Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The Iguazu River rises near the city of Curitiba. For most of its course, the river flows through Brazil, however, most of the falls are on the Argentine side. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil.
The name "Iguazu" comes from the Guarani or Tupi words "y" [ɨ], meaning "water", and "ûasú "[waˈsu], meaning "big". Legend has it that a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The first European to record the existence of the falls was the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541.
Iguazu Falls is located where the Iguazu River tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau, 23 kilometres (14 mi) upriver from the Iguazu's confluence with the Paraná River. Numerous islands along the 2.7-kilometre-long (1.7 mi) edge divide the falls into numerous separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 ft) high. The number of these smaller waterfalls fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level.
About half of the river's flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese). The Devil's Throat is U-shaped, 82 meters high, 150 m wide, and 700 m long (269×490×2,300 ft). Placenames have been given also to many other smaller falls, such as San Martin Falls, Bossetti Falls and many others.
About 900 meters (2,950 ft) of the 2.7-kilometre (1.7 mi) length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes by 3 mm (0.1 in) per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains in the Paraná River, a short distance downstream from the Itaipu Dam. The junction of the water flows marks the border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. There are points in the cities of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which have access to the Iguazu River, where the borders of all three nations can be seen, a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the three cities.
There are two international airports close to Iguazú Falls: the Argentine Cataratas del Iguazú International Airport (IGR) and the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU). Argentina's airport is 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the city of Iguazu, but is closer to the falls hotels than its Brazilian counterpart. There are bus and taxi services from and to the Airport-Falls. Brazil's airport is between Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, and the falls. LAN Airlines and Aerolíneas Argentinas have direct flights from Buenos Aires to Iguazu International Airport Krause. Several Brazilian airlines, such as TAM Airlines, GOL, Azul, and WebJet (Currently merged with GOL) offer service from the main Brazilian cities to Foz do Iguaçu.
The falls may be reached from two main towns, with one on either side of the falls: Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, as well as from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, on the other side of the Paraná river from Foz do Iguaçu. The falls are shared by the Iguazú National Park (Argentina) and Iguaçu National Park (Brazil). The two parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1987, respectively. The first proposal for a Brazilian national park aimed at providing a pristine environment to "future generations", just as "it had been created by God" and endowed with "all possible preservation, from the beautiful to the sublime, from the picturesque to the awesome" and "an unmatched flora" located in the "magnificent Iguaçú waterfalls". These were the words used by André Rebouças, an engineer, in his book "Provinces of Paraná, Railways to Mato Grosso and Bolivia", which started up the campaign aimed at preserving the Iguaçu Falls in 1876. At this time, Yellowstone National Park in the U.S., the first national park in the world, was four years old.
On the Brazilian side, there is a walkway along the canyon with an extension to the lower base of Devil's Throat. Helicopter rides offering aerial views of the falls have been available from Brazil, however, Argentina has prohibited such helicopter tours because of the adverse environmental impact on the flora and fauna of the falls. From Foz do Iguaçu airport, the park may be reached by taking a taxi or bus to the entrance of the park. There is an entrance fee to the park on both sides. Once inside, free and frequent buses are provided to various points within the park. The town of Foz do Iguaçu is approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) away, and the airport is between the park and the town.
Iguazu Falls experiences a humid subtropical climate (Cfa, according to the Köppen climate classification) with abundant precipitation and high temperatures year-round.