The Iguazu Falls are simply the world's most dramatic waterfalls. "Discovered" in 1541 by Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (who named them the Saltos de Santa Maria), their evocative native name means Great Water, which is an understatement if ever there was one. Eleanor Roosevelt famously summed them up with the exclamation: Poor Niagara!
One third of the waterfalls, which stretch for over two miles along the river Iguazu, are on the Brazilian side, but the most dramatic experience of the Cataratas (as they are usually called locally) is to be had on the Argentine side of the river, where you can see the falls eyeball to eyeball, and enter the great curtains of spray, getting soaked but feeling exhilarated.
The nearest town to the Falls on the Argentine is the rather nondescript little municipality of Puerto Iguazu, where a few hotels and restaurants cater for tourists along a straggle of subtropical streets. Most people prefer to stay in one of the many lodge-style accommodations closer to the national park that protects the surrounding jungle, and some even opt for one of the two hotels within the Brazilian and Argentine parks themselves. On the Brazilian side, the fast growing city of Foz do Iguacu is by contrast an ebullient, even slightly tough place, but it offers a wide range of accommodation, eateries and nightlife.
Access to the Falls is through paying national parks on either side of the border and it is worth making a full day of it on both sides. Crossing the frontier is a relatively fast formality. At the parks you can mostly wander at your own will, but it is well worth going on one of the many tours on offer, which cover a range of degrees of adventure and challenge. These include treks through the jungle, boat rides and all manner of more physical pursuits.
One of the big attractions at Iguazu apart from all that free-fall H2O, is the flora and fauna, which is exuberantly tropical. As well as overfriendly coatis (a cuddly large rat-cum-squirrel), there are armadillos and loads of birds, including toucans, plus huge cobalt-blue butterflies. The best place to see the local birdlife is in the Parque das Aves, on the Brazilian side.
Caraguata sn Esquina
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