BY BEN BOX
Any trip to Argentina should include the Iguazú Falls. They’re the biggest falls in South America – half as high again as Niagara – and a spectacular experience.
In all, there are 275 falls stretching over 2.7 km but the main attraction is the Garganta del Diablo (devil’s throat), where walkways take you right above the falls to see the smooth river transformed in an instant into a seething torrent as the water crashes 74 m over a horseshoe-shaped precipice onto basalt rocks below filling the air with bright spray and a deafening roar. The whole chasm is filled with billowing clouds of mist in which great dusky swifts miraculously wheel and dart, and an occasional rainbow hovers.
You can walk close to the bottom of the immensely wide Saltos Bossetti and Dos Hermanos, or take a boat trip, which speeds you beneath the falling water to get a total drenching. Viewed from below, the rush of water is unforgettably beautiful, falling through jungle filled with begonias, orchids, ferns, palms and toucans, flocks of parrots, cacique birds and myriad butterflies. There are some longer trails enabling you to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna and several excellent guides on hand.
Iguazú means ‘big water’ in the local Guaraní language (i = water, guazú = big). The first recorded European visitor to the falls was the Spaniard Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1542, on his search for a connection between the Brazilian coast and the Río de la Plata; he named them the Saltos de Santa María. Though the falls were well known to the Jesuit missionaries, they were unexplored until the area was covered by a Brazilian expedition sent out by the Paraguayan president, Solano López, in 1863.
In 2012 they were confirmed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.