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Argentina holds beauty, power
Waterfalls mix with cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires
Iguazu Falls comprises about 275 waterfalls, many more than 200 feet high. They line about two miles of the Iguazu River, which runs between Brazil and Argentina. - photo by Richard Daigle

The travel issue

Have a grand ole getaway in Nashville, Tenn.: Fill your vacation with music and family-friendly activities.

Stretch the budget with a trip that does double duty: Pinching pennies? Try making a vacation out of visiting family.

A quick getaway: Looking for somewhere closer to home? Try one of these day trips.

GARGANTA DEL DIABLO, Argentina — The rumble of rushing water got louder as my daughter, Caroline, and I marched down the metal walkway.

Birds and mist swirled through the air on our approach to "Garganta del Diablo," a colossal waterfall so named because many years ago native fishermen would set out but never return, swallowed by "the devil's throat." At the viewing platform, what we saw was both overwhelming and mesmerizing: a raging torrent cascading 270 feet downward.

There are sights in the world that are so breathtaking, it's clear that as you behold them a lifetime memory is formed. Iguazu Falls, situated in the jungle of Argentina's Misiones Province, is such a sight. A trip to Iguazu, and Argentina in general, redefines the word "unforgettable." If Argentina isn't on your short list of places to go before you die, update your list.

Having now seen both Niagara Falls and Iguazu Falls, I understand completely what Eleanor Roosevelt felt on her visit to Iguazu when she remarked "poor Niagara." Poor Niagara indeed. As powerful and beautiful as the United State's most famous falls is, there's simply no comparison. Iguazu Falls has more power, more beauty, more falls and in short is much more spectacular.

Iguazu Falls is actually around 275 falls total, the majority with heights more than 200 feet, throughout almost two miles of the Iguazu River. The sight from the Brazilian side is the most scenic and panoramic, but a pricey Brazilian visa is required. The Argentinean side is known as the "fun side," where you can get very close to the falls - even in them if you take the boat ride.

Our trip to Iguazu was via Buenos Aires, where we enjoyed a city tour, a Tango show and plenty of Argentine beef. The European flair and smart sophistication of Buenos Aires makes it a South America destination in a class by itself. From Plaza de Mayo to Puerto Madero to the Obelisk on Avenida of Nueve de Julio, which is the widest street in the world, Buenos Aires is a city with passion and verve.

Rather than wing it or set up our own itinerary stateside, we used Yampu Latin American Tours out of New York to plan the stops. When you're making an international trip such as this, it's important to make the most of your travel dollars, so sometimes having a professional help you out is a good idea.

"I want to help people experience exciting destinations the right way, not the cheapest way," said Monica Irauzqui, Yampu's vice president.

From our room in the Panoramic Hotel we saw green countryside where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay converged. Our meals at the Panoramic and its sister hotel, the Iguazu Grand Hotel, featured Argentine beef and a local fish, surubi.

The excitement of the falls contrasted with the wonderful Latin leisure and repose we found at the Panoramic. The quaint shops and restaurants of the small town of Iguazu were only a five-minute walk away. Atlanta hustle and bustle, on the other hand, seemed like a million miles away.

"We call it the Argentinean way," said Marcela Morawicki, events manager at the Panoramic. "We are used to receiving people from the U.S. and we know how to treat them." For example, she said, they know Americans like to eat dinner "early" - from 6 to 8 p.m. - instead of the typical 9 to 10 p.m. in the average Argentine household.

Travel abroad is a challenging proposition in the current economic climate but a trip to Argentina might be more affordable than you expect. If you can swing it, it will provide something money can't buy - lifetime memories.

Richard Daigle is a freelance writer who lives in Atlanta.

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