Discover Foz Do Iguaçu (Brazil) in a Week: 10 Unique Experiences You Can't Miss out On!
Are you Planning to Visit Iguassu Falls?
After living here for almost two years now, I think it's time to create a guide for those that are planning a trip to this unique city. Foz do Iguaçu (or Iguassu Falls in English) is not a large city but it is the third most visited Brazilian city by tourists and the city plans on becoming the top Brazilian tourist destination by 2025.
Despite what you may have read or watched about the region, Foz is a fairly safe city. Of course, there are places you should avoid, but they are far from any attractions, so as long as you don't go exploring in the middle of the night, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. It is a city of contrasts. It's not uncommon to see someone with a brand new iphone and a fancy automatic transmission car (most cars are manual, so having an automatic is something only the rich can afford) speeding past a guy in flip flops and torn clothes pulling a makeshift cart filled to the brim with recyclables, and sometimes also with a kid sitting on top of the mess.
Brazil as a country is full of contrasts. The current minimum wage is slightly above 1000 BRL per month, with rent being at least 400-500 BRL for a small apartment/house on a shared property. This wage gap is, of course, unfair for those that must live that reality, but it makes Brazil a very affordable country for the average North American or European tourist. Everyday items and food are cheap and tourist attractions, despite having 'tourist prices' are not over the top.
Read on to see what activities made my top 10 and how you can discover Foz do Iguaçu in a week. Happy reading!
10 Must-Have Experiences in Foz!
- Iguassu Falls
- Parque das Aves
- Macuco Safari
- Itaipu Dam
- Three Frontiers Landmark
- Shopping Spree in Ciudad del Este
- The Fair in Puerto Iguazú
- The Argentinian Side of the Waterfalls
- Feirinha do JK
- The Wax Museum
1. Iguassu Falls
Logically, the Iguaçu National Park should be your first stop in Foz. Despite being the city's main attraction, you don't need a whole day to see it. But, I would recommend starting your day at the Iguassu Falls.
You can go on the panoramic trail that takes you right up to the falls and take breathtaking pictures. Most people spend between 3-4 hours at the National if they aren't planning on going on the Macuco safari as well. A special bus wi\ll take you from the park's entrance to the place where the trail begins. Walking at an average speed, it'll take you around 25-30 minutes to get to the main waterfall.
If you want to immerse yourself in local culture and keep your transportation costs down, bus line 120 - Parque Nacional will take you from the city center to the park in approximately 30-45 minutes.
Tickets can be bought in advance or at the park entrance. Unless you're there on a Sunday or on a national holiday, you'll only need to wait for 5-10 minutes at the ticket counter.
There are some snack and meal options at the park, but food at the Iguassu Falls costs a fortune, at least by Brazilian standards, so it's a good idea to bring some of your own snacks.
If you would like a totally unique experience, consider taking a helicopter flight over the falls.
Quatis Are a Common Sight at Iguassu National Park
Tips to Plan Your Visit
Like I mentioned above, food and drinks at the National Park can be quite costly, so I would suggest bringing a couple of granola bars and fruits to munch on while you visit the falls. A water bottle is also recommended since drinking tap water in Brazil is not advisable. On cold days, which are rare, a mug of hot tea or coffee will really warm you up after your hike.
Another important thing to mention is that there WILL be water, regardless if it's raining or not. There is always a drizzle-like environment near the falls themselves, so be prepared, since most visitors aren't. It is possible to buy a rain poncho and a waterproof pouch for your phone, but the local (unauthorized) vendors tend to take advantage of tourists, so your best bet is to buy one in advance. The last time I was at the Iguassu National Park, they were selling phone pouches for 25-30 BRL (6-7 USD) and rain ponchos for 15-20 BRL (4-5 USD). This may not seem like too much, but it's also worth noting, that the accessories sold at the park entrance are not of a very good quality.
If you plan to buy souvenirs, it's better to do so in the city center. The stores there are also targeted at tourists, but the prices are much more accessible and the vendors are more open to negotiations.
Save Your Phone and Money on Your Trip to Foz
Quick Stats About Visiting Iguassu Falls
Address: Rodovia das Cataratas, km 18
Phone: +55 (45) 3521-4400
Hours: Open daily from 9 am-5pm
- Brazilian (with I.D.): 43 reais / over 60 years 11 reais
- Mercosur citizen (with id): 57 reais
- Foreigner: 72 reais
- children between 2 and 11 years: 11 reais
Payment methods: Cash (Brazilian reais) or card
Official Site: http://cataratasdoiguacu.com.br/
2. Parque das Aves
Located around 500 meters from the Visitors Center of the Brazilian side of the Falls, the Parque das Aves is a perfect way to continue your excursion to the National Park.
Here, you will be able to see 1,400 birds of 150 different species. Toucans, macaws, maritacas, guarás, arapongas, spoonbills, curassows ... along with reptiles such as alligators and iguanas and a butterfly section.
The best part about this experience is that you can get fairly close to some of the birds. The more dangerous ones, of course, are not allowed out of their enclosures. But as for the others, you can basically walk through their enclosure or even have them sit on your shoulder for a photo session (a unique photo experience with some Araras is usually offered close to the park's exit. Your visit to the park will be your opportunity to surprise your friends back home with a selfie with the toucan or some flamingos! The gift shop and café area has free WiFi for your instagramming pleasure!
The Toucan Will be Waiting for you!
Quick Stats About Visiting the Parque das Aves
Address: Rodovia das Cataratas, 12450
Bus Route: 120 Parque Nacional
Phone: +55 (45) 3529-8282
Hours: Open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Regular price (Brazilians and foreigners): 60 reais
- Foz residents: 10 reais
- Kids under 8: Free
*Prices may change without previous warning
Official site: https://www.parquedasaves.com.br/en
3. Macuco Safari
The Macuco Safari is a perfect fit for those adventurous souls who won't be satisfied after admiring the Falls from the panoramic trail. This unique experience provides you with an up-close view of the falls from the water.
There are two types you can choose from: the excitement seeker's option (the boat gets closer to the waterfall and you'll be able to brag about showering in the majestic Iguassu Falls) or the calmer alternative (the boat stays at a safe distance from the waterfall and no one gets wet).
If you're interested in the Macuco to buy the tour in advance because the number of visitors per day is limited. However, on the day of your tour you can show up at your leisure: boarding is on a first-come, first-served basis. If it's not too busy, the whole process will take around two hours.
And if that isn't enough for you, then I recommend buying the Macuco Safari + rafting combo. After the tour, you are taken to a calmer point on the Iguaçu River where you'll have the opportunity to kayak in the rapids. Buying the kayaking combo is a good option if you're only in Foz for a little while. If you are staying for longer, I would suggest renting some kayaks (and hiring a private guide if want to get insights from a local) and spending the day paddling on the Parana and Iguassu Rivers.
Macuco Safari in Foz do Iguaçu
Address: Rodovia das Cataratas, km 25, Iguaçu National Park
Phone: +55 (45) 3574-4244
Hours: Open daily 9 am-5pm
- Full price: 246 reais
- Children between 7 and 11 years: 123 reais
- Brazilians over 60: 123 reais
- Prices do not include park admission
Macuco Safari + rafting (age 14+)
- whole: 368 reais
- Brazilians over 60 years: 184 reais
- Prices do not include park admission
Official site: http://www.macucosafari.com.br/br/macuco-safari
4. Itaipu Dam
The Itaipu Dam is the second-largest hydroelectric plant in the world and first in energy production (the Chinese Three Gorges is bigger, but produces less energy), and in recent years, it has become a major tourist attraction.
There are numerous tours offered and, if you want to do them all, you can expect to spend the whole day at the plant. The Visitors Center is very well organized and has a small bus station where buses depart for tours.
There are two main tours that visitors tend to prefer:
The Panoramic View is the standard tour, which takes you to the dam area. Your guide will explain the basics of power generation and you will have a chance to see the plant from several angles.
Duration: 2 hours
The Special Circuit is the only tour that takes you inside the plant, allowing you to take a close look at the turbines and the control room. You must be at least 14 years old to go on the tour.
The other tours are fun, but they aren't essential to your visit. Choose one or more that interest you.
The Ecomuseum uses a lot of technology (and a huge model) to tell the history of the region since the Jurassic period and to show how the (then) largest hydroelectric plant in the world was built.
Duration: self-guided, around 45 minutes
The Astronomical Pole is the planetarium of Itaipu. In addition to the conventional planetarium, with two sessions per day, the Pole has a small museum about the Universe and a solar telescope available to the public.
Duration: 2 and a half hours
The Ecological Refuge is a tour that leads to a forest reserve that has been protected since the construction of the dam. There you will be guided by a biologist on a trail where you will get to know the Atlantic Forest and see animals that were rescued around the plant and that are no longer able to live in nature. The walk, with many stops and done almost entirely in the shade, takes about 1 hour.
Total duration, with transfers: 2 and a half hours
If you decide to spend the day at the plant, you can take the Porto Kattamaram tour, which leaves in the late afternoon. The catamaran takes you to Lake Itaipu where you can enjoy the sunset.
Duration, with transfers: 1hour 30 minutes
The Dam Lighting event takes place only on Fridays and Saturdays. The night tour is the same as the Panoramic Tour, with the added bonus of seeing the plant lit. Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Itaipu Dam is First in Terms of Energy Production
Address: Av. Tancredo Neves, 6702, Jardim Itaipu
Public transport: bus 101 Vila C Norte, 102 Vila C Sul and 104 Vila C (departing from the TTU)
Phone: +55 (45) 3576-7000
Itaipu - Panoramic View
- Hours: open daily from 8:30 am to 4:45 pm (departures every 20 minutes)
- Full price: 38 reais
- Children between 6 and 11 years: 19 reais
- Over 60 years: 19 reais
*Prices may change without notice
Itaipu - Special Circuit
- Sun to Thurs: 8 departures between 8:30 am - 3:30 pm
- Fri and Sat: 12 departures between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm
- only for people over 14
- Full price: 82 reais
- Over 60 years: 41 reais
Itaipu - Ecomuseum
- Hours: Tues to Sun 8 am-5pm
- Full price: 14 reais
- Children between 6 and 11 years: 7 reais
- Over 60 years: 7 reais
Itaipu - Astronomical pole
Hours: open daily from 10 am to 4 pm
Full price: 26 reais
Over 60 years: 13 reais
Itaipu - Biological refuge
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 6 departures between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm
Full price: 26 reais
Over 60 years: 13 reais
Itaipu - Porto Kattamaram
Hours: open daily
Sunset tour: 5pm or 7pm (during summer time)
Day tours: 5 departures between 10:30 am and 5:30 pm
Full Price: 80 reais
children between 6 and 11 years: 40 reais
over 60 years: 40 reais
Full Price: 60 reais
children between 6 and 11 years: 30 reais
over 60 years: 30 reais
Itaipu - Dam lighting
Friday to Sat 8pm or 9pm (during summer time)
Full price: 45 reais
over 60 years: 22 reais
5. Three Frontiers Landmark
Each of the triple border cities (Foz do Iguassu, Ciudad del Este, Puerto Iguazu) has its own landmark - a kind of obelisk that can be seen from the other two countries. A few years ago, the administrator of the National Park acquired the Brazilian mark and transformed the place into a theme park. Prior to this, the area was abandoned and was used for drug trafficking.
One of the buildings inside the area is a cinema, where a short film about the region, the Guarani Indians and the arrival of Europeans is shown in continuous sessions.
After the sunset, here is a light show and, from Tuesday to Sunday, between 8 pm and 8:30 pm. It is a folkloric show with dancers from Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
There is a restaurant on-site, but just like the National Park, it is not worth it. You'll get more for your money at a restaurant in the city center.
In the near future, the city is planning to build an elevated viewpoint that will make it possible to observe the entire region of the three borders. A short boat ride may also be implemented at the attraction soon.
Address: Av. General Meira, Jardim Eldorado
Phone: +55 (45) 3132-4100
Hours: open daily from 2 pm to 11 pm
- Full Price: 24 reais
- Children between 2 and 11 years: 13 reais
- Over 60 years: 13 reais
*Prices may change without notice
Restaurant: open from 4pm
6. Shopping Spree in Ciudad del Este
For many repeat visitors, shopping in Paraguay is one of the biggest attractions of Foz do Iguaçu. Only go, though, if you really have plans to buy something. It is not a place for sightseeing. The commercial center of Ciudad del Este is not a pleasant site: someone may try to offer you drugs, making eye contact with vendors often results in them chasing after you, begging you to buy something, and the city itself is dirty. However, it is the place to go if you are looking for bargains.
Crossing the border
Officially, Canadian and Americans require a visa to enter Paraguay, however, the border control agents couldn't care less about where you're coming from. There are no passport checks when leaving or entering Brasil or Paraguay. You will only get an exit/entry stamp on the Brazilian side if you specifically ask for it. Foz do Iguassu is commonly used by foreigners to "renew" their tourist visas and border officials are well aware of this. Some even encourage this behavior.
Despite the lack of I.D checks at the Friendship bridge (the bridge that links Brazil and Paraguay), there is almost always a bottleneck on the bridge, so some people prefer to cross it on foot.
There are several ways to get from Foz do Iguaçu to Paraguay.
By international bus
There is a regular bus line between Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este, operated by a Paraguayan company. Buses depart from outside of the Foz bus station. The buses are the colours of the Paraguayan flag: red, blue, white). The current fare is 5.5 BRL per person and the trip takes around 40 minutes. The bus goes to Ciudad del Este's bus station, or you can choose to get off earlier.
By taxi or Uber
A taxi from the center of Foz do Iguaçu to Ciudad del Este is around 50-60 BRL. A 99 (similar to Uber, but cheaper and very common in Brazil) would cost around 10-20 BRL (depending on the time of day) and it will take you to the Brazilian side of the border.
You can not go to Paraguay with a rental car
Car rental companies do not allow you to cross the border with a rental car. You can, however, use your own car (especially if you're going with some locals). In this case, leave your car in a mall parking lot, where it will be much safer than out on the street.
On foot or by motorcycle taxi
If the traffic is completely stopped on the bridge, you can choose to cross on foot (around 10-15minutes to cross the bridge) or take a mototaxi.
Mototaxis charge around 10 BRL to take you to the other end of the bridge. You are provided with a helmet.
As part of a shopping tour
This is by far the best way to go to Ciudad del Este if want to get your shopping done fast and at trusted stores. You will be picked up at your hotel and taken to official stores. You will not have opportunities to browse through the items sold on the streets (mostly replicas, toys and random accessories), so depending on your preferences, this may be an advantage or disadvantage. The tour will take you to trusted stores, but you will not be allowed to visit other stores on your own. Tours tend to only take visitors to the most popular stores (these sell electronics, brand clothes, makeup and alcohol). Most visitors to Paraguay prefer the tours, but I personally prefer to go on my own to have more time to decide on my purchases and visit the less popular stores.
Shopping tours can be as cheap as 15 BRL per person (if going as part of a group) or 125-150 BRL for a private tour.
When is the best time to go to Ciudad del Este?
The majority of businesses and street vendors are there from Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 4 pm, Brazilian time. (Paraguay has a 1 hour time difference from Brazilian time; local time, stores are open from 8 am to 5 pm.)
Some malls stay open until a bit later.
Very few places are open on Sundays.
The best days to go are Mondays - Wednesdays, since it is less crowded. The busiest days are Fridays and Saturdays.
Want to get good deals in Paraguay?
In Ciudad del Este it is very easy to be tempted by the "bargains" street vendors or small stores may offer you. It is much better to pay a slightly higher price on a product that is guaranteed to work, instead of a bargain price on a replica that may or may not work. And always make sure to ask for a receipt. Otherwise, even official stores (usually the smaller ones) may try to sell you something that doesn't work.
Test ALL electronics before leaving the store
If you go with a guide, follow his tips. Yes, he (or the company he works for) is being commissioned by the stores he takes you to, but at least he will not take you to any places that you shouldn't trust.
What currency should you take to Paraguay?
All items for sale in the commercial area of Ciudad del Este are quoted in dollars. This is the currency most vendors acquire their products in, so it's easier for them to calculate the final prices in the same currency as well. In addition, the local currency, the guranies, is not very stable. Your best bet is to take US cash to do all your shopping.
Reais are accepted, but the exchange rate at stores is not very good. Using a credit card is also not recommended, because the purchase is debited in Guaranis, at a rate that may not be very favorable.
7. The Fair in Puerto Iguazú
Located approximately 15 km from Foz do Iguaçu, the Fair is a very small place. It is in the center of the city, near the river.
Going to the fair will also give you an opportunity to experience some national Argentinian delicacies like wine, beer and empanadas. You can do all of this right while you shop, since the fair has a small food court-like area.
WHAT TO BUY AT THE FAIR
All the stalls at the Puerto Iguazú Fair sell practically the same products.
- Giant and juicy olives (with and without filling). The typical fillings are salami, garlic, cheese, peppers, spices
- Olive oils
- Dulce de leche
- Milka chocolates
- Hot food
Most transactions are in pesos and reais.However, the exchange rates offered by vendors aren't as favorable as those at official currency exchange centers. Dollars can also be used if you're in the mood to bargain.
Make sure to have cash, since most vendors do not accept cards.
Some stalls are open from 10 am but close at lunchtime (12-3 pm). If you go in the afternoon, many more stalls will be open. Try to go after 4 pm, especially if you're planning to visit in the summer.
The fair is located less than a kilometer away from the Argentinian three Frontiers Landmark. Admission is free, so this is a nice way to make the most of your trip to Puerto Iguazu.
Unlike Brazil and Paraguay, Argentina has a strict border control system in place. As of now, Canadian and Americans do not require a visa to enter Argentina, but you will need to present your passport to receive a stamp. If you are going by car (you are allowed to drive a rental car to Argentina), don't forget your license.
8. The Argentinian Side of the Waterfalls
The Argentine side has more attractions than the Brazilian one: there are three essential circuits (plus the Gran Aventura, for those who want a more radical experience than the Macuco Safari). It is a wilder park, where you are constantly in the woods and very close nature. It is a longer hike than on the Brazilian side.
Instead of buses that leave all the time, as in Brazil, in the Argentine National Park, you will travel by train. It is a beautiful trip, but there are fewer departures than on the Brazilian side. This results in kilometer-long lines at the departure stations. It is common to not be able to board the train on the platform and have to wait until the next departure, 20 or 30 minutes later.
Address: Ruta 101, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
Phone: +54 3757 491469
Hours: Open daily from 8 am to 6 pm
- Full price: 480 pesos
- children aged 6-12: 120 pesos
Payment methods: in pesos or international credit / debit card
Parking: 120 pesos
*these rates may change without notice
9. Feirinha da JK
For those who are visiting Foz do Iguaçu and would like to get involved in local events, Sunday mornings are a good opportunity. Beginning at 7 am and going until 12 pm, Foz do Iguassu's Farmers' Market is a your chance to shop and eat local. It takes place at the beginning of Avenida JK.
The “Feirinha da JK”, as it is called in Portuguese, has around 40-50 vendors, which offer anything from handicrafts to rural products, such as cheese, meat and vegetables, in addition to a food court area with traditional pastries and other regional snacks.
The fair is not an official tourist attraction, but it's a nice way to start your Sunday morning and mingle with the city's residents. You can walk through the whole fair in around 30 minutes, have a coffee and pastry and continue on with your sightseeing plans.
Address: Beginning of Avenida JK, near Praça da Paz, Centro, Foz do Iguaçu / PR
10. The Wax Museum
Who doesn't want to see some popular personalities from movies, television, sports, politics, and history up close? This is the experience that the Dreamland Wax Museum brings to Foz do Iguaçu, an immersion in 16 scenarios with dozens of statues, which bring the visitor closer to a fantasy world
Some of the statues currently in the museum are:
- Master Yoda
- Albert Einstein
- Pope Francis
- Michael Jackson
- And others... but I won't spoil it for you guys
You'll need around 1 hour to see everything in the museum. Photography is permitted except where stated otherwise.
Open every day, from 8 am to 6 pm.
Phone: +55 (45) 3527-8100.
Rates and Hours
The Dreamland Wax Museum is open every day, from 8 am to 6 pm. Ticket prices can be accessed through the official website, or call (45) 3527-8100. It is worth remembering that each attraction already in operation at Foz do Iguaçu Park Show requires an individual ticket.
For residents of the region (municipalities neighboring Lago de Itaipu, Iguaçu National Park, Ciudad Del Este and Puerto Iguazú), remember to bring a proof of residence and a photo ID for the ticket discount.
- Respect the immersion environment of the museum, so everyone has fun.
- It is allowed to photograph inside the museum, except in some scenarios identified as restricted.
- The place has accessibility for people with reduced mobility.
- The tour lasts approximately 1 h.
© 2020 Janisa