Iguazu falls are without doubt a natural wonder of the world we would goes far as to say you can’t come to Brazil without visiting them.
Itapu Dam via Ciudad del Este | Our practical guide to the border crossing
You can do the tour of Itapu Dam from Foz do Iguazu in Brazil, it’s much more of an adventure though from Paraguay. It’s free and relatively painless and it just takes a little patience and a spirit of adventure. You will also get the chance to experience the crazy world of Ciudad del Este. This must be the most hectic border town in South America if not the world.
How to get to the Itapu dam from Foz do Iguazu
Getting across the border into Paraguay, via the bridge that links Foz do Iguazu with its sister town, is a quite simple process. The first part of the journey is to catch a bus from the bus stop in front of the urban bus station in Foz do Iguana which will show as going to Ciudad del Este. The bus will slowly make it’s way through the traffic filled streets towards the bridge which marks the border. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Brazilian side of the bridge to get you passport stamped. You then walk across the bridge and get stamped in to Paraguay it’s that simple.
The next stage of the process is to find the bus terminal in the town. To do this you follow the road through all the market stalls selling everything you can think of and more. You can get some money changed along the street as you’ll need it for the bus. The bus station is on the other side of the wide road you can use the over pass to cross but most locals people just take there chances with the traffic.
The bus you need is heading towards Hernandarias. We just asked one of the locals which bus stance we needed to wait at as there are no signs. Just mention Hernanarias to anyone there and they’ll help. You pay the conductor on the bus and ask to be dropped off at the entrance to the visitors centre for the dam. From here it’s just a short walk down to the big building on the right were you will be greeted by the tour staff. To get back you do the whole process in reverse. Remember to wait for the bus on the opposite side of the road from where you were dropped off.
What to expect on the tour
The tour is free and starts with a short film about the dam. You then board a bus which takes you around the highlights, if you don’t speak Spanish you are given a box that tells you what the guide is saying but it is quite difficult to keep the facts on the box in sync with the place you are seeing.
You are only allowed out of the bus once at a viewing platform the rest of the tour is inside the bus. On this tour you don’t get to go inside the dam, we believe you can contact the visitor centre in advance for a more detailed tour. We didn’t do this and we were happy with just the tour on the bus. The whole tour from start to finish take about an hour.
There is a gift shop at the visitor centre selling arts and crafts and there is a cold water dispenser where you hop on the tour bus. The water is free and so refreshing in the heat of the day.
Some incredible facts and figures
The electricity the dam produces is shared equally between Brazil and Paraguy and straddles the border which runs down the centre of the Parana river. It is currently the second biggest hydroelectric dam in the world only surpassed by the three gorges dam in China. It supplies eighty percent of the electricity used by Paraguay and twenty percent of the electricity used by Brazil.
The dam boasts twenty turbines that between them can produce a 14,ooo megawatts of electricity, each country has ten turbines. When building the dam the Guaíra Falls were flooded and lost for ever. Before the dam was built the falls were a major tourist attraction rivalling Iguazu.
The dam was constructed between 1975 and 1982 it is nearly 200 metres high and has a total length of about eight kilometres. It didn’t come up to full operating power unit 2007 when all twenty turbines were up and running. It is totally powered by the forces of gravity being one of the largest hollow gravity dams in the world.
Where to stay in Foz do Iguazu
Foz do Iguazu is a quite pleasant little town with plenty of options for food and accommodation from big five star resorts and high end international eateries to hostels and local restaurants selling fixed meals at very reasonable prices. You can read about where we stayed and or experiences in the town here in our blog post about our visit to the falls. We stayed five nights and this felt to be just about the right amount of time to visit the falls from both Brazil and Argentina with this trip to the dam on our final day.
Booking resources for your stay in Foz do Iguazu
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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Iguazu falls are an amazing sight and a must visit on any Brazilian itinerary, but have you thought of visiting them from Argentina.