A visit to the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls affords a dazzling perspective on the waterfalls. Trails here are not as extensive as on the Argentine side, but the views are no less spectacular. In fact, many people find Brazil's unobstructed panoramic view of Iguazú Falls even more inspiring.
By Plane -- Foz do Iguaçu Airport (tel. 4535/214-200) is 11km (6 3/4 miles) from Foz do Iguaçu, on the Brazilian side. Airport Varig (tel. 4535/214-292), Gol (tel. 4535/214-230), and TAM (tel. 4535/214-242) fly there from Rio de Janeiro and other major Brazilian cities. Public buses make frequent trips to the national park and into town for a small fee.
From the Argentine Side -- For most nationalities, crossing the border is fairly easy with a passport. Citizens of the United States, Canada, and Australia must obtain a visa to visit Brazil. The visa costs $120 (£81). The most convenient way to get from the Argentine to the Brazilian side is by taxi (about $35-$40/£24-£27 round-trip). Buses are considerably less expensive, but less convenient, too. Tres Fronteras and El Práctico buses make the half-hour trip to Foz do Iguaçu 15 times per day ($3/£2) from the Puerto Iguazú bus terminal; to visit the National Park, ask the bus driver to let you off just after the border check, then catch the National Park bus.
By Car -- To avoid border hassles and international driving issues, it's best to take a bus or taxi to the Brazilian side.
Foz do Iguaçu's municipal tourism office, at Praça Getúlio Vargas (tel. 4535/211-455; www.fozdoiguacu.pr.gov.br), is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Teletur (tel. 0800/454-516) is a toll-free information service that operates from 7am to 11pm.
There is currently much confusion among American travelers concerning what their visa requirements are to enter the Brazilian side of the falls. They hear they are required to get a $120 (£82) visa in advance, yet they get there to find American citizens crossing the border without hindrance. Indeed, the law says that citizens from the United States, Canada, and Australia must obtain a visa to enter Brazil, whether for 1 day or 90 days. On the ground, however, some local officials, hotel concierges, tourist agencies, and taxi companies ignore the rule to make an extra buck. Rules are rules, however, and it is illegal to enter a country without the proper papers. If you want to see the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls, my advice is to get a visa.
You can obtain one on short notice in Puerto Iguazú. Visit the Brazilian Consulate, Av. Córdoba 264 (tel. 3757/421-348; Mon-Fri 8am-1pm). The process takes 2 hours and requires a passport photo. You can also apply before traveling, which takes 2 weeks. U.S. citizens should contact the Brazilian Embassy at 3006 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel. 202/238-2700; www.brasilemb.org). Canadian citizens must contact the Brazilian Embassy at 450 Wilbroad St., Ottawa, ON K1N 6M8 (tel. 613/237-1090; www.brasembottawa.org). Australian citizens contact their Brazilian Embassy, at 19 Forster Crescent, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6237-2375; http://brazil.org.au).
Seeing the Brazilian Side of the Falls
The national park entrance to the Cataratas do Iguaçu is at Km 17, Rodovía das Cataratas, and the entrance fee is $8.50 (£5.75). Park your car or get off the bus here, and pay your entry fee; private vehicles (except for taxis and guests of the Tropical) are not allowed in the park. From here, you board a shuttle bus bound for the falls. The waterfall path begins just in front of the Tropical das Cataratas Hotel and Resort, which is 11km (6 3/4 miles) from the national park entrance (if you are taking a taxi, have your driver bring you directly to the Tropical das Cataratas hotel and jump onto the trail from here). You will catch your first sight of the falls from a small viewpoint at the foot of the hotel lawn, from which the path begins. The trail zigzags down the side of the gorge and trundles along the cliff face for about 2km (1.25 miles) past Salto Santa María, Deodoro, and Floriano falls. There are 275 separate waterfalls with an average drop of 60m (197 ft.). The last catwalk plants you directly in front of the awesome Garganta do Diablo (Devil's Throat), where, once again, you will get wet (there's a small store in front where you can buy rain gear and film, if you need it). Back on the main trail, a tower beckons visitors to take an elevator to the top for an even broader panoramic view of the falls. This circuit takes about 2 hours. As you are leaving the park, drop into the Parque das Aves, Rodovia das Aves Km 18 (tel. 4535/298-282; www.parquedasaves.com.br), a fascinating bird park with large walk-through aviaries holding toucans, egrets, and roseate spoonbills. Admission is $15 (£10), and the park is open every day from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Where to Dine
You will find a number of pleasant restaurants in Foz do Iguaçu. Avenida Brasil, a main artery of the town, is a good place to wander for food stalls, coffee bars, and hearty home-style Brazilian fare. For bars and clubs, go to Avenida Jorge Schimmelpfeng. Restaurante Itaipú -- Tropical das Cataratas, Tropical das Cataratas Hotel and Resort, Km 28, Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (tel. 4521/027-000), serves great feijoada (a Brazilian black-bean dish) in an elegant colonial-style restaurant. Main courses start at $30 (£20). Clube Maringá, Avenida Dourado, just off Avenida General Meira, by the Policia Militar (tel. 4535/273-472), is a seafood restaurant popular with locals. It can be a bit tricky to find, on a dead-end road that leads to the Brazilian border. Try the piapara fish grilled in a banana leaf or the barbecued dorado for $15 (£10). Búfalo Branco, Rua Reboucas, Foz do Iguaçu (tel. 4535/239-744), is the best parrilla in town. Zaragoza, Rua Quintino Bocaiúva 882 (tel. 4535/743-084), is a good seafood alternative.
Esteros del Ibera
The locals turn out in style to greet you in Esteros del Ibera. Southern screamers, red crested cardinals, giant wood rails, storks, cormorants, and kingfishers are just some of the 300 feathered creatures that don their finest plumage -- red eye patches, crimson collars, yellow-tipped wings, scarlet hats, and orange headbands in what is nature's version of Carnaval, except it takes place year-round. They swoop, scuttle, scamper, and dive in an acrobatic show of nature that demands a camera with telescopic lens and no time delay.
And that is just what happens in the sky. Bathing in this amazing 2m-deep (6 1/2-ft.) marshland are multitudes of the large blunt-headed rodents known as capybaras. They have family picnics at the edge of floating islands watched by grinning caiman and growling howler monkeys. Yellow-backed anaconda slip between the water reeds, while turtles sleep at the feet of graceful marsh deer that trod gently around lily pads the size of large frying pans.
Esteros del Ibera is a 13,000-sq.-km (5,019-sq.-mile) trough of remarkable wildlife running up the middle of Corrientes, the next province south of Misiones. Dominated by two lakes, Laguna de Luna and Laguna Ibera, it is a morass of waterways and vegetation, with wide-open spaces perfect for a spot of nature spotting. Spectacular sunsets are just the opening act to incredible night skies, and the utter peace and tranquillity demand that you stay for at least 2 or 3 days.
Most people choose to stay in the sleepy settlement of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. It is a quiet, unassuming place of baked brick huts surrounded by water and accessible over an old wooden bridge. Here you'll find some well-appointed lodges that offer all-inclusive 3- or 4-day deals, including daily excursions by boat, canoe, horse, or rubber dinghy to explore the area. Posada de la Laguna (tel. 3773/499-413; www.posadadelalaguna.com) is a simple, hacienda-style house with beautifully decorated rooms. Doubles start at $150 (£102) per night. Hosteria Ñandé Retá (tel. 3773/499-411; www.nandereta.com) is a little more old-fashioned but has lots of space. Posada Aguape (tel. 11/4742-3015 in Buenos Aires, or 3773/499-412 in Corrientes; www.iberaesteros.com.ar) is an upscale facility comprised of four houses with a lakeside location. Here you can stay for 3 days and 2 nights, food and excursions included, for $384 (£261) per person. Lodge Irupé (tel. 3752/438-312; www.irupelodge.com.ar) has palm-fronded wood cabins with large decks to enjoy the sunset. Here a double room costs $90 (£61).
Like many of Argentina's most fascinating places, getting there can be a problem. There are direct flights from Buenos Aires to Corrientes city and Posadas, but a 5-hour transfer to the park is still required. Colonia Carlos Pellegrini itself is 740km (460 miles) from B.A. You can catch an overnight 8-hour bus from Buenos Aires to Mercedes, which is the nearest large town. Recommended bus companies are Aguila Dorada Bis (tel. 11/4311-3700) and El Cometa (tel. 11/4313-7872). Tickets cost $40 (£27) from Buenos Aires to Mercedes, and the journey takes 8 hours. From Mercedes, you can organize a private transport through your hotel to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, which is 120km (75 miles) away and takes 3 hours. El Rayo (tel. 3773/420-184) operates a daily minibus service between Colonia Pellegrini and Mercedes costing $4 (£2.70). It is possible to drive there from Puerto Iguazú or Posadas, but the journey is best done in a 4WD vehicle.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.