Very important geographic place, because it's the only one place where it's possible to appreciate the view of the three countries, BRASIL, PARAGUAY, ARGENTINA;
One of the main tourist points, the Landmark of the 3 Borders consisted of a pilaster of rock in angle of 90 degrees.
Once you are in the Three Frontiers Meeting Point, consider stretching just a little farther and visiting Salto Monday, in Paraguay, the next largest waterfall in the area. Salto Monday consists of three waterfalls on the Monday River, the tallest of which drops from about 40 metres. Located in the city of Puerto Presidente Franco, just 20 kilometres away from the Friendship Bridge.
The Rio Parana is about the same size as the Mississippi River in the USA in terms of water flow, and is second only to the Amazon for drainage area in South America. As a result, the flows into the headpond of the dam very often exceed what is needed for maximum electrical output from the hydro generators.
Once that flow level is exceeded, the excess water is diverted away from the power house and discharged directly into the Rio Parana below the dam (otherwise it would come right over the top of the dam - and that would not be good!). The photo shows this 'spillway' complex where three huge concrete chutes channel the water down to the edge of the Parana. The spillways were designed to handle an excess water flow equal to 40 times the average flow of the nearby Iguazu Falls! In this case, we were in a lower flow period so only one of the three chutes was in action, but it was putting on quite a display as the man-made waterfall shot up into the air before plunging into the river! The reason for shooting the water into the air is to prevent erosion at the foot of the spillway by taking some of the 'downhill' energy out of the stream of water. Of course, it also never hurts to combine more oxygen into the river water for the benefit of downstream fish life!
At one time, Itaipu was the world's largest power plant, but when it became fully operational China's three gorges dam was somewhat more powerful. There are also plans to create a large hydroelectric project in Africa that would become even larger.
Nevertheless, Itaipu is an impressive machine, and certainly ranks as one of the world's largest piles of concrete, if nothing else.
The typical activities here involve seeing a movie about the history of the dam and its "social responsibility" (including environmental practices) and then taking a bus across the dam below the penstocks, then returning across the top of the dam.
The lake behind the dam, as seen from the bus going across the top, is fairly impressive.
However, if you came to see the natural beauty of Brasil, this certainly isn't the place to see it. It is an extremely sterile and utilitarian structure, even by hydroelectric project standards.
The visitor's site has a covered ampitheatre for looking at the dam, and while I do find it an impressive structure, it isn't like the dams where I live in the USA where you can go down into the dam and see the actual structure of the facility, or even get into the turbine hall.
One of the great places to stop in for an afternoon in Foz do Iguaçu is at the Parque das Aves, which literally translates to Bird Park. As a person who enjoys taking photographs, this was a great opportunity to get up and close to the beautiful birds that had been flying around the falls and cities as we travelled throughout the region. In particular, we had the opportunity to see the coveted bird, the Toucan. Maybe it was all of those Fruit Loops commercials when I was younger that had me fascinated with Toucan Sam, but I have always wanted to see one of these animals up close. Well, Sarah and I got our wish here at the Bird Park.
The bird park of course has many other birds here, including flamingos, parrots of many varieties and many others. As of 2007, the cost to enter the park is $12USD, and the park is open from 8:30am through 5:30pm, which works out well if you are adding this before or after a day trip through the Parque Nacional do Iguacu, since it is located less than a mile from each other.
Given that you are considering going to Foz do Iguaçu by the fact that you are reading this page, this tip seems almost redundant. The reason this part of the Brazilian countryside is even being talked about is the beautiful and majestic waterfalls that are here. When considering the location however, you should research how much time you have to visit the area before deciding which side of the park to visit. The Argentinian side will get you up close and personal to the falls, whereas the Brazilian side makes for a better overview of the area and has some great panoramas of the entire area. If you are there for more than one day, I would recommend seeing both sides.
The Brazilian side is great, and seems a little more developed as a tourist destination, with quite a few great paved walkways and some nice cafes and restaurants. There are also a ton of other activities available to you, including the jungle safari and river rafting. It is easily worth an entire day or three, so make sure you take the time to enjoy it!
There are three countries that all meet just outside of Foz do Iguaçu. At the conflux of two rivers, you will find the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. To commemorate the event, the governments of each country built small parks that are viewable from each other.
There are a couple of different shops providing local goods and shopping for you, so you can plan to spend a little bit of time there.
You could visit the Iguazu falls from two sides: Argentina and Brazil.
To visit the Brazilian side will take you 4 hours, from this side you will se the most wonderful views of the falls in face (Argentinian side). The walk is nice, you could take lost of nice pictures. Don´t forget to take water with you ... it's very hot there, temperture is high!
To visit the Argentinian side will take you 8 hour, you will walk a lot and you will enjoy to be very close to such wonderful place. take the boat to do a promenade in the river and to be CLOSEEE to the falls!!! Take care with yous stuff or they will be wet!!
Near the outskirts of the city of Foz do Iguacu, you will find a turnoff for the marker for the boundaries of Paraguay, Brasil and Argentina.
In reality, there can be no real marker at the point as the borders are formed by large rivers. Instead, each country has a marker and observation point that overlooks the spot, and from which you can see the marker posts located in the other two countries.
For the marker in Brasil, there is no charge to enter the area featuring the marker post.
There are two stores - one for food and refreshments and one for memorabilia. The memorabilia store features items that are specifically related to the three frontiers marker (MARCO DAS TRÊS FRONTEIRAS) as well as a number of items from the region in general. As this is nowhere near as popular a spot as the Foz do Iguacu and is off the main highways, you will find some items are sold here cheaper than what they do in some other areas of the city.
The area above the gift shop is accessible by a staircase, and this small rooftop observatory also features paintings of the history and significance of the region.
Parque das Aves (Park of the Birds = the Bird Park) is a privately owned and operated reserve featuring quite a large number of different bird species. Of particular interest are those that are in danger of extinction. There are several aviaries where people are allowed to walk through.
WATCH FOR FALLING BIRD POOP! if you go into the aviaries. One of our group came inches from having a VERY messy experience.
While the name implies that birds are only featured here, the fact is there are a few other animals among those in the collection, including caiman (slightly different nose bone structure, but looks a lot like an alligator) and butterflies.
The landscape of most of the park is relatively natural forest, though even there a number of the plant species are identified. The walking trails are well maintained and there are a number of restrooms scattered through the facility.
A map of the facility costs extra at the entrance booth.
Iguazu falls is one of the reasons why I went to Brazil. My expectations where very big and they where more than met. The Brazilian side gives a really good overal view of the falls.
make sure you got a couple of hours to wander around the falls are everywhere.
A little warning....close to the falls you will get wet. That's part of the fun.
This was the world biggest operational dam when I was there but not sure if it is sitll the largest now. You can go on the tour by getting on one of the buses that takes you from the Brazillian side and then to the Paraguayan side and back. Interesting if you have extra time to spare.
A closer view of the actual electricity generating part of the dam. In the centre is a large square concrete building where the controls and offices are located (and the small white speck passing in front of a lower black building is a car!). Each of the large white metal tubes is anchored in concrete and feeds water from the headpond down into it's associated single generator located at the level of the water seen in the photo.
Itaipu has twenty generators, each rated at 700 MW of power or 14,000 MW maximum total plant output. This is enough electricity to supply the needs of half of either New York State or Ontario, Canada (or one quarter of Brazil's demands). For a comparison, the world-famous Hoover Dam in the USA only produces 2,074 MW with it's seventeen generators! One interesting fact here is that, because the dam is located on the border of Paraguay and Brazil, each own half the generators. The catch is that Paraguay uses a 50 cycle/second system while Brazil uses 60 cycles. Since the electrical demand in Paraguay is miniscule, in order for it's generators to sell power to the slightly 'faster' system in Brazil, the power produced in the Paraguay-owned generators must go through a special High Voltage Direct Current conversion process in order to be injected into the Brazil system. This is somewhat like the clutch in a car, which allows the transmission and engine to get power to the wheels while all the parts are not always turning at the same speed. Similar situations exist in other parts of the world, such as Japan where some of the islands run at 50 cycles and the others at 60 cycles (not to mention the 2000 MW Cross-Channel HVDC link joining UK at 50 cycles and continental Europe at 60 cycles).
The big white blob above the power house is the concrete part of one of the two new generator tubes that were recently added to the complex to bring it up to 20 generators.
If you want to visit the waterfalls you have to paid an entrance fee (it´s possible to pay it in cruzeiros, argentinian pesos, dollars and with credit card). There are some restaurants and souvenirs shops in the entrance building.
It´s possible to visit the waterfalls from both sides (the brazilian and the argentinian). Maybe the argentinan size is more impressive, but from the brazilian size you have a more panoramic angle. I recommend to visit both.
We only had one full day to visit the Falls so we did not have time to do anything else. But the guidebooks also list a few other activities should you have a visit of more than 1 or 2 days, the Itaipu Hydroelectic Power Plant dam, the Ecomuseu near the dam and the Bird Park (Parque das Aves) which is very close to the entrance of the National Park on the Brazilian side.