Foz do Iguaçu, the waters of paradise

brasilobserver - Jul 20 2015
Photos: Zig Koch

(Leia em Português)

The city of Iguaçu Falls is surrounded by rivers and has in its subsoil is the second largest aquifer in the world


Foz do Iguaçu, in the triple border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, it is a privileged city by the waters that surround it and are also abundant in its subsoil. It is in this territory that the second longest river in South America, Paraná, receives the Iguaçu waters shortly after it formed the wonderful Falls, a phenomenon that nature has created millions of years ago.

In its basement is the Guarani Aquifer, the second largest underground water reserve in the world, which is distributed by parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. And there is the Itaipu reservoir, a huge lake of 1,350 square kilometres, artificially created in the Parana River to allow the operation of the hydroelectric plant built by Brazilian and Paraguayan on the border of the two countries.



The Iguaçu River, which rises in the region of Curitiba, capital of Paraná, runs through the entire state and, in the last kilometres, in the section on which borders Argentina, after a curve and a rapid, form 272 rapids, with an average drop of 72 meters. The Iguaçu Falls see the world’s largest decreases in volume of water – in normal times, the flow rate is 1 million and 450 thousand litters per second.

The heels are presented in a semicircle resembling a horseshoe and extend over 2,700 meters of which 1,900 meters are on the Argentine side and 800 meters in Brazil. To see the falls in their full glory, one must see the two sides. On the Brazilian side, you can even take a boat ride under them, complete with a “bath”, while on the Argentine side is the size, view from above, from the grandeur of the Devil’s Throat, the most impressive jump.

All this exuberance assured the Iguaçu Falls, in 2011, the title of one of the new seven wonders of nature. The award, sponsored by the Swiss foundation New Seven Wonders was voted by worldwide Internet users.



In both Brazil and Argentina, the Iguaçu Falls are surrounded by national parks. Brazil and Argentina maintain in total more than 600,000 hectares of protected areas and another 400 hectares of still primeval forests, home to endangered species, flora and fauna.

It is estimated that there are on the woods 800 species of butterflies, and 45 mammals, 12 amphibians, 41 snakes and 200 species of birds. Thanks to this rich biodiversity, coupled with the scenic beauty of Iguaçu Falls, the Iguaçu National Park in Brazil, and the Iguazú National Park in Argentina have been declared World Natural Heritage by UNESCO.



Surrounded by rivers, Foz do Iguaçu does not use the resources of the Guarani Aquifer for water supply of the population. But a few luxury resorts offer as attraction thermal pools, which come from underground to temperatures around 37 degrees.

The thermal water, which remains naturally warm all year, also has medicinal properties, allowing baths at any time of day and in any season.



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Accounting for 16% of the electricity consumed in Brazil and 79% of Paraguay’s electricity consumption, Itaipu plant is the second most visited attraction of Foz do Iguaçu, visited annually by over 800,000 people. The plant, which in 1995 was voted one of the wonders of modern engineering by the American Society of Engineering offers a number of tours, including the reservoir, aboard a luxury boat with capacity for 200 people.

Gigantic in every way, Itaipu arouses interest not only for its physical structure, but for his work on environmental preservation of all its surroundings. Since the creation of the reservoir in 1982, Itaipu has planted over 44 million trees on the banks of the reservoir. Its main environmental program, Cultivating Good Water, won the United Nations this year the world’s best practice award in management of water resources.

But it’s with the numbers that the plant impresses. Its dam is almost 8 kilometres long a with a maximum height of 196 meters, equivalent to a building of 65 floors; iron and steel used in the construction of Itaipu allow building 380 towers similar to Eiffel Tower. Its spillway, whose function is to drain the water not used for generation, is able to shed 62,200 m³/s, 40 times more than the average flow of the Iguaçu Falls.



Since it was opened to visitors in 1977, while still under construction, the Itaipu Dam has received about 20 million visitors by the Brazilian and Paraguayan banks. Today, visitors have three types of tours: the Special Tour, which allows the visit to the interior of the dam; the Panoramic Visit, with strategic stops; and the electric vehicle test drive, where visitors drive an electric car assembled in the plant itself, accompanied by a monitor.

Other attractions are the Itaipu Dam Lighting, where the plant is illuminated gradually, with a special soundtrack; the Eco-museum, which brings details and curiosities of the region where the plant was built; the Bela Vista Biological Refuge, where you meet up close examples of regional flora and fauna; and the Port Kattamaram, from where you can go out to sail on a boat 200 seats at the Itaipu Lake.




Another must-see attraction of Foz do Iguaçu is the Bird Park, home to over a thousand birds of 150 different species, some endangered. With 16.5 acres of lush Atlantic Forest, is the largest bird park in Latin America. But, contrary to the name, the park not only houses birds: there is also the paradise of reptiles of Brazilian fauna, like the python, iguana, alligator and the dreaded anaconda; and graceful butterflies, some rare in nature.

For the estimated 500,000 visitors that the Bird Park receives annually, the biggest charm is able to stay very close to the animals.


*This content was sponsered by Itaipu Binacional