Brazil’s Itaipú Dam: awesome sidetrip from Iguazú Falls

Itaipú Dam, the second largest in the world, straddles Brazil and Paraguay just above Foz do Iguaçu, the Brazilian gateway to Iguazú Falls.

The superlatives go on and on, layered with a complex history of bilateral relations between Brazil and Paraguay, so delicate that the number of employees are divided exactly in half by nationality and the control room is half Portuguese and half Spanish.

Both nations run tours, the tours from Paraguay (visa required for most nationalities) are free but do not include access to the dam’s innards. The tours on the Brazilian side (visa also required for most nationalities, but most people in this area will already be in Brazil for the falls), are  very well organized and include regular and ‘especial.’ Especial (USD$28) is the way to go, visiting the control room and dam’s innards; regular tours only take in views from the exterior and top. Riding through the parks up to the dam, watch for herds of capybara. Both tours run throughout the day from 09:00-16:00, Especial taking about 90 minutes, plus night lighting of the dam, and is a base for various other activities ranging from a planetarium to village tours.

There is no particular need to book a tour from a Foz do Iguaçu agency up to the dam, other than convenience of transport. It is about a 20-minute drive and taxis are plentiful from the city, BUT there are no taxis at the dam, only a confusing array of public buses, many of which do not go to the city center. Consider hiring a taxi to wait. In a hurry, I took a motorcycle taxi from the border and then spent quite some time trying to communicate and find the proper bus down to the city.

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Paraguay on the left, Brazil on the right, split down the middle

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Top of the dam

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Control building

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Straight down to rushing water

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Spillways

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Water plunges down to the turbines

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Engineer for a day

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All the way down to the original river bed

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The turbines spin underneath

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Control room, Portuguese signage on the left, Spanish on the right

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A turbine

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  • Andrew

    I love the capybara – lucky you for seeing herds of them. They’re essentially giant guinea pigs, being closely related to our pear-shaped pets. They love the water (a trait possibly reflected in their Latin name, Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). I’ve only ever worked with them in zoo settings, but as you noted in your earlier post, they feature prominently in Brazilian society as a source of food (meat). I look forward to the day when one of them walks into my exam room at the animal hospital.

  • Glad you made it. I hope it was as impressive as I remembered it. I’m pretty sure I got to see the interior from the Paraguayan side but that would have been about 15 years ago now. You certainly got more done that weekend than I did.

  • @Mike- thanks for the recommendation, it was a delight. With regard to the tours from the Paraguay side I am relying on the info in Bradt Paraguay, and seemed Brazil was the surest thing for my one chance.