Few geographical features exemplify the beauty and power of nature as dramatically as majestic waterfalls. The sight of tons of water spilling over the edge of a cliff or cascading over rocks never fails to impress. While the grandest falls deserve a prominent place on any bucket list, a waterfall doesn’t have to be the tallest, widest or most voluminous to make it a worthwhile travel destination. From powerful cataracts plunging over steep precipices to multi-step cascades tumbling gently into a series of pools, here are some of the world’s most amazing waterfalls.
One of the tallest waterfalls in Peru, the towering Gocta Cataracts near the city of Chachapoyas remained unknown to all but the locals who live beneath it until 2005 when a German engineer named Stefan Ziemendorff stumbled upon it while hunting for pre-Incan ruins. Today, the two-tiered cataract has become a popular tourist attraction, thanks to development in the area by the Peruvian government. Trails now make the waterfall easily accessible by foot or on horseback, and every room in the small hotel built near the base offers scenic views of the magnificent cataract.
Located near the beautiful fjord of Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most popular travel destinations, the lake-fed Sutherland Falls descends in three cascades into the glacial lakes of Fiordland National Park. While sightseeing tours by air offer glimpses of the remote falls, visitors who take the time to hike the famed Milford Track are rewarded with the best views. A 90-minute walk from the Quintin Public Shelter on the 53-kilometer (33-mile) route leads hikers to the base of spectacular falls.
The Drakensberg Mountains in the Royal Natal National Park in South Africa is home to a series of five connected falls that collectively make up Tugela Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. The water descends in leaping falls over the stunning Amphitheatre, an imposing wall of rock that is a popular tourist attraction in its own right. A six-hour trek up the Tugela Gorge crosses back and forth across the river, leading hikers to the top. A less challenging trail takes visitors to the foot of Tugela Falls for full views of the five-tiered waterfall.
Situated near the town of Cherrapunji, one of the wettest places on the planet, Nohkalikai Falls is categorized as a plunge waterfall, which means that the water loses contact with the rock as it pours over a cliff on the edge of the Himalayas. The tallest of its kind in India, Nohkalikai is fed by rainwater collected in the forested plateau above, so its volume changes dramatically according to the time of year. In the dry season, the water spills tranquilly into a turquoise-green pool. During the monsoon, the water crashes into a tumult of white spray.
Ranked as Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss is best known for the volume of water that shoots out over its edge in every season. Located in the Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss can be viewed on either side of the River Jökulsá á Fjöllum that feeds the falls and plunges into the canyon below. The east bank of the river boasts the best views and is equipped with facilities, including a car park, but the slippery paths can get crowded during the tourist season.
The tallest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls pours down a cliff side in three cascades and provides picturesque views from multiple locations within Yosemite National Park in California. A challenging all-day hike takes visitors to the summit for panoramic vistas of the majestic park and the towering Sierra Mountains beyond. The falls vary in water flow, however, and sometimes disappear entirely during drought conditions. The best time to enjoy the splashing water and thunderous roar of the falls is in the spring after the winter thaw.
The series of waterfalls that link the 16 lakes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park are what makes this scenic piece of landscape the most popular natural attraction in Croatia. Situated among forested hills near the Bosnian border, the small streams, lakes and waterfalls form an appealing water garden that invites exploration. A series of plank walks, bridges and platforms make it easy to wander the park by foot. Free boat rides take passengers from the upper to the lower lakes where visitors can view Veliki Slap, the country’s tallest waterfall.
Jog Falls, created by the River Sharavathi, falling from a height of 253 meters (829 feet), is the highest waterfalls in India. Before the rainy season Jog Falls is nearly unrecognizable with only a pair of thin streams of water trickling down the cliff. But during the monsoon season the waterfall comes to life and exceeds even Kaieteur Falls in Guyana in terms of height and volume.
Measuring 77.8 meters (255 feet) high and 101 meters (330 feet) wide, Huangguoshu is one of the largest waterfalls in Asia and part of a group of 18 waterfalls in the surrounding area. A 134 meter (440 foot) long naturally formed cave in the back of the Huangguoshu allows visitors to view the waterfall from a very close range and one can even touch the water.
Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) is a magnificient 32 meter high double waterfall on the White River (Hvítá). It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. The flow of the river from the regular rains and the glacial runoff, particularly in summer, makes it the largest volume falls in Europe.
The Detian Falls is situated on the border between China and Vietnam. It is, in fact, the fourth largest cross-border falls in the world after Niagara, Victoria and Iguazu. Due to the various border conflicts between the two countries the area has only recently been opened to tourism.
Known as Tis Issat (“smoking water”) in Amharic, the Blue Nile Falls are located on the Blue Nile river in northern Ethiopia. Although much of the water is now diverted to a power dam, it is still a beautiful sight and one of Ethiopia’s best known tourist attractions.
Kaieteur Falls is located on the Potaro River in the centre of Guyana’s rainforest. It is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, averaging 663 cubic meters per second (23,400 cubic feet per second). With a free fall height of 226 meters (741 feet) it is about five times higher than Niagara Falls and about two times the height of the Victoria Falls. While there are many higher falls, few have the combination of height and water volume.
Angel Falls or Salto Ángel is the world’s highest waterfall, dropping a total of 978 meter from the summit of the Auyan Tepuy, and with an 807meter uninterrupted drop. Because the falls are located in an isolated jungle region of Venezuela the only access to Canaima National Park, the gateway to Angel Falls, is by air.
Probably the most famous waterfall in the world, The Niagara Falls are located between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara Falls is actually three different falls, the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls. Horseshoe Falls is located on the Canadian side while the other are located in New York. With more than 14 million visitors each year it is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the world.
The Victoria Falls (indigenous name: Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “The Smoke That Thunders”) are located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Victoria Falls is often called the largest waterfall in the world, although it is neither the highest nor the widest. It has a width of 1.7 kilometers (1 miles) and height of 108 meters (360 ft), roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls. In combined height and width Victoria Falls is rivaled only by South America’s Iguazu Falls.
One of the great natural wonders of the world, Iguaçu Falls is situated on the border between Brazil and Argentina. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along the Iguazu River. The majority of the falls are about 64 metres (210 ft) in height. The most impressive of them all is the Devil’s Throat a U-shaped, 82 meter high (269 ft), 150 meter (492 ft) wide and 700 meter (2300 ft) long waterfall.