“Poor Niagara!” – Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed as she barely glanced at Iguazu Falls. This breathtaking natural spectacle is located on the border of Brazil and Argentina.
More than one first lady has been captivated by the elements; tourists from all over the world flock to Iguaçu Falls.
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Video: Iguazu Falls
The name in the vernacular of the local Guaraní tribe, who have lived on the banks of the Iguazú River for centuries, means “Big Water”. The river flows for 2.7 km and forms a cascade of 270 individual waterfalls on the edge of a 75 m deep fault. This fault is called the Gargantadel Diablo (“Devil’s Mouth”). The local tribes have formed many naive tales, legends and myths about the emergence of the “Big Water”. The most poetic of these is the legend of the chief’s beautiful daughter, young Naipi. Here’s how it goes:
On the banks of the Iguazu River lived a beautiful chief’s daughter named Naipi. She fell in love with the bravest warrior in their tribe. But alas, she had already been promised in marriage to the divine serpent M’bon. In despair, Naipi and her warrior got into a canoe and sailed down the river, which was then quiet and peaceful. But suddenly M’boi awoke and found that his bride had escaped. In a rage he plunged as hard as he could into the river. The force of the impact cracked the ground and the water rushed into a deep hollow. M’boi turned the brave warrior into a cliff to be whipped and whipped forever by the cruel water. And he turned the beautiful Naipi into a palm tree on the bank of the Great Water. When the wind blows in the evening, the palm tree can stretch out its arms-branches to the beloved in longing, but it will never reach him.
Geologists, on the other hand, believe that the fault was the result of tectonic shifts that took place 100,000 years ago. “The Devil’s Mouth” was formed where the bottom of the river failed, leaving a steep precipice from which cascades of water flow these days.
The Iguazu River is about 1320 kilometers long and is formed from the confluence of the Atuba and Iran Rivers near the Brazilian city of Curitiba. For several miles it flows through the Brazilian province of Paraná, where it defines the border between Argentina and Brazil. This means that the waterfalls occupy the territory of both Brazil and Argentina: 800 m of cascades belong to the former and 1,900 m of the latter. And although the closest you can get to the Devil’s Mouth is from the Argentine side, the most favorable view is from the Brazilian side. Until recently, 7,000 cubic meters of water flowed over the edge of the Devil’s Mouth every second. Now, however, a dam has been built upstream in Salto de Caixa, which has reduced the volume of water by two-thirds. Although Iguazu Falls and the surrounding areas were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, they are still under threat.
Brazil’s Iguaçu National Park is home to many rare and endangered birds and animals and has five types of forests and ecosystems. On the Argentine side, visitors can walk a variety of hiking trails, some of which are laid out literally on the edge of the precipice below the waterfall.
- Location: Iguazu Falls is located on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
- Dimensions: The rift is 2,700 m wide, of which 800 m are in Brazil and 1,900 m in Argentina.
- Mass of water: The height of the cliff is 75 m. Every second 7,000 cubic meters of water fell from it until recently, when a dam was built upstream, reducing the volume of falling water by two-thirds. Now the amount of water in the river depends on the water level in the resulting Salto de Caixa reservoir.
- Discovery: In 1,542 the Spanish navigator Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1490-1557) was the first European to see the falls.
- UNESCO World Heritage List: Iguazu Falls and the two national parks on both sides of the river were added to the World Heritage List in 1986.
How to get there
There are regular flights to Foz to Iguazu from Rio de Janeiro as well as other Brazilian cities, and daily flights from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu, or you can take the Friendship Bridge from Ciudad del Este on the Paraguayan side.
Iguazu Falls – the most powerful waterfall on the planet
This South American landmark is actually a collection of hundreds of large and small cascading streams of water. Sometimes they are referred to as the plural “Iguazu Falls”. There are thought to be 275 of them. But if you look at them, it is not quite clear how the calculation was made. In addition, depending on the season, the volume of streams, and therefore their number, are different.
In our humble opinion, we should not count the number, but simply accept the fact that Iguazu (unlike Angel or Tugela) is a whole water complex, not one powerful stream.
Iguazu Falls are located on the border of Brazil and Argentina in the river with the same name (original Iguazu River), which divides two National Parks (Argentine and Brazilian) with the same name – “Iguazu” of course.
Iguazu Falls on the map
- Geographic coordinates ( -25.695139, -54.436530 )
- Distance from the capital of Brazil is about 1300 km on a straight line
- Distance from Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina about 1100 km as a straight line
- The nearest airport Foz do Iguaçu (original Aeroporto Internacional de Foz do Iguacu – Cataratas) is only 13 km away
The shape of the canyon here resembles the letter “U”. At the lower point of this letter is Devil’s Throat, the largest waterfall in the complex. On the right bank of the river is the Brazilian territory. Here just over 20% of the waterfalls, on the left bank is already Argentina, here the remaining 80%. The total length of the streams is about 2.7 kilometers. The maximum height of the water fall is 82 meters (this is just in the Devil’s Throat). The others do not exceed a height of 60 meters.
Devil’s Throat Falls up close.
Iguazu is the most powerful waterfall on the planet. During the rainy season, the flow rate is up to 13,000 cubic meters per second. And the maximum recorded flow rate was 45,700 m3/second. The record was recorded on June 9, 2014. Even Victoria in Africa and Niagara in America are far behind in this parameter.
The name of this natural wonder is transformed from “Yuasu,” which means “big water” in Guarani. “Y” translates to “water,” and “uasu” means “big.”
The Legend of Iguazu Falls
We have mentioned more than once that the Indians are acknowledged masters at creating legends and myths. Naturally, Igausu also has its own legends.
The most famous of the legends tells of a beautiful girl named Naipu who lived nearby in an Indian tribe. The girl was so beautiful that the Great Indian God himself wanted to take her as his wife. But the girl had a fiancé, and they fled from the tribe in a canoe on the calm and serene water. When God noticed Naipi’s disappearance, he was furious and cut up the river and turned the girl into a stone cliff and her lover into a tree on the bank. That’s how the waterfall was formed, and the lovers still look at each other but can’t reach.
And here’s the scientists’ opinion
Here the meticulous scientists interfered and ruined everything. They have a different opinion on the matter. They claim that the deposits of basalt in these places were formed about 130 million years ago. The faults were the result of volcanic activity, and the landmark itself was 20,000 years ago where the Iguazu River flows into the Parana, which is 25 kilometers northeast on the border with Paraguay. Each year the waterfall, by grinding through the basalt layers, “crawled away” from the Parana by 1-2 meters. As a result it came to where we can see it now.
The first European who discovered this amazing and beautiful place in 1541 was the Spaniard Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He traveled here in search of the fabulous golden city of Eldorado. There are reports that Alvar himself did not really admire these views. Either he had really seen all the sights of the world, or the lust for gold clouded his mind and eyes.
Here we would like to make a digression and remind you what happens to fans of easy money. We recommend reading about the relatively recently discovered Boiling River in Amazonia, where some of other people’s gold seekers have laid their violent heads.
No, Alvar did not boil in it, and so the Old World learned from him about the existence of such a beautiful and powerful landmark in South America. True, the discoverer himself called it the Salto de Santa Maria, but that name did not stick, and soon the place was forgotten altogether. It would appear on maps only in the 19th century.
And now it is one of the most famous sights in the world, attracting up to two million tourists every year. Due to the presence of islands, it was possible to lay footbridges and paths, and observation decks are located almost above the abyss.
Viewpoint at the waterfall
Therefore, it is possible to view all the surrounding beauty as efficiently as possible. The famous Devil’s Throat, the jewel of the whole complex, looks especially attractive. But besides it, there are smaller streams that have their own names. They are Salto Bossetti, Salto Mbigua, Salto San Martin, Salto Santa Maria.
Iguazu Falls in tourism
The tourist infrastructure here is very developed. There are hotels and hostels, cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops and conventional stores. As well as everything related to entertainment for tourists. You can just stroll along the wooden decking and click a lot of pictures, or book a sightseeing tour by helicopter. Special boats will take you to the minimum possible, but the safest possible distance to the noisy streams of falling water.
Boat tours to the bottom of the falls
- During the 1978 drought, the falls nearly dried up and lay dormant for a month
- Another interesting attraction is located 170 kilometers to the south. Mokona is the only parallel waterfall on the planet. Its length reaches three kilometers.
- According to the results of the world competition in 2011, Iguazu Falls was included in the list of 7 natural wonders of the modern world
- The first time she saw such power and beauty, U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed, “Poor Niagara!” She was referring to the fact that Iguazu was larger than Niagara in both height and width. It is about 30 meters higher than Niagara’s and 30 percent wider.
- During the dry season the water level in the river decreases, and instead of a powerful complex you can see only two “modest” streams, each about 700 meters wide. The wet season is characterized by an increase in precipitation up to 2000 mm, respectively, the power of the streams increases significantly
- Since there is a lot of water dust in the air, you can observe a beautiful shimmering rainbow. And at night in the presence of the moon (or better at full moon) you can see the night rainbow
And some more pictures
Hiking paths at Iguazu Falls Devil’s Throat. View from up high The Iguazu Falls take on a special fascination at night. Rainbows above the falls
Iguazu Falls at night