In the local Indian language Guaraní, Iguaçú means big water. And I can definitely relate to that. More than 270 (large and small) waterfalls combined, drop liters of water in the Paraná River. Over a length of 2.7 kilometers.
You can visit the waterfalls from both Argentina and Brazil. You have no options from Paraguay. And in addition to the violence of water, you can also marvel at the rainforest that surrounds the falls.
Best things to see and do at Iguazu Falls:
Garganta del Diablo (Argentina)
Garganta del Diablo means Devil’s Throat. Very illustrative if you ask me as the water literally drops from three sides down into the Paraná River. There is a trail over the water which enables you to come close to the waterfalls. And you will hear the explosion of water. Some days you will be wrapped with mist from the explosion of water. According to visitors, this is the most impressive experience of Foz de Iguazú. The trail to Devil’s Throat is on the Argentinean side of Iguazu.
Upper Circuit, Paseo Superior (Argentina)
The upper circuit is a 1,200-meter long trail on the Argentinian side of Iguazu. This trail runs through the jungle over the water. Which gives you the impression you walk across a river unto the waterfalls. Along the path you will find various viewpoints. You will reach the upper circuit with the train. The train ride starts at the entrance of the park and is included in the entrance fee.
Lower Circuit, Paseo Inferior (Argentina)
The lower circuit is less popular amongst tourists, but just as worthwhile. It does require you to climb and descend some stairs. The trail runs through the jungle, which means you could possibly run into a coati or other wildlife. In the end you will reach the Paraná River which is at the bottom of Iguazu Falls.
San Martín Island (Argentina)
The small island of Sant Martín lies in the middle of the Paraná River. From its location you have a great view of the waterfalls from a low standpoint. Its lush vegetation is the result of the continuous mist and the island is an ideal stopover to witness the force of the cascading water and to take photographs that are just that little bit different.
There is a narrow hiking trail, but caution is advised, as it is very slippery. There also are a considerable number of steps. San Martín can only be reached by boat. When you take the lower circuit, you will find the entrance for the boat tour. The tour is included in your entrance tickets, just like the train.
Garganta do Diabo (Brazil)
It is also possible to enjoy the Devil’s Throat from the Brazilian side. In Portuguese it is called Garganta do Diabo. From this side you get the complete picture of this part of Iguazu Falls. And how impressive this water explosion can be. Be aware you will see people on the top of the waterfalls at the Argentinian side.
Macuco Fall Trail (Brazil)
This waterfall is only 25 meters high but the trail to Macuco Fall gives many opportunities to see the waterfalls and the surrounding rainforest. At the end of the trail you can catch a boat to the bottom of Iguazu Falls.
Most tourists walk straight to the waterfalls (or they go by small train), but the surrounding jungle is bustling with the life of flora and fauna. You can purchase maps indicating the different directions the various paths lead to. You can also hire a guide at the visitor’s center, who can take you on a longer hike. Ask for the list of animals you may encounter here. If you walk calmly and slowly enough, you will really be able to see how beautiful this place actually is.
In and around the waterfalls there are many birds, including toucans, macaws, and trogons. You will see many of them in the trees by the water. The birds are rather used to humans and it is easy to get close to them, so you may want to look closely at trees and bushes alongside the paths. However, the best thing to do is simply listen. The birds, most of them very colorful, are loud and lively.
A specific bird you can find here is the Great Dusky Swift. These birds are true air acrobats, using the upward force of the wind generated by the power of the water. Most of them will skim past in a flash, but if you look carefully, you will be able to spot them on the steep rocks as they rest. They mostly hang around in groups, but sometimes you will see one sitting alone.
Horseback riding tours
Horseback riding through the jungle and along the river is quite extraordinary. You will reach spots the average tourist will never see. Attention: horseback riding is prohibited inside the park, so these rides are offered just outside of it. You will still be in the jungle, but won’t be able to go past the famous waterfalls.
Visit Iguazu Falls from Brazil and Argentina
Various explorers have told tales of this incredible abundance of water. At the time, they also mentioned the overwhelming jungle it is located in. This is something many visitors nowadays are oblivious of, as they walk straight to the waterfalls and hardly notice the surrounding area, while it is exactly this scenery that makes this place so special. The famous South American jungle runs up to the waterfalls and the green wall is the home base for an astonishing amount of animals.
Those who wish to experience this explosion of water in all its intensity should visit both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides. The best way is to arrange a full day trip to Argentina (for the thrill) and a half-day trip to Brazil (for taking pictures). Between the many waterfalls you will notice the countless small islands. The hike across the water on the Argentinian side, with the edge of the waterfall as icing on the cake, is both unique and confronting. It is not a place for fear…
The biggest waterfall on earth
With sights like these, often predicates like the largest and widest are claimed. It is only logical that comparisons are made with the Victoria Falls in Africa and the Niagara Falls on the border of the US and Canada. With its 2.7 kilometers in width, Foz is considerably wider than the almost 1.6 kilometers of the Victoria Falls, even if you do not count the various islands between the falls. The three waterfalls of Niagara are not even a kilometer wide altogether.
However, during high tide, Victoria Falls has no islands in between, making it the largest unbroken waterfall in the world. Victoria Falls also has the upper hand in volume. According to scientists, an astonishing 9 million liters of water per second plunge into the depths after heavy rainfall. At Iguazu this is ‘merely’ 6.5 million liters, but the records even out: just over 12 million liters per second.
What about the Niagara Falls?
Don’t the Niagara Falls win any title at all, then? Yes they do, although this is not really a record. Both the waterfalls of Iguazu and Victoria fluctuate in their flow of water, very much depending on the season. At Niagara Falls, the flow is reasonably constant throughout the year, although in total, it is much less than with the other two. The highest waterfall in the world, for that matter, is Angel Falls in the Canaima National Park in Venezuela. Just a few meters wide, this waterfall stands 979 meters in height …
Thanks to the enormous quantities of water, Iguazú has a rich flora. On the water’s edge there are plants and trees that have adapted to the abundance of water. Among them is a small tree, the ‘copaifera officinalis’ or copaiba tree, which is known for its resin used for adhesives. Several types of grass have also adapted to the circumstances. These are visible between the rocks and the water.
The impressive waterfalls are enclosed by the forever green jungle. If you pay attention, you will find various types of orchids and bromeliads on the tree trunks. At the end of winter (early August) the Surinamese Ipê or Yellow Trumpet Tree, grows in bright purple.
Photograph the explosion of water
Every tourist will take at least one photograph of the water mass, but most pictures will not provide as beautiful an image as the real thing. There are some simple tips: never take the photograph while facing the sun, the best light is in the morning or in the late afternoon. However, a closer look into how the camera operates (in advance) will surely be beneficial to the result. You will be pleased to be left with some pretty, lively memories. Also, the internet is an infinite source of information and tips from professional photographers.
Best time to visit Iguazu Falls:
In January and February, the Argentinians and Brazilians are on holiday. This is when it’s really busy. However, this is also the time with the most rain, so the waterfalls will be fierce. This is also the case in March.
In April, May and July it will also rain regularly here, causing extra amounts of water to plunge into the depths. It is when you will be able to see Iguazú Falls in its full glory. During the remaining months of the year, the water supply may fluctuate significantly.
September and October are the quietest months with tourists, although you will probably never walk entirely alone around here.
The temperatures are about the same throughout the year, fluctuating between the twenty and thirty degrees Celsius.
Many tourists don’t take enough time to fully explore the area. They only spend a couple of hours to view the waterfalls from the Argentinian side. Or they have so little time that they can only do the Brazilian side. This is a territory that you must ‘experience’, both the water as well as the jungle. From both the Brazilian and the Argentinian side of the border.
Many wild animals can be spotted on the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. Besides many birds, there are poisonous snakes and bite-happy South American coatis. Look out for the warning signs, they are here for a reason.
How do I get to Iguazu Falls?
Daily flights between the airfield of Puerto Iguazú (Argentina) and Buenos Aires. The airfield of Foz de Iguaçu (Brazil) has connections with the larger cities in Brazil.