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In the subtropical forest of the province Misiones, at the border between Argentina and Brazil, there is one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders: The Iguazú Falls.
About 23 km before its confluence with the Paraná, in order to overcome a height difference in the terrain of up to 80 meters, the Iguazú River expands its course in a double arc of almost three km width, shedding its waters into more than 275 falls of unparalleled beauty. Surrounded by an exuberant nature, the Cataratas del Iguazú configure the largest waterfall system in the world.
© All photos: Haupt & Binder, Universes in Universe
The geological origin of this unevenness in the riverbed is due to seismic processes that followed the breakup of the supercontinent called Gondwana, separating South America from Africa. Through fractures ascended volcanic lava that spilled in successive flows between 120 and 130 million years ago. This outpouring of basaltic lava alternating with sandstone deposits is what has given the tiered shape to the falls, a process intensified and continued by the erosive action of water.
But the mythical origin of the falls is a passionate love story: According to the Guarani, the original inhabitants of the jungle, the chief Tarobá, in love with Naipí, kidnapped her in his canoe to save her from being sacrificed to Mboí, the serpent god of the river. Enraged, Mboí curved his back and split the course of the river with one blow, turning the long-haired maiden into the waterfalls and Tarobá into a solitary tree. Then he plunged to the bottom of the Devil's Throat, from where he watches over the lovers so that they do not unite again. Nevertheless, as the Guarani say, Tarobá and Naipí unite in an embrace of love every time a rainbow appears in the mist produced by the waterfalls.
Iguazú National Park, which means "Big Water" in the Guaraní language and covers some 67,620 hectares, was created in 1934 based on a project by Carlos Thays. Already in 1902, the famous landscape architect had carried out a survey of the area, combining the objective of protection and visual enjoyment. In 1984 the Iguazú National Park was recognized as a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO, due to its beauty and the great biological diversity it harbors. Today the Iguazu Falls are one of the most emblematic destinations in Argentina, selected as one of the New Natural Wonders of the World, in a worldwide vote organized by the New7Wonders foundation in 2011.
Great dusky swifts nest behind the falls
The Iguazú National Park also offers the opportunity to get to know the subtropical rainforest and its native flora of more than 2000 species, and to spot animals such as the carayá and caí monkeys, or cheeky coatíes (raccoons), and more than 400 different species of birds such as toucans, parrots and magpies, and the incredible "vencejos," the great dusky swifts which nest in the rocks behind the waterfalls. And, naturally, to enjoy the sight of amazingly beautiful butterflies.
Butterfly Diaethria anna, or "eighty-eight"
The park can be visited in different routes along modern walkways that, following the slogan "Nature without Barriers", are adapted to ensure accessibility even for wheelchairs and families with strollers.
A coatí doing a walkway check
Length: 1.750 m (60 min) Fully accessible itinerary on flat walkways with views of the falls from the Upper Iguazu River, which leads to the Mbiguá, Adam and Eve or Bossetti falls, to reach the viewpoint of the second largest waterfall in the Park: the San Martin Falls. The panoramic view from the viewpoint of Mbiguá Falls is one of the most photographed: from its balcony you can also see San Martín Island and the fall of the same name, the amazing waterfall swifts, as well as many other birds in the branches of the trees.
Length: 1.700 m (90 min)
Path of walkways and footbridges (some stairs) with different viewpoints and rests that allow you to approach the falls in the middle of the jungle, such as Salto Bossetti, which is a flowing blanket of water that unfolds a few meters from its viewpoint. In addition to the long Lanusse cascade, the magical Chico Alférez, the Alvar Núñez fall with two viewpoints to see it from the front and from above, you can reach the Dos Hermanas, two "sister" waterfalls that flow into a transparent pool.
Waterfalls: San Martín, Mbigua, Bernabé Mendez, Adam & Eve
Length: 1.100 m (120 min)
The Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) is the most impressive and majestic waterfall in the Park, unfolding 150 meters in horseshoe shape and a height of more than 80 meters. With an average of 1500 cubic meters per second, it falls producing a thunderous roar that impacts, moves and fills with energy. The Devil's Throat can be accessed by boarding the Tren Ecológico de la Selva (Jungle Ecological Train) or on foot with 100% accessibility through footbridges.
Length: 650 m (10 min) The trail crosses a wetland in the middle of the subtropical rainforest and allows visitors to access from the service area to the Cataratas Station and the beginning of the Upper and Lower paths. It is ideal for those who prefer to walk instead of using the train, to observe plants and animals.
Length: 7.000 m (180 min) It is the wildest trail in the park, culminating in the Arrechea Fall, with a 23-meter cascade that flows into a natural pool of clear water. It is a path to enjoy the exuberant jungle with all the senses, spotting several varieties of butterflies, tropical birds that display their colors and sounds and other animals, such as the caí monkey, in the treetops.
Plush-crested Jay (Cyanocorax chrysops tucumanus)
It is a unique experience that takes place 5 nights a month on full moon days, with a professional Spanish and English guide reaching the balcony of the majestic Devil's Throat, to see the flowing and silvery mantle in the moonlight. It is an extra activity, independent of the general entrance fee to the Park. Check out this:
Tour with hotel pick-up
To have a complete experience of the Iguazu Falls it is also essential to visit the Brazilian side, which although it has only 20% of the falls, it is from where you have the most complete panoramic view. As the locals say, in Argentina is located the theater stage and in Brazil, the auditorium. The Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Brazil) is located about 15 km from Puerto Iguazú (Argentina). It is accessible by public transport, with presentation of documents at the border, or by organized tours.
Devil's Throat from the Brazilian side
Floriano Fall from the Brazilian side
Parque Nacional Iguazú
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The park can be visited all year round. The climate is warm and humid subtropical without a marked dry season. The average temperature of the coldest month (July) is 17°C, the average temperature of the hottest month (January) is 27°C.
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Compilation of information, editing, translations, photos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated
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