One of the world's most spectacularly beautiful waterfalls is located on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Twice as high as Niagara Falls, Iguazu is a system of multiple falls set within acres of pristine rain forest. Together, the more than 200 individual cascades make for a natural phenomenon that must be experienced in person to be really understood—no single photo could ever do it justice. For that very reason, it draws photographers from all over the world who attempt to capture its magnificence any way they can.
800 miles from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and almost as far from Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Falls do require some effort to visit. But for those looking to be awed by the power and jaw-dropping beauty of nature, the journey to the falls will be worth it. Especially on the Argentina side, you can still get close enough to experience the world-class natural phenomenon, and the immediate region is filled with nature-related activities that will remind you why wild is so important.
Summer in South America is from November to March, and is when most people visit Iguazu. Visiting off-peak season, you will still be able to travel from Buenos Aires via luxury coach cheaply. It takes about 18 hours but includes reclining seats, AC, entertainment, as well as food and beverage service. You can more quickly fly in about three hours, either to Foz do Iguaçu Airport (IGU) on the Brazilian side, or Cataratas del Iguazu (IGR) on the Argentine side. Arriving from Sao Paulo requires an equivalent time commitment both by bus and airplane.
There are good arguments for either. Most of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the border, and viewing them from that side allows you to get closer to the cascades themselves. Still, there are better panoramic views from the Brazilian side that reveal the full scope of the falls system. If you are lucky enough to be able to spend a few days in the area, plan to do both.
Try to arrange enough time to do both. An aerial overview by helicopter is a great way to view the big picture, but you can also get up close—and likely drenched—on boat excursions that go right to the base of the major cascades. Iguazu on both sides is also well served by paths and boardwalks to observe the falls from different heights and vantage points. The platform at the top of the Devil's Throat, the largest of the cascades, can be reached by a narrow-gauge train.
If you're maxed out on viewing the Falls from different angles and learning about the area at the Visitor's Center, there are other kinds of fun. For a further lesson in colonial history, visit the nearby village of Wanda and the ruins of the Jesuit mission of San Ignacio Min. Birdwatchers won't want to miss the Parque de Aves on the Brazil side; it's a privately owned bird and butterfly preserve where colorful toucans, parakeets, macaws, and flamingo, among others, can be spotted.
As one of South America's most epic destinations, Iguazu Falls is well-served by amenities such as hotels and restaurants. All the more reason to stay on for a couple of days, if possible. There is ample choice in budget lodgings for simple accommodations on both sides of the border, as well as luxury options such as the newly built Awasi Aguazu, with its private villas and plunge pools set at the edge of the jungle.
You have to be a bit strategic to capture the glory of Iguazu. True panoramas are perhaps best left to the professionals with time lapse gear and wide lens. The rest of us should focus on the details that getting close to the falls allows for. Capture rushing water with a longer shutter speed for expressive images of movement. Or, go for the human stories that inevitably surround the area—local artists and workers, awestruck observers—with the Falls as an epic backdrop. You could also look for special effects through the water at magic hour and sunrise/sunset.
You've got your camera and phone (and waterproof cases to protect both), but don't forget to bring a few extra clothing items, especially if you plan to stay the night. Even in the summer months, the temperature can be cool around the Falls, so make sure you have a sweater. Rain gear will be most welcome during the deluges that also occur during high season and for boat rides to the base of the falls. Consider bringing along some bug spray and long pants to protect yourself against the mosquitoes in the surrounding area.
Not all of Iguazu is accessible to visitors with mobility issues, but much of it is. Trails and access to the various vantage points for viewing the Falls are clearly marked, many of which are without stairs and welcome wheelchairs. But any touring of Iguazu Falls is only safe as long as you pay attention to trail markers and signs. When water levels are very high, some of the gangways are folded away and become inaccessible to all. For similar reasons, the park and all areas surrounding the Falls are closed each day around 5 pm. Under no circumstances should you dive or swim in the vicinity of the Falls, no matter how tempting an action photo might be.
There's not much that's native to Iguazu Falls that's different from what you'd pick up elsewhere in Brazil or Argentina. That said, there are well-stocked gift shops on both sides of the border for t-shirts, key chains, and carved statuettes of toucans and parrots. Handmade items are also available from local vendors around the entrance of the park. There are also duty-free options if you're flying in or out of the airports near Iguazu.