Almost three times wider than Niagara Falls and larger in scale than Victoria Falls, this natural wonder and world heritage site was aptly named Iguaçu Falls by the Guarani Indians, which translates as “great water”. Situated on the Parana River, which acts as a border between Brazil and Argentina (with the Paraguay border also a short distance away), an estimated 275 waterfalls make up the collective spectacle, each varying between 200 and 269 feet. The impressive crescendo is nicknamed the ‘Devils Throat’ – a spectacle of torrents of white water crashing vertically 82 metres to the river below which covers anyone within 100 metres’ proximity in a mist of tepid water. The roar of the falls can be heard from far away and is situated deep in the 167-acre national park of the same name, which protects the falls, the delicate sub-tropical forest and all the species who call it home. The nearest Brazilian city is Foz do Iguacu (“mouth of the Iguacu”), which was founded in 1889 as a military colony and has grown to a population of almost 300,000. In 1991, Brazil funded the Itaipu dam on its border with Paraguay; it is the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam. Think the hoover dam is impressive? Then you need to visit this.
There is only one place to stay when visiting the falls and that’s Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. A luxurious oasis conveniently situated in a forest opening right next to the falls on the Brazilian side. It is the only hotel to have been granted this unprecedented access, allowing hotel guests the chance to explore the trails exclusively during sunrise and sunset, without having to compete with the crowds that flood the walk daily (the entrance to the trails is situated opposite the hotel). The colonial Portuguese pastel-pink building was constructed in the 1950s, extended in the 1980s, and recently refurbished by the brilliant Belmond group. If Wes Anderson made hotels then it would likely resemble this beauteous offering. It is the epitome of five-star luxury; bell boys and their gold-plated trollies greet you at the entrance underneath the bell tower, concierges tend to every need, and to say that it feels grand is an understatement. The two-storey building wraps itself around lush gardens that house a tennis court, pool, hammocks, restaurant and gym. Opt for one of the new junior suites, which come with a private garden and small plunge pool; perfect for those lazy afternoons when you want to relax, undisturbed, with a good book in the sun. It also comes with a walk-in closet, a lounge area with a Nespresso machine, a super comfortable king-size bed and a large marble bathroom. Wi-Fi connection is good throughout the hotel, too, for those who need to check emails or Instagram. The hotel gym is great and fully functional with a TRX, treadmill, cross-trainer, dumbbells, cable machines, kettlebells and refreshments. There is a large pool and sun lounge area with a bar; perfect to soak up the ambience during downtime amid the jungle chorus of birds, insects and the occasional lizard passing through.
Food and drink
Breakfast is included for all guests. It is served in a buffet style and is one of the biggest, exquisitely presented offerings we’ve seen. There are healthy and not-so-healthy options, from porridge, smoked salmon and eggs and exotic fruits, to freshly prepared juices, omelettes, fresh coffee and toast (with non-gluten varieties). Lunch can be enjoyed via the snack menu by the pool or in a more formal a la carte offering inside the bar. Dinner is also served in a grand buffet format; a highlight being a sumptuous barbecue offering a wide selection of steaks, pork, chorizo and chicken with a variety of homemade condiments.
The majority of guests are here to see the falls and the hotel offers a plethora of ways in which to do this. There is exclusive use of the hiking trail before 8am and after 5pm for hotel guests only, and the opportunity to see this in near solitude is magical. Argentina houses the majority of the impressive falls, which means that the views from the Brazilian side are the most breathtaking. It is also awash with wildlife and you’ll likely encounter toucans, vultures, racoons, lizards, rodents and deer (jaguars and pumas less likely). The hotel can also arrange a helicopter tour that we highly recommend; this gives perspective on the spectacle of the falls and vastness of the national park. Then you can see the falls via a speedboat that takes you on a thrilling journey down the Parana river and under some of the falls, leaving you exhilarated and completely soaked. The nearby Parque das Aves bird sanctuary is also worth a visit to observe the great work they are doing by preserving and reintroducing endangered species into the forest through breeding and research programmes. The hotel can organise a private behind-the-scenes tour that starts at 7am before it opens to the public and you’ll be able to enter enclosures, feed flamingos, toucans and parrots, meet staff and observe new arrivals.
Starting rates for a luxury room with a private pool are from about £270 plus taxes a day; belmond.com