On our recent trip to Argentina, we took a two-hour flight north to the hamlet of Puerto Iguazú – gateway to one of the most awe-inspiring wonders in South America, if not the world. Iguazú Falls is what happens when the upper Iguazú River plunges almost 300 feet into the lower Iguazú River gorge. Its horizontal span – almost two miles – ranks it the fourth widest waterfall system in the world, behind Khone Phapheng in Laos, Pará in Venezuela, and Kongou in Gabon (note to selves: visit those too!).
So you might be wondering how Niagara Falls fits on this scale. According to the information we got at Iguazú National Park, Niagara is the ninth widest. Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe is number seven in width, but holds the distinction of having the world’s widest uninterrupted curtain of water.
At the falls, the Iguazú River creates an international border between Brazil and Argentina; in fact, it’s possible to visit the falls on either side. Most tourists (at least those from someplace beside the U.S.) check out the view from both countries, but a visa to Brazil costs U.S. citizens $160 (per person!). We’d gotten our hopes up because we’d heard that fee had been waived for the Olympics, but it turns out the waiver expired on Sept. 12 – so we took a pass on Brazil.
The Argentina side did not disappoint. We can’t imagine the views from Brazil being any more encompassing, or breathtaking. Argentina has created a beautifully maintained national park that gives fantastic access to visitors, including panoramic views with walkways and platforms that take you right out over several of the falls. There’s also a boat ride that took us right into the Devil’s Throat, and so far into the San Martin fall that we got completely drenched (and I do mean drenched!).
Fourteen miles downstream, the lower Iguazú River joins with the Río Paraná at the juncture of three countries: Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. We spent three nights in the town of Puerto Iguazú, with panoramic views of the confluence. Since I just had to find out how many other places in the world enable you to stand in (or, in our case, view) three countries at once, I found this article – with a nice mention of the Iguazú-Paraná tripoint.
So, back to the falls. Honestly, they simply defy description. Nothing I can say here, nor any of these pictures, really captures the immense power of all of that water. In many spots, it felt like the very ground was shaking under our feet. Visiting Iguazú Falls was a truly humbling experience, and a reminder of how small we humans are in the scheme of things. We’ll never forget our trip there.