If you live in the city and don’t venture out into the wilderness with your hiking pack and other travel accessories too often, it can be easy to forget how many mindblowing natural wonders there are out there. We’re always hearing about the degradation of natural landscapes and the loss of biodiversity – and make no mistake, that is a reality; it is estimated that we are clearing around 80,000 hectares of tropical rainforest every day. But if you haven’t been wowed by mother nature recently, you haven’t missed your chance. Around 31% of the earth is still covered by forests, and there is no shortage of breathtaking sights to enjoy. Today we’d like to talk about one of our top picks for natural wonders: the Iguazú falls.
Sunk in lush rainforest, the Iguazú Falls are located at the border of the province of Misiones in Argentina and the Brazilian state of Paraná, and there is actually a point nearby that marks the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Taken together, it is the largest waterfall in the world. Over thirty metres taller and a whopping 1,755 metres wider than Niagra Falls, it’s little wonder that, upon seeing Iguazú Falls for the first time, Eleanor Roosevelt famously uttered “My poor Niagra.” And not to be mean about it, but these falls also boast 275 drops compared to Niagra’s four. Ouch.
The falls were known and revered for centuries by the Mbyá-Guaraní Indigenous people who lived in the surrounding rainforest and from whence the landmark gets its name (Iguazú translates to “big water”, a marvel of understatement). The Spanish first came across them in the 1500s, but over the next several hundred years they were largely forgotten by Europeans (in the 1800s, an Argentine businessman would sell the land at auction with the description “a block of jungle that borders several waterfalls” – surely one of the seven wonders of understatement in history).
Access and Trails
The two closest towns to the Iguazú Falls are Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz de Iguaçu in Brazil, both of which are home to commercial airports. The Igauzú National Park (or Iguaçu National Park, on the Brazilian side) can be reached from either town by bus in under an hour. You can also take a bus from either country’s capital city, although this will take much longer (around 20 hours). Another option is to reach the park via bus from Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este, with cheaper domestic flights available between here and the capital of Asunción. If you want to stay at the park itself, your only option on the Argentine side is Gran Meliá Iguazú Hotel. The rooms are not cheap, but the views and facilities are gorgeous. If you’re not staying in Brazil, we definitely recommend ducking across the border for a delicious Churrascaria, a traditional Brazilian barbecue.
Once inside the park, there are six main trails you can follow, ranging from 655 to 3,600 metres in length and with varying degrees of difficulty. The 1,750 metre Superior Circuit offers panoramic views on the falls and surrounding national park, though it does not include views of the Devil’s Throat, the park’s largest drop and one of its main attractions (this is best enjoyed via the aptly-named Devil’s Throat Circuit, 2,200 metres in length). None of the trails are too treacherous, but you definitely want to take along a good-quality raincoat and stash all your belongings in a light-weight waterproof backpack to avoid water damage from the spray that occurs once you get anywhere near the falls. As always when travelling outside of major cities, it’s also a good idea to bring along a well-stocked first-aid kit.
A word on visas: if you’re going to be crossing between the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the falls, make sure your visas allow for this.
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