Explained: Iguazu Falls

Travel to Argentina might be said to begin and end around Iguazu Falls, set within the backdrop of Argentina’s Iguazu National Park. Its sister park Iguaçu in Brazil offers no less alluring views. As it swirls its way along the border of the two countries, the Iguazu River drops nearly 263 feet to create the plummeting chasm. Both sides of the falls are stunning, each offering its own, entirely different panorama. With A&K Latin America travel, you can see both vantage points in all their glory.

As the legend of Iguazu Falls goes, a god fell in love with a local girl, who shunned him and fled with her true love in a canoe. The enraged god then divided the water into an upper and lower river, condemning the lovers to plummet there forever.

It’s a tale befitting the romance and drama of one of the mightiest falls on earth. Experiencing A&K’s small group journeys to Latin America is to experience the falls’ majestic beauty in luxury. And it’s an adventure best capped with a visit to U-shaped waterfall, Devil’s Throat (Devil’s Gorge), on the Argentine side. Standing at nearly 500 feet across and 269 feet high when the volume of its raging, brick-red water increases. But when the water level is normal, an incredible 275 falls can be viewed from the same locale.

“Our guests approach Devil’s Throat by train,” says Veronica Curtis of A&K Argentina. “It’s an 18-minute ride that brings us to the catwalks of the upper level on the Argentine side.” A stroll along the catwalks is approximately three quarters of a mile, traverses the islands of the delta, and leads to the main balcony on Devil’s Gorge.

“The view from Devil’s George is my — and most guests’ — favorite aspect of the falls,” says Diana Wilson, a manager with A&K Argentina.

“People sometimes think ‘Why go there? It’s just a lot of water,’” Veronica admits. “But then they see it. The colors are like amber jewels. The falls look different at every hour of the day, and in every season.”

But what stays the same, she says, is the thundering power. “The sheer power from all that water — no one can ever tire of it.”

A Little History

The first known inhabitants of the area were the hunter-gatherers of Eldoradense culture, who laid claim to the land 10,000 years ago. In AD 1000 they were displaced by the Guarani, who named the park and the river Iguazu, meaning “big water.”

In 1541, the Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to see the falls. Visitors were rare until the latter part of the 19th century, when the falls were rediscovered.

Brazil or Argentina

So, the traveller may ask, which country affords the best experience of the falls, Brazil or Argentina?

“Both,” says Veronica.

The Brazilian side is smaller than the Argentine side, but its vast forest protects such tropical trees as Brazilian walnut, cedar and peroba and is home to a wide array of wildlife: rare birds such as macaws, toucans and parrots as well as monkeys, crocodiles, armadillos and jaguars.

The Brazilian side of the falls also affords an entirely different panorama. From the catwalk one sees distant views of the falls on the Argentina side. “The view includes a side of Swan Martin Island not seen from Argentina and views of Devil’s Gorge from the front. And it frequently includes distant rainbows.

Says Diana, “Many say that from Argentina you live the falls and from Brazil you watch them.”

That having been said, one would be hard-pressed to know which side Eleanor Roosevelt was standing on when she first saw Iguazu Falls and was reported to have declared, “Poor Niagara!”

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