North America has Niagara Falls. Africa has Victoria Falls. South America’s equivalent is the massive Iguassu Falls on the border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. It is considered one of the seven new natural wonders of the world.
How big are these falls? When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw them, she said “Poor Niagara.”
There are more than 275 different cascades spilling over the three-mile-wide edge where the Iguassu River drops between 200 and 270 feet before splitting into two rivers below. Iguassu is three times wide than Niagara and wider than Victoria. The biggest drop is at the Devil’s Throat (or Gigante del Diablo) which drops some 80 meters and creates a permanent mist cloud at its base.
The falls are located in what has become known as Destination Iguassu, which combines three separate cities: Foz do Iguacu in Brazil; Puerto Iguazu in Argentina; and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Combined there are more than a million people living in the overall metropolis, offering a diverse mix of international cuisines, shopping, entertainment and languages.
While the falls themselves are the main attraction, Destination Iguassu offers a wide variety of events, activities and things to do and see. Not far away is the massive Itaipu Hydroelectric plant and reservoir, which provides some 20 percent of Brazil’s electricity needs, and more than 90 percent of Paraguay’s. Tours of the massive plant are popular, and the nearby Itaipu Lake Thermal Water Park offers boating, splashing, swimming and sunning fun in the park’s naturally heated waters.
The Parque das Aves, or Bird Park, near the falls, offers a sanctuary to more than 150 species of birds from across the continent and around the world in its authentic rainforest setting. Visitors can wander through the protected aviaries in the park to encounter everything from toucans to macaws.
The rainforest is also home to the indigenous Guarani tribe as well as howler monkeys, toucans and the coati, a raccoon-like creature with a long tail and an affection for tourists bearing food! In addition to numerous fall-viewing sites on both sides of the river, the area includes natural preserves, hiking trails and a nearby native village where the Guarani still cultivate and harvest the native yerba mate, a shrub whose leaves are used to make a drink that combines the caffeine of coffee, the relaxation of green tea and the nourishment of chocolate. It’s no wonder the natives have used yerba mate in religious ceremonies for centuries.
Your Iguassu Falls Experience is centered at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, located within the Igaussu National Park overlooking a portion of the massive waterfalls. In addition to the hotel’s luxury accommodations, daily Brazilian breakfast, numerous swimming pools and activities, you will be invited to join a regular morning nature walk through the surrounding rainforest to one of several overlooks to the falls.
Your Experience will include an afternoon visit to the nearby Bird Park, where you can wander through the aviaries, snap pictures of the friendly birds and go behind the scenes to learn about the scientists studying and working to protect some of the rare and threatened species within the park.
You will have plenty of opportunities during your visit to experience more of the Iguassu Falls.
Open-air Jeeps will take you deep into the rainforests, where wild orchids and other fauna grow in abundance, to visit the hidden Macuco Falls. Then, boarding a twin-engine powerboat, you’ll shoot the rapids and venture close to the waterfalls, feeling the amazing power of this natural wonder. Expect to get wet as the misty spray creates a permanent raincloud effect on the river.
There will be plenty of time to explore the entire Destination Iguassu area, with its quaint local shops, fine cafes and restaurants and even an active casino.