I’ve been told by some Brazilian friends that Iguazu Falls, also known as Cataratas do Iguaçu, is considered by most native Brazilians to be nothing more than a tourist trap. I do, in fact, recall a few quiet snickers in the background when I insisted on going.
Well, my friends, eat your words. Iguazu Falls is, without a doubt, one of the most stunning natural wonders on earth. It is majestic, powerful, and awesome. We were incrediably lucky to visit the falls on a clear and sunny day. February is one of the peak months to visit Iguazu Falls, the rains have raised the water levels six times higher than normal! There are 275 waterfalls – some as high as 260 feet! – straddling the borders of Brazil and Argentina. Upon seeing Iguaçu Falls, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” Iguassu National Park, established in 1939, is the point of entry to visit the waterfalls. This reserve has a particularly rich array of fauna, with over three hundred species of birds, forty-four species of mammals, and over 1,400 species of butterflies.
The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words, meaning “water”, and ûasú, meaning “big”. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage the god sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.