Located on the border of Brazil and Argentina and shared by two UNESCO-listed national parks, the exquisite Iguassu Falls are distinguished as one of South America’s top natural wonders. This semicircular two-mile waterscape is likely the result of a volcanic eruption and the steady movement of tectonic plates, and was officially ‘discovered’ in 1541 by Spanish explorer Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. Here’s what you need to know about this stunning site.
Famous first take
Iguassu Falls, which roughly translates to “big water” in the local Guarani language, is visually staggering. It’s taller than Niagara Falls and almost twice as wide, and when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw this mighty cataract she reportedly exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!”
Iguassu is surrounded entirely by subtropical paradise, which thrives on the constant cloud of mist formed by the cascading cataracts. This makes the broadleaf forest flanking the falls a perfect place for diverse species, including jaguars, giant anteaters, howler monkeys and 2,000 different types of vascular plants.
When to visit
The falls are at their peak during the hot, rainy season from November to March, when the rate of water plunging over the edge can reach 450,000 cubic feet per second. During the drier months, however, crowds and the flow of water lessen and you’re better able to see the rocky outcrops and islands that run along Iguassu’s rim.
The best vantage point
Want an even more impressive view of this already awe-inspiring vista? Cross into Argentina to see the endless rush of water at La Garganta del Diablo, or the Devil’s Throat. This U-shaped cataract is comprised of 14 falls, and at 269 feet high, 492 feet wide and 2,297 feet long is the largest and most famous section of Iguassu.
Legend has it
According to Guarani legend, a god created the waterfall when he was jilted by his would-be bride, Naipí. This beautiful aborigine girl ran away with her mortal lover, Tarobá, and the infuriated god sliced the Iguassu River in two, thus sentencing the runaways to an eternal fall in their canoe.
Know before you go
The impact of Iguassu’s 275 individual falls creates vast sprays and clouds of mist as the water splashes as far 269 feet below. So, although the Argentinian side of the falls gets you arguably closer, you’re bound to get wet no matter where you’re standing. Keep all valuables in a waterproof bag, and remember that if you want to see the falls from both sides, you need to bring your passport; US citizens need a visa to enter Brazil.
Have you ever seen Iguassu Falls in person? Tell us about the experience below!