Say “Argentina” and wine – especially Malbec – comes to mind. But the world’s largest waterfall system, the dramatic Iguazú Falls, lies along Argentina’s border with Brazil. “Amazing” doesn’t really do them justice.
The Iguazú National Park (Parques Nacionales Iguazú (AR) y do lguaçu (Br)) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a few days in the sun-parched wine country of Mendoza, seeing – and occasionally feeling – water drop 270 feet (82 meters) is, well, refreshing.
Yampu Tours booked the day’s tour to Iguazú Falls, as part of a larger trip to Argentina. A high point was an unforgettable boat trip to get up close and personal with water flowing at a rate of 62,000 cubic feet (approximately 1800 square meters) per second.
Yes, it’s humbling. Take look….
1. Devil’s Throat
The Falls, or cataratas in Spanish, are made up of 275 individual “drops,” The most famous grouping is the U-shaped collection known as Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo)- which is about a half-mile wide.
Below, with other falls joining in, you can see Brazil to the right and Argentina to the left.
The name Igauzú comes from the indigenous tribes’ words ‘y’ meaning ‘water’ and ‘usaú’ meaning ‘big.’ Yes and yes.
2. The Legend
Of course, a natural wonder of this magnitude is bound to have some mythology and this one involves star-crossed lovers. As the story goes…..
A deity wanted to marry a beautiful maid named Naipí but she preferred her mortal lover, Tarobá. Together they took off in a canoe, paddling madly down the Rio Iguazú to escape.
You know how vengeful a jealous deity can be: he spliced the river thereby capturing the couple in the waterfall for all eternity.
And still, today, they are in there somewhere….
3. Getting around
Several groupings of falls have place names, in addition to Devil’s Throat.
Getting around the park is easy as an environmentally friendly train takes visitors to a web of catwalks that wind about the main viewing stations.
With a prudent and admirable concern for wild animal welfare, a portion of the park’s trails, the “Circuito Inferior,” on the lower river, was closed on the day I visited due to newborn pumas. All infants and moms deserve some peace and quiet.
4. “Jungle” Boat Trip – You WILL get wet!
With prior reservations (arranged by Yampu Tours), we ambled on to the transport for the 20-minute ride to the dock, accompanied by a guide with strong knowledge of local flora and fauna.
Atención: Dry bags for valuables and lifejackets!
The boats are steady and safe, but I’d recommend changing into a bathing suit or at least having a change of clothes. And here’s why:
As you can see, everyone records the view.
Quite drenched, we returned from this adventure. Even on a bright, warm day, I wished I had a change of clothes.
5. Furry Friends – but take care!
Two adorable native species mingle with the visitors – small monkeys and coatis, a cousin of raccoons but with a long snout. They are very sweet, but mind the caution sign; a bite or a scratch would ruin the day.
I didn’t see any monkeys, but coatis, little furry things that were disturbingly rodent-like, were abundant…..
Things to know before you go:
Arrange a guide beforehand, including reservations for a boat trip The park requires a guide for groups of 5 or more. Apart from that, you’ll be happy to have this all done beforehand and not worry about parking, navigating the park, etc. There are plenty of local guiding services if you don’t book with a tour operator, as I did. They can advise on appropriateness/restrictions on children on the boat.
You’ll want a change of clothes if you do the boat trip, or plan to change into a bathing suit. There are changing rooms near the boat launch. All can easily fit into the dry bag so they are protected from the spray. The boat trip takes about a half hour. It is appropriate for children, but certainly not toddlers.
The park has plenty of bathrooms and cafes for a light meal or snack, or a bottle of water. And, of course, souvenirs.
Sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses are a MUST, of course. I visited during the ‘shoulder season’ of the early autumn, but it was still very warm and a bit humid.
Detailed information about the park, activities, and accommodations…..
Have you been to Iguazu Falls? Please add to the conversation in the comments below!