Argentina/Brazil: Iguazú National Park

South American beauty

The Skinny
Waterfalls captivate us with their power and jaw-dropping beauty: Niagara, Victoria, and Angel Falls spring to mind as quickly as they roar over the precipices they relentlessly carve. Nestled between the Argentinean and Brazilian borders (and a stone's throw from Paraguay), the Iguazú Falls join the elite of the world's most spectacular waterfalls, plunging 262 feet as part of a roaring semi-circular cascade. The 1986 movie The Mission used them as a backdrop, scooping a cinematography Oscar as a result. Take in the awesome panorama of the voracious cataract from the Brazilian side in the morning (when the light is good for photography), and then cross into Argentina where you can get up close to the individual falls.

Iguazú: Nature’s Crescendo
The persistent spray at the foot of the falls gives life to numerous species of flora and fauna in the sub-tropical canopy; the park as a whole is home to giant otters, anteaters, jaguars, and over 250 species of butterfly. Hike the short trail, starting at the visitor's center at the Hotel Internacional, to the foot of the falls, where you can board a launch to Isla San Martín, an island spotted with trails to less visited cascades and swimmable pools. Longer trails away from the falls include a hike to a bird marsh (Bañado Trail) and the Sendero Macuco Nature Trail (4.5 miles; allow 2.5 hours), which promises nature and swimming spots in equal measure.

The Short
When to go: Year-round (the summer months, December to February, are busy and more expensive).
Other activities: Hire a mountain bike at the visitor's center.
Farther afield: Head to the village of Bernardo de Irigoyen on Route 101 and explore Iguazú National Park away from the crowds. Outfitters based near the falls organize rafting and 4WD tours in the forest.
Best not to:

  • Approach the wildlife, it bites.
  • Takea helicopter ride—the noise disturbs the critters. Let the falls do the talking.

Published: 22 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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