Iguazu Falls Facts And Travel Tips
| Iguazu Falls
Natural Wonder of the World:
The votes are in: the Iguazu Falls, having already been a UNESCO World Heritage Site have won their place among the great natural wonders of the world, following a worldwide poll. Spread-eagled along the Argentine-Brazil border, Iguazu boasts 275 separate falls over 2.7km / 1.7miles, some reaching 82m / 270ft in height, and is perfectly set amongst lush, untamed rainforest. One could easily spend a few days absorbing this awe-inspiring spectacle and the stunning side trips ... and many do, with over a million people visiting the Iguazu National Park every year.
The Iguazu Falls, which translates from the native Guarani for 'big water', are an awesome sight as tonnes of water throw themselves over cliffs, and the mist rises into the jungle. They are taller than Niagara Falls, and four times as wide, which led Eleanor Roosevelt to exclaim on her first sight of them: "Poor Niagara!” Technically Iguazu is wider than Victoria Falls too, however, because it is split into numerous distinct individual falls, Victoria Falls has the claim to the largest single curtain of falling water.
How Iguazu Falls Were Formed:
Local legends say that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, but she loved another, a mortal man named Tarobá. The lovers fled together by canoe away from the god, but they couldn’t paddle fast enough. The god, enraged and heartbroken, sliced the river creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.
Geologically it is a slightly different story. One hundred million years ago, volcanic eruptions of basaltic lava broke through the Earth's crust, forming huge layered spillways, several kilometers high. The Iguazu Falls are formed by three of these spillways, mostly covered by water. Horizontal and vertical movement of the continental plates then created vertical cracks or faults in the basalt rock. The principal channel of the Iguassu River runs through one of the faults where the erosion has been the most intense. Several other transversal faults form a series of falls on the Argentinian side. We prefer the legend version.
What to See and Do:
The majority of the falls are in Argentina, with the main attraction being the highest and most impressive Garganta del Diablo, or Devil’s Throat. The Argentina side offers two different trails perfect for walking: the upper falls and lower falls. Walking the upper falls trail takes you across catwalks that cross over several of the falls, allowing you to look over the edges and watch the water fall to and crash on the rocks below - not for the faint-hearted! The lower falls trail allows you to get up close (and get wet!) and gives some excellent views of the falls used in many of the postcards seen in neighboring gift stores.
Whilst the majority of the falls are in Argentina, from the Brazilian side you get an excellent overview of Devil's Throat and the most inclusive and comprehensive panoramic views of the Falls, from both above and below. Why not take an exhilarating boat rides that take you directly into the falls themselves!
Iguazu Falls Travel Tips
• There is really no bad time to visit the Falls with the temperature and climate being fairly consistent throughout the year. Try to visit midweek, if you can; and avoid local holidays, especially Easter week, to avoid excessive queuing.
• Make sure you wear waterproofs and protect your camera as it can get quite wet on some viewpoints. Some people even visit the waterfalls in swimsuits in the summer (Jan - Feb)!
Visitors in wheelchairs or with physical difficulties need not worry: 90% of the Iguazu National Park in Argentina is accessible to people with disabilities.
• Given that you will want to visit both sides of the Falls, border crossing between these countries is fairly relaxed - authorities assume most people are on a day trip across the border. However several nationalities including US, Canadian & Australian passport holders require a visa (around $130) to visit the Brazilian side of the falls which is NOT issued at the border. Although visas are not required to visit Argentina, several nationalities, including Canadian & Australian, are now required to pay an entry request fee varying from $75 - $160 depending on nationality in advance online, valid for multiple entries over a specified period, normally several years. Please check your requirements for Brazil here and Argentina here. European Union passport holders do not normally need a visa to enter Brazil or Argentina or pay an entry fee for tourism.
• You should also check regarding immunization requirements as Australian residents, for example, require yellow fever shots if returning to Australia within 6 days of visiting Brazil. Brazil also requires Yellow Fever immunization prior to entering if your passport shows that you have visited some specific South American countries, such as Guyana.
• The city on the Brazilian side is Foz do Iguaçu, big and reasonably safe by Brazilian standards, but we recommend staying in the small and pretty Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazu which has some of the best hotels and spas in the country.