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Spectacular Waterfalls of Latin America

October 19, 2010

Waterfalls are dramatic creations of nature that come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have millions of gallons of water roaring over the lip of a giant cliff, crashing down into a boiling white froth. Others are a smooth curtain of clear water peacefully spilling over the edge of no return into a calm pool suitable for swimming. Central and South America are home to some of the world’s most famous waterfalls. Others, while not the tallest, widest or most powerful, should still not be missed. Here are the top picks of waterfalls you should not miss when you visit in five different Latin American countries.

Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side. Photo courtesy of Keith Jenkins

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil – This massive waterfall is actually a system of 275 individual falls on the Iguazu River along the border of Brazil and Argentina. The impressive horseshoe-shaped Devil’s Throat actually straddles the border and walkways on both sides allow close views. This falls system is without question the widest and most powerful in Latin America and one of the top three in the world, often compared to Niagara (US/Canada) and Victoria (Zambia/Zimbabwe). 

Angel Falls in Venezuela. Photo by Benedict Adam (CC)

Angel Falls, Venezuela – This breath-taking waterfall holds the record as the tallest waterfall in the world and is named for Jimmy Angel who discovered it from the air in 1933. The silvery water of the Churun River free falls from a height of over 3,000 feet – more than a half mile high! In comparison, that’s about 20 times the height of Niagara Falls. It is remote and set in dense forest, so seeing it from the air is a popular way to view this spectacular waterfall. You can also hike a trail to the base of the falls and at times, the spray can be felt up to a mile away.

La Paz Waterfall, Costa Rica – Located about an hour from San Jose, near the Poas Volcano National Park, the Waterfall Gardens Park is a picturesque and private wildlife refuge. La Paz is the most famous waterfall there, but there are five other waterfalls above La Paz. The easy access makes it a popular photo stop for visitors on the way to Arenal Volcano.

Gocta Waterfall in Peru. Photo by Reto Luescher (CC)

Catarata Gocta, Peru – This impressive double drop waterfall was known to locals of the Chachapoyas region of Peru for centuries, but was only made public in 2005, due to the locals’ fear of reprisal by the mythical blonde mermaid that inhabited the waters. It can actually be seen for miles and  was measured at 2,540 feet. Gocta is named after a nearby village.

Salto Grande, Patagonia – Located in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile, this waterfall is short, wide, and powerful. Glacial melt provides the amazing volume of water that drains from Lago Nordenskjöld into Lago Pehoé. You can walk right up to the brink from a short and easy trail, but be careful not to be swept away!

True waterfall aficionados plan trips specifically to see waterfalls, or the less passionate admirer might just like to see them if it is convenient to their destination. Whatever your level of interest, let your Covington advisor help you plan the perfect vacation in Latin America.

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