Legend goes that a supernatural being fell in love with a beautiful native girl, Naipi and wanted to marry her. However, she ran away with her lover Taroba in a canoe. In anger, the deity cut the river, which formed the waterfalls, and condemned them to death in their waters. On the Argentinean side, two waterfalls are named after the two Europeans who discovered them. The first one was the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who discovered the falls in 1541. The waterfalls were rediscovered in the late 19th century by Boselli.
The waterfalls, totaling 275 in number, stretch for 2.7 km or 1.67 miles along the Iguazu River. (The waterfalls are located at Latitude (DMS): 25o 40' 60 S and Longitude (DMS): 54o 25' 60 W). Around 900m of this total length does not have any water flowing over its edge. A majority of the waterfalls are around 64m in height, although some of them are as high as 82m.
The most impressive falls, which also marks the border between Brazil and Argentina
, are the Garganta del Diablo (a
lso known as the Devil's Throat in English and Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese). This is a 150m wide and 700m long U-shaped cliff, two-thirds of which is within the territory of Argentina
. The edge of the basalt cap recedes at the rate of 3 mm every year! The water of the lower Iguazu drains out into the Rio Parana
in Argentina after collecting in a gorge. One of the best ways to view the falls is with a personal Iguassu tour
On seeing Iguassu, which is significantly larger than the Niagara Falls of North America, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly remarked, "Poor Niagara!" Iguassu is rivaled only by the Victoria Falls of Southern Africa which divide Zambia and Zimbabwe. While Iguassu is wider because it is split into around 270 distinct falls and islands, Victoria has the largest curtain of water in the world at over 1600m in width and 100m in height. Watch some impressive videos of Iguassu Falls.
In peak flow, the water falling from Iguassu has a surface area of around 40 Ha (1.3 million ft2), as compared to over 55 Ha (1.8 million ft2) in the case of Victoria and under 18.3 Ha (600,000 ft2) of Niagara Falls. Victoria's annual peak flow at 9100 m3/s is also bigger than Iguassu's peak flow of 6500 m3/s. However, during times of extreme flood, the two have recorded a similar maximum water discharge, which exceeds 12000 m3/s. In contrast, Niagara's annual peak flow is only around 2800 m3/s. Victoria and Igaussu oscillate to a great extent in their flow rate. The mist at Iguassu's Garganta do Diabo rises from 30 to150m as compared to over 300m above Victoria.
Iguassu allows better views and walkways than Victoria and its shape provides spectacular vistas. The Garganta do Diabo has water pouring over it from three sides, and at a particular spot a person can experience being surrounded by 260 degrees of water falling! In addition, because Iguassu is split into numerous smaller waterfalls, you can view
these as separate sections, which is not the case with Victoria Falls.
On July 24, 2006 a severe drought hit South America and caused the river waters that feed Iguassu Falls to dry up. This reduced the amount of water flowing over the falls from the normal flow of 1,300 m3/s-1,500 m3/s to 300 m3 per second. According to tourists visiting the area, the flow was normal again by early December, which was not unusual since dry spells last only a few weeks.
The Iguassu Falls National Park
- whose main attraction is the Iguassu Falls - was added to the list of World Heritage Sites on the Argentinean side. This was primarily done for two reasons - for its spectacular natural beauty, and for the fact that this park is home to a number of rare and endangered species of animals. The Brazilian side of the park is also a World Heritage Site.
Those who visit Foz do Iguaçu
, on the border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, will be surprised with the culture from more than 70 ethnic groups that compose the local population. With lots to things to see and do in Foz do Iguassu
, this region is a mix of different customs and nationalities.
The cultural variety is reflected in the peculiar habits, religion, clothes, cuisine and languages, only found in this area. It's common to hear the famous 'Good Morning' in at least three different languages. International tourism has brought foreign professionals to Iguassu and the region that work in several areas of service. It is easy to find Argentinean dancers who dance in the shows, foreign owners of travel agencies, French booksellers and hotels owned by Portuguese.
To get a better understanding of Foz do Iguassu take a look at our Foz do Iguacu Map of this area, if you are looking for more general information regarding Brazil you will find our Brazil Hotel Guide very helpful. We've also put together a Foz do Iguassu guide full of our local knowledge of the area.