So I’ve seen big waterfalls before.
A few years ago I went to Niagara Falls in the U.S. and, well, it was a big waterfall. It was certainly impressive for the first 10 minutes, but then it honestly quickly got quite dull. What I really remember most about Niagara was the tacky casino resort town nearby.
So it was perhaps with low expectations that I went to Iguazu Falls on the border between Argentina and Brazil…
Well, Iguazu is quite something else. Surrounded by lush jungle and with extensive walking areas on both sides, it can be experienced from a huge variety of angles and vantage points. I first spent an afternoon on the Argentinian side, then went to see the Brazilian side the next day.
The first time I turned a corner and got my first view of the falls, it really was a WOW moment. Iguazu Falls is huge. Photos do not prepare you for this as so much of the scale is horizontal rather than vertical, which you only experience in full panoramic splendor in person. (This video below can give some idea, though!)
The Brazilian side has a plcae called the Devil’s Throat where you are on a platform right above one of the waterfalls while surrounded in 180 degrees by other waterfalls. There’s so much water vapor in the air here that you’ll be totally soaked in just a few minutes. Seeing all this water gushing down from above the Devil’s Throat all around you is totally amazing, and looking down below to the river where it ultimately plunges down to gives you a huge sense of scale. As an added bonus it was here that I also saw a large full circle rainbow for the first time, thanks to all the water vapor in the air.
I was so stupified by the view here that my only reflex was to swear. I just kept saying ‘fuccccckkk’ over and over again, because there really were no other words. Being surrounded by these mammoth waterfalls I really felt something primal… I kept having this “ME SMALL, EARTH BIG” caveman response in my mind.
I stuck around for as long as I could, and retraced some the paths around the cliff edges multiple times. The park closes at 6 and ultimately a security guard tried to usher us to the exit, but I really wanted to stay for those last rays of sunlight. I managed to succesfully ignore the guard’s directions by pretending not to understand, and made my way to one of the first lookout points. Seeing the sun over the waterfalls with birds flying around was definitely worth sticking around for.
Other than the sheer epicness of Iguazu Falls, it’s also just a pleasant park to visit. There is a lot of wildlife around, including many coatis (raccoon-like animals) and beautiful coloured birds.
I thought both sides were fantastic and it’s certainly not redundant to visit Iguazu twice. On the Argentinian side you are closer to the waterfalls: there’s several paths twisting through the forests, and one lookout point where you can take your picture with a big waterfall behind you. The Argentinian side is sort of a zoomed in view, while on the Brazilian side you get this big open view of the whole thing.
When I visited the water was unfortunately very brown due to recent floodings. Iguazu had actually been closed for a while due to the high water, and I’m glad I changed my travel plans so that I could visit it later when the water was lower again. Along with Machu Picchu in Peru and the Salt Flats in Bolivia, Iguazu Falls was definitely one of the “big things” in South America.