Divided between Brazil and Argentina, the cataracts extend for 1.7 miles [2.7 km]. Less than half is located on Brazilian territory, but the overlooks on this side boast the best views. Before taking on the falls, visit Parque das Aves (Avenida das Cataratas, Km 17.1), located inside Parque Nacional do Iguaçu. Be there at 8:30 a.m. if you want to see the birds interacting.
Helisul, the only company to offer helicopter rides over the area, is located across from Parque das Aves. The aircraft doesn’t get too close to the falls, but the vastness of the forest dazzles everyone . After this activity, head to the overlooks. A tip is to take the Macuco Safári (Avenida das Cataratas, Km 25), the motorboat that takes visitors to the mouth of the cataracts.
Dinner can be at Vó Bertila (Rua Bartolomeu de Gusmão, 1116), an Italian restaurant with a cozy atmosphere that offers homemade pasta dishes and pizza. Have a drink at the hotel bar and go to bed early, because the second day will be hard on your legs.
While the Brazilian territory is dazzling, the Argentinean side is impressive: the trails in Argentina are more audacious, on walkways above the streams. Those who can get on the first train that crosses the park, which leaves at 8:30 a.m., will have a full day. The most popular overlook is the Devil’s Throat, at 280 feet [85 m] — the river flows over a colossal precipice, where you can see great dusky swifts that live in the cavities behind the falls.
Both the Upper Circuit and the Lower Circuit that cut through the property reveal vertiginous views and breathtaking falls. Explore and get lost on the trails. The Atlantic Forest area facilitates contact with wild animals: it’s almost impossible not to spot a coati.
Explore the small Puerto Iguazú: the market on the main street sells alfajores, Malbec wine straight from the source and dulce de leche in a jar. The local Duty Free Shop (Ruta Nac. N. 12, Km 1645) has Swiss and Belgian chocolate, in addition to an enormous area dedicated to cosmetics.
After so much nature, it’s time to cross the Friendship Bridge, a concrete rim that’s among the largest spans in the world, to Ciudad del Este. We exchange the water for shopping malls that resemble department stores and accept US dollars, reais, pesos and guaranis. Head to such stores as Mega (Avenida Monseñor Rodriguez con Ita Ybate), a heaven for gadgets, and SAX (Avenida San Blás, s/n), which specializes in luxury items.
Go back to Brazil and head to the Itaipu Dam (Avenida Tancredo Neves, 6.731). There’s a panoramic circuit, another in the biological reserve, a museum and a catamaran ride (which includes watching the sun set on the Paraná River).
Rock’n’roll fans will enjoy Zeppelin Old Bar (Rua Major Raul Mattos, 222), which combines live shows, DJs and artisanal beers. For an even more different night, an alternative is the Arcade Game Bar (Avenida Brasil, 46), where the draft beer and caipirinhas are served on tables that feature video games. The bar only closes after the last customer stops playing.
Text Laura Capanema
Photos Anna Carolina Negri
Special thanks: Polo Iguassu, Belmond Hotel das Cataratas and Iguassu Convention & Visitors Bureau