Iguazu Falls – putting Niagara to shame

Argentina is the most popular tourist destinations in Latin America and one of the ‘must-see’ locations on many people’s list is Iguazu Falls located in the northern part of Argentina where its province of Misiones meets the Brazilian state of Parana and the country of Paraquay.

You can visit Iguazu Falls year around but the best time to go is in either the Fall or Spring because that’s when the water level is the highest and the weather is the most comfortable.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls is unique in the world because of (1) the volume of water that goes over it, (2) the height and width of the falls, and (3) the fact that it’s broken up into many individual but no less spectacular falls by many small islands in the Iguazu River which gives it its name.

Here’s some interesting facts about Iguazu Falls:

  1. It’s taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide.
  2. During the rainy season the water flow rate can reach 450,000 sq.ft.per second making it the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world (twice the volume of Niagara Falls).
  3. It actually consists of approximately 275 smaller falls (more or less…depending on the water level of the river).
  4. The forests surrounding the falls contain over 2,000 species of plants
  5.  In one particular fall, The Devils Throat, the water falls almost 300 feet (but the average fall of water in most of the falls is around 210 feet).
  6. It’s one of the natural areas on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  7. As a series of falls, it stretches approximately 1.5 miles.
  8. Iguazu Falls rests squarely on top of the largest underground fresh water reservoir in the world, The Guarani Aquifer.

Most people choose to use bus or air travel to get to and from Iquazu.  You can rent an automobile once you’re there if perhaps you plan on going somewhere beyond Iguazu but probably you won’t want to do that.

If you do want to rent a car, you have to do it on the Brazilian side and you’ll need to remember that Brazilian auto insurance in not valid in Argentina.  That’s an extra expense.

Most of Iguazu Falls lies on the Argentinian side of the border but of course how you get to it depends on where you’re coming from.  Coming from the Argentinian side, you get there by bus from almost any city in the area or you can fly into the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazu, a small but pretty town about 11 miles from the falls with two hotels and some nice resturants.

For larger hotels there’s the Amerian Portal Del Iguazu Hotel in Puerto Iguazu or a Sheraton Iguazu (only a mile from the falls).  The Sheraton isn’t the nicest Sheraton you’ve ever seen but it’s OK and it does have a very nice terrace from which you get a beautiful view of the mists rising from the falls.  There are several very good restaurants in Puerto Iguazu and within the park itself there are also two local hotels which are more the back-packer type.

Over on the Brazilian side there’s also the Hotel das Cataratas.  Both the Sheraton and the Cataratas are a bit pricey but, again, they take advantage of their location so….you can get it if you want it.

Other than seeing the falls there’s not a whole lot to do but of course seeing the falls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Two or three days max should be enough to take advantage of all the great photography, iguazu boat tours, hiking and viewing.  It’s a good idea to plan to spend at least one day on each side…the Argentine side and the Brazilian side.

The devil's throat Iguazu

The devil’s throat Iguazu

Most of the falls are on the Argentine side but the best views are on the Brazilian side.  You can easily cross between the Brazilian and Argentine side if you want to get both views but there is a small visa cost required.

There are lots of trails to walk on both sides of the falls and also boats rides are available too.  Remember…plan on getting wet.  In most of the vistas of the falls you’ll be exposed to lots of water spray so protect your camera accordingly. In most areas you’ll be given a plastic camera bag to protect it.

There’s a free train on the Argentine side that will take you to a 1 kilometer long walkway that gets you to a very good view of the main horseshoe of falls where the roar of the water and the spray is fantastic.

In the summer, people often just wear a swimming suit.  The temperature is perfect for it and it’s a lot more convenient anyway.  In various places of the river (downstream from the falls of course) you can swim and even rent canoes.…if you really want to.

The park has lots of attractions (smaller falls) within it but the main attraction of the falls is El Garganta del Diablo, or The Devils’ Throat.  In this area, the water falls almost 300 feet and the sound and view is most fantastic.

The park is very well organized on both sides and there is always someplace to get information if you get lost or disoriented.  It’s a year-round attraction that attracts visitors not only from all over Latin America but all over the world so you’ll always be able to communicate with somebody.

Once you’ve seen Iguazu Falls you can understand why Eleanor Roosevelt, upon visiting the falls, said, “Poor Niagara”.  An Iguazu Falls vacation is something that doesn’t take long but it’s a trip you’ll never forget.


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