Iguassu Falls are considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world and are the most overwhelming and spectacular waterfalls in South America. The falls are over 3km wide and 80m high and their beauty is unsurpassed. They are also one of, if not the major natural attraction in Brazil. At the heart of this immense body of water is the Devils Throat, where 14 separate falls join forces, pounding down the 90meter (350ft) cliffs in a deafening crescendo of sound and spray.
Situated on the Rio Iguaçu, the border between Argentina and Brazil, the falls lie 19km (12miles) upstream from the confluence of the Rio Iguaçu with the Rio Alto Paraná. Bridges connect the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu with the Argentinean town of Puerto Iguazú and the Paraguayan city of Cuidad del Este. The Iguaçu falls are situated in the middle of the national park - Parque Nacional Foz do Iguaçu that is divided between Brazil and Argentina.
The Brazilian National Park was founded in 1939 and the area was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1986. Due to the high humidity caused by the spray from the falls the park is very rich in superb flora and fauna. The Itaipú dam, on the Río Paraná 12 km (7.5miles) north of the falls, is the site of the largest single power station in the world, built jointly by Brazil and Paraguay.
It came into operation in 1984 and produces enough electricity to power the whole of Southern Brazil and much of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais. The Jesuits set up missions among the Guaíra indians in this region in the early 17th Century. These missions flourished until they were violently attacked a few decades later by the slave-hunting bandeirantes from São Paulo and were forced to move further south within Brazil and across the border to Argentina and Paraguay. Although geology research proves that the Iguassu falls were formed over 100 million years ago due to massive volcanic eruptions, the falls are steeped in myth and legend according to ancient native Indian beliefs of the tribes that lived on the borders of the Iguaçu River.
One such legend among the Caingangue indians tells of the creation of the falls as a result of a tragic love story involving the daughter of an indian chief. The best time of year to visit is August-November, when there is least risk of flood waters hindering the approach to the catwalks.