Travel guide to visiting Iguazu Falls

One of the largest waterfalls in the world


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Cataratas del Iguazú, Misiones Province, Argentina

GPS: -25.693079217868, -54.434771713475

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The Iguazú Falls are made up of an impressive 275 waterfalls. They are shared between the Argentinian province of Misiones (80%) and the Brazilian federal state of Paraná (20%), on the borders of Paraguay. These waterfalls are among the largest on the planet. They are part of an ecosystem of exceptional natural wealth, nestled in the heart of a humid subtropical forest (one of the last fractions of the Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlântica). The natural site of Iguazú Falls is administratively divided into two contiguous national parks: the Iguazú National Park (Parque Nacional Iguazú) created in 1934 on the Argentine side, and the Iguaçu National Park (Parque Nacional do Iguaçu), founded in 1939, on the Brazilian side.

The Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca discovered the Iguazú Falls in 1541. At that time, this region was inhabited by an Amerindian community locally called Mbyá, belonging to the Guaraní indigenous people. This territory quickly passed under the authority of the Catholic kings of Spain and its inhabitants were the object of a massive evangelization on the part of the religious order of the Society of Jesus at the beginning of the 17th century (this process is known under the name of the Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís). In the 20th century, the Iguazú Falls gradually opened up to tourism activity. Various bridges and observation platforms on both sides of the Argentina–Brazil border offer spectacular points of view. The most famous of them masterfully overlooks the Devil’s Throat, the largest waterfall on the site (700 metres in length and 80 metres in height) which creates a permanent mist cloud. Tirelessly, the Iguazú Falls form an impressive linear stretch of 3 kilometres of waterfalls at the confluence point of the Iguazú River and the Paraná River. The volume and power of its waters constitute a visual and acoustic wonder.

Visiting routes, hiking trails, boat trips, sports and outdoor recreation allow you to get as close as possible to the multiple waterfalls cascading from the jungle. In this place of natural wonder, you will experience lush vegetation composed of approximately 2,000 species of plants. In total, more than 500 different varieties of birds and wild mammals coexist around the exhilarating Iguazú Falls.

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  • Majestic falls, sometimes powerful, sometimes delicate, in one of the largest protected forest areas in South America; the incessant roar generated by the various waterfalls; perpetual water curtains and clouds of water vapour; the permanent spectacle of rainbows
  • The diversity of local wildlife: butterfly, coati, crocodile, jaguar, tapir, anteater, cougar, jaguar, forest fox, porcupine, monkey, southern muriqui (the biggest monkey in South America), bush dog, snake, lizard, fish, amphibian…; profusion of birds (hummingbird, toucans, blue manakin, great dusky swift, rufous-bellied thrush, parrot, parakeet, falcon…) and all kinds of insects.
  • The exuberant vegetation: jungle, tree ferns, palm trees, orchids, palo rosa (tree appreciated for its shade)…
  • Boat trips at the foot of Iguazú Falls; the various bridges surmounted by steam and water splashes; the train serving the main attractions on the Argentine side
  • The power of the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), the upper path (paseo superior) leading to various spectacular falls and the lower path (circuito inferior) traversing multiple spectacles on the Argentinian side
  • The Butterfly House, the Bird Park and the general panorama of the Iguazú Falls on the Brazilian side; the view of the falls from the Brazilian island of San Martin
  • The biodiversity, the subtropical forest and the natural heritage of Parque Nacional Iguazú (676 km² in Argentina) and Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (1,700 km² in Brazil) registered on the Unesco World Heritage List; the virgin forest of Paranaense and the large number of natural habitats of the Atlantic Forest (dense forests of high and low altitude, mangrove areas, wooded mountains, dry savannas, steep cliffs, deep valleys, expanses of meadows, coastal islands, isolated dunes…)
  • The activities offered on site (climbing, excursions and hiking in the jungle in Argentina; safari, rafting and helicopter tour in Brazil)
  • The experience of a full moon evening visit on the Argentine side (thematic evening called Luna Llena)
  • In the Guaraní Amerindian language, I-Guazú means “big waters”. This is all the more true when we know that Iguazú Falls are four times wider than Niagara Falls, located in North America. The flow of Iguazú Falls can reach up to 7 million litres per second when the rivers are in flood.
  • Many groups of birds belonging to the species of great dusky swift (close to the swallow) have become accustomed to nesting in the basalt cliffs hidden behind the countless water walls of the Iguazú Falls.
  • The Paraná River, which covers more than 4,000 kilometres in length, forms the third largest hydrographic network on Earth after those of the Amazon and Mississippi.
  • The Iguaçu River is 1,320 kilometres long and more than 90% of its course runs through Brazil (where several dams are built to generate electricity). Like Rio Paranaíba and Rio Grande, the Iguaçu River is among the many tributaries of the Paraná (these three rivers all originate in Brazil).
  • The Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) is a primary forest older than the Amazon Rainforest and one of the most threatened in the world. Very rich in biodiversity, it spanned more than 1 million km² of area, along the Brazilian coast and inland (equivalent to 15 % of the territory of Brazil). Since the arrival of the Portuguese settlers, its surface has been constantly reduced (less than 10 % of the original forest remains). More recently, the intensive practice of deforestation to make way for the cultivation of sugar cane, coffee and the development of pasture areas for cattle represents a constant pressure for the biotic area (without forgetting the urban expansion on the coast and the growing size of the cities).
  • Despite its fragmentation, the canopy of the Atlantic Forest includes 20,000 different plant species, 2,000 varieties of butterflies, 1,000 kinds of birds (a total greater than the entire European quota), rare animals and endemic (including some still unknown species) as well as countless insects (including the banana spider and huge colonies of legionary ants capable of attacking animals much larger than themselves).
  • Due to deforestation, a phenomenon that does not seem to be diminishing on the Brazilian side, the Iguazú Falls may experience violent floods (as was the case in 2014 with the meteoric rise of the waters of the Iguazú and Paraná rivers forcing the authorities to close access to the site). Conversely, the lack of precipitation in the large basin of the Paraná River can cause droughts and greatly affect the flow of Iguazú Falls. This cyclical phenomenon occurs every 10 to 15 years on average as was the case in 2006 and more recently in the first quarter of 2020 (one of the worst droughts in the history of falls).
  • Due to the humid subtropical climate, transport times and possible border crossings, provide a minimum safety margin of two days to take full advantage of different perspectives on both sides of the border.
  • About 12 kilometres separate the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú from the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu.
  • A raincoat and mosquito repellent can be very useful on site.
  • Beware of coatis (a sort of raccoon) who are able to bite you if you try to feed them. In general, feeding animals that you may come across is strongly discouraged.

Where to eat

  • Aqva Restaurant
    (the steak is excellent)
  • La Rueda 1975
    (the catfish is a delight)
  • Restaurante Barracão
    (Brazilian farm kitchen)

Where to go

  • Sendero Macuco
    (off the beaten track)
  • Guiraoga
    (native wildlife refuge)
  • Parque das Aves
    (ornithological park)

Where to stay

  • Tetris Container Hostel
    (original accommodation)
  • Posada del Jacaranda
    (well-maintained establishment)
  • Posada Puerto Bemberg
    (enchanting place)