In the 90s, the infamous singing group TLC warned us not to go chasing waterfalls — they said they’d prefer if we’d just stick to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to. Perhaps in some contexts, that’s good advice; however, the challenge in adhering to it when traveling is that you’d miss out on visiting some pretty otherworldly locations, including one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Foz do Iguaçu.
Foz do Iguaçu lies on the border of three South American countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The entrances to the cataratas – the waterfalls – are shared by Brazil and Argentina, and visiting the falls – over 250 of them – from either entry point is a tremendous experience.
When I visited from the Brazilian side, one of the first things I laid eyes on was a small set of waterfalls. They made for a beautiful start to the trail, and as I followed the well-marked path to the four main stopping points, the views only got better and better. It wasn’t just the waterfalls – the sheer amount of nature on all sides was incredible. Butterflies and other winged insects flew beside me on the path. Cute coati, a small, raccoon-like animal, dug in the grass, searching for their next meal. Birds swooped in dangerously close to the water and were consumed by the waves, only to come out the other side unscathed.
Ultimately, the trail led to the lower base of the Devil’s Throat, the tallest waterfall of Iguaçu, impressive with its horseshoe shape and 14 combined falls. While most of the path offered unparalleled panoramic views that allowed me to take in the beauty of the falls from a distance, at the Devil’s Throat I was able to get up close and personal, feeling the mist of the water as I walked along the clearing. For those who preferred not to get wet, an observation deck provided a spectacular aerial view.
That afternoon, I took a Macuco Safari – a ride in a plastic boat – to one of the smaller waterfalls. The guides held my electronics and insisted on taking anything needed to stay dry, repeatedly teasing: “Enjoy your shower!” And they weren’t kidding! The boat got right up next to the falls and yet again, I got to enjoy the feel of the cold water – only this time, it wasn’t so much a mist but a complete drenching! It was worth it, though, as it was really unbelievable to marvel at one of the natural wonders of the world so closely.
On the Argentinian side of the Foz do Iguaçu, wild nature met awe-inspiring, remarkable beauty. The area felt less traveled – the paths needed maintenance and the signs weren’t well-marked for tourists – but the waterfalls were well worth any trouble I may have had in finding my way.
The falls are divided into three areas: the opening of the Devil’s Throat, the Lower Trail, and the Upper Trail. The opening of the Devil’s Throat was really spectacular. Walking there, I felt a sense of eerie calm – the water was moving relatively slowly and the surface was flat. When I arrived at the opening, though, everything changed. The power of the water was outstanding and I think I stood there for almost a half an hour just taking it all in.
The Lower Trail led me on a walk very close to the water – it was quite reminiscent of the Brazilian side, although there were more sets of waterfalls to see. The very best views were from the Upper Trail. Lush green wildlife sprouted up everywhere. Water roared wildly in some areas and trickled down quietly in others. It felt like I had stepped onto another planet or into a past era, where nature grew undisturbed. While standing near a great formation of moss and trees growing defiantly on an island near the top of the falls, I turned to my travel companion and stated simply: “This is my favorite place on earth.” It felt like I was standing on the edge of the world but instead of feeling scared, I felt like I was one with nature and completely at peace. Everyone around me seemed to recognize the magic of the moment too as the only sound I heard was of the water rushing by, plummeting into the unknown.
And so, I would say that if you find yourself in Brazil or Argentina, ignore the advice of popular 90s pop stars. The Iguaçu Falls are definitely worth chasing.
Here is a video of the waterfalls in Foz do Iguaçu:
(song created on Jukedeck)
THE TRAVELIN’ SONG: Waterfalls (TLC). You thought I was going to do something original here, but you were wrong. I went for the easy joke.
BUDGET: A work trip, combined with a week of fun. The airline was paid for by the company, but we spent about $1500 for tickets to Foz do Iguacu and Rio de Janiero, two 5 star hotels, activities, and food.
TIP FOR TRAVELERS: Bring a spare set of clothes if you plan on doing a Macuco Safari ride… you really get absolutely soaking wet. Since the weather is rather warm, you will dry fairly quickly, but it’s really uncomfortable in the mean time.
DEFINITELY CHECK OUT: If you only get a chance to go to one of side of the Falls, hit the Argentina side. But… be are that it’s more wild. The coatis are more aggressive, there’s not a sanitary public restroom, and all the signs are in Spanish.