“Let your soul be sated with the unique beauty of this landscape, that although you search the world through your travels, you will never find anything like it. “Extract from poem by Alfonso Ricciutto (translated)
Unlike most other waterfalls which have only one or two cataracts, the Iguazu Falls (also spelt Iguacu Falls and Iguassu Falls) boasts an amazing 275 cataracts which are spread over a 3-kilometre-long horseshoe-shape. To put it into perspective, they are around four times wider than Canada’s Niagara Falls. No matter how many photos you see before you go or how much you read about it, nothing will prepare you for the actual falls. Its prestigious status as one of the world’s New 7 Wonders of Nature, located in a UNESCO World Heritage site, is well-deserved and it attracts over a million visitors a year.
When visiting the Iguazu Falls, everyone should experience them from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. The views and experiences are very different on both sides although both take you very close to the falls. On the Argentinian side you walk on trails that weave between the tropical rainforest and allow you to experience the full power of the rushing waters. The Brazilian side offers more panoramic views facing the waterfalls. Expect to get wet on both sides.
The Argentinian side has three circuits: the upper circuit, the lower circuit and the Devil’s Throat circuit. The Upper Circuit takes you to the top of the canyon and allows you to look down over the edge of the falls. The Lower Circuit takes you to the base of the falls and offers great views of the waterfalls via lookout points. The Devils Throat circuit takes you to the top of the highest waterfall, the 80 metre Devils Throat. Here, fourteen waterfalls drop with a powerful force creating a permanent cloud of spray overhead.
We opted to visit Devil’s Throat first. To get there, we took the complimentary Jungle Train to the Devils Throat Station, then proceeded to walk on 1200 metres of metal walkways over the Parana River. The long walk only heightened our sense of anticipation. En route, we saw catfish and aquatic birds in the river below us. As we got closer to the waterfalls, a thundering sound and mist in the air heralded our close proximity. A few minutes later, we reached the platform over the falls. The roaring, rushing water took our breath away. We had never seen anything like it in our lives before. We were surrounded by the falls and engulfed by them, in the midst of Devils Throat.
When we finally managed to tear ourselves away from this spectacular sight, we took the train back to the Falls Station, the starting point of the Upper and Lower Circuits, and proceeded to the other trails. There were many viewpoints on this side and unlike the Devil’s Throat trail, we didn’t have to walk far to see the waterfalls. The views of the falls amid the lush greenery were stunning and there were vibrant rainbows everywhere. Our cameras wouldn’t stop clicking. We spoke to several other travellers who said that they had seen beautiful waterfalls all over the world but this was the best they’d ever seen.
Iguazu National Park is teeming with animal and bird life. As we walked through the verdant rainforest, we saw the ubiquitous coatis, members of the raccoon family, everywhere. They would run in between the people sniffing for food too. However, visitors are warned not to feed them as this can cause them to become aggressive.
Now and then, we saw indigenous monkeys and iguanas too. Other creatures like the puma and the jaguar remained more elusive.
We had a delicious lunch at Restaurante La Selva, the park’s main restaurant, which offers daily buffets. There was a variety of meats, seafood and vegetarian dishes, as well as some decadent desserts. When my picky kids went for second and third helpings, it just confirmed that the food was definitely good.
There are a number of activities available in the park. These include guided 4X4 ecological safaris which will acquaint you with the flora and fauna in the park, nature trails, and boat rides to San Martin Island, which offers more great views of the falls.
You need at least 6 hours to visit the Argentinian side of the falls. Don’t do what I did and get there late. Rather go early and spend the whole day there, in order to experience everything the park has to offer.
The name Iguazu means “Great Water”
How to get there from Brazil
We were staying in Foz Do Iguazu in Brazil. We took a taxi from our hotel to the Argentinian border, went through border control, then took another taxi to Parque Nacional Iguazú on the Argentinean side of the falls. Some taxis will take you all the way. Ours didn’t. On our return journey though, we found a taxi driver who took us from the falls to our hotel in Foz Do Iguacu.
For more information, and to book, visit Iguazu Argentina.