Iguazzu Falls: Memories to last for a lifetime

brasilobserver - Nov 10 2014
Iguazzu Falls (Photo: Divulgation)

(Leia em Português)

By Kate Rintoul and Michael Landon

Spanning the border between Brazil and Argentina, the Iguazz Falls are one of the most visually and acoustically stunning natural wonders of the world. Taller and twice as wide as Niagara Falls, the waterfalls are created as the almost three kilometre wide Iguaçu (Spanish: Iguazú) River drops vertically some 80 meters in a series of spectacular cataracts, producing vast sprays of water.

The river, aptly named after the indigenous term for “great water”, forms a large bend in the shape of a horseshoe that is shared between the Brazilian Iguazzu National Park and its Argentinean sister, the Iguazú National Park, before flowing into the mighty Parana River less than 25 kilometres downriver.

For an unforgettable experience, visitors can either witness the awesome power of the falls up close at the Devil’s Throat (Garganta do Diabo), or enjoy a more panoramic view of a series of cataracts and the surrounding subtropical rainforest on a hike across the breadth of the natural wonder.


Where to stay


Even though the Design Concept Hostel has only been open for less than a year, this exceptionally designed residence is already gaining fans from all corners of the world. The considered interior design, variety of room configurations and slick furnishings make this no ordinary hostel. Add to that a high spec modern kitchen, plunge swimming pool and well stocked bar (with some fantastic world and Argentine beers and wines) this really is a wonderful place to stay that will keep your spirits high after you return from the waterfalls.


Where to eat


The border city of Foz do Iguaçu is a melting pot of different cultures and influences and there are some great ways to experience this through food. With a Lebanese population of over 20,000, Foz has some lovely Middle Eastern restaurants, with Castelo Libanês one of the best. Highlights include the flatbreads, kibes and mini lamb esfihas. Truly authentic in its style and menu, the restaurant abides by Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and does not serve alcohol. In its place are delicious fresh juices, with Turkish coffee and tea.

If you are a traveller that abides by the ‘When in Rome philosophy’ then you need to head to the best Brazilian churrascaria in town – Buffalo Branco. With a steady supply of different meats and cuts (with some creative cooking techniques on display), this is a great place to enjoy what Brazil is known for. Far from being a sideshow, the extensive salad bar is a cabinet of beauty, with amazing locally inspired dishes including tabbouleh, sushi and regional vegetables.


Things to do

The incredible Iguazzu National Park offers many ways of seeing and experiencing the falls, here’s our top choices.

Bike Ride: With limited car access to the park, the only means of entry are by one of the lovely custom-designed electric buses or bicycles with the Iguassu by Bike company. The latter gives a great first impression to the expansive park – undulating hills and quiet paths mean you can really connect with the joy of riding and arrive at the falls full of energy.

Trails: There are several trails throughout the park, all with different lengths, intensities and vantage points. The trail beginning at Cataratas Hotel is the most popular as it isn’t too taxing and has the most impressive views. With paths that take you right into the falls, the platforms are perfect for capturing selfies against the stunning backdrop of the falling water.


Macuco Safari: This is the most high-octane way to experience the spectacle of the falls at close range. The three-part trip starts off with a woodland safari via jeep, followed by a short trail down to the waterside, and then climaxes with a bumpy journey upstream and directly into one of the cataracts – incredible fun but not one for the faint hearted!

Have a meal to remember: With more of us cooking at home, we demand more drama and theatre from dining out and Porto do Canoas certainly delivers on this. The panoramic balcony and dining room overlooking the falls without doubt offer one of the best dining views in the world. The plentiful buffet means that everyone can eat what they love – great if you are travelling with family and the service is warm, fast and unobtrusive, allowing you to pay full attention to enjoying the experience.

Helicopter Ride: This is the best means of fully appreciating the great expanse of forest in the national park and seeing the full expanse of the waterfalls in all their glory. Delivered by Hellisul – (the same company that provides great tours of Rio de Janeiro) the excellent pilots make the 20 minute flight an exhilarating experience as they angle the chopper specially so you can get some jaw-dropping birds-eye views from above.

Parque das Aves: The forests of the national park are so dense that they are pretty impenetrable, so you can only imagine the variety of bird species that live there. Luckily, just across the road, Parque das Aves gives you the chance to get up close and personal with an amazing variety of tropical birds including flamingos, parrots and three species of very confident Toucan.



Other attractions

As it is home to so many cultures, Foz do Iguaçu has an impressive Mosque for the Islamic population and also a Buddhist Temple with an astonishing collection of gigantic religious statues in its impressive manicured garden overlooking Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.

In addition to seeing one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, a visit to Foz also means you can experience one of the seven modern man made wonders – the Itaipu Dam.


The mind-boggling construction harnesses the power of the Parana River that divides Brazil and Paraguay. Taking over 30 years to complete, this is one of the largest man-made structures on earth and produces enough energy to meet 17% of Brazil’s needs and 90% of Paraguay’s. Even if you haven’t previously given much thought to hydroelectricity, the sheer scale and ambition of this human project is very interesting to learn about on a tour of the dam.

While the dam has drawn some controversy, chiefly because of the destruction of the Guaíra Falls, Itaipu actively seeks to make social improvements to the region and holds itself as now being focused on social responsibility for the surrounding area. The technology centre created in the old worker’s barracks gives free space to student start-ups and the Oscar Niemeyer designed Federal University of Latin American Integration (or UNILA) is being built on the site, making Itaipu a beacon of the soft power Brazil is so renowned for.