The Power of Water

Iguazú

There are myriad ways to enjoy the truly stunning jungle scenery of the Iguazú Falls, one of Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Text: Carolina Reymúndez  @carolreymundez
       

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PHOTO: corbis

 

Whether it’s your first time or your fifth, arriving at the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat) is always a moving experience. And it’s even more spectacular if you get up at sunrise to make it into the Parque Nacional Iguazú before the first tours arrive. No wonder this national park in the province of Misiones is the most popular in Argentina.

The Garganta del Diablo is a series of waterfalls that pour down from a height of 262 feet at a rate of millions of gallons of water per second. The torrent is so strong that the mist reaches the lookout, letting you feel the drops on your face, your arms, your whole body. As you stand in the mist, you may be surprised by dark-plumed birds flying over the precipice. The vencejos (great dusky swifts) have adapted to the humidity and make their nests in the rocky cliff behind the falls. These birds have such a defining presence that they have become symbols of the park.

Parque Nacional Iguazú is huge, and there’s a lot to see. You can view the 275 falls from well-constructed walkways, high and low, with new stretches inaugurated this year. Or opt for a more adventurous approach aboard a speedboat that gets so close to the San Martín waterfall you’ll wind up soaked while adrenaline courses through your system.

 

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The Tren Ecológico de la Selva is one way of getting to the falls.

PHOTO: PARQUE IGUAZÚ ARGENTINA

 

The less-frequented paths will let you appreciate the jungle with all of your senses. The Sendero Macuco (less than four miles, round-trip) takes its name from a bird resembling a partridge that hides amid the dense foliage. You may also see a variety of butterflies, like Anna’s Eighty-eight, a species that appears to have the number 88 drawn on its wings. If you hear the sound of rustling branches, it’s surely a black-striped or tufted capuchin monkey. Agile and curious, they leap from tree to tree, climbing the trunks in a split second. They won’t attack, but it’s recommended that you don’t bother them. The Sendero Macuco ends at the Salto Arrechea, a waterfall hidden amid humid shadows, the perfect spot for a picnic.

If by chance – or design – your visit coincides with a full moon, the park has guided nighttime tours to the Garganta del Diablo, which glows white in the moonlight.

After a long day, the Iguazú Grand Resort, Spa & Casino offers a luxurious way to unwind. This traditional five-star hotel has a spa with treatments that use natural ingredients like yerba mate, chocolate, algae and clay.

 

Intriguing Landmarks

Puerto Iguazú (pop. 100,000) has grown in recent years, with new hotels, restaurants and great adventure tourism opportunities that include zip-lining, mountain biking, kayaking on the Río Iguazú and rappelling down a waterfall.

Near the downtown, on an avenue lined with tropical vegetation, you’ll find the Hito Tres Fronteras, marking the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, where you can clearly make out the Río Iguazú emptying into the Paraná and the “liquid border” that separates these three countries. At this landmark spot, you’ll also find a folk-art fair selling semi-precious stones from the area (like amethyst and topaz), as well as balsa-wood carvings of local animals made by the Guaraní peoples. The nearby eco-tourism business, La Aripuca, teaches visitors more about the jungle and is also the best place to sample alfajores and yerba mate ice cream.

 

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Twenty minutes from Puerto Iguazú, the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu (pop. 300,000) offers a chance to see another side of the falls, which includes an astonishing panoramic view of the Argentinean side. While in Brazil, don’t miss the chance visit the Parque das Aves to admire spectacular local birds, like the araras (red, yellow and blue parrots) or take a tour of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam, the second largest in the world.

Before leaving Foz, you’ll probably want to go shopping. The JL shopping center features more than 100 stores. It’s a great palce to buy clothing made from exquisite Brazilian cotton. For folk art made with different materials and techniques, the Coart co-op brings together notable artisans from the area. On the Argentinean side, Puerto Iguazú’s Duty Free Shop offers a great selection of perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, watches, sporting goods, clothing from international brands, gourmet delicacies, spirits and more. The store is quite large and usually has some interesting deals.

Near downtown Puerto Iguazú, the Jardín de Picaflores offers a great opportunity for photographers both amateur and professional. Twenty years ago, Marilene Moschen began to feed hummingbirds outside her home, now every afternoon her beautiful tropical garden fills with the tiny, brilliantly colored birds, flying about and occasionally resting on the flowers.

For dinner, head to the restaurant Naipi, at the Loi Suites Iguazú hotel, a luxurious five-star establishment about 20 minutes outside the city, surrounded by jungle with bridges suspended above the vegetation. Don’t miss the chance to sample local river fish like surubí, pacú and dorado.

 

Silence in the Jungle

The Paraná jungle boasts the greatest biodiversity in Argentina, even though in the early the 20th century, the area was logged indiscriminately, leaving only six percent of the old-growth trees. Over the past decade, a number of conservation and restoration projects have emerged, including hotels like the Yacutinga Lodge, 50 miles from the falls on the bank of the upper Iguazú.

 

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Yacutunga Lodge, on the banks of the Río Iguazú.

PHOTO: yacutinga lodge

 

Imagine a cabin in the middle of the forest with windows you can leave open at night, thanks to some impressive mosquito nets. After dark, the jungle becomes a sea of crickets, owls and unknown creatures.

In the morning, take a guided bird-watching excursion through the 1,235-acre private reserve, learning about medicinal herbs and native trees as well as local birds. Toucans, helmeted woodpeckers, and white-bearded manakins are just three of the more than 300 species registered at the reserve. It’s best to keep quiet with your binoculars at the ready and shhh! in

 

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