Iguacu National Park is listed by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage of Humanity area. Located near the junction of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and 730 mi/1,175 km southwest of Rio de Janeiro, Iguacu Falls (pronounced eeh-gwa-SUE) is quite simply a must-see. There are 275 cataracts in all, stretching 2 mi/4 km from bank to bank and reaching a height of 300 ft/90 m. The falls, on the Parana River, are best seen October-December and March-May. The falls look and photograph differently depending on the time of day and the light.
We suggest flying from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo as early as possible, overnighting at the falls, and then flying to another destination the next evening. Two of the most spectacular ways to view the falls are to fly over them in a helicopter or to take the Macuco Safari, where you'll actually sail under the falls in a boat (getting very wet in the process).
Only three of the falls—Floriano, Deodoro and Benjamin Constant—are located on the Brazilian side of the border. Most are on the Argentinean side, facing Brazil. You'll need a very long day to see both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the falls.
On the Brazilian side, you'll see the falls from a distance (although the views are breathtaking). The Argentine side has catwalks that take you deeper into the jungle setting and right up to the edge of the roaring waters. (You can take a boat ride quite close to the edge.) The park has an aviary with more than 200 types of birds, most of which are native to Brazil.
About 35 mi/55 km south of the falls, you can drive into Argentina via a bridge or continue on to Paraguay. We don't recommend it, however. The traffic is horrendous, as the area is jam-packed with South Americans shopping for discounted (and often counterfeit) goods. Instead, we suggest that you stay longer at the falls or visit the old missions in the area.
There's an easy side trip to the vast Itaipu Dam, built jointly by Brazil and Paraguay, where you can take a free tour. It's one of the largest hydroelectric works projects in the world (55 stories high and 5 mi/8 km wide—12,800 megawatts). http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/303.
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