Stretching for 2.7 kilometres in width, the chain of waterfalls varies in height from 60 to 82 metres making them nearly twice as tall as the Niagara Falls and nearly three times as wide. Although the Victoria Falls are taller than Iguazu it is this width of the South American Falls that is so spectacular as the whole panorama appears to be filled with cascading waterfalls.
The Iguazu Falls became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and was selected as one of the winners of the New Seven Wonders of Nature competition in 2011, yet they remain surprisingly unknown. It is probably the remote location of the Falls that has kept them from being more popular, however, this is also what makes them so special. Instead of being surrounded by casinos, hotels, fast food restaurants and theme parks, the Iguazu Falls are located in one of the few remaining inland rainforests in South America. The lush, subtropical national parks of the Atlantic rainforest which surrounds the Falls are teeming with wildlife and have been preserved by both Argentina and Brazil. This is a haven for more than 2,000 plant species, about 400 bird species, 80 types of mammals and countless insects and invertebrate.
It might be more of an effort to get to the Iguazu Falls, but when you arrive there they more than make up for it. The Iguazu Falls are not a place you could only spend a couple of hours visiting and tick them off your bucket list – they demand so much more than that! With totally different viewing experiences from either side of the Falls you can easily spend two days viewing them, and after that there’s so much to see in the rainforest as well.
The network of walkways on the Argentinian side take you right out over the water to the edge of some of the falls – sometimes just an arm’s length away – so you can witness the Falls looking down from over the top. You can get close to the most famous falls, the Devil’s Throat, as well as a number of smaller waterfalls, and easily spend a day wandering around and getting soaking wet!
Shaped like a horseshoe, the Devil’s Throat is the largest waterfall in the whole system and with its’ drop of more than 80m it creates a permanent cloud of mist. You can also take a speedboat to the Falls, but be prepared to get really wet as the boats take you right under them!
On the Brazilian side of the Falls you can enjoy a more complete view of the Falls. From the shorter network of walkways, you may be further from the water but you will be able to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view. The view of the Devil’s Throat from this side is quite dramatic as the Lower Balcony takes you almost to the face of the Falls.
The amount of water pouring from these falls into the Iguazu River is equally staggering. On average, about 1,500 cubic meters of water flows every second. Depending on the time of the year, the rate of water flow can be as much as 13,000 cubic meters per second — enough to fill five Olympic swimming pools — especially during the rainy months of November to March!
So make sure any trip you plan to Argentina or Brazil includes a few days visiting these magnificent Falls. From Buenos Aires it is a 90-minute flight to Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinean side and from Rio de Janeiro it takes two hours to fly to the Brazilian town of Foz de Iguacu.
Take a look at some of our favourite South American itineraries that offer a visit to these impressive falls.