13 questions about the Iguazu Falls

The most famous comment about the Iguazu Falls comes from the American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She stood on the Brazilian side, looking towards Argentina and reportedly said, “Poor Niagara!”

My first reaction to the Iguazu Falls was not as sweet nor as quotable; it included expletives and grins. With 275 waterfalls dividing the river into Upper and Lower Iguazu, I don’t think anyone can blame me?

The Iguazu Falls are a marvel of this planet. If you’ve heard of the waterfall or are planning a trip to Brazil soon, here are 13 questions I had, answered.

1. how do you pronounce it?

Pronouncing it is the easy part compared to how to spell it. Iguazu, Iguazú, Iguassu and Iguaçu are all acceptable spellings.

2. where are the iguazu falls?

The Igauzu Falls are located between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

The Igauzu Falls are located between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Map from Google image search.

3. how were the iguazu falls created?

According to science, the falls are the result of a volcanic eruption that left the earth cracked.

According to local legends, the crack in the earth is the handy work of a vengeful god who, scorned by a beautiful aborigine woman, split the river. As the woman and her lover attempted their escape in a hand-carved canoe, they fell to their deaths over the Iguazu falls and onto the rocks.

iguazu falls from argentina

Iguazu Falls seen from Argentina

4. exactly how big are the iguazu falls?

Is “big” a suitable answer? If you are a numbers person, Iguacu Falls:

  • has an annual average of 62,010 cubic feet of water flowing per second.
  • can reach 450,000 cubic feet per second in the rainy season.
  • consists of 275 falls contained within 2.7 kiolmeters (1.67 miles).
  • varies in height from 82 meters (269 ft.) to 64 meters (210 ft.).
  • has a peak surface area is about 40 ha (1.3 million square feet). In comparison, Victoria Falls’ peak is +55ha (1.8 million square feet), and Niagara Falls’ peak is +18.2ha (6000,000 square feet).
  • is taller than Niagara Falls and is twice as wide.

If you are a visual person:

5. devil’s throat? *glulp*

The icon of the Igauzu Falls is a 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide and 700-meter long U-shape combination of 14 falls. From the Argentinian side, you can stand at the top of the Devil Throat watch a calmly flowing river speed up and tumble over rocks with a roaring force. From the Brazilian side, you can stand in the mouth of the waterfall and walk away soaking wet.

And when I say soaking wet, I don’t mean take an umbrella. Though I saw some try, an umbrella is pointless.

devil's throat at iguazu falls in brazil

Devil’s Throat at Iguazu Falls in Brazil

6. “hang on, have i seen this before?”

The Iguazu falls are a popular destination, made so by being a World Heritage park, but also by the attention paid by films. In the 1979 James Bond film, Moonraker, Devil’s Throat helps 007 elude the villain, Jaws.

The Igauzu Falls also shared the screen with Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons in The Mission (1986).

And do you remember the car chase through the jungle in Indiana Jones and the Kingom of The Crystal Skull (2008)? They were racing around the falls. Shots of the falls even open up this trailer for the film:

7. is it worth doing the brazil size and the argentina side?

Definitely! About 80% of the Iguazu Falls are on the Argentina side. Spend a day walking around the national park (it is HUGE) and you will be sick of seeing waterfalls. That’s how many waterfalls you get up close and personal with.

NOTE: I’m from the United States and had a visa to visit Brazil, but I also had to pay a reciprocity fee to get into Argentina, even just for the day. It was $160 USD and is good for 10 years. Make sure you take travel requirements for your passport into consideration when you are country hoping around the falls.

8. where is the best place to stay?

We stayed at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil. There are more affordable hotel and hostel options on all sides of the Iguazu Falls, but if it is in your budget to stay at the Belmond, I recommend it. It is the only hotel in the Brazilian national park. And since the park closes at 6pm, guests of the hotel are the only ones—not just the only ones in Brazil, but the only ones, period—that get to experience the amazing sunset over the falls.

And since the Brazilian falls are fewer in number and more concentrated in location, the crowd when the Brazilian park is open is distracting and nearly impossible to navigate. My friend and I waited until the park closed before going to Devil’s Throat, so for better or worse, we had that frightening force of nature all to ourselves.

Can you imagine a better way to relax after hiking around waterfalls?

Can you imagine a better way to relax after hiking around waterfalls? Photo credit: Kathleen McGing

Plus, the food was delicious, the wine was (of course) impossible to resist, the poolside was exactly where one wants to be after walking around trails all day, and there was a full spa.

There are two hotels within the National Park on the Argentina side, too. All hotels, to my knowledge, will require transportation from the airport.

9. and what about all the nature and the wild life surrounding the iguazu falls?

There are giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, raccoons, coral snakes, jaguars, beautiful and fearless butterflies, toucans and parrots. The rainforest surrounding this area contains over 2,000 species of plants. It is for these reasons that a World Heritage park has been established on both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides.

wildlife in iguazu falls

Wildlife in Iguazu Falls.

10. when is the best time to go?

I went to Iguazu Fall in early January and had good though hot time; it was my next stop after celebrating the new year on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. But research suggests the best time to see the Iguazu Falls are in the spring and autumn. The summer is tropically hot and humid (I can attest to this) and the winter results in lower water levels.

11. what to pack?

  • Comfortable clothing that you still look good if soaking wet.
  • Comfortable walking shoes.
  • A backpack.
  • Water bottle(s).
  • A waterproof camera case, because you’ll want to capture the awesomeness of the falls for your friends to awe over without ruining your phone.
  • A poncho; you are still going to get wet, but a poncho will at least help protect your belongings.

Pre-dinner walk to Devil's Throat (with wine)

Pre-dinner walk to Devil’s Throat (with wine).

12. where to go next?

If you want to continue your South American vacation, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Florianopolis are all affordable plane tickets out of Foz do Igauzu, Brazil and Iguazu, Argentina. Buenos Aires and Lima are slightly more expensive options.

13. is this an affordable trip?

It’s on the higher end. Of course, you can arrange to spend as much or as little as you like, but the base fact of the matter is the Igauzu Falls are off the beaten path and the industry in the area is very focused on tourism.

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