Set deep in the heart of eastern South America, where the jungles of Brazil crash into the woods of Argentine Misiones, the great Iguazu Falls remain one of the most coveted tourist spots on the continent. It's easy to see why too! Hailed as the largest single waterfall system in the world, they are the stuff of records, wonders and superlatives. They are UNESCO-attested and have rarely failed to wow all who pass their way. Here are 10 reasons why you need to visit before you die…
1. To check off a superlative from the bucket list
Just like trekking to the top of Everest (the highest mountain in the world) or scaling the heights of Dubai's Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), snorkelling in Australia's Great Barrier Reef (the largest of its kind in the world) or riding camels across the shifting dunes of the Sahara (the biggest desert in the world), a trip to the Iguazu Falls promises to be the stuff of superlatives. Yep, beating the likes of mighty Niagara and the endless roaring cataracts of Victoria Falls to the top spot, the streams at Iguazu represent the single largest waterfall system on Earth! Not bad, eh?
2. To stand on the edge of three nations
Iguazu is not only famous as the spot of the world's single largest waterfall system, but also for its unique geographical position on the tristate join of three of South America's largest countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. This convergence of borders actually happens just a little to the west of the falls proper, and is marked by a series of interesting monuments. On the Brazilian side, between the southern streets of Foz do Iguaçu, there's the green and yellow obelisk of Marco das Três Fronteiras. On the Argentine side there's the Hito Tres Fronteras, which displays the flags of all three countries. And in Paraguay you get the panoramic lookouts of the Balsa Internacional, set atop the cliffs of the flowing Parana River.
3. To shop in Ciudad del Este
The sprawling second city of Paraguay, and the westernmost gateway to the Iguazu Falls besides, really does live up to its nickname as the 'Supermarket of South America'. Amidst the throbbing market streets of San Blas and Camilo Recalde, it's possible to get everything from knock-off fashion goods to cutting-edge electronics, duty-free liquor to luxurious perfume, all for just a fraction of the price you'd pay back at home! Head in armed with oodles of dollars, pesos or reales (whichever currency takes your fancy is fine), and leave with the latest smartphones or stylish new threads!
4. To take an awesome helicopter tour
Okay, so while walking along the lookouts on the Argentine side of the border, or gawping wide-eyed at the falls from the boardwalks of Brazil always promises to be amazing, there's another way to see this great world wonder that's just in a whole other league of drama: by helicopter. Taking to the skies on a chopper is only permitted from the Brazilian part of the falls, and trips will fly by the awesome sections of Devil's Throat, San Martin Island and the San Martin Waterfall.
5. To sail below a massive waterfall
Today, one of the most popular ways to the see the great Iguazu Falls is by boat. Water excursions depart from both the Argentine and the Brazilian sides of the border, with journeys taking passengers out to explore the nooks and crannies and water-sprayed rocks that lurk even beneath the roaring streams of the cataracts themselves. Many visitors note how spiritual the experience can be, while others (particularly those on speed boat tours) talk about adrenaline rushes to shame even bungee jumping!
6. For the rainforests
Whoever said a visit to Iguazu Falls was just about the falls themselves? Not a chance! When the great cataracts come surrounded by primeval rainforests and groves of great teak trees and palms, there's also plenty to see in the way of wildlife, flora and fauna. Just take the great swathes of land encompassed by the Iguazu National Park that straddles the Argentine and Brazilian borders. It ranges more than 672 square kilometers in total, and that's because the mighty waterfalls of Iguazu are just the heart of what is one of South America's most amazing areas. Around them you'll see swinging howler monkeys and rare giant anteaters, harpy eagles and snapping yacare caimans, stalking jaguars and elegant ocelots – the list goes on!
7. To ride the Ecological Rainforest Train
The Ecological Rainforest Train is a truly unique experience that's offered on the Argentine side of the Iguazu Falls. You'll hop aboard a small green locomotive that dates all the way back to 1907, and delve into the wild jungles of the Iguazu National Park. You'll get an insight into the animals and plants that make the Misiones rainforests such an important hotspot for South American biodiversity, all before disembarking at the Garganta del Diablo stop, which sits just one kilometer from perhaps the most gnarly section of the falls!
8. Because it's one of the New7Wonders of Nature
In 2007, Canadian-Swiss explorer and filmmaker Bernard Weber decided to start an initiative to see what folk across the globe considered the new seven wonders of the natural world. 100 million votes and couple of years later, and the prestigious list was finally announced. And what's right there sitting amidst Vietnam's breathtaking Ha Long Bay and the underground river complexes of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines? You guessed it: The Iguazu Falls! Yep, our mighty waterfalls trumped the tiger-spotted Sundarbans of India, the shimmering beaches of the Maldives, Poland's pretty Masurian Lake District, the Galapagos Islands, and even the huge Grand Canyon to one of the coveted top spot!
9. To see the Itaipu Dam
Located just a little way upstream on the Parana River from where the aforementioned tristate between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina can be found, there's another stunning Wonder of the World on the menu for visitors to the Iguazu Falls: the massive Itaipu Dam. That's right, adding a human element to the mix of natural attractions, this 196-meter-high colossus bridges the waterways between Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este. It's famed for its formidable electrical output, which helps to power the metropolises of Sao Paulo and Rio in the east!
10. Because this one's not overrated!
Unlike many of the world's heavily touted must-see attractions, very few visitors depart the Iguazu Falls disappointed with what they've seen. Yes, there are booming crowds here, patrolling the Brazilian boardwalks and clustering around the Argentine lookouts on the south side of the river. Yes, tours of the park and the falls can be a little on the expensive side, and, yes, the spot is darn difficult to get to! However, the moment you see those crashing streams of frothy white water, the glimmering outlines of the perpetual rainbow above the Iguazu River, the verdant rainforests surrounding it all, and the sheer audacity of the roaring Devil's Throat section, those things really won't matter anymore!
If you think it's time you took to the wilds of South America to see wonders like the Iguazu Falls, then be sure to check out our offering of tours in Brazil!
You can find more information on all the tours we offer HERE!
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