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The impressive Foz do Iguazu Waterfalls between Brazil and Argentina are one of the Natural Wonders of the World with stunning views and many activity options. The Iguazu Falls constitute a spectacular landscape of about 275 massive waterfalls, located on the border between Argentina and Brazil, where the Iguazu River (in Spanish: Iguazu, in Portuguese: Iguaçu) tumbles over the basalt edge of the Paraná Plateau. Along the 2.7 kilometer long edge, numerous islands divide the wide curtain of the falls into hundreds of individual jumps and cataracts which are between 60 and 80 meters high.
Iguazu Falls Travel and Tourism Information
About half of the river’s water falls into a narrow U-shaped chasm which is called the Devil’s Throat, and is 82 meters high, 150 meters wide, and 700 meters long. Water pours into Iguazu’s Devil’s Throat from three sides, and depending on the water level in the river, mist rises between 30 meters and 150 meters from it, so that at certain hours of sunny days rainbows can be seen from several points along the falls. Their shape allows for spectacular views and special suspended walkways take travelers to viewpoints where they can look into the Devil’s Throat from above, or are surrounded 260 degrees by waterfalls.
The border between Argentina and Brazil runs right through the Iguazu Falls, so that Argentina owns about 75% of the actual falls and Brazil 25%. Both countries established National Parks on their sides of the falls to protect the natural ecosystem of the river and waterfalls. Both sides of the Iguazu Falls can be visited in separate excursions, and offer distinct views and experiences. In Argentina, the Rainforest Ecological Train takes visitors on a tour through the forest to two distinct hikes. Both parks offer speedboat tours on the river until right under some of the smaller falls. In Brazil, rafting through the river rapids, abseiling and tree-climbing with views of the falls are a popular activities amongst travelers to Iguazu, who can also discover the abundant nature filled with orchids, butterflies, colorful birds, monkeys, ‘quatis’ and other wildlife.
The Iguazu Falls National Parks are accessible from Brazil’s town of Foz de Iguaçu and the Argentinean town Puerto Iguazu, which offer good tourism infrastructure with hotels of all categories, good restaurants and entertainment options. Day trips to Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este, a technical visit to the hydroelectric power station Itaipu and a visit to the bird park to see hundreds of exotic species of birds native to the region’s ecosystem are further attractions on a visit to the Iguazu Falls.
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Information About Iguazu Falls Cuisine
Foz do Iguazu cuisine is not considered to be a typical Brazilian one. It is mix of Brazilian and international tastes, mostly Italian and Portuguese. However, just like every where else in Brazil, travelers that go to Foz do Iguazu will find there the delicious Brazilian barbecue, called churrasco, typically served on sticks. Italian pastas and grilled meat are also largely found in the Falls region.
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Information About Iguazu Falls History
Iguazu Falls are considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world and are the most overwhelming and spectacular waterfalls in South America. The falls are over 3km wide and 80m high and their beauty is unsurpassed. They are also one of, if not the major natural attraction in Brazil. At the heart of this immense body of water is the Devil’s Throat, where 14 separate falls join forces, pounding down the 90meter (350ft) cliffs in a deafening crescendo of sound and spray.
Situated on the Rio Iguaçu, the border between Argentina and Brazil, the falls lie 19km (12miles) upstream from the confluence of the Rio Iguaçu with the Rio Alto Paraná. Bridges connect the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu with the Argentinean town of Puerto Iguazú and the Paraguayan city of Cuidad del Este. The Iguaçu falls are situated in the middle of the national park – Parque Nacional Foz do Iguaçu that is divided between Brazil and Argentina.
The Brazilian National Park was founded in 1939 and the area was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1986. Due to the high humidity caused by the spray from the falls the park is very rich in superb flora and fauna. The Itaipú dam, on the Río Paraná 12 km (7.5miles) north of the falls, is the site of the largest single power station in the world, built jointly by Brazil and Paraguay.
It came into operation in 1984 and produces enough electricity to power the whole of Southern Brazil and much of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. The Jesuits set up missions among the Guaíra indians in this region in the early 17th Century. These missions flourished until they were violently attacked a few decades later by the slave-hunting bandeirantes from Sao Paulo and were forced to move further south within Brazil and across the border to Argentina and Paraguay. Although geology research proves that the Iguazu falls were formed over 100 million years ago due to massive volcanic eruptions, the falls are steeped in myth and legend according to ancient native Indian beliefs of the tribes that lived on the borders of the Iguaçu River.
One such legend among the Caingangue indians tells of the creation of the falls as a result of a tragic love story involving the daughter of an indian chief. The best time of year to visit is August-November, when there is least risk of flood waters hindering the approach to the catwalks.
Geological information about the falls dates back to the Triassic period, 120 million years ago, when a series of volcanic eruptions occurred. The first European visitor to the falls was the Spaniard Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, on his search for a connection between the Brazilian coast and the Rio de la Plata: he named them the Saltos de Santa Maria. More than half a century later the Jesuits followed.
The Jesuits set up their first mission among the Guaraní Indians about 1609, in the region of Guaíra, 130 km north of Iguaçu on the border with Paraguay. The missions (aldeias) flourished: cotton was introduced; the Indians wove their own clothes, dressed like Europeans, raised cattle, and built, sculpted and painted their own churches. But in 1627 they were violently attacked by the slave-hunting bandeirantes from Sao Paulo and were forced to move into Paraguay and further south into Argentine Misiones and Brazilian Rio Grande do Sul.
Several leading Jesuits, such as Father José de Anchieta in Sao Paulo, declared that the Indians were to be protected, not enslaved, which put them in direct conflict with the interests of the colonizers. The Jesuits built schools and missions, around which Indian villages sprang up, in an effort to protect them from slave traders. It was because of the Jesuits and their initial success in preventing enslavement of the Indians that the colony turned to Africa for manpower. In 1755 Portugal freed all Indians from slavery, but the effects were negligible. By 1756 the Jesuits were expelled and their missions in southern Brazil and Paraguay put under the control of lay directors who could make profits from the Indians´ forced labor.
All that is left of the Jesuit missions is some ruins, and only few show any signs of their former splendor. Though the falls were well known to the Jesuit missionaries, they were forgotten, except by local inhabitants, until the area was explored by a Brazilian expedition sent out by the Paraguayan president, Solano López in 1863. In the 20th century, the falls have become recognized globally as a major tourist attraction as well as the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant. This huge cataract eclipses Niagara. These falls are an amazing scene of 300 falls, 270 feet high and almost 3 miles wide, filling the place with spray. The neighboring city of Foz do Iguaçu has undergone a population and economic boom in recent years due to the construction of the nearby Itaipú hydroelectric plant.
Construction of the dam began in 1975 and it came into operation in 1984. The dam has now become a tourist attraction in itself. The Iguazu Falls provide power to the 12,600-megawatt Itaipú dam, the largest single power station in the world. The Itaipú hydroelectric project, which covers an area of 1,350 sq km, was built by Brazil and Paraguay and is well worth a visit. The dam is 8 km long; the powerhouse 1.5 km long. Paraguay does not use all its quota of power so this is sold to Brazil, which powers all of Southern Brazil and much of Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais
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Information About Iguazu Falls Culture
The first culture to exist here was amongst the native Indians of the region. Within the culture many legends are told of how the world’s biggest waterfalls were formed. One such legend tells about the Caingangue Indians, living on the borders of the Iguaçu River, who believed that the world was ruled by M´BOY, the snake god, son of Tupa. The chief of the tribe, Ignobi, had a beautiful daughter called Naipi.
Due to her great beauty her father chose to offer her to the god M´BOY as a token of worship, planning for her to be consecrated to live solely for his cult. Among the young men of the Caingangue tribe there was a young warrior called Tarobá, who fell in love with Naipi. On the day the festival of consecration was announced, while the chief and the witch doctor drank cauim (an alcoholic concoction made of fermented maize) and the warriors danced, Tarobá fled with Naipi in a canoe and they were carried down river by the current.
The snake god, M´BOY, was furious when he found out Naipi had run away with her lover and threw himself into the bowels of the earth. He twisted his body with such anger causing a huge fissure, and in so doing created a gigantic waterfall. Swallowed up by the waters, the two lovers were dragged into the immense waterfall. Naipi was transformed into a rock, lying immediately below the falls, lashed by the wild waters. Tarobá was changed into a palm tree standing on the edge of the abyss. Beneath this palm tree is a cave where the vindictive monster eternally watches his victims.
The town of Foz do Iguaçu has a bit of an international flavor, not only due to the tourists going to visit the falls, but due also to people visiting Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, the biggest shopping centre in Latin America. This is a tourist attraction in itself and is a smugglers paradise, attracting mainly Brazilian and Argentinean visitors in search of bargain prices for electrical goods, watches, perfumes etc.
Entering the city of Foz do Iguaçu you can see people carrying enormous heavy bags, at least twice their size, strapped to their backs. Nearing the border control many throw their bags over the side of the bridge, jump down onto the riverbank after them and climb back up the slope with their valuables, undoubtedly worth more than the US$150 allowed duty free by the law. Customs inspectors watch with disinterest. These items are mainly sold on the streets of Sao Paulo and other major Brazilian and Argentinean cities.
The most impressive remains of a Jesuit Aldeia can be found in San Ignacio Mini, a beautiful little town just across the border in the Misiones region of Argentina. San Ignacio was founded on its present site in 1696 and is today maintained by UNESCO as a National Monument. The ruins of parallel blocks of stone buildings, containing one-room dwellings, flanking a 100 sq meter grass covered plaza can be seen, as well as public buildings and a large church with bas-relief sculpture.
The site has a museum with representations of the lives of the Guarani Indians before the arrival of the Spanish and also the work of the Jesuits and the consequences of their expulsion, as well as a fine model of the mission in its heyday. At the height of its prosperity in 1731 San Ignacio contained 4,356 people. In 1767, Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from Spanish territory and the Franciscans and Dominicans then took over.
After the Jesuits had gone, there was a rapid decline in prosperity. By 1784 the town only had 176 Indians remaining and by 1810 there were none left. In 1817 all settlements were evacuated and San Ignacio was set on fire. The village was lost in the jungle until 1897, when it was discovered again and in 1943 the Argentine Government took control.
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Information About Iguazu Falls Weather
The climate in the Iguazu Falls region is humid subtropical with over 1700mm of annual rainfall and no dry season. Relative humidity is between 80-90%. Annual mean temperature is 21°C (70°F).
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Information About Iguazu Falls Natural Aspects
The Iguazu river basin extends over some 62,000 sq km. The Rio Iguaçu rises in the Brazilian hills near Curitiba at an altitude of around 1,200m, from where it flows west for some 1,300 km across the Paraná Plateau, a thick layer of very hard basalt lava formed as a result of a massive Triassic volcanic eruption over 100 million years ago.
On its way it widens majestically, as a result of receiving the waters of about 30 rivers, and sweeps around a magnificent jungle stage, plunging and crashing in tiered falls, which lie at an altitude of 160m at the edge of the plateau on the border with Argentina and Paraguay.
Above the main falls the river, sown with wooded islets, opens out to a width of 4km. There are rapids for 3.5 km above the falls: a 60m precipice over which the water plunges in 275 falls over a frontage of 2.7 km at an average rate of 1,750 cubic meters a second (in 1992 after heavy rains the rate rose to 29,000 meters a second). The most spectacular part is the Garganta del Diablo, visited from the Argentinean side. Downstream is a 28 km long gorge stretching to the Rio Alto Paraná and formed as the river has eroded its way back up the river. The falls are 20m higher than Niagara and about half as wide again.
Above the impact of the water upon basalt rock hovers a perpetual 30m high cloud of mist in which the sun creates blazing rainbows. Viewed from below, the tumbling water in its setting of begonias, orchids, ferns and palms with toucans, flocks of parrots and cacique birds, dodging in and out of the very falls, and myriad butterflies (at least 500 different species), is majestically beautiful. Most of the falls lie in Argentina, which leads the Argentines to claim, ‘Argentina puts on the show and Brazil charges for the view’. The Brazilian side offers a superb panoramic view of the whole falls and is best visited in the morning when the light is better for photography.
The Argentine side offers closer views of the individual falls. At the heart of the Iguazu Falls lies the Devil’s Throat, where 14 separate falls join forces, pounding down the 90-meter cliffs in a deafening crescendo of sound and spray. A catwalk runs to the base of the first level of the falls where you are surrounded by the roaring water, the mist and white foam that are boiling up all around, the green of the jungle, uprooted trees and a 180-degree rainbow. It is an overwhelming sensation.
Due to the biodiverse climate of the falls wildlife is rich in this area, as you would imagine. All throughout the different stages of the falls you can see various species of butterfly, among them the electric blue Morpho, the poisonous red and black heliconius and species of Papilionidae and Pieridae. The air becomes filled with literally hundreds of them and they often land on different parts of your body.
Common also are the quati (South American coati), an animal that looks similar to the raccoon, however it is brown and with a longer tail and a long pointy nose. These animals are so used to tourists that they will come right up to you and want to be your friend. More animals inhabit the national park, of which Iguazu falls is part. Iguaçu is part of a national park of the same name (Parque Nacional Foz do Iguaçu) that is divided between Brazil and Argentina. The Brazilian National Park was founded in 1939 and the area was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1986.
The park covers 170,086 hectares, extending along the north bank of the Rio Iguaçu, and then sweeping northwards to Santa Tereza do Oeste. The subtropical rainforest benefits from the added humidity in the proximity of the falls, creating an environment rich in vegetation and fauna. Most frequently encountered here are red brocket deer, white-eared opossum and monkeys. Jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, puma, margay, white-lipped peccary, bush dog and southern river otter also exist here, but are much harder to see. The endangered tegu lizard is also common.
Birdlife is especially abundant here and toucans, grey-bellied spinetails, antshrikes, kites, black and white hawk eagles, blue ground doves, dark-billed cuckoos, black-capped screech-owls, cardinals, finches and swallows can all be seen. Close to the falls is the Itaipú dam, the world’s largest power station. It measures 8 km long and its 18 turbines have an installed capacity of 12,600,000 KW and produce about 75 billion KW a year, enough electricity to power the whole of Southern Brazil and much of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Governments of Brazil and Argentina are proud to trumpet the accolade, ‘one of the seven wonders of the modern world’ (the only one in South America), which was given to it by the American Society of Civil Engineering in Popular Mechanics in 1995.
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Information About Iguazu Falls Travel Tips
The best times to visit the Iguazu Falls are between August and November, at the end of the rain season, and from December to February during the Brazilian summer.
If you are visiting the falls during the months of June, July, and August we recommend you to bring a raincoat to protect against both the frequent rain and the occasional chilly weather.