South America Top 5 Countdown
4. Puerto Iguazu & Salta, Argentina
When James Cameron was asked about his inspiration for the utopic Pandora, he replied, “It already exists in this world.” When I came across the breathtaking beauty of the Iguazú Falls, I realized what he meant.
Indeed, the falls reminded me of the scenery from the famous moon in The Avatar. Taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horsehoe shape over nearly two miles, Iguazú Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption which left yet another large crack in the earth. These matter of fact details do nothing to describe the grandeur of the falls, the tremendous amount of water (an average of 553 cubic feet per second) thundering down 269 feet, the tropical location and the sheer beauty that led Eleanor Roosevelt to sayPoor Niagara. Four times the width of Niagara Falls, Iguazu Falls are divided by various islands into separate waterfalls.
The falls are at a geographical center, connecting the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. I got a chance to visit all three borders but the Argentine side was by far the best. My visit to the falls and the city of Puerto Iguazu makes this part of my South American trip the fourth on my list. The city, although a very touristy one, gave me a chance to meet and stay with some amazing Argentinian folks. I spent the first days of 2011 enjoying some traditional Argentine food and conversation (mostly about soccer and the rivalry with Brazil), but also met fellow travelers from Columbia who gave me a great synopsis of the cultures, people, and their diversity within the continent.
After Puerto Iguazu I went to Salta, a very colonial city which was once the hub of the Spanish presence in Argentina. A very quaint city, with plenty of architecture and European influences in its art and food, Salta was definitely the most “Spanish” city I visited in my trip. But it gave me a good glimpse of South America’s colonial past and its present similarities with Europe.
It was during this leg of my tour, in the Puerto Iguazu airport, that I would meet my fellow traveler from New York who would go on to accompany me for the rest of the trip. It was amazing to meet someone who had taken the exact same days off work, with exact arrival and departure dates (our flights back from Lima to North America were 10 mins apart) – the only difference being prior to Puerto Iguazu I was in Rio de Janeiro while she was in Buenos Aires. What a small world…and amazing how an unplanned trip unfolds itself!