Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

Iguaçu National Park in Brazil provides panoramic views of the seemingly endless waterfalls cascading over forested cliffs in Argentina. Very few landscapes in the world exceed the beauty of Iguaçu Falls.

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1 Visitors Center at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Iguaçu Falls creates a stunning border between northeast Argentina and southern Brazil featuring over 275 waterfalls. Walking paths are available in both countries. The Brazilian side is spelled Iguaçu Falls (Cataratas do Iguaçu in Portuguese). It is located within the sprawling 458,000 acre Iguaçu National Park. The Visitors Center is about 11 miles from the city of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. The park welcomes over 1.7 million tourists a year.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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2 Belmond Hotel das Cataratas at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

After purchasing a ticket at the Visitors Center, you will ride on a double-decker bus to the falls. There are two stops along the way for people on special excursions or to drop off hikers. You want the third station next to the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. This is the only hotel in Iguaçu National Park. Guests enjoy great access to all of the scenery. For everyone else, the park closes at 6:00. Allow three to four hours for your visit to Iguaçu Falls. Morning is the best time to arrive when the crowds are less and the sunshine is best. The park opens at 9:00.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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3 First Memorable View of Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

As you exit the bus, you will hear the falls. Hurry down three short flights of stairs to the viewing platform. Be prepared to be amazed! You will always remember your first glimpse of this expansive terrace of cascading water. Photos, videos and superlatives fail to do it justice. You have finally arrived at the start of the best waterfalls in the world. No wonder it is among the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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4 Walking Trail at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

The walking path along Iguaçu Falls on the Brazilian side is Trilha das Cataratas (Trail of the Falls in Portuguese). The route is less than a mile through a forest canopy with several observation points along the way. This downhill walkway is an easy hike for most people. Unfortunately, Cataratas Trail is not handicap friendly. This travel guide shows the sweeping vistas at each major lookout along the trail. Another exciting way to experience the falls is aboard a zodiac boat. Macuco Safari offers an exhilarating ride along the river rapids before getting very close to the plunging cascades. Your clothes and smile will get soaking wet.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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5 Subtropical Rainforest at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Everything is lush and green at Iguaçu Falls, thanks in large part to the constant floating mist. This is a subtropical broadleaf rainforest. It spreads over 615,000 acres in the combined Brazilian and Argentine Iguazu parks. The Brazil side is largest at about 419,000 acres. This is a subset of the Atlantic Forest. Mata Atlântica (in Portuguese) covers more than a half million square miles of Brazil’s east coast and inland as far as the Paraguay border.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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6 History of Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

The land surrounding Iguaçu Falls has been inhabited for about 10,000 years. The first European to uncover the falls was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541. He named his discovery Saltos de Santa Maria. Cabeza de Vaca was the same Spanish conquistador who explored today’s southern United States from Florida to California. In 1897, Brazilian army officer Edmundo de Barros suggested a park be created to preserve the natural beauty of Iguazu Falls. 42 years would pass before his dream was realized. Iguaçu National Park was established in 1939, five years after the Iguazú National Park in Argentina. The park in Brazil became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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7 Formation of Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Volcanic activity in the Paraná Plateau occurred over 150 million years ago. Then seismic events about 200,000 years ago created this sensational series of two-step waterfalls. The steps range in size from 115 to 130 feet. The latter is equivalent to a 12 floor high-rise. The exposed cliffs are basalt, a form of igneous or magmatic rock. The shape, strength and positioning of the basalt columns dictate the flow of water. The edges are constantly eroding at about .5 to .8 inches a year. Iguaçu Falls is an evolving work of art by Mother Nature.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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8 Iguazu River at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Rio Iguaçu (Portuguese spelling) originates in Serra do Mar (Mountain Range of the Sea) in the Brazilian Highlands. It flows about 800 miles before reaching Iguaçu Falls. This gorge is nearly two miles long. The river covers an impressive 19 square miles within the Brazilian and Argentine parks. There are four hydroelectric plants upstream from Iguaçu Falls. They harness the river’s power while regulating water levels to optimize the waterfalls.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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9 Footbridge at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

At the base of Devil’s Throat – the most dramatic of the falls – is a long footbridge. This passarela provides a thrilling perspective of the churning, foaming and roaring Iguazu River as it races beneath your feet and through the valley. Wear a full-length raincoat for this experience. You will get wet. But on a hot Brazilian day, this adventure is as refreshing as it is fun.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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10 World Waterfalls versus Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Iguaçu Falls is always ranked among the five greatest waterfalls in the world. But is it the very best? Its peak drop of 269 feet is not the largest (that honor belongs to Angel Falls in Venezuela at 3,212 feet). Nor does its average flow of 62,000 cubic feet per second compete with the 2.5 million gallons a second at Inga Falls bordering Cambodia and Laos. But “amazing” can rarely be quantified. That is definitely true at Iguaçu Falls. Based on the sheer beauty of its 275 cascades, Iguaçu Falls is often rated as the world’s best.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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11 Rainbow over Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

The more Iguaçu Falls is revealed at every observation point in Brazil, the more you are in awe. The ribbons of water seem endless. Some are thin and delicate. Others are massive displays of churning white. They all glisten in the sunlight. The river swirls as it thunders downstream. Floating plumes of mist are everywhere. And just when you think this scenery cannot be surpassed, a long arching rainbow appears. Sensational!

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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12 Approach to Devil’s Throat at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Devil’s Throat is the most remarkable cascade at Iguaçu Falls. This U-shaped torrent plunges 269 feet, is 492 feet wide and a magnificent 2,300 feet long. The wall of water is impressive from afar. It keeps getting better the closer you get. You can marvel at Garganta do Diabo from several perspectives on both the Brazilian and Argentine sides.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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13 Devil’s Throat Lookout at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

At the end of the Trilha das Cataratas path at Iguaçu Falls, you reach an elevated, three-tier observation point named Naipi Spot. On the lowest level of Devil’s Throat Lookout (Mirante da Garganta do Diablo) is a suspended platform. The sensations here are astonishing. You are enveloped by the power and beauty of Devil’s Throat. The water roars. Clouds of mist dance around you. You keep taking photos and videos to record this crescendo of Iguaçu Falls.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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14 Elevated View of Devil’s Throat at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

After enjoying a close-up of Devil’s Throat from Naipi Spot, enter an elevator behind you. The lift travels 89 feet. This higher position reveals Rio Iguaçu as it approaches the precipice and plunges over the top of Devil’s Throat. Savor the moment! Then you have a few options. You can go to the nearby bus stop for a return ride to the Visitors Center. Extend your sightseeing by walking farther to see the river upstream. Or have a meal at Porto Canoas Restaurant where good food is served amidst great scenery.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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15 Airborne Capuchin Monkey at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Iguaçu National Park is home to many subtropical species including the jaguar, ocelot, puma, toucan and giant anteater. Chances are slim you will spot them. You have better odds of seeing a troupe of capuchin monkeys scurrying among the trees. These are the organ grinder monkeys. They are small – up to 22 inches with an equally long tail – and range in colors from black, brown and white. There is also a pesky critter that will accompany you during your walk: the coati. Coatis are members of the raccoon family. They will stick their long slender nose and claws into the pockets, purses and backpacks of unsuspecting tourists in search of food.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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16 Mother Capybara with Child at Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Another animal you are likely to encounter at Iguaçu Falls is the capybara. This semiaquatic native of South America is the world’s largest rodent. An adult female like this one can measure up to 4.5 feet and weigh over 150 pounds. Watch for them grazing in clusters of 10 to 20 animals.

Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, Rod, Br-469, Km 18 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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17 Helicopter Flights over Iguaçu Falls in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Do you want a thrilling bird’s-eye view of Iguaçu Falls? Next to the entrance of Iguaçu National Park is Helisul Taxi Aéreo. This reputable company has provided over three million people with a nine to ten minute panoramic flight over the park and falls. Helicopter rides are not permitted on the Argentina side, so don’t miss this opportunity. Afterwards, consider extending your fun at a water park, golf course or amusement park. All of these attractions are a short distance away on Avenida das Cataratas (469).

Helisul, Av. das Cataratas, 11130 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-830, Brazil
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18 Macaws at Parque das Aves in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Across the street from Iguaçu National Park is Parque das Aves. This is Latin America’s largest bird park. Inside is a meandering, one-mile footpath where you will see over 1,400 birds representing 150 species. The 40 acre grounds are set in a subtropical rainforest replicating the bird’s natural habitat. One of the best and largest sections is Viveiro das Araras (Portuguese for macaw nursery). Walk inside this enclosure and be encircled by beautiful macaws. The birds perched here are blue-and-yellow and red-and-green macaws. Both are Brazilian natives.

Parque das Aves, Av. das Cataratas, 12450 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85855-750, Brazil
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19 Toucan at Parque das Aves in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Another popular section of Parque das Aves features toco toucans. This common toucan lives in abundance in a large section of eastern and southern Brazil including the region around Foz do Iguaçu. The fascinating feature of this cartoon-like bird is their enormous bill. This yellow-orange bill ranges from six to nine inches long. That is 30% to 50% of the bird’s body. So why is this colorful appendage so big? The primary purposes are mate selection, peeling fruit, regulating body heat and a visual warning to predators.

Parque das Aves, Av. das Cataratas, 12450 - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85855-750, Brazil
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20 Brazilian Obelisk at Marco das Três Fronteiras in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Marco das Três Fronteiras (March of Three Frontiers) is a small theme park featuring a history museum, a replica of a Jesuit mission plus other attractions and special events. Beneath this arch is an obelisk marking the Brazilian border. It triangulates with a similar obelisk across the rivers in Argentina and Paraguay. Collectively, they are called the Three Borders Landmarks.

Marco das Três Fronteiras, Av. Gen. Meira - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-110, Brazil
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21 Three Countries from Marco das Três Fronteiras in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

18 miles downstream from Iguaçu Falls, Rio Iguaçu converges with the Paraná River. This intersection creates the borders of three countries. The gazebo at Marco das Três Fronteiras is in Brazil. In the upper left is Hito Tres Fronteras in Argentina. The riverbank on the right is Paraguay. Río Paraná is the second longest river in South America. It flows for over 3,000 miles before merging with the Uruguay River and finally entering the Atlantic Ocean.

Marco das Três Fronteiras, Av. Gen. Meira - Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85853-110, Brazil
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22 Itaipu Dam in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

The world’s largest hydroelectric dam in terms of energy generated is Itaipu Dam. It is enormous! Measurements are 4.5 miles long and 643 feet high. That height is equivalent to a 65 story skyscraper. Each of the 20 generators can produce 700 million watts a year thanks to the flow of the Paraná River. The electricity is shared between Paraguay and Brazil. The plant is among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Sightseeing tours of this engineering feat are available.

Av. Tancredo Neves, 6702 - Jardim Itaipu, Foz do Iguaçu - PR, 85856-970, Brazil
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