Upon arrival at Iguazu Falls I was regaled with a story of a wealthy man who bought a first-class plane ticket to Brazil. A second plane, another first class ticket, brought the man to the falls; a taxi transported him directly to the top of the main cascade. He walked up to the edge, jumped the barricade, and dived in. His body was never found.
Not the cheeriest of introductions, and the story is quite possibly an urban myth – Niagara probably has similar stories – but in it you see the draw of Iguazu Falls. This is a place with presence, and power, and mystery. It fills people with awe. Draws them to it. Makes them do crazy things.
You can not stand next to Iguazu Falls and not feel stirred.
Iguazu Falls are not the tallest falls in the world – that honour goes to Angel Falls in Venezuela at 979 metres. Iguazu is only a fraction of the height at 60 to 82 metres (for comparison purposes, Victoria Falls = 108m, Niagara Falls = 52m).
They aren’t the most powerful falls in terms of volume of water passing over them either (this title is won by Boyoma Falls in the Democratic Republic of Congo with 17,000 metres cubed per second – Iguazu comes in 6th in the world with 1,746 metres cubed per second).
They don’t have the largest sheet of water either, that honour usually goes to Victoria Falls.
But Iguazu Falls does have one of the widest, if not the widest, waterfall edges in the world, at 2,700 metres in width (Victoria Falls = 1,700 metres, Niagara Falls = 1,200 metres).
And it is Iguazu’s staggering width, combined with the falls being comprised of 300 or so discrete cascades, which makes Iguazu one of the largest waterfall systems on Earth.
The Falls form where the Iguazu River – the natural border between the countries of Brazil and Argentina – flows over the edge of the Paraná Plateau.
The best viewpoints are located on the Brazilian side of the Falls (all the photos in this post are taken from the Brazilian side), but the Argentine side is also worth visiting if you have the time.
The Devil’s Throat
The main falls at Iguazu are called the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish, and Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese).
It is here that you will confirm for yourself that Iguazu Falls are the greatest cascades on Earth.
Practical Information and how to reach Iguazu Falls:
Access to the Brazilian side of the falls (necessary if you want the perfect picture of the Devil’s Throat) is via the town of Foz do Iguaçu. More transport info here.
Access to the Argentine side of the falls is via the town of Puerto Iguazú.
Read more in the UNESCO World Heritage listing.