There are some places so extraordinary that even though you’ve been to them (and have the photos to prove it!), they still feel somewhat like a dream. Look, not many, I’ll be honest, but perhaps a handful of places in my life that feel – literally – as if I fell asleep one night and dreamt them up.
Iguassu Falls is top of that list.
First, some background: the Iguassu Falls are an awe-inspiring collection of nearly 300 individual waterfalls, 19 of which are ‘big’ waterfalls, the biggest of which is the Devil’s Throat, which is over 90 metres high. While only three of the falls are on the Brazilian side of the border (and all the others are on the Argentinian side), the views from Brazil are much better, because you get a panoramic display as opposed to being literally on top of the falls.
Some more background: there is only one way to experience Iguassu Falls, and that’s by staying at the Hotel das Cataratas. Now, I know it may seem a little extreme to say that staying in a gorgeous, decadent, Portuguese-colonial mansion painted pink is the only way to see a natural wonder, but in this case it is unequivocably true. Why is that? Well, because the hotel is the only one located within the Iguassu National Park, and right across the road from the falls. Yes, you read that right – across the road from one of the world’s most extraordinary waterfalls. What this means, apart from the fact that you can open your window and look out at the falls, is that hotel guests have private access to the many walkways and viewing platforms before and after the hordes of tourists have passed. So you can wake up early in the morning, sip a cup of coffee while looking out at the falls, and then take a solo walk along the walkways, surprising some of the wildlife and birds, and taking as many unobstructed photos as you wish. Or you can do what we did, and take a guided walking tour with the resident ecologist, who will explain all you ever wanted to know about the flora and fauna of the area.
We also, believe it or not (I sometimes find it quite hard to believe), flew in a helicopter over the Iguassu Falls, which was quite possibly the most exciting 20 minutes of my life. Ever. And we went on an adventure boat that takes you right underneath one of the smaller waterfalls and was non-stop exhilaration from start to finish.
The hotel itself was exceptional, a real treat to stay in, and although we were busy pretty much start to finish with exploring the waterfalls in a number of different ways, the one memory that sticks in my mind is this: early evening, nobody else around, standing on one of the viewing platforms looking out at the waterfalls, and surrounded by butterflies. Now, I ask you, doesn’t that sound like a dream?
Photo: Just the Planet