Each nation has a landmark commemorating the special bond. The landmarks go above and beyond by showcasing local art and statistics on the cultural and economic loyalty of the three nations. You can also find local vendors selling clothing, food, and souvenirs. The Argentina and Paraguay ones are free to access, while the Brazilian one has a small entrance fee to the park and an accompanying restaurant.
Tips on Getting There
- Citizens of Australia, Canada, the European Union, South Africa, the United States, and most Latin-American countries can enter Argentina visa-free. Americans and Australians will need visas to enter Brazil and Paraguay.
- Three airports support the region: Cataratas International Airport (Argentina), Foz do Iguacu International Airport (Brazil), and Guarani International Airport (AGT). I recommend flying into one of the first two as they are closer to the city centers.
- If you are traveling from within Argentina, Brazil, or Paraguay you can find several bus lines into the region, but the price is not significantly cheaper than flying.
- Be warned: The Brazilian airport has NO WiFi. I am unsure about the others.
Tips on Where To Stay
- Don’t book any of the hotels with views of the waterfalls. They are insanely overpriced.
- Stay in Argentina or Brazil, as Ciudad del Este is not set up for tourists and can be dangerous at night.
- You can rent an Airbnb in either of the two cities’ centers for as cheap as $10-$15 a night and the places are genuinely well-kept. Being in the center gives you more bar, club, market and restaurant options.
- In Argentina, stay on/near Av. Victoria Aguirre or Av. Misiones. In Brazil, stay on/near Av. das Cataratas or Av. Juscelino Kubitscheck.
Tips on Getting Around
- Uber is not available in Puerto Iguazu and is fairly new in Foz do Iguacu.
- Taxis will upcharge if they recognize you as a tourist – which they will because no amount of practice will mask your accent.
- Local buses are cheaper than taxis and are reliable, running every 15 – 30 minutes starting at 7 AM. Simply know the following:
- The local Brazilian bus is green. The 101/102 line runs to Itaipu Dam, the 103 line runs to the Buddhist temple, and the 120 line runs to the airport. All three lines stop in downtown. The fare is 3.55 BRL.
- The local Argentine bus is red and says Rio Uruguay on the side. It runs through or near all tourist points in Puerto Iguazu but also makes trips into Brazil and Paraguay. Communicate your destination to the driver. The fare to the falls is 20 BRL or 85 ARS, but elsewhere is only 5 BRL or 25 ARS.
- Itaipu bus is a white and blue bus. It makes trips between all three countries and will display the destination on the windshield. Simply flag it down when it is approaching your stop. The fare is 5 BRL or 25 ARS.
Tips on Crossing the Border
- Make sure to exchange money before crossing the border.
- Bring your passport and visa anytime you plan on crossing the border.
- You will need to get off your bus at Argentine Immigration & Customs any time you enter or exit the country. The process takes 5 minutes and the bus will wait outside for you.
- If you cross into Paraguay on the barge there is a local bus stop 500 m uphill from the barge drop off point. The bus will take you into downtown Ciudad del Este where you can take a bus back to Argentina or Brazil. A simple option would be to take the ferry round trip.
- When taking the Itaipu bus into Argentina, you will need to transfer onto the local red bus to go to La Aripuca or the House of Bottles. Otherwise, the bus will take you into the city’s downtown. The transfer stop looks like this, but ask your driver just to be sure.
In three days I was able to visit half of these sites, plus the waterfalls. To get the full experience I would recommend four or five full days.
For a full photo album with all my pictures, go here.