Iguazu and the amazing Itaipu Dam

Itaipu Dam

For those interested in engineering and hydroelectric works, an excellent visit that can be made while exploring and getting to know Iguazu Falls is a visit to the Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam



The Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant, also known as ITAIPU Binacional, is a binational hydroelectric plant located between the cities of Hernandarias, Paraguay, and Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, on the Paraná River, at the border between both countries, 14 km north of the Friendship Bridge. The area involved in the project extends from Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) to the south, and to Guaíra (Brazil) and Salto del Guairá (Paraguay) to the north.

ITAIPU Binacional, operational since 1984, holds the title of “largest energy producer on the planet” with 103,098,366 MWh produced in 2015. It is also the dam with the highest cumulative production, with 2.5 billion MWh since the start of operations. The Itaipu Dam has an installed electro-hydraulic generation capacity of 14,000 MW, with 20 generating turbines of 700 MW each, and its construction cost the two partner countries $36 billion. It was for a long time the largest hydroelectric plant in the world until 2011 when it was surpassed by the Three Gorges Dam in China.

ITAIPU DAM: Location

Its dam, made of concrete, rock, and earth, is located 14 km north of the Friendship Bridge, bordering the Paraguayan city of Hernandarias, in the Alto Paraná Department on its western bank, and with Foz do Iguaçu, in the state of Paraná, Brazil, on its eastern bank; likewise, it is 16.2 km north of the bridge that connects the city of Foz do Iguaçu with the Argentine city of Puerto Iguazú. It has a drop of 120 m in gross fall. This dam creates a reservoir (artificial lake) of about 29,000 hm³ of water, with approximately 200 km of straight-line extension, and an approximate area of 1400 km². When it was built, it made the Guairá Falls extinct, but when the water level drops, part of these waterfalls, which were the largest on the Paraná River, can be seen.

The energy generated by Itaipu destined for Brazil is managed by the company ENBPar, and the energy destined for Paraguay by the National Electricity Administration (ANDE).


Check the Itaipu Dam, location map:


Itaipu Dam. Engineering in Iguazu Falls

ITAIPU: The origin of the name

The origin of Itaipu, is from the Guarani language. Itaipu  means “roaring stone”. This naming reflects the indigenous influence on the region and the significance of the project in both local and national contexts.


ITAIPU DAM: a bit of history

The Itaipu Dam is the result of a diplomatic maneuver to avoid a military conflict between Paraguay and Brazil over a border issue. The border problem originated in the Loizaga – Cotegipe Treaty, which established peace and new borders between Paraguay and Brazil after the War against the Triple Alliance, signed on January 9, 1872, in Asunción.

In that treaty – highly favorable to the Empire of Brazil and absolutely negative for the Republic of Paraguay – the latter was stripped of the extensive territories between the Blanco River and the Apa River. The borders were established imperfectly, defining the boundaries between both countries from the mouth of the Iguazú River to the extinct Guaira Falls.

The legal instrument was signed in a decimated, plundered, and occupied Paraguay by Brazilian military forces, which would have projected a very negative image of Brazil internationally. The treaty, in its article 2, stipulated that the boundaries would be adjusted and defined in a Special Treaty. It stated: “The territory of the Empire of Brazil is divided with that of the Republic of Paraguay by the (…) channel of the Paraná River, from where the Brazilian possessions begin at the mouth of the Yguazú to the Great Jump of the Seven Falls (Guaira Falls) of the same Paraná River. From the Great Jump of the Seven Falls, the dividing line continues along the summit of the Mbaracayú Sierra until it concludes.” So Paraguay, adhering to a treaty imposed by force, maintained the dividing line along the Mbaracayu summit as the boundary between it and Brazil. This dividing line was never demarcated on the ground, in the stretch of approximately 20 kilometers, between landmark 341/IV and the Guairá Falls. To fulfill this task, a Joint Boundary Demarcation Commission was created the same year, which worked until 1874, with precarious methods and could not complete its work. They began their work from the confluence of the Paraguay River and the Apa River, and the last landmark placed was 135 kilometers from the Guairá Falls.

In 1965, Brazil militarily occupied the area of the falls. The boundaries with Paraguay were established but not demarcated, as explained earlier, the demarcation was not completed. Brazilian military forces occupied Puerto Renato, which was in Paraguayan territory but in dispute since the War against the Triple Alliance. After the diplomatic crisis and the specter of a possible military confrontation, the United States intervened as a mediator, causing Brazil and Paraguay to sign the Iguazú Act, which created a Paraguayan-Brazilian joint commission to study the possible hydroelectric exploitation of the Paraná River and promised a fair price and preferential acquisition of the electricity produced, something that was erased in the Itaipu Treaty.

On June 22, 1966, the Foreign Ministers of Brazil (Juracy Magalhães) and Paraguay (Raúl Sapena Pastor) signed the act. The damming of the waters of the Paraná River to form the reservoir of the hydroelectric plant flooded a total of 1,350 km² in which the Guaira Falls were located, which were completely submerged in just 14 days, thus extinguishing one of the natural wonders of the world.



Tourist visits to Itaipu began in 1977 when the power plant was still in the early stages of construction. Since then, over 19 million visitors from 188 countries and territories have entered from Brazil and Paraguay. Unfortunately, the visit from Paraguay operates on a strict appointment system, allocated by registration. While it is a free service, it makes open visits challenging.

So, if you´re interested in visiting the Itaipu Dam, just contact our sales team. We will arrange a good program to enjoy this interesting place in South America



Click on the image below, and see a proposed itinerary to visit Iguazu Falls, and including the visit to the Itaipu Dam




Ramiro Rodriguez

Ramiro Rodriguez

25 years working in the travel industry, as Sales & Marketing Manager at RipioTurismo. Marketing Manager at Nuevas Ideas Travel Consulting Group. Writer and travel lover.

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