(Updated February 2019)
Foz do Iguaçu, worldwide known for the spectacular waterfalls that are located at the border between Brazil and Argentina, has far more attractions to be visited than this ‘Natural Wonder of the World’.
Foz do Iguaçu
The city, located in the western part of the federal state Paraná, has about 260,000 inhabitants. The name derives from the indigenous word Iguaçu („big water“) and the portuguese word foz, which means embouchure, hence it’s the „embouchure of the big water“, and seeing the waterfalls, the Paraná river, the Itaipú lake and the waterpower plant Itaipú – who would dispute that?!
|“Big water” – this nobody can deny.|
You can get there by bus – for instance in about 16 hours for about 70 US$ from São Paulo, for other destinations check out this website – which is long and relatively expensive compared to a quick’n’comfy flight that will cost you the same if you search a bit (look for Azul- and GOL-flights*; I paid from Curitiba 65 US$, but I also booked my ticket with Azul two months ahead – here I refer to my last post on planning and booking).
You’ll find the links to the companies I travelled with in the RATING and CONCLUSION section of this post.
Foz is a medium sized city with great attractions in the outskirts; but the center itself is not very exciting. Like in most other Brazilian cities, the public transport system is good, reliable and covering the entire region. Particularly important to the visitors is bus #120 going from the bus terminal downtown all the way to the water falls, passing not only the airport, but also many other attractions.
If you arrive at the airport, make sure to check out the tourist information there. The lady was not very welcoming and cheery, but she was efficient, handed me a map and explained me how to get where I wanted to go. I can do without a smile…
|No matter how many amusement parks will be built around Foz – the waterfalls will remain the main attraction.|
Regarding accommodations – of course you’ll find in a touristy place like Foz do Iguaçu everything from a bunk bed in a dorm of a cheap hostel to a wide range of luxury places, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas being the best one insofar that it’s the only accommodation within the national park. You care for the price? About 370 US$ a night (which is a bargain compared to the Belmond next to Machu Picchu which starts somewhere at 1,200 US$).
|The Belmond Hotel – this is not where I stayed.|
Since I was there only for two nights and had an early flight out, I stayed at a nice place being part of the San Juan Hoteis chain – located about 4 km / 2.5 miles from the airport and a ten minutes bus ride from the national park and the waterfalls; and I paid a fraction of the above quoted price.
Because I stayed only two nights and I felt very comfortable at my hotel, I had Caipirinhas at their bar (for a cheaper price than at less elegant places in Rio!) and I also ate dinner there: They have a huge buffet including everything your heart – and stomach – desires for less than 50 R$ (about 15 US$). Their food is really excellent!
|The San Juan Eco hotel – this is where I stayed.|
Cataratas do Iguaçu
Of course the waterfalls are the main reason for people coming to Foz, and they are right: The falls are a breathtaking spectacle of nature: They consist of 20 large and 255 smaller waterfalls along almost three kilometers / two miles. Most of them are about 65 meters / 213 feet high, but there are some up to 82 meters / almost 270 feet. Incredible 1.500 to 7.000 m³ / 53,000 to 247,000 ft³ of water do plummet down from the rocks.
|You have to see it to believe it – these masses of water are just incredible.|
The Iguaçu-waterfalls are one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Since 1984 (Argentinian side) resp. 1986 (Brasilian side) they have been a UNESCO world heritage sight.
The entrance fee is 62 R$ (about 19 US$) for foreigners (locals, nationals and Brazil’s neighbors pay less) and the ticket booths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that you can still finish your walk – or your meal with a view at the restaurant located at the final point ‘Porto Canoas’.
|At the points with the most impressive views, the park people built platforms so everybody can have their picture taken with on of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.|
In addition to just walking along the falls you can also hike some trails through the park and e.g. do some kayaking or getting really close to the falls on a dinghy ride. All these extras also cost extra.
Of course you get the most spectacular and also most expensive view from a helicopter, either on a 10-minute flight over the National Park and the Iguaçu Falls or a 35-minute flight over the Iguaçu National Park, Itaipú Hydroelectric Plant and Three Borders Landmark for about a 130 US$ resp. about 250 US$.
Phone: +55 – 45 – 35 29 74 74
The park can also be visited from Argentina, where you can easily get, too. From there the entrance fee is a bit more expensive, about 24 US$, the ticket booth closes already at 4.30 p.m. and you can stay till 6 p.m.
To get to the falls from downtown Foz in about 20 to 30 minutes, take bus #120 at the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU).
Note: If you change buses at terminals, i.e. final stops, in Brazil, you don’t have to pay another ticket, you just get on the connecting bus. It only works like this if your are changing, i.e. if you arrived at the terminal by another bus. If you are boarding your first bus there, you do have to pay.
Another huge, water-based tourist attraction is actually not a touristy, but an industrial plant, it’s the bi-national project Usina Itaipú.
|The premises you are visiting are impressively huge.|
In 1974, Brazil and Paraguay started this “Herculean job” as US magazine ‘Popular Mechanics’ called the project. Till 1981, up to 5 thousand people were hired every month. Throughout the construction period, there were about 100 thousand people working on the project – at the peak of the dam’s construction, about 40 thousand workers on the job site as well as employees in Brazil and Paraguay worked for Itaipú, finding great facilities such as good housing, schools for their kids, hospitals etc.
In 1984, Brazil and Paraguay opened world’s largest hydropower plant that in 1994 was elected by the American Society of Civil Engineers being one of the seven modern Wonders of the World.
Until now, more than 20 Million visitors from 197 countries paid Usina Itaipú a touristic visit.
|They truly made an effort to make this industrial site alluring for tourists.
An indispensable picture with their logo.
You can join a panoramic bus tour that takes you to four stops, takes about two hours and costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50), a complete visit where in addition to the panoramic tour you get to see the factory halls. This trip takes about three hours, costs R$ 38 (US$ 11,50) – and please don’t forget to bring your passport.
The panoramic bus stops at lake Itaipú where you can join a Catamaran ride (not included in the entrance fees).
|The touristy visits are remarkably elaborated. Besides restaurants and gift shops, there is some additional entertainment involved like e. g. navigating on the storage reservoir on a catamaran.|
For all visiting options – there is also a pass that allows you to visit Foz’s three most important attractions, i.e. the falls, the plan, and the tripoint, for R$ 109, check out their page:
To get to the site from downtown Foz is easy, but it is quite a ride (about 30 to 40 minutes): At the bus terminal (Terminal Transporte Urbano TTU), just take either bus # 101 or 102.
Besides these two pretty wet attractions, Foz do Iguaçu tries to attract and entertain visitors with other attractions, some of which I find a bit too theme park oriented. And since they also have a couple of shopping centers, the whole thing reminded me at bit of the International Boulevard in Orlando/Florida. Fortunately they are not that professional yet.
Parque das Aves
Although the bird park deems pretty touristy and just like a little zoo, they actually do grant the birds shelter and work on their recovery and conservation.
|You get really close to the Flamingos – on of the first species you get to see.|
It’s located next to the falls, and I would rather visit before going to the overwhelming water falls.
If for some reason you miss it, it’s no drama, I’m even not sure if the R$ 45 (about 14 US$) are worth it, especially since there are so many beautiful, exotic birds flying around everywhere you go, anyway.
|Yes, it’s true: I saw flocks of toucans flying around in Brazil. However, the bird park was the only place where I go close enough to take a picture of them.
Do they really have to live in captivity so that people like me can take their picture?!
Parque das Aves
Av. das Cataratas, KM 17.1
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 29 82 82
The park is open daily from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m.
|It’s nice that the visitors have to get into the huge aviaries where the birds live in relatively natural habitats.|
Three Frontiers Landmark
Each of the three connecting countries has its own landmark. All three are located where the Iguaçu river flows into the Paraná river. The Brazilian one was installed over hundred years ago and is an obelisk painted in the colors of the flag, standing in the middle of a fountain.
|Marco das Três Fronteiras – the Three Frontier Landmark on the Brazilian side.
(Photo: Grupo Catarata comunicaꞔao)
You find restaurants and gift shops and you can look over the rivers to the other. It’s open till 11 p. m., so at night you can see an illuminated version.
Right in front of the very recommendable Hotel San Juan Eco are three a bit bizarre attractions: a wax museum, a valley of dinosaurs, and a miniature wonderland. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, I just find it strange that at a place where nature is pampering us with one of the natural wonders and another man made wonder – the hydro plant – was added, people obviously need additional artificially created attractions showing i. a. Whoopie Goldberg in Sister Act.
So the real wonders aren’t enough?!
However, if you want to visit Whoopie and her fellow wax figures, here is their address:
Avenida das Cataratas, KM 14
Foz do Iguaçu
Phone: + 55 – 45 – 35 27 81 00
They are awaiting you daily from 8 a. m. to 7 p. m. just like the Maravilhas do Mundo, the wonders of the world, miniature replicas of e. g. the statue of liberty, the Taj Mahal, Egyptian and Mexican pyramids, the Eiffel tower and more.
The dinosaurs get up a bit later than the wax people, so the place is open from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Each individual entrance fee is also R$ 50 (a bit over 15 US$), but you save if you add more attractions to the fun and buy combo passes
Aquamania Water Park
And since for some reason all the waters at some of the most powerful waterfalls and world’s largest hydropower plant with the connecting Paraná river and the great Itaipú lake aren’t enough, they had to add a water park. So if all these natural waters do not satisfy your needs, here is where you can take a dip:
The water park is open daily from 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. (weekends to 7 p. m.)
Entrance fee is R$ 36 for kids up to 14 and R$ 72 for adults (US$ 11 resp. US$ 22)
Wanna read some thoughts about my stay? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:
Do you want to read about all the other cool places I’ve visited in Brazil?
Then go to the main post and take your pick!