It was with trepidation that I first visited Iguaçu Falls. Though considered one of the world’s great natural wonders, I’d heard and seen so much of them – largely thanks to the memorable scenes filmed there for Roland Joffé’s epic movie The Mission – that I almost felt there was little point in actually visiting the place.
But when I eventually went, I found the falls as majestic, and the surrounding forest every bit as bewitching, as I should have expected. As I hauled myself through La Ventana – an enormous rock formation framed, as the name suggests, like a window – and saw the deep natural pool fed by a series of small waterfalls on the other side, I was happy to eat my words.
Iguazú waterfalls from helicopter (Shutterstock)
As cash cows of the two countries’ national parks systems, there’s no escaping the fact that both Brazil’s Parque Nacional do Iguaçu and Argentina’s much larger Parque Nacional Iguazú have become victims of rampant commercialisation, their infrastructures ever more intrusive. Yet, despite the souvenir shops and snack bars, the high-speed dinghies and the rumble of helicopters, Iguaçu remains a truly amazing destination.
When you catch a glimpse of a capuchin monkey swinging from branch to branch, spot the bright-orange beak of a toucan flying overhead, gaze at a perfectly formed rainbow amid the mist of one of the countless lesser cataracts, or simply spend a quiet moment absorbing the aromas, tones and shades of the seemingly infinite forest around, it’s impossible not to recognise that this place is something truly special.
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