Where: Border of Misiones in Argentina and Parana in Brazil, also close to Paraquay.
Sights: Thundering 250ft falls of chameleon-coloured waters, be a spectator or participant underneath.
Nature: Nesting swallows, butterflies, macaws & other exotic birds.
Remember to bring: Waterproofs to protect from spray and mists.
Where It’s At
Straddling two countries, Argentina and Brazil, and in sight of a third, Paraguay, the waterfalls of Iguazu are one of the most spectacular in all of South America. Located on the border of Argentina’s Misiones province and Brazil’s Parana province, this is the place where the film The Mission was made and where scenes from the 007 film Moonraker were filmed.
Feat of Nature
The place means the ‘Big Waters’ in Guarani, a local Indian dialect. The thundering water crashes down in hundreds of cateracts between lush jungles while swallows make their nests underneath the roaring waterfalls zipping through the mists to catch insects for their young. Up to 250ft tall, these cateracts change colour according to the weather; heavy rain turns the water chocolate brown while fine weather leaves the falls white as cotton as they plunge into the river bed below.
The geological explanation for the formation of the falls is simple: as the river approached the softer volcanic rocks it easily eroded them away to create the ‘table’ effect of Iguazu. It is said that when viewing the falls from the Brazilian side, it is like viewing a stage as if in the audience; when viewing them from the Argentinian side its like being on the stage. For the full Iguazu experience it is imperative to see the falls from both the Argentinian and Brazillian sides as each view is unique: the Argentinian side is more panoramic and grandiose while on the Brazillian side you are right in the action traversing catwalks and walkways that get right next to the rushing, thundering water. From either side expect to get wet from the mist and spray and its refreshing in the intense heat that for most of the year blankets this area.
Staring down into the Devils Throat is one of the highlights of visiting the Iguazu falls and can be arranged from the Brazillian side where the catwalks have been washed away in recent years and a boat takes you out to the fall’s edge. Lots of butterflies and exotic birds make their home here so keep your eyes open for macaws and other rainforest creatures.
Other Things to See and Do
Theres not a whole lot to do around the falls although hiking in the large rainforest preserve is a possibility. Jesuit ruins can be visited a few hours south of here in Misiones, Argentina, and duty free shopping is an attraction in nearby Cuidad Del Este in Paraguay.
Travel & Practical Info
When staying at Iguazu travellers can chose between the quiet and green town on the Argentinian side or the larger bustling Brazillian city on the other. From either place shuttle buses operate to the falls. Travellers should be aware of the most current visa situations as some nationalities require visas when entering Brazil, even for the day.
Both countries have built impressive tourist centres at either side of the falls where expensive hotels and convention facilities exist. However, as close as the countries meet over water, the actual border crossing ais much further away. A whole day should be set aside for the buses and shuttles needed to get between passport control, allowing for at least 3 hours on each country’s side of the falls. Renting a taxi can be about $20 for several hours and for those on a quick stay or in a group, are a good way to shave time off the journey.
For overland travel Iguazu is a convenient point to enter or leave Argentina or Brazil, and flights operate out of both sides to domestic destinations in each country (and is a good stopover point on an air Mercosur Pass) Travellers should pay careful attention to actually where their flight is leaving from as both airports are called Iguazu.
Greatest Places: Iguazu Falls
Links to park resources and info on the waterfalls.