Many times wider than Niagara, the Iguazu Falls are one of the natural wonders of the world and a mesmeric, exhilarating experience from all points of view.
Thoughtfully, the Iguazu National Park authorities provide multiple ways to get these views. Our first sight came on foot, as we made our way along a steep trail above the river. As we turned a corner, we felt the misty spray, heard the roar of the water, then saw the massive torrents cascading like thick white curtains, over 275 interlinked cataracts stretching for almost three kilometres. Further along the trail we could walk out into the middle of the river to be drenched by the spray and thrill to the immenseness of it all.
Next we took a miniature train on wheels through the rain forest to a small quayside, where we boarded a motorboat. This took us at high speed upstream, through boiling white water rapids, to the falls themselves. We were warned that we would get wet. Very wet. But nothing can quite prepare you for the force of the Iguassu Falls descending on your head from 120 metres!
The following day we took a nine kilometre hike through the surrounding rainforest, spying dozens of kaleidoscopic butterflies, toucans, and red-faced macaque monkeys swinging through the woodland canopy. Jaguars prowl this area, but are seldom seen by day. We did spot a few coati and some wild tapirs (a bit like a long-nosed pig). At the end of the trail we took to the water once more, kayaking along the wide Iguazu River above the falls (not too near!) and spotting some scary-looking caiman – a relation of the alligator – on the Argentinean shore. Many visitors to Brazil go to the Amazon, but this vast area of rainforest offers an excellent alternative, without the risk of getting malaria.
Our final viewpoint for the Falls was from the air, in a helicopter. This is where you can really take in their sheer majesty, the giant scope and extraordinary nature. Formed more than 100 million years ago by a succession of volcanic eruptions, they really are like nothing else on earth.
You also get a great view of Hotel Das Cataratas, the only hotel inside the Brazilian Iguassu National Park (there are some on the Argentinean side) and a wonder all of its own. Constructed in 1958, it has a deep classical charm, lovingly appointed rooms, fantastic cuisine and a blissful swimming pool, all within a couple of minutes walk of the Falls. Guests can order club sandwiches to eat in the drawing room, on the terrace where toucans fly here and there, or in the games room where an open fire keeps guests warm on winter evenings. Highly recommended.