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Discover Argentina: Iguassu Falls

Part 6 of our "Discover Argentina" series features three countries, two national parks, and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Do you know what Argentina’s Puerto Iguazú, Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu, and Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este have in common? They are the three towns via which you can gain access to the spectacular series of waterfalls, called Iguazú Falls in Spanish, both Iguassu Falls and Iguaçu Falls in Portuguese, and Yguazú Falls in Guarani, a language of indigenous people in Paraguay. The falls are shared by Iguazú National Park in Argentina and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil. The two parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1987, respectively.

Iguazú/Iguassu/ Iguaçu/Iguaçu Falls are a series of waterfalls extending nearly 2 miles in a semi-circular shape. They are the largest waterfalls system in the world They are a part of the New 7 Wonders f Nature. They occur where the Iguazú River falls over the edge of the Paraná Plateau near the source of the Paraná River. The islands along the edge of the plateau break the water up into 150 to 300 waterfalls, depending upon the water level.

Half of the river’s water flows into a long, narrow U-shaped gorge called Garganta del Diablo (Spanish), Garganta do Diabo (Portuguese), or Devil’s Throat that is 269 feet high × 492 feet wide × 2,297 feet long. Are you interested in more numbers? — The falls are 200,000 years old, and they pour as much as 400,000 gallons of water per second on the rocks below!

The falls consist of three tiers, with each providing a different vantage point from which to view this natural wonder. The upper path leads to a footbridge from which you get a panoramic view of the Iguazú River cascading over the Paraná Plateau. The lower path leads to the base of the falls, which you’ll view through a thick veil of mist. The third tier is the water itself.  You board a boat on the river and go under the falls.

There is a lot to see in both Brazil and Argentina outside the boundaries of the national parks. The Jesuits built a series of missions in the 17th century. San Ignacio Miní was constructed in 1610, moved in 1632, finally settling in its present location in 1696. The ruins of this mission, designated a UNESESCO World Heritage site in 1984, are among the best preserved structures in the area.

If you would like to learn more about the Guarani people, a group of indigenous people of South America, visit a Guarani village near Puerto Iguazú. You’ll be enriched by the knowledge you’ll gain of Guarani culture, beliefs, medicine, and crafts.

Do you love gemstones? Do you collect geodes? If you do, you must visit Wanda Mines. You’ll see semiprecious stones and geodes — amethyst, agate, topaz, clear quartz, and milky quartz — being mined in a series of caves. And, you’ll have an opportunity to purchase your favorites in the gift shop.

Shopping is an activity many people enjoy while on vacation. You’ll find good prices and a wide selection of perfume, cosmetics, clothing, and electronics at Basan Shopping Mall in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. The reason the prices are so good? Ciudad del Este is a tax-free city.

If you haven’t had enough views of water, visit Itaipu Dam on the Paraná River near border of Paraguay and Brazil. Generating 95% of the energy consumed by Paraguay and 25% of the electricity used by Brazil, Itaipu Dam is the world’s largest operational hydroelectric power plant. To put its size into perspective, the amount of steel and iron used to construct the reservoir would be enough to construct a building 380 times larger than the Eiffel Tower. Plus, the volume of concrete used would be enough to construct 210 soccer stadiums, each seating nearly 79,000 people.

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