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Iguazú National Park

The main reason tourists come to the 67,620-hectare (167,093-ac) Parque Nacional Iguazú is to see the impressive waterfalls. Approximately 908,499 liters (240,000 ga) of water surge over the more than 250 falls every minute, falling 52-107 meters (170-350 ft) and crashing to the rocks below, creating a deafening roar that can be heard for miles. The tumbling waters launch a constant mist into the surrounding vegetation, dampening the kilometers of inconspicuous trails that line both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of falls.

Birds and insects flitter around Parque Nacional Iguazú's special ecosystem, souvenir vendors who hawk T-shirts and postcards keep a respectful difference, and the nearest Big Mac is in Buenos Aires. Motorboats take visitors right to the roaring base of the falls, where they joyously shout to each other and come back as soaked as if they’d fallen in the river.

Iguazú was given its name by the aboriginal Guaraní, and translates to "big water." The falls area was formed ages ago when water eroded successive volcanic layers. The falls continue to inch back, but don’t worry: it’ll be a few more millennia before the river runs out of rock to erode. Iguazú is considered one of the four most spectacular waterfalls in the world, along with Niagara Falls (Canada/USA), Angel Falls (Venezuela) and Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe).

The falls are most impressive during the wet season, between January and March. On both sides of the falls there are walking paths that lead you around and over the many small waterfalls. The major attraction of this World Heritage Site is the jaw-dropping Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), which can be seen from both countries and is comprised of 14 different falls that send a plume of spray 30 meters (100 ft) into the air.

The easiest way to get around the big park is by the Ecological Jungle Train which connects the Upper Circuit, Lower Circuit and the Devil's Throat. This narrow-gauge train may be boarded at three stations: Estación Central, near the Centro de Interpretación; Estación Cataratas and Estación Garganta del Diablo. The train is handicap accessible (half-hourly, final departure to Devil’s Throat 4 p.m., 2-30 min, free).

Catch the jungle train or walk the Sendero Verde (Distance: 600 m / 0.5 mi; Difficulty: easy; Duration: 15 min) to the start of the Lower Circuit (Circuito Inferior) loop trail that allows you to see the waterfalls from below. The series of catwalks are a pleasant shady walk from the entrance, past Salto Lamuse and Salto Alvar Nuñez, up to the base of Salto Bossetti (Distance: 1.4 km / 0.9 mi; Difficulty: easy; Duration: 2-3 hr).

Boats depart for Isla San Martín, an island at the heart of the falls (9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., last trip back from island 4:40 p.m., free) from a launch near the bottom of the Circuito Inferior path. A trail cuts across the isle to stunning views of the Salto San Martín and Salto Dos Hermanos. Keep a look out for the rich variety of bird life sheltering there. Scenes of the movie The Mission (1986), starring Robert De Niro were filmed on Isla San Martín (Difficulty: medium-difficult, not recommended for small children or elderly; Duration: 2 hr).

The Upper Circuit (Circuito Superior) trail has views of the same waterfalls as the Lower Circuit trail, but from up above. It's a short route, but offers great panoramic photo opportunities and lizard spotting (Distance: 650 mt / 0.5 mi; Difficulty: easy; Duration: 1 hr).

The Devil's Throat is the biggest of the falls at an impressive 80 meters (262 ft) high, and should be saved for last. For this final course, take the train up to the Garganta del Diablo and enjoy the stunningly serene swampland as butterflies flit past. With luck, you can spot caimans in the water and birds in the trees. The catwalk ends with a platform over the awesome and spectacular semi-circular cascading Devil's Throat. The pure white spray thunders over the edge with such terrific power it sends clouds of spray into the air and multiple rainbows visible for miles around. This is where having a rain poncho will come in handy (at least for protecting your camera when the mist rises and engulfs you) (Distance: 1.1 km / 0.7 mi; Difficulty: easy, handicap accessible; Duration: 2 hr).

If you're interested in seeing more flora and fauna of the Paranaense jungle, the Macuco Nature Trail (Sendero Macuco) is a great early morning hike, allowing glimpses of black capuchin monkeys, coati and other wildlife. The dirt trail cuts through the forest and leads down to the small Arrechea Waterfall, a remnant of the original falls, before they eroded back to their modern-day position. Pozón del Arrechea, the pool at the base of the cascade, is the only place in the park where swimming is allowed. At the Interpretation Center, request a brochure about the trail, and bring insect repellent and water (Distance: 3.6 km / 2.2 mi; Difficulty: easy-difficult; Duration: 3 hr).

For information about history, geology, area culture, and habitat, visit the Centro de Interpretación Ybyrá Retá near the entrance. The interpretive center distributes a pamphlet-map of the park (Spanish or English). Ask for the Birds of Iguazú, a checklist of avifauna in the park, available in English or Spanish (the Spanish version also notes the frequency of sightings and status of each species).

Banco Macro has an ATM at the Centro de Interpretación, and Banco de la Nación at the main gate.

Near the train stations are fast food courts and restaurants.

At the old hotel, between the water tower and the Sheraton, is a first aid station. Another health post is at the head of the Circuito Inferior trail and at the Garganta del Diablo train station.

The only place to stay in Parque Nacional Iguazú is the Sheraton Iguazú Resort and Spa. No camping is allowed in the park.There are five-star hotels on both the Argentine and Brazilian sides near the falls. These are convenient, but there are cheaper options nearby. There are small towns which service the area.

The Parque Nacional Iguazú administartive office is in Puerto Iguazú (Victoria Aguirre 66, Tel: 03757-42-0722 / 42-3252, Fax: 42-0382, E-mail: iguazu@apn.gov.ar, URL: www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar). The ranger station (Tel: 03757-42-0180) is at the park entry complex.

Parque Nacional Iguazú is open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in winter and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. in summer (September-March). Admission to the park for foreigners is $21 (85 ARP) for adults and $11 (45 ARP) for children. For Argentines, the entry fee is $6 (25 ARP) for adult and $2.50 (10 ARP) for children. Mercosur residents (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay) pay $11 (45 ARP). Kids under six years old and disabled individuals get in free. Next-day entry is half-price, if you get your ticket stamped before leaving the park.




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Other places nearby Iguazú National Park: Puerto Iguazú,







By Karen Nagy
Karen Nagy is a staff editor/writer at V!VA. She studied travel writing and learned the joys of Mediterranean island-hopping in Greece, and went on...
30 Jun 2010



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