Where plurality has a rendezvous with nature
As Brazil’s most visited destiny by foreigners in search for ecotourism, Foz do Iguaçu surprises by going way beyond than that. The plural city uncovered by visitors has strong native-Brazilian roots with pinches of many other cultures.
By Rapha Aretakis
To get in touch with the dynamics of this centennial but young town, a 3-hour tour gets you to the point. The first stop is in the iconic Triple Frontier Obelisk, where tourists have the sight of two rivers (Iguaçu and Paraná) and two countries besides Brazil-Paraguay and Argentina. Next is the city’s mosque, opened in 1983 and named after Omar Ibn Al-Khatab, known to be one of the most upright and pious men of Muslim’s history.
House of second largest Arab community in Brazil, it’s a sumptuous building with a beautiful interior. Immersion is even more complete if the visit is combined with a stop at the pastry store Almanara, right next to it. Buddhism, fourth religion with more followers in the world, has a -great- space in Foz do Iguaçu.
The Buddhist temple, one of the major study and meditation center in Latin America, has impressive figures: more than a hundred statues spread throughout its garden, many of them facing the sunset. A grandeur proportional to the peace you find there.
The major one of its kind in Latin America, the Birds Park was opened in 1994. With more than 1,100 animals of one hundred and forty different species, half of its contingent comes from rescue of abuse and trafficking. The park is very well maintained, has no zoo atmosphere, such is the proximity visitor/animals. In no longer than 2 hours, you can cover it all: enter the coops fused into the woods and watch the birds arriving and perform flybys over people’s heads, a delight for children and adults.
Toucans, macaws, seriemas, ararajubas, guarás, garças, plus flamingos, owls and other animals are the big stars of this sanctuary of Iguassu Falls. In the coop of the macaws -the largest in the world- by immersion experience, you can hear how high can reach the squawk of a parrot and even feel the wind in the face produced by the flapping of its wings when, in pairs, they raise flight. An explosion of colors and sounds, which is very unusual, even for those who are from Brazil.
The closeness to other two countries is such that sometimes it is hard to separate where one ends from where the other begins. If it weren’t for the border or the loss of cell bars, it would be difficult to get it right. Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, is known in Brazil for being a shopping mecca. Shortly after crossing the “Friendship Bridge” -which connects the two countries-, it’s easy to see street hawkers striving to do business in Portuguese. Eagle eyes are necessary for not taking counterfeit goods home. Be aware not to fall for the pairs of socks offers, as they’re so tempting cheap. It’s a curious experience after all. Puerto Iguazú, on the Argentinian border, people eat and drinkvery well – meat and wine are the stars of the night. Stopping by the wine storesand emporiums will ensure the best souvenirs from Argentina: wines, ‘dulce de leche’ and alfajor.
Iguaçu, from tupi-guarani language, “huge water”
One of the new seven wonders of nature, the ‘Iguaçu Falls’ are the set ofmany waterfalls of Iguaçu River. Within the Iguaçu National Park, you can walk several trails overlooking the set of waterfalls. The most popular of these is the 1.5 km-long trail that ends at the “Devil’s Throat”, the greatest of the falls.
To watch this nature’s spectacle from another perspective -and with great deal of adrenaline-, visitors must board the Macuco Safari. Starting with a ride on an electric car in the middle of the Atlantic forest, observing flora and fauna, plus a 600 meters walk passing by the “Macuco’s leap” waterfall -Macuco is a known bird in the region- and finally boarding on a powerful boat, which beats the rough water flow that courses down the canyon all the way to experience a wonderful waterfall bath on board, such an unforgettable experience.
To help you plan your visit to Foz do Iguaçu
Iguassu National Park – http://www.cataratasdoiguacu.com.br
Loumar Turismo – http://www.loumarturismo.com.br
Birds Park – http://www.parquedasaves.com.br/
*Rapha Aretakis is a travel writer and creator of the travel website
Raphanomundo.com. Born in Recife – northeast of Brazil, believes that the world is too big to stand at one place only. She lives now in Curitiba after spending some springs in Stuttgart, Berlin and Sao Paulo.