The Power and the Beauty of Iguazu Falls
In our digital age we’re surrounded by opinions, in list form, of the 10 or 100 or 1000 things to see before you die. I think life expectancy must be on the rise the way people keep adding stuff to their To Do lists. It’s always too soon to die, the list is always growing. But it is also very subjective. A wonder for you could be a “whatever” for others.
Iguazu Falls, though, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, are among the rare natural wonders that inevitably make it onto the top of everyone’s list. Its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1984 started to draw more attention to its beauty, as well as to its ongoing preservation struggle.
I’d heard about this place many times, but didn’t realize how magnificent it actually is.
Visiting it, at last, happened to be one of the most humbling and exciting experiences of my life. The falls are 1.7 miles long, divided into many different waterfalls by tiny islands and islets dotting the Iguazu River at the edge of the plunge. These falls range from 197 to 269 feet high.
The Falls’ maximum recorded flow is 45,700 cubic meters per second. To put things in perspective, 45,700 cubic meters is about how much water would be used if every single household in the state of Texas flushed their toilets at the very same moment. That’s how much water was going over the falls every second. That’s a lot of water if you ask me!
To sense how powerful it is, one needs to get very close to the Devil’s Throat, the most dramatic semi-circular water drop at Iguazu Falls.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady, once visited Iguazu Falls. When she first laid eyes on the falls, she exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”
Poor Niagara indeed!
Where Iguazu Falls Are Located
Near the Falls there are three major cities, in three different countries separated by the Iguazu River. They form a triangle known as the Triple Frontier:
- Puerto Iguazu, a frontier city in the province of Misiones, Argentina
- Foz do Iguaçu, a city in Paraná, Brazil, that is three times bigger than its Argentinean neighbor
- Ciudad del Este, the second largest city in Paraguay
Two of these countries can claim part of the waterfall as their own: Brazil and Argentina.
Keep in mind that 80% of all the waterfalls are on the Argentinean side, while 20% are in Brazil. Each perspective is unique, but you definitely have more options approaching your target from Argentina. When visiting, ideally plan on spending one day exploring the Argentinean side and keep a few hours reserved for Brazil on the following day.
As we prepared for our trip, we read a number of online comments about armies of mosquitoes and bugs attacking visitors on the Brazilian side, so we decided to skip it completely. Dengue fever is a real thing in this part of the world, so we were little uneasy about it.
You can also take a boat tour of the Falls from either side, if you feel like you didn’t get wet enough exploring on your own.
Furthermore, you can actually book a place on an exciting helicopter ride, in order to view the Falls from on high. The chopper departs from the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu.
If you want to see the entire Iguazu Falls, both the Argentinean and the Brazilian side, you’ll enjoy your experience much more if you set aside at least two days to soak in all the beauty, and to enjoy all that Iguazu Falls has to offer you as a tourist, guest, or visitor to the area.
Getting to Iguazu Falls
While a bus ride from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls may take up to 20 hours, travel by air is quite easy. A flight from Rio De Janeiro or Buenos Aires will get you to Iguazu Falls in less than two hours. The airport on the Argentinean side (IGR) is just 6 miles (10 km) away from the waterfalls, and 13 miles (20 km) from the city of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. A cab ride will cost you a bit more than in Buenos Aires. For a ride from the airport to Iguazu National Park, we paid 220 Argentine pesos, approximately $20 USD at the dollar blue exchange rate—what you might call the “peer-to-peer” rate 😉
Because we were traveling with a five-month-old baby, we decided to stay at Sheraton Iguazu Hotel, right there in the National Park in front of the waterfalls. Eva seemed to love the rain forest and the sound of waterfalls.
More economical accomodations are available in the city, but these entail a 20-30 minute ride to the Iguazu National Park, where the waterfalls are located. Entry to the Iguazu National park will cost foreign citizens 215 Argentine pesos per person, so a bit less than $20 USD at the “dollar blue” exchange rate as of time of writing. So budget this in, as there is no way around this expense if you want to see the waterfalls.
What to See at Iguazu Falls
Once you are in the National Park, you can take a free open-air train to Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat). Keep your hands and feet clear from the coatis. These guys feel home at any train station, and may leave you with a nasty bite:
After a seven-minute train ride, you disembark at the top side of the river and have to walk for 1100 meters (0.7 miles) towards the vista point. It’s a nice twelve-or-fifteen-minute walk over ramps erected above Iguazu river.
At the end of the walk, you will see something absolutely amazing: The Devil’s Throat. It’s hard to capture the power of this place, one needs to experience it.
Just watch the 30-second video below (make sure your speakers are turned down). This is what I call a dramatic drop:
Besides the Devil’s Throat platform, there are a couple of trails leading to the other parts of Iguazu Falls. You may take the Upper Trail to see waterfalls from the above. Eva was happily asleep when we discovered the Adam and Eva waterfalls. We learned that the white noise of the waterfalls works very, very well at putting Eva to sleep.
The Lower Trail will get you as close as possible to the waterfalls from below. Although most people call the spray emanating from the Falls a “mist,” prepare yourself for shower-quality refreshment. It’s so close, you’ll get wet before you snap your first photo:
Did I mention that the rain forest around looks like a film set for Indiana Jones? Oh yeah, because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was shot there…
You will also see all kind of species, from toucans to eagles and beyond. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Whatever you end up doing at Iguazu Falls, it is a very exciting and refreshing experience!
Can you recommend any sights comparable to Iguazu Falls (besides Victoria Falls obviously)?