Although not the largest, tallest or widest waterfalls in the world, Iguacu Falls is argueably the most spectacular! It has an amazing display of about 273 different cataracts as the 2.5 km wide Rio Iguazu plunges over a hard basalt ridge into the narrow river gorge below.
Brazil's Parque Nacional do Iguacu protects the flora and fauna of the area from the depradations of hordes of visitors. It includes a very nice railed walking path along the high bank of the river gorge, providing fantastic views across to the Argentine-side where most of the actual cataracts are located.
The pathway gradually descends about half-way down into the gorge, where an offshoot allows you to walk out on a ledge of waterfalls below the main torrent of the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo). Be prepared to be soaked with spray if you want to try this - it is worth it though!
Once you have seen enough, a new elevator complex will whisk you back up to the top of the gorge, depositing you at a gift shop and restaurant complex. You can either linger there watching the upper waters of the Rio Iguazu before they plunge over the cliff, or catch one of the park busses back to the main Visitor Centre.
For more information, check out my 'Parque Nacional do Iguacu' page!
The Argentine-side of Iguazu Falls has much more to offer than the Brazil-side in terms of actually getting up-close and seeing things from different angles.
The main attraction is a 1.1 km catwalk that allows you to walk over the Rio Iguazu to stare directly down into the 82-meter (270-foot) drop of the Devil's Throat where the main torrent of water plunges into the gorge. However, the constant spray from the water will prevent you from actually SEEING the bottom! The National Park on this side of the river has so many cataracts to explore that you could be there for days enjoying them.
The Upper and Lower Circuits are another set of catwalks and trails that let you explore a different part of the gorge, where the waterfalls drop in stair-step fashion over two sets of ledges. Here, you can look down from above on the Upper Circuit and then continue onward to view the same waterfall from below on the Lower Circuit.
A further attraction are high-speed Zodiac boat rides that zoom right up to the plunging torrents of water, guaranteed to soak you!! For more details on this great place, visit my 'Parque Nacional del Iguazu' page!
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.
Back in the mid-1970s, Brazil and Paraguay began construction of the Itaipu Dam, presently the world's largest power station in terms of electrical output. Taking 18-years to complete, this massive 200-m high concrete structure stretches for about 8-km (5-miles) across the Parana River only a few kilometers above Foz do Iguacu.
The 1350 square km reservoir stretches upstream for 170 km, having filled itself to capacity by 1985 as the waters of the Rio Parana backed up behind the new dam. One thing that the promotional film in the Itaipu Visitor Centre (see my 'Tourist Trap' tip) does not mention is that this flooding drowned a waterfall that was even more impressive than the nearby Iguacu Falls. Located just south of the Brazilian city of Guaira, the Sete Quedas waterfall had a total drop of 114 m (375 ft) and the Rio Parana was compressed from a width of 381-m to just 61-m as it flowed through canyon walls. The roar of the water could be heard 30-km (20 miles away) and was reported to be the greatest volume of falling water in the world. Now, just a placid lake.
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!
We had already spent a few days in the megacity of Buenos Aires, so we were quite happy to have the sleepy little town of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina as our base for the Iguazu Falls portion of our trip.
It turned out to be a quiet and friendly place with plenty of good restaurants. The relaxed pace was a nice change for a few days, and we could see that Foz was much more city-like with it's traffic and size.
The bottom line is, both places are probably good bets for accommodations, with many more nightlife choices available in Foz. In Puerto Iguazu, we spent one evening at a sidewalk seating restaurant watching the activity of the locals on the street as they made their own fun! See my 'Puerto Iguazu' page for more details on this town.
This photo was taken at a small memorial in Puerto Iguazu where the Rio Iguazu runs into the larger Rio Parana. It was here in 1541 that the first Europeans, from Spain, stumbled upon the Iguazu while headed overland to Paraguay.
Undoubtedly, the main attraction in Foz is Parque Nacional do Iguaçu (Iguassu National Park), and there, the vedette are the waterfalls... Awesome, beautiful, breathtaking... There are not words enough to describe them.
The National Park is situated 13 Km far from the city, at Avenida das Cataratas; you must pay an entrance fee (about 4 dollars for Brazilian, 6 dollars for Mercosur citizens, and 7 dollars for other nations citizens).
Sin dudas, la principal atracción en Foz es el Parque Nacional do Iguaçu, y allí, la vedette son las cataratas... Imponentes, hermosas, impresionantes... No hay palabras suficientes para describirlas.
El Parque Nacional está situado a 13 Km de la ciudad, en la Avenida das Cataratas; se debe abonar una entrada (alrededor de 4 dólares para los brasileños, 6 dólares para ciudadanos del Mercosur, y 7 dólares para ciudadanos de otras nacionalidades).
Parque das Aves (Birds Park) is a great place where you can find all kind of native and exotic birds in a natural environment, carefully made.
El Parque de las Aves es un lugar fantástico en donde pueden encontrar todo tipo de aves nativas y exóticas en un ambiente natural, cuidadosamente creado.
Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant is the largest in the world so far; it is located over Paraná River, between Brazil and Paraguay. It is absolutely spectacular, but between you and me, I felt disappointed when I visited it... the river was almost dry!!!
Visits: from Monday to Saturday, at 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00 AM, 2:00, 3:00 and 3:30 PM
La Represa Hidroeléctrica de Itaipú es la más grande del mundo hasta el momento; está situada sobre el río Paraná, entre Brasil y Paraguay. Es absolutamente impresionante, pero entre ustedes y yo, me sentí un poco decepcionada cuando la visité... el río estaba casi seco!!!!
Visitas: de lunes a sábado, a las 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 , 14:00, 15:00 y 15:30*
The visit to Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant includes the screening of a movie where you can see the construction and the importance of this dam; that was very interesting, and finally I saw the dam with WATER (at least in a movie...)!!!!
I took the picture of the "wet" dam from a poster!!!
La visita a la Central Hidroeléctrica de Itaipú incluye la proyección de una película en donde se muestra la construcción y la importancia de esta represa; fue muy interesante, y finalmente vi la represa con AGUA (al menos en una película)!!!
Saqué la foto de la represa "mojada" de un poster!!!
Foz is a quite new city, but its Cathedral is brand-new: São João Batista was inaugurated in 1994.
I was there during the Holy Week, and despite I have no believes, the atmosphere inside the church was quite touching.
Foz es una ciudad bastante nueva, pero su Catedral es flamante: São João Batista fue inaugurada en 1994.
Estuve allí durante la Semana Santa, y aunque no tengo ninguna creencia, la atmósfera dentro de la iglesia era muy emotiva.
Foz is a "green city"; its main square it is not an exception, so it has a lot of trees and all kind of plants. Its cool shadow is essential to rest if you decide to make a "walking-city-tour" as I did, because this city is really hot and its streets are really steep!
At Praça Almirante Tamandaré you will also find the Tourist Information Office.
Foz es una "ciudad verde"; su plaza principal no es la excepción, dado que tiene muchos árboles y todo tipo de plantas. Su sombra fresca es imprescindible para descansar si deciden hacer un "city tour caminado", como hice yo, porque esta ciudad es realmente cálida y sus calles son realmente empinadas!
En la Praça Almirante Tamandaré también encontrarán la Oficina de Información Turística.
Ponte da Amizade (Friendship Bridge) is an international bridge over river Paraná, that joins Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay). The bridge itself is a great engineering work, but what is a "must see" is the people that cross the bridge constantly... all kind of smugglers working as ants!!!!
Ponte da Amizade (Puente de la Amistad) es un puente internacional sobre el río Paraná, que une Foz do Iguaçu (Brasil) con Ciudad del Este (Paraguay). El puente en sí mismo es una grandiosa obra de ingeniería, pero lo que realmente "hay que ver" es la gente que cruza constantemente... todo tipo de contrabandistas trabajando como hormigas!!!
You can hear the sound a long way off and get wet from the spray when close.
On a hot day you would think all that water will make the air cooler but it has the opposite effect, no idea why but there must be a scientific reason.
The fallas are the main attraction in the area allthough there are many attractions.
They are just so bloody big and amazing that you gotta go and see it for yourself.
There is not just one but many falls and every time you turn a corner you get a new "Niagara falls" in your face.