Spreading over 1.7 miles along the borders of Argentina and Brazil, the mighty splash called Iguassu Falls is the most spectacular in South America. Declared one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it’s the world’s widest waterfall, broader and higher than Niagara and topped in height only by Victoria Falls in Zambia and Angel Falls in Venezuela.
If you’re seeing las cascadas from the Argentine side, you’re looking at Iguazu; if you’re standing on the Brazilian side, it’s Iguaçu; and in travel literature and right here, you’ll find the falls spelled Iguassu. Written any way, the word comes from the area’s early residents, the Guarani Indians, and is translated as “Great Waters,” an understatement for a setting in which the Parana River divides into as many as 275 cataracts that rush through rock channels and cascade downward 170 ft. into a canyon, creating a natural wonder of spray and thunder.
And if you’re seeing the falls from the Argentine side, you’re in the northeast province of Misiones, and as of this past March, you may be staying at the 25-acre, top-luxury Awasi Iguazu, located on the banks of the Iguazu River, 20 minutes from the entrance to the falls. This eco-resort sits in a rainforest paradise, home to 400 species of birds, jaguars and ocelots, capybaras and howler monkeys, plus more than 2,000 kinds of plants.
The main lodge, laid out open-plan, is elegantly appointed with leather sofas, comfortable wooden furnishings and large windows offering front row forest panoramas; it houses the lounge and bar, as well as the restaurant—the domain of Chef Aaron Castillo Telleria who comes to Iguazu from Awasi Patagonia.
Stone pathways connect the lodge to Awasi’s 13 villas—a spacious 1076 sq. ft.—plus one 2-bedroom master villa measuring 1,650 sq. ft. Built on stilts for minimal environmental impact, all villas have spacious living rooms, high ceilings, plus ceiling fans and air conditioning, bathrooms with windows offering jungle views, outside decks fitted with sun loungers and private plunge pools.
As with its sister properties in Chile—Awasi Atacama and Awasi Patagonia—the all-inclusive plan at Awasi Iguazu provides guests with their own private guides and 4WD cars, making it easy to customize each day’s activities exploring the Atlantic Rainforest and walking the trails cutting above and through the falls. Additionally, being able to travel at one’s own pace makes unique adventures possible: kayaking the Yacui River, taking the resort’s private motorboat to Yasi Waterfalls, visiting the local Guarani communities, and heading out to the 18th century Jesuit ruins of San Ignacio Mimi,a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The ticket for this Awasi totally all-inclusive experience runs high—starting in low season at $1,520 per villa per day, a price that high-end travelers seeking exotic, one-of-a-kind experiences are willing to pay, according to Michelle Shelburne, president of Ladatco Tours who just got back from Awasi Iguazu. “Those clients will be pleased with the Awasi luxury and comfort in this pristine rainforest setting, and action-seeking travelers just belong at all the Awasi properties.”
Obviously, most visitors will be accommodated in other lodgings, whose quantity and quality have increased greatly on both sides of the falls in the last 10 years. Additionally, each country’s upgraded national park facilities make bird, butterfly and animal watching a primetime activity, along with boating and kayaking up to and under the great waters. Iguassu Falls is really no longer just a 1-night destination.
However, there’s always the question: See the Falls from which country? Shelburne feels strongly that “One cannot know Iguassu without visiting both sides of the falls, for while Brazil has the best panoramas, Argentina brings the falls experience up-close and personal.”