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Iguazu Falls, Cataratas estancias, hotels, travel & tours via Buenos Aires

Iguazu Falls is one of the most visited places in the Argentine province of Misiones and one of the most amazing natural attractions in the world.  In the local language, Guaraní, the term “Iguazu” means great waters.  Discovered in 1541 by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and established in 1984 as Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Iguazú Falls, called Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, lie on the border between the Brazilian state of Parana and the Argentine province of Misiones surrounded by two National Parks, one in each country. Both are subtropical rainforests that are host to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna and are home to the typical wildlife of the region: tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and cayman.

Iguazu Falls is one of the most magnificent and largest waterfalls in the world.  Iguazu Falls extends over 2,700 m (nearly 2 miles) of the Iguazu River and includes 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape.  Devil’s Throat is the tallest at 80 m in height. 

The falls are the result of a volcanic eruption.  During the rainy season, the flow of water over the falls can reach 12,750 cubic meters per second.  However, these details do little to describe the actual grandeur of the falls - tremendous amounts of water thunder down 269 feet prompting Eleanor Roosevelt to exclaim “Poor Niagara” her visit.  Taller than Niagara Falls and four times its width, Iguazu falls are divided by various islands into separate waterfalls.  In addition to Devil’s Throat, other notable falls include San Martin, Bossetti and Bernabe Mendez

Local legend tells of a large snake called “Boi” who lived in the river.  To calm its ferocity, aborigines used sacrifice a woman annually as an offering.  As the story goes, once a brabe guarani aborigine kidnapped the woman marked for sacrifice and saved her by escaping down the river.  Boi burst into anger and bent its body splitting the river into cataracts separating the kidnapper from the rescued woman. 

Visitors can access the falls from the two main towns flanking them:  Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, and the Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is nearby.  The Iguazu National Park of Argentina and Iguacu National Park, Brazil shares the falls, but two thirds of the falls are on the Argentinean side of the river.

On the Brazilian side of the falls there is a long walkway along the canyon that extends to the lower base of Devil’s Throat.    From the Argentine side, access is facilitated by an environmentally friendly train, the Rainforest Ecological Train (Ecologico de la Selva) which takes visitors to various walkways overlooking the falls.  The train can transport up to 120 guest at a time over nearly 5 miles to the Cataras and Garganta Stations (the Waterfalls and Devil’s Gorge Stations).  Presently, nearly a million visitors use this train annually.  There is also the Paseo Garganta del Diablo, a one-kilometer-long trail that brings visitors directly over the falls of the Devil's Throat. Other walkways allow access to the elongated stretch of falls on the Argentine side and to the ferry that connects to the San Martin Island.

From the Argentine Visitors’ Center, visitors can walk down trails separated into two basic circuits: an upper path and a lower path.   The lower path leads to the base of the falls, where the spray dampens visitors. It is a unique experience and well worth the effort and inconvenience.  From this route, visitors may also take a boat to Isla San Martín.  The upper path offers unforgettable panoramic views from a footbridge. 

Adventure lovers can find access to more intense circuits.  The jungle surrounding the falls offers many opportunities for tourists to enjoy them including the Macuco Trail, a 3 km. walking path meandering through the dense jungle.   Almost 500 species of wild fowl inhabit the area long with 80 species of mammals along with an extraordinary variety of reptiles, fish, insects and butterflies. 

Private operators in the area offer 4x4 excursions into the jungle and semi-rigid rafts with powerful engines are available to take visitors upstream into the mists created by the cascades.  Another option is to take a rowboat in the upper river region to view the wildlife and foliage surrounding this delta region. 

The best time to see Iguazu Falls is in the spring and autumn as in winter the water level is substantially lower and summer is sweltering with heat and humidity.  There are hotels on both sides of the falls and Argentina Countrywide can assist you with finding suitable accommodations and arranging tours. 

Resources:

(Spanish) Official Government Website  
(English) World Heritage Site
(English) The New 7 Wonders of the World
(English) Video of the Falls
(Spanish) Ecologico de la Selva  (Rainforest Ecological Train)

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