In the middle of Atlantic Forest, 275 waterfalls career off a horseshoe-shaped chasm that straddles the border between Brazil and Argentina. South America’s colossal natural water feature ranks highly in the continent’s list of wonders: popular, yes, but underwhelming it is not.
There are multiple ways to explore the falls (also spelled Iguaçu or Iguassu in Brazilian Portuguese) and we recommend taking the time to visit both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides. The two sides also vary in their strenuousness, from hikes over grated walkways taking you past all the major viewing points, to boat safaris up to (and sometimes under) the cascades. Our specialists can advise on the best ways to experience the falls depending on your fitness level (and your willingness to take a soaking). We also suggest allowing longer than a day if you really want to get a feel for the full spectacle.
The legends of the Guarani (the local indigenous people) tell of how the Iguazu Falls were created when the wrathful Serpent God, M’Boi, decided to rent the earth asunder, causing the Iguazu River to plunge uncontrollably into a precipice before rushing away through a steep-sided gorge.
The falls seem to appear out of nowhere in the middle of subtropical forest, and even on the approach, their torrents of water (sometimes white, sometimes smoky grey, and sometimes chocolate brown, depending on recent rainfall) can be heard before they can be seen. Above the treeline, the clouds of mist gathering in the sky first indicate the falls’ presence.
The Argentinian side offers the most adventure, while the Brazilian side is more sedate — though the views are no less dramatic. In some ways they’re more satisfying: you observe the falls from slightly farther away, from a walkway suspended over the river, and so you’re able to take in the whole panorama. Rainbows often hang, gossamer-like, over the cataracts.
On the Argentinian side, you reach the falls via a Toytown-esque cogwheel train, which winds its way through the jungle, suddenly emerging at the top of the waterfalls. From here, you have the option to explore the circuits of stepped, grilled walkways that meander along the higher and lower levels of the falls, sometimes diving deep into the jungle.
The walkways all lead to the falls’ showstopper, the feature known as the Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat). This is an immense crescent where various branches of the river converge, creating a spray-whipped concertina of 14 waterfalls that’s 82 m (269 ft) high. The roar is deafening, and the bottom invisible. It looks like a smoking volcano, or a chthonic throat belching out steam (and according to the Guarani, this is where M’Boi still lurks). Forty-minute boat trips take you to the base, spattering you with water.
Boat trips to the falls also operate on the Brazilian side. Some are bumpy white-water rides during which you’ll most definitely get wet; others are more relaxed cruises where a waterproof isn’t required.
The Brazilian side also offers non-water-related activities and attractions. They include a 5 km (3.1 mile) trek through the rainforest, and a much-admired bird park and sanctuary, where you’re likely to see different species of parrots, hummingbirds and butterflies.
Suggested itineraries featuring Iguazú Falls
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Iguazú Falls, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Iguazú Falls
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Accommodation choices for Iguazú Falls
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Ideas for experiencing Iguazú Falls
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Iguazú Falls, and which use the best local guides.