WanderingTrader

Niagara Falls vs Iguazu Falls: Two of the best water falls in the world.


The comparison between the Niagara Falls & the Iguazu Falls is rather simple.  As I have been to many of the water falls around the world I can tell you that both of these places offer something unique.  I have even gone to the Victoria Falls in Zambia and visited the unique Devil’s Pool where you are able to swim on the actual edge of the Falls.

Niagara Falls is about as commercial as it gets, it could easily be labeled a tourist trap.  The Iguazu Falls, on the other hand, is a more genuine experience with nature and animals.  Both offer boat trips which are described in this post and you should also know that after you visit Iguazu you won’t be impressed with Niagara.

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Niagara Falls – Left: US side Right: Canada side (Horseshoe falls)

Both should definitely be placed on your to do list.  While Niagara resides on the border of Canada and the United States near Buffalo, New York, the Iguazu Falls reside at the border of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.  Since many people dont know about the Iguazu falls, you should know that they are commonly known as Brazil falls or Argentina falls.  The Iguazu falls are larger than Niagara and even wider as it has a span of falls throughout the area.  The Let’s compare!

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The atmosphere at Niagara is of a tourist town while the Iguazu Falls is more of a national park (both at the Brazil falls side and Argentina Falls side).  At Niagara you walk right along the road where in Iguazu there is a nature trail leading you throughout most of the park (you get a great view of rio Iguazu or Iguazu river that feeds the falls).

Since Niagara is more commercialized (think of Orlando without all the rides) they have all the amenities available for a good old fashioned tourist trap; Starbucks, 360 degree revolving restaurant, and even casinos!  Nothing like getting a little wet and losing money on the same day.

The Iguazu Falls is in the middle of nowhere so once you see the falls you have to catch a bus back to the city of Iguazu.  No casinos or other tourist traps at Iguazu.  All the restaurants and shops at Iguazu are cabin themed since you are literally walking through a national park.

My business partner & I being attacked by Torrential Mist at Devil’s Throat – Iguazu

The case of the torrential mist was realized both at Iguazu (picture above) and Niagara.  Both parks offer boats leading into the falls.  At Niagara Falls, they call it the maid of the mist (I like to call it maid of the torrential mist) while in Iguazu they call it “boat to the falls” (very unique I know).

Both are worth paying for but after going on the boat to Iguazu I really wasn’t impressed with the Maid of the Mist at Niagara.  Iguazu is a lot more fun since you are on a speed boat rather than a big ship and they actually you drive you inside of the falls rather then just getting a little close like at Niagara.

A very organized operation, maid of the mist grazes the area of the Horseshoe falls (Niagara on the Canadian side) getting you close enough to get a good picture.  In comparison, at Iguazu you get so close to the falls you can feel the water bouncing of your face.  You can also feel every wave as the Spanish tour operators dare you to ask to get closer.

Close up view of Horseshoe falls

One thing that you have to see at Iguazu is the Devil’s Throat on the Argentina side of the falls.  There is a wooden walkway (a never ending wooden walkway) that leads all the way to the actual falls.  The sheer size and volume of water that flows through the Devi’ls Throat is truly impressive.  You can stand there for hours and admire the flow of water.

Panoramic View from revolving restaurant – Horseshoe Falls

Getting to Iguazu Falls is a bit more difficult than getting to Niagara Falls.  Niagara is a few hours either by plane or bus from any major city in the North East United States and only an hour from Toronto, Canada.  You can also get there via rail very easily as well.  Both countries offer convenient mass transit so you can get around with ease to and from both falls.

You can fly into Puerto Iguazu but that option does get expensive.  The best option is to take a bus: plush leather seats that fold out into beds, wi-fi, and breakfast and dinner.  The only downside is that it takes about 16-20 hours to get there! Ouch.

Verdict:  Definitely see both but if you have an option choose Iguazu (Argentina Falls side first then the Brazil Falls side).  You can make that as a part of your trip to Argentina and/or Brazil.  Check out our Top 5 Argentina tourist attractions for things to do in Argentina and things to do in Canada!

53 Comments

  1. If I was to guess which you'd prefer prior to reading this, I think I would've hit the nail on the head! Great read!

  2. Nice post! I have never been to Iguazu (yet!) but I have been to see the Niagara falls. It was a really nice experience, the falls are very impressive! However before we went there I wasn't aware of the fact that they were located right in the middle of a city. That was a bit of a surprise!
    Lovely pictures!

  3. Thanks for the comment Aurora! Another set of falls you may not have heard of are the Victoria Falls in Africa as well. They have the devil's pool where you can swim and look over the edge (cliff of the falls)

  4. mark Im trying to get to all the major falls in the world, the only ones I have left are angel falls and victoria falls which both I hope to complete by next year! thanks for the comment

  5. Iguazu was one of the most amazing places I have been. I spent 6 months in South America and traveled across Bolivia on El Tren de la Muerte and then a day by bus through Brazil to get to Iguazu. Niagara is like a pretty little stream flowing through a shrubbery in comparison. The power of the water at Iguazu is incredible!

  6. I plan to visit Iguazu and stay on the Argentinian side. Can one cross over to the Briazil side for one day without paying for the very expensive visa, such as a day pass?

      1. Yes you can, just taje a taxi and say you dont want to stop at the coustom. It is very easy to cross, even walking (about 1 km bridge plus road between Argentina and brasil).

  7. I have not seen the Iguaza,but i tell you the Niagara is a tourist activity whilst the Victoria is Natures own magic at work. They are both worth seeing. When nature and Man’s ingenuity work together, the benefits are there to see.

    1. Hi Wilson… Niagara was OKAY in my opinion… once you get to see Iguazu Falls & Victoria Falls in Africa, Niagara will not impress you as much. Niagara just has more advertising is all….

  8. I have just visited the Iguazú Falls and would like to comment that although it is a spectacular place to visit, it has become extremely touristy. A lot of people just go there and take pictures. Very little people actually learn about the science of that place and the environmental influences there. If you ever go there, please don’t forget to learn about that. Also, it was pretty crowded. Around 1,200 people go there each day.

  9. When you see all that water coming to your face on the Iguazu´s boat trip you are pretty sure that it is God´s hand! It is a miracle. You are blessed! Knowing Niagara falls was also good, but the boat´s trip is unforgattable. It is worthwhile!

  10. Had the opportunity to visit Iguazu Falls on the Argentina side. I cannot describe in words the beauty of the place. They did a great job at constructing walkways which allow you to view the falls from numerous angles, sides and hights. I am now planning on visiting Niagara this summer and try to compare the two.

  11. I’ve been to both. Niagara falls is a beautiful place, but it lacks the power and nature of Iguazu falls. I’d say Niagara is more like a faucet if side by side to Iguazu, lol.

  12. I love Iguacu falls. My family lived just half an hour from there and I have many wonderful memories of my childhood there.

  13. i have not gone to any waterfalls except in munnar and wyanad.but I really want to visit victoria waterfalls.My mother has visited niagra and she says that it was awesome and worth visiting but after seeing the pictures of iguazu and victoria waterfalls and what all we can do there I don’t agree with her.

  14. The Iguazu Falls are one of, if not the most, astonishing natural wonders I have ever had the good fortune to experience. I was a bit put off by the swarms of tourists I had to share the board walk with but once I arrived at the edge of the falls they literally took my breath away and all those around me dissolved to irrelevance by the majesty and power of the falls. Additionally, Iguazu offers many tracks and alternate views of the major falls and options to visit lesser falls, all among stunning and peaceful rainforest, many of which have next to no tourists.

  15. Vic Falls are overrated, like most other supposed tourist attractions in Africa (ncluding South Africa). Sometimes there is hardly any water flowing over the rocks so all you see is a gorge. Viewing is poor and the immediate surroundings aren’t beautiful. The beauty of Niagara is the constant water flow (I know it can ice over in the winter but that makes it spectacular too) and the openess of the Falls plus you can get up close with the Maid of the Mist. The shape of the Horseshoes Falls is amazing; it’s not all about size believe me. Plus Africa is a dangerous place so you need to be careful when travelling.

    1. It is preferred to actually go when the water is low because then you can swim in the Devil’s pool. I would like to go back when the water is high but swimming on the edge of the cliff there in the Devil’s Pool is quite an amazing thing to do I would highly recommend it.

  16. Just got back from Iguazu Falls, absolutely wonder-full. It’s a phenomenal experience and not touristy. I think staying at the Sheraton in the park is worth it—all the walks are right out your door. The hotel is a 2 or 3 star hotel with mediocre food and a 6 star location.

  17. Hi, I am from Argentina, next time you travel to Argentina make sure to visit Mocona falls (near El Soberbio), they are in Misiones too, like Iguazu falls. You would like it.

  18. I’ve been to both and I would agree that after Iguaçu, Niagara would be a disappointment. Iguaçu (Brazil) and Iguazú (Argentina) are both massive. Together —well, they just go on and on.

    However, I would suggest a different itinerary. First, find the cheapest flight you can find to any large city that you might want to visit in Brazil. Many flights go to São Paulo, but I would choose Rio if you can —much more picturesque. (São Paulo has its attributes but it is more like a huge American city while Rio definitely has that Brazilian “something-special.”) Pay attention to flight and layover times. Some flights are less expensive but you won’t arrive until 2 days after leaving or they go by some odd routes with layovers of as much as 15 hours. After you have your round trip ticket, then you can buy a Brazil air pass which will give you four flights around the country. Even if you stop in only one other city, you’ll probably save with an air pass.

    There are specific rules for air passes so read them carefully. You can pay for up to 9 legs instead of the basic 4. You must buy the air pass while you are outside of Brazil and set your itinerary at the time of purchase. (It can be changed, but with hefty fees.) If there is a layover of more than 4 hours, it will count as 2 legs, but there are plenty of flights with shorter layovers. Pay careful attention to all rules —which may have changed since I bought my pass in 2011.

    WARNING: you need a visa to enter Brazil. If you arrive without one, they will send you home.

    An example: In 2011 I wanted to fly to Aracajú in the NE of Brazil to visit friends and former students (where I had lived 40 years earlier.) The least expensive round trip from my city in the U.S. was $1600. Instead, I found a round trip to and from Rio for $1020 and bought an air pass for $585 (all of my example prices include taxes and airport fees.) So for $5 more, I flew from Rio to Aracajú to visit friends for a week, then I took a bus to Salvador because it was only about 3-4 hrs by bus. I flew from Salvador to Manaus (Amazon region), then to Foz do Iguaçu, then back to Rio (staying 3-5 days in each location) and caught my flight home on the 24th day of my trip. Prices are higher now, but these should give a ballpark idea.

    If you only want to go to Iguaçu, you might be able to find a cheaper fare directly there. (Aracajú isn’t a big destination so it was more expensive than some places.)

    In Iguaçu I stayed at a nice but fairly inexpensive hotel (Hotel Del Rey) that was across from the local bus stop that took one to the Brazilian side of the falls. (The bus to the airport stopped there, too.) After seeing the falls (3-4 hours) I walked (about 3 minutes) to the Parque das Aves (Bird Park) and spent several hours taking photos of exotic birds. (You can enter some cages to get close without bars between you and the birds.)

    My hotel was a few blocks from the bus depot to catch a bus to Argentina, where I went on day 2. We stopped at the border to check passports/exchange money. Argentina does not require a visa for a one-day excursion to the falls. They will tell you how much it costs to get into the falls, the fare on a second bus, and then you can figure extra for food or souvenirs or if you want to take a boat to get close to the falls. (I thought I could exchange leftover pesos on the way back, but we didn’t stop at the border. However my hotel took all my extra Argentinean pesos and allowed me to put the remainder of my bill on AMEX.) The bus took us to the closest town in Argentina and then we caught another bus to the falls and did the reverse on the way back.

    I would suggest a 3rd day if you want to go to Paraguay or if you want to tour the power plant (several different tours available.) Foz do Iguaçu probably has a night life (I wasn’t interested) but the town seems pretty quiet, at least the section where I stayed. It has a zoo, tree-lined streets, and very little traffic.

    The only problem for most will be that except at hotels, most Brazilians don’t speak English. If you speak Spanish, you will probably understand Brazilian Portuguese, but they may not understand you. So learn a few basic phrases (where is the hotel, bathroom, post office, bus stop, etc.? how much does it cost? do you speak English? please speak slowly.) You should be able to find Portuguese language-learning CDs at large library systems or learn the basics online. And buy a phrase book.

    Brazilians are among the nicest, warmest, and most welcoming people you will meet. But Brazilians have one quirk —they hate to disappoint, so if you ask for directions, even if they don’t know how to get to your destination they might give you directions anyway. It is best to ask at your hotel. As in any large city, be careful. Don’t flash money or expensive jewelry. You might consider taking your second-best camera instead of the expensive one with multiple lenses —you won’t want to lug it all over anyway.

    If you are a senior citizen, most municipal buses are free in Brazil (not the bus to Argentina or between cities.)

    Boa Viagem! (Have a good trip.)

  19. Beautiful both the pictures and the descriptions. An excellent job that goes very well together to satisfy the curiosity of most readers. Thank you for your wonderful contribution.

  20. I’m from Argentina and went to see Iguazú Falls with the entirely family lol
    You should not worry about the crowd, it is only when the park opens, at the begginig, but later everybody decides to go different ways and you can enjoy all places very comfortably.

    You should add it to your bucket list because definetly worth it. It is breath taking to watch and specially, hear them. Devil’s Throat is the principal attraction, but you’ll enjoy all the paths and the views they have.

    It is one of my best memories.
    Nice article by the way 🙂

  21. Never been to iguazu but I wanted to do an observation since I’m brazilian and I know lots of people who’ve been. It’s easier flying to Foz do Iguaçu (IGU), on the brazilian side! This airport has flights to Brazil’s both major airports ( São Paulo Guarulhos GRU and Rio de Janeiro Galeão GIG) and to Brasilia (BSB) as well! So it’s easier altough I think americans need brazilian VISA

  22. The falls are in a national park so thats why its a little far from city. If you are in Foz do Iguaçu (brazilian side) there are more things to do and the city is bigger than the argentinian city 🙂 although it isnt a BIG city, its very diversificated, you can find budist temple and mosque to visit, restaurants, bar, nice hotels… i like to stay near to downtown. and about arentina the beef is delicious! You should also try Alfajor… its like a super cookie 😛

  23. I just got back from Iguaçu (Brazil side) and was absolutely blown away. I lived in Buffalo, NY for many years so I have been to both the sides of Niagara Falls many times. I was expecting Iguaçu to have some taller falls but less water as I was told was the difference (which may or may not be true – I’m not a scientist), but there is just way more to look at. You can literally get right up and over some of the falls. The entire experience was outstanding – you definitely must do the boat trip and sit in the very front. There is a slightly hidden (quality) restaurant where you can eat, drink and enjoy right next to the water at the top.

    There is nothing to compare – Iguaçu is way better in terms of the sheer beauty of waterfalls.

    However, if your traveling with little kiddies I would say it’s not entirely friendly for strollers or speedy little guys that like to run. This isn’t to say that it’s not possible (there were lots of kids) but probably not good for nervous parents.

    If you are in the US I would say visit Niagara and have fun with tourist experience. There is lots to do (more in Canadian side) winter or summer (summer better imho). There is plenty for the kids to do and Toronto is close. It’s like being at the falls the whole time you are there. Then when the kiddies are older go to Brazil and visit Iguaçu on both sides. It’s a bucket list item.

    Currently (feb 2016) Americans traveling to Argentina (legally) need to pay an reciprocity fee of $160 ONLINE, print the receipt and take with. It’s their fee for the cost Argentines need to pay for a visa to the US – I believe. Many Brazilians/Argentines speak some or full English- don’t let it stop you.

  24. I disagree with most of the posters. After seeing Iguazu (twice) Niagra is still impressive. The two falls are very different and comparisons are somewhat pointless. If at all possible see both.

  25. Being a resident of Niagara I feel a little uncomfortable, but, having seen the visuals of Iguazu I have to admit the truth!

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