- Location: On Parana River at Brazil — Paraguay border towards Paraguay’s southeast
- Attraction Type: Dam
- Significance: The largest dam in South America with the highest power generation capacity
- Best Time to Visit: Any time of the year
- Visiting hours: Daytime
- How to Reach: By road from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay
- Nearest Airport: Ciudad del Este Airport
Itaipu Dam is not only an incredible engineering feat of the modern world but also among the Seven Wonders of the modern world. You would find it hard to believe that the Itaipu Dam in South America contains the same amount of iron and steel that are required to build 380 Eiffel Towers. It is not at all surprising that every year over nine million visitors from all continents visit the world’s largest hydroelectric power generation facility.
Built across Parana River, Itaipu Dam supplies 78% of the total power requirement of Paraguay. This largest dam in South America, built at the Brazil-Paraguay border, also supplies 26% of Brazil’s power demand. With 18 turbines, the annual power generation capacity of Itaipu is 75 trillion watt-hours, which is 10 times that of a nuclear power plant.
The history of the construction of Itaipu Dam goes back to 1966 when the foreign ministries of Brazil and Paraguay met to evaluate the hydroelectric power generation potential of the Parana River. Accordingly an ‘Act of Ygazu’ was signed to harness and develop the resources of this river water shared by Brazil and Paraguay. Subsequently, another treaty was signed between these two nations in 1973 to set up a hydroelectric project benefiting both. Consequently, Itaipu Binacional was formed in 1974 to establish and operate the said power plant. Construction of Itaipu Dam started in 1975 and was completed in 1991.
Though the 18th or last unit was completed in 1991, the first hydroelectric unit started functioning in 1983. Each of these 18 units has a capacity of generating 715 megawatts of electricity annually. This dam, with a height of 196 meters and length of 7.76 kilometers, is not a solid mass but of ‘hollow gravity type’. Though hollow, it withstands the pressure of its lake which holds 29 billion tons of water.
Itaipu Dam in Paraguay has a peculiar connection with the number 18. The 18 turbines of this dam, built over 18 years, cost a total of US $ 18 billion. Another amazing feature is that for constructing this dam the course of Parana River had to be changed through a diversion of length 1.3 miles, a width of 490 feet and a depth of 300 feet.
Visiting Itaipu Dam
Itaipu Dam is best visited from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, which is approximately nine miles away. While in Ciudad del Este you might put up in Hotel San Rafael, Hotel Austria, Hotel Munich, and Caribe.