Making a splash The awe-inspiring UNESCO-listed Iguazú Falls are one of the seven natural wonders of the world(Alamy; Shutterstock, Dreamstime)
You hear Argentina’s Iguazú Falls before you clock eyes on them. Clouded by a thick mist, the falling cascades shatter into plunge pools, thundering an unmistakable roar that leaves travellers silent. They’ve always exerted a strong pull, though, beckoning over a million visitors last year to see its narrow chasms and milky abysses, unshy of performing an elemental drama to a captive audience.
Divided between the Argentine and Brazilian border – with more of it on the former’s side – these natural wonders have a long history. The Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca seemingly spotted them first in 1541; Iguazú National Park came into being nearly four centuries later, in order to protect the falls and surrounding jungle, packed with around 2,000 species of endemic flora. You can take a 4x4 ride into this rainforest, too, and glimpse howler monkeys and giant anteaters.
A good place to start, though, is the walking trails. Stroll down the Lower Circuit, first; here, you’ll see a sweeping view of all the falls, including the Three Musketeers, San Martín and Salto Bossetti. Go west for the Upper Circuit route, which overlooks the cascading falls on elevated walkways. Butterflies wheel around you as you make your way through; you’ll also spot specks of great dusky swifts nipping through the water, and sharp-toothed coatis and crocodiles making the most of shaded spots.
Then prepare to be swallowed up by Garganta Del Diablo (Devil’s Throat): a horseshoe-shaped canyon that offers a panoramic view of the largest of all 275 falls. You can get an eco-train from the Upper Circuit here, or walk next to the railway track as the belly of the basin beneath slowly reveals itself.
Speedboats take you into the heart of these 80-metre-high falls, too – you’ll get soaked as you dash through hairpin turns and gushing cataracts. Legend has it that a serpent-like sea god turned two lovers who scorned him into a large rock and a palm tree here, cleaving the river in half to divide them on different sides. Today, you might just see them united by a rainbow.■