For being one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world, I am amazed that more Americans do not know about the Foz do Iguaçu. It was unknown to us too, but with more trip planning it became an essential site and it fit seamlessly with our gringo trail through South America.
Foz do Iguaçu from Brazil
The waterfalls are at the border of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Paraguay used to have waterfalls, Guaíra Falls, they were so big that they had the highest volume of water flow in the world. Now the Itaipu dam and reservoir sits in its place. Nevertheless, Iguaçu still exists and it is thrilling. The main viewing of the waterfalls is from a series of over-looking platforms from the Brazil side and weaving pathways through the waterfalls on the Argentinean side.
For anyone coming here, see the Brazil side first to get the big picture views, then go to the Argentinean side the next day to get up close, wet and personal. Spend at least three nights, but these tiny cities have many other great activities and ecological reserves, Carmen and I left thinking we would have liked two more days. The region is a jungle with lots of great wildlife. We saw wild monkeys, toucans and coati.
When in Brazil, eat moqueca. This stew of seafood, manioc and vegetables is hearty and perfect for a long day of hot humid hiking. No car necessary, we grabbed a local bus for about $2 and it took us right to the park entrance. We started along the south end of the park moving from vista to vista and worked our way to the biggest of the falls.
Us at the falls
The awe-struck feeling that hit me when looking out into the valley was intense. My heart started throbbing rapidly, my ears became deaf by the thunder of the falling water and all that I could do was stare out, mouth open and probably a little drool hanging off my lip. I was dumbfounded by the beauty of it all.
Foz do Iguaçu with boat underneath
There is not just waterfall, there are hundreds. A huge lake drains over cliffs that are 100-350ft. The volume of water is breathtaking, 62,000 cu. ft. per second! That is basically the entire volume of Lake Arrowhead in 2.5 seconds and Lake Anza in 0.5 seconds. You look down and there are boats driving underneath the “smaller” waterfalls. In a rush of excitement Carmen and I boarded one of these boats and we realized that this off-shoot waterfall was not small! volkswagen volumes of water dumped on us every second. With my yells “¡Ya estoy muy sucio!” and “Otra vez.” The driver dunked me another time.
Rainbow and Garganta do Diabo in distance
The last platform is the grand finally- a concrete walkway and vista right in the mouth of the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat). You stand so close that it is impossible to stay dry or even take pictures. This is not because we stood underneath the waterfall, but because the mist engulfed us in a wet cloud. This also made for some colorful rainbows.
A five minute walk from the Brazil-side entrance is a phenomenal bird park. I usually dislike zoos, but I was fascinated to see one dedicated to tropical birds. There were so many colors and patterns, I had no idea that this many birds even existed. In one of the “experience” cages Carmen and I stood in a small hangar with thirty or so macaw parrots of bright red, purple, blue and orange. Suddenly they all dove off of their perches right at us. They swooped and we dropped to the ground covering our heads imagining that this was a colorful version of the Hitchcock film, “The Birds.” We survived and were entertained to find out that they were just flying to the other side.
Foz do Iguaçu is a beautiful place. It is memorable in every way, an essential destination to every South American trip. I am so ecstatic that Carmen and I had this opportunity.