Iguaçu Falls Travel Guide
Iguaçu Falls are the world’s greatest waterfalls, higher than Niagara Falls and twice as wide as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Where Niagara has two massive falls, Iguaçu has 275 separate falls, a number that swells to over 350 in the rainy season (Dec-Mar). Water roars over a precipice three miles wide and 270 feet high. If you think of the falls as a giant horseshoe, you get a good visual picture. The near leg of the horseshoe is Brazil’s side of the falls; the far leg is Argentina’s sector. The rounded portion of the horseshoe is where the two countries meet at Devil’s Throat (Garganta do Diabo). It’s spectacular!
Iguaçu Falls are tucked into the southwestern tip of Brazil’s Paraná state. The Iguaçu River forms the border between Brazil and Argentina here and 18 miles downstream it joins the Paraná River (seventh- largest in the world) to form Brazil’s border with Paraguay.
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Iguaçu Falls Orientation
Set in South America’s largest national park, the Iguaçu Falls are primarily on the Argentinean side of the river, which means that the view from the Brazilian side is broader and more panoramic. You can, however, get up close by following the constructed walkways that lead in front of and below the falls. Visiting the falls from the Argentine park allows you to get close views. You should certainly visit from both sides.
Iguaçu Falls were discovered in 1542, but it wasn’t until 1918 that the town, Foz do Iguaçu (Junction), was established. Today it is a small, modern city of 250,000 residents but the number is always substantially larger because so many tourists visit. The city itself has few attractions but has scores of small hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. More upscale lodgings are located on Rodovia das Cataratas, a 28-km/17-mile road that connects Foz and the Brazilian park. Addresses on this road are numbered by their kilometer distance from Foz.
The national park is actually two parks that work together. The Brazilian park, Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, and the Argentinean park, Parque Nacional Iguazú, envelope the falls and protect the lush jungle that is home to stunning butterflies and hundreds of birds. Although the parks are vast, only the portion near the falls is open to the public. Friends tell us that jaguars and rare orchids flourish in the pristine rainforest.
Nearby Itaipú Hydroelectric Power Plant and Dam allows visitors. A joint effort of Brazil and Paraguay, it is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world, supplying 25% of Brazil’s electricity and 100% of Paraguay’s.
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