Iguazu Falls travel guide

Iguazú Falls travel guide


2 minute summary

One of the most compelling reasons to travel is to experience the sheer power of nature, to be completely overwhelmed by it. When it comes to nature’s might, Iguazú Falls delivers in bucketloads – around 1,500 cubic metres per second, to be exact. There are in fact over 270 falls here, stretching out over 2.7km, and plunging twice the height of Niagara. As you approach, you’ll hear the roar long before you set sight on the falls. That roar, deep from within the Devil’s Throat is a warning; Iguazú Falls aren’t just there to be looked at – they’ll soak you to your core.

Iguazú is mesmerising in itself – take time to lose yourself in the rushing water which throws rainbows into the air. But as our Iguazú Falls travel guide explains, you should take time, too, to walk the nature trails through the surrounding national park, to discover the wildlife that lives beside the mighty waterfall, and to take a boat over the rapids and as close as you dare to the base of the Great Waters.
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IGUAZU FALLS MAP & HIGHLIGHTS


MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME

Iguazú Falls span the border between Brazil and Argentina – and are just a short hop from Paraguay. Unfortunately, being on the edge of all three countries means they are not really on the way to anywhere, and visitors coming to Iguazú almost always have to make a special trip here. What’s more, they are a long way from any other tourist attraction in Argentina or Brazil, and these countries are both vast – Iguazú is a 16-hour bus ride from Sao Paolo – or a 24 hour odyssey from Buenos Aires. Happily, there are two airport located nearby; Argentina’s Cataratas del Iguazú and Foz do Iguaçu Airport in Brazil. Direct flights take two hours from Buenos Aires and an hour and 45 minutes from Rio de Janeiro – although they are more costly than you would expect for flight of a similar duration in Europe.

If you really want to take the alternative route, the much overlooked Paraguay is your answer; the drive from the tranquil capital of Asunción takes just five or six hours, and this is a popular option on South America overland tours.
Devil's Throat Itaipu Dam Jesuit Missions San Martin Island The Bird Park Upper & Lower Circuits

Devils Throat

A train takes you to the start of a raised boardwalk, which leads you 1km through the tangled, tropical forest and over the river. This is an hour-long buildup to reaching the panoramic balcony overlooking la Garganta del Diablo – the Devil’s Throat – as the falls roar louder and louder. In the early morning you’ll beat the crowds; late afternoon offers the best light, as the sun sinks behind you.

Itaipu Dam

A tour of Itaipu is a fascinating opportunity to learn about how the world’s second largest hydroelectric power plant was constructed, as well as its impacts on the surrounding environment and local people. It generates a quarter of all of Brazil’s energy and 95 percent of Paraguay’s; the sheer scale of this piece of engineering (7km wide) is breathtaking. Book a sunset tour if you can.

Jesuit Missions

Learn about the human history of this region with a visit to the UNESCO-rated Jesuit Missions in Paraguay. Constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries in order to convert the native Guarani to Christianity, the Jesuits permitted them to maintain many indigenous traditions as well as protecting them from colonial slavery. The 30 missions include several huge complexes, with Santísima Trinidad the best preserved.

San Martin Island

Dramatically situated in the middle of the falls, San Martin Island is reached by boat, and covered in rainforest fed by the constant spray. Hike up 190 steps to reach “the window”, a geological formation facing out onto the walls of whitewater from the San Martin, Escondido and Rivadavia waterfalls. San Martin is also known for its resident vultures; you may encounter them along the forest trails.

The Bird Park

The Parque das Aves celebrates some of the stunning birdlife found in these subtropical forests surrounding Iguazú, including macaws, scarlet ibis, flamingoes and toucans. Walking through the vast aviaries filled with native vegetation, encounters are far more likely than in the wild forest. The park was founded as a sanctuary for birds which had been rescued from the wildlife trade.

Upper & Lower Circuits

Argentina makes the most of its star attraction; as well as the trail to the Devil’s Throat it boasts two more walkways to ensure you admire the falls from every angle – all departing from Cataratas Station. The Upper Circuit offers the most panoramic views and takes in many of the 270 cataracts; the Lower one passes 1.7km through the jungle, past several viewpoints, and leads to the boat embarkation point.
Photo credits: [topbox: PDTillman] [Help desk: Facundo Galván] [Map topbox: Deni Williams] [Devil's Throat: Vince Smith] [Itaipu Dam: Herr stahlhoefer] [Jesuit Missions: Miguel Vieira] [San Martin Island: Vince Smith] [The Bird Park: Pablo BM] [Upper & Lower Circuits: Phil Whitehouse]
Written by Vicki Brown
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