I found myself in northern Argentina with a clear path down the western border to Patagonia. So why would I hop on 3 buses for 24 hours in the perpendicular direction? Iguazu Falls. Having checked off Machu Picchu a few years back, Iguazu Falls was my ‘must see’ for South America. Sometimes destinations get ingrained my head and when my best friend remarked how her well traveled mom considered it the most beautiful place on earth, it went immediately on my bucket list. For being inconvenient and expensive to get to, I was really hoping I hadn’t set unrealistic expectations for a waterfall. My verdict? Add it to your list. Now. It is worth every detour to experience!
In the northeastern corner of Argentina, where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, lies the vast waterfalls and cataracts of Iguazu Falls. 80% of the falls fall (ha) on the Argentinian side, which was fortunate for me because there was no way I was getting a Brazilian Visa for one day at $160 to see the other 20% (I could see just fine from where I was in Argentina!). It’s not the biggest or tallest waterfall in the world, but it did win a spot on the list of New 7 Wonders of Nature.
About half of the Parana River flows over the u-shaped Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo), generating rising mist for hundreds of feet. My favorite, though, was heading across the lower river to Isla San Martin (free/included) for a viewpoint that left me utterly in awe. From 8:30am to 4pm, I was a little kid again excitedly rushing from one viewing area to another, snapping over 300 pictures of water. It was a perfect hot, sunny day; summer was reaching South America. The lack of recent rain made the water run clean and regularly I felt transported to a scene from Land Before Time.
Surely all the Vitamin D and spectacular views would make almost anyone happy, but perhaps it was something more too. Supposedly, the abundance of negative ions in the atmosphere around waterfalls can boost serotonin levels in the brain which makes us less stressed and more energetic. Happiest place on earth? Perhaps. Definitely one of the most spectacular places I’ve enjoyed on my travels thus far and one I’ll recommend over and over again to visit.