Located in the south of the country, Parana is one of the 26 states of Brazil. It is bordered by the republic of Paraguay in the west with the Parana River as its western boundary line. Parana is one of the central tourist attractions of Brazil. It is the seat of mesmerizing monuments that are always a visual treat for the eyes. This Brazilian state is also famous for the waterfalls of the Iguazu River that flows across the border of Parana into the Argentine province of Misiones. The river is believed to have its origins near the city of Curitiba. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The UNESCO World Heritage List cites the Iguazu Falls as one of the most tempting, sensuous beauty of nature. The Iguazu Falls have also featured in several movies like The Mission, Moonraker, Baraka etc.
The falls are about 23 kilometres upriver from the Iguazu confluence with the Parana River. It is again divided into several smaller waterfalls varying between 60 to 82 metres in height by numerous islands. However about 900 metres of the fall does not have water flowing through it. The water that flows through the lower Iguazu gets collected in a canyon and is passed on to the Parana River. The Itaipu dam is in close proximity to the river. The junction of the water body also marks the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. About half of the river flows through the Devil’s throat- the border between Brazil and Argentina. However, almost 80% of the falls pass through the Argentine border. The Devil’s Throat in Argentina has water pouring into it from three sides. They are arranged in a way that it seems like the letter ‘J’ is kept reversed.
Watching the falls, the heavy gush of water down the hills is indeed a feast to the eyes. It is a once in a lifetime experience and we get to witness the bounties of nature. The name Iguazu is derived from the Guarani or Tupi words ‘y’ meaning ‘water’ and ‘uasu’ meaning ‘big’. History says that there was once a beautiful woman called Naipi whom a god had planned to marry. But she had cheated on him and fled with her lover Taroba on a canoe. Enraged the god determined to take revenge on the lovers by cutting the river into halves, thereby creating the waterfall. It was Alvar de Vaca, a Spanish conquistador who discovered the falls in 1541. The Iguazu falls are often compared to the Victoria Falls that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Not only are the Iguazu waterfalls taller than the falls of Niagara but are also twice as wide as them. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt of The United States exclaimed: Poor Niagara! after getting struck by breathtaking beauty of the falls. Moreover Iguazu has the second largest annual flow compared to other waterfalls in the world after Niagara.
The water falls with a deafening roar and joins the running stream. Though the place experiences a sub tropical climate round the year, it is normally very misty. Because of this, people also consider the Iguazu Falls as “the place where clouds are born”. It seems as if the water throws itself over the cliffs as the morning mists rises above the forest. Its breathtaking beauty has the power to make us seem small when compared to the Iguazu Falls. One could visit the falls through Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay as it is located in the so-called tri-border of the three countries. Moreover none of the three countries have claimed the ownership of this beautiful art of nature. Foz do Iguazu (a Brazilian city) and Puerto Iguazu (an Argentine town) is considered the safest locations from where one could catch a glimpse of the waterfalls of Iguazu.
Visiting the falls for a day and spending time on each side is always worth one’s time. One can also go for a boat ride or indulge in other activities that are offered. While the majority of the falls are in Argentina, it is the portion in Brazil that offers a much better view of the fall. However those accessing the falls via Argentina can take any of the five tracks paved and well marked by the Argentine government of which the path via Garganta del Diabla is the most attractive. One could take the free train running up the river and watch from the main horseshoe of falls where the roar and spray are most tremendous. Wildwater rafting and abseiling activities are other sports that one could enjoy on a trip to the ‘Cataratas del Iguazu’.
The Iguazu Falls also offer the best views and walkways than any other water sights of the world. A person standing at any point is always surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. It is one among the most monumental waterfalls in the world. Spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy established a plaque ‘A Sri Chinmoy Peace Falls’ dedicated to the site in 2000. However, the majesty and beauty of Iguazu was also on the verge of dying in 2006 when the place got affected by a long drought. This had resulted in diminishing the amount of water to 300 cubic metres per second. Today the falls belong to a family of hundreds of similar beautiful “Peace Blossoms” of the world that are dedicated to promoting world peace and international friendship.