When we talk about the greatest waterfalls on earth, we always talk about Niagara Falls, Iguazu Falls and Victoria falls. Not that other waterfalls are not great; it’s just that these falls have become so famous they easily capture the imagination of the world.
I recently got chance to visit Niagara Falls in USA and Iguazu Falls in Brazil within a span of 6 months, and the comparison was bound to happen.
Comparison between Niagara Falls and Iguazu Falls:
1. Niagara Falls is located on Niagara river and straddle the international border between USA and Canada.
Iguazu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the international border of Brazil and Argentina.
2. Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls, the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. These three falls are located very close to each other and are easily accessible by walking.
On the other hand, the Iguazu Falls comprises of several hundred big and small waterfalls along 2 miles of Iguazu river. On Brazilian side, there is a 1200 meters long trail which is paved and properly marked. Because of presence of some stairs, the trail is considered to be of moderate difficulty. Trails can be found on the Argentina side of the falls as well.
3. The tallest waterfall at Iguazu Falls is called ‘Devil’s Throat’ and it has a drop of 269 ft (82 meters). The Niagara Falls, on the other hand, has a maximum drop of 167 ft (51 meters). Which means Iguazu Falls (Devil’s Throat) is taller than Niagara Falls by almost 100 ft.
4. Niagara Falls emerge as the winner when it comes to comparing the amount of water pouring (water intensity/flow rate) from these 2 falls. On average, about 2,400 cubic meters of water flows every second at Niagara Falls as compared to around 1,700 cubic meters of water every second at Iguazu Falls.
5. Niagara Falls is easily accessible from both USA and Canada. On USA side, Niagara Falls can be easily reached by road, train or plane. Niagara Falls International Airport and Buffalo International Airport are located less than 50 miles from Niagara Falls. On Canada side, Niagara Falls, ON is located just few hours away from Toronto.
Iguazu Falls, on the other hand, is not very easily accessible. Foz Do Iguacu (IGU) airport in Brazil is located pretty close to the falls, but flights are almost always very expensive. On Argentina side, Puerto Iguazu city is located just 18 kms from the falls and is served by its own international airport called Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport.
6. Both Niagara Falls and Iguazu Falls offer boat tours. The boat tour at Niagara Falls is called ‘Maid of the Mist’ where a mid size boat with carrying capacity of around 600 passengers takes you close to the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls.
Just before boarding the boat, you get the poncho to prevent you from getting drenched. The cost of the poncho is included in the ‘Maid of the Mist’ admission ticket. As for camera, I highly recommend avoid carrying any expensive SLR camera or any other non water proof camera because it will definitely get wet. I suggest carrying GoPro or any other water proof camera.
On the other hand, the boat tour at Iguazu falls is called Macuco Safari Traditional Tour. Unlike Niagara Falls, instead of carrying hundreds of passengers on a mid-size boat; Macuco Safari boat tour uses speed boats and carry not more than 20 passengers.
At Macuco Safari Traditional Tour, you will not be provided any poncho. And believe me, even if they’d provided the poncho, it would not have been sufficient to prevent you from getting drenched because they take the boat right under one of the several waterfalls. I highly recommend carrying GoPro or any other water proof camera.
7. Niagara Falls is super touristy. That is, you will find tons of hotels (List of Hotels at Niagara Falls, USA) to stay and food joints to eat right at the park entrance. There are casinos too, in case you think waterfalls can change your luck. 😉
On the other hand, Iguazu Falls is more authentic experience. There is just one hotel (Belmond Hotel das Cataratas) located near the falls on the Brazilian side and there are only couple of places to eat.
8. Since the Niagara Falls State Park is open 24 hours, the Niagara Falls can be visited at night and believe me it’s simply breathtaking.
Iguazu Falls National Park in Brazil is open from 9 AM to 5 PM (depending on season), and therefore I don’t believe it can be visited at night.
9. Helicopter rides are available at both the falls. We chose Rainbow Air Inc at Niagara Falls, USA to see the falls from up above. The ride was magnificent and the staff was very professional.
10. Iguazu Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site while Niagara Falls has no such accomplishment to boast off.
11. It is reported that late USA First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was so impressed seeing Iguazu Falls she exclaimed ‘Poor Niagara’. This was precisely what I’d thought too seeing Iguazu Falls. I have not been to Victoria Falls, but who knows if it makes me exclaim ‘Poor Iguazu’!!
Well, it’s a tough to term one waterfall better than the other. Both the falls are great and both the falls must be in your wish list. Having said that, I found Iguazu Falls to be more genuine experience where you walk on the wooden trails without any hustle and bustle of city in the middle of nowhere. It’s not like I don’t like touristy Niagara Falls. Being touristy has its own advantages when it comes to choices and price. But, I’d prefer quiet and natural when it comes to visiting the greatest waterfalls on earth. What would you’d prefer?