Iguazú Falls or Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. Together, they make up the largest waterfall in the world. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River rises near the heart of the city of Curitiba. For most of its course, the river flows through Brazil; however, most of the falls are on the Argentine side. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the border between Argentina and Brazil.
The name Iguazú comes from the Guarani or Tupi words “y”, meaning “water”, and “ûasú “[waˈsu], meaning “big”. Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The first European to record the existence of the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541.
The falls may be reached from two main towns, with one on either side of the falls: Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina, as well as from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, on the other side of the Paraná River from Foz do Iguaçu, each of those three cities having commercial airports. The falls are shared by the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park (Brazil). The two parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1986, respectively.
The Falls are an awesome sight as tonnes of water throw themselves over cliffs and the mist rises amongst the jungle. They are taller than Niagara Falls, and more than twice as wide, for which Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed on her first sight of the falls: “Poor Niagara!”
- It is well worth spending a day on each side of the falls, especially if you plan to do any of the boat rides or other activities offered.
- Whilst the majority of the falls are in Argentina, a better overview is had from the Brazilian side.
2 – 3 Days: Spend a day on each side of the falls (Argentina & Brazil) to appreciate the magnitude of these waterfalls.