Magnificent Creations of Nature
Majestic. Dazzling. Stunning. Formed thousands of years ago, and set against equally glorious backdrops, waterfalls are creations of nature so intriguing that only the most exuberant words seem fitting. And even then, language can’t fully do them justice.
While many falls have changed in size and force over the centuries, they have stood the test of time and continue to give visitors a glimpse into the remarkable world of natural phenomena. Not only are they ideal places to stop and cool off on a long hike through the wilderness, but they are also picturesque selfie spots often found on popular travel blogs and social media pages.
We've rounded up the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world to get you excited for your next adventure. These are the tallest, most powerful, most radiant you'll ever lay eyes on. Majestic, dazzling and stunning indeed.
At a staggering 3,212 feet, Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world's highest waterfall. It's located on the Churun River, 160 miles southeast of Ciudad Bolivar. The falls are named after Jimmy Angel, an American explorer who crashed his plane on the flat plateau known as Auyan-Tepui, or "Devil's Mountain," in 1937. This area of land is where Angel Falls descends from, pooling at the 500-foot-wide base.
Since Angel Falls is surrounded by dense jungle, the ideal way to view the waterfall is from the air. Another option is to wait until wet season, when the Churun River is high enough to allow for travel by boat.
There are 275 waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. The tallest of these — and the most noteworthy — is Devil's Throat, at 262 feet. Pair that with the fact that about 1.5 million liters of water flow through Iguazu Falls every second, and you've got quite a miraculous work of Mother Nature's art. Between November and March, when rainfall is especially heavy, the water flow can be enough to fill five Olympic swimming pools. Iguazu Falls is so impressive that it even made the list of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011.
Both the Argentinean side and the Brazilian side of the falls offer incredible panoramic views, but from Argentina, the experience is more intimate. There are walkways that take visitors to the edge of, the top of and behind the falls, and speedboats that drive right underneath. Expect to get wet if you choose an up-close-and-personal tour.
Viewing the falls from Brazil is equally rewarding, though. You'll have a wider landscape to observe, and you just might catch a rainbow in the making.
It takes 370 steps to reach the top of Skogafoss in Iceland. And once you reach the top, there's a magnificent view of the coastline.
The waterfall is situated on the cliffs and is fed by two glaciers — Evjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. Skogafoss is 197 feet tall and generates a large amount of spray. Because of its size, the waterfall often produces rainbows. The landscape of Skogafoss is especially breathtaking in winter, when the Northern Lights are prevalent.
According to legend, a Viking named Thrasi hid his collection of gold under Skogafoss. It's been said that one man almost succeeded in finding the gold, but only managed to pull the handle ring off the chest containing the riches. That ring was later used for the door of a church in the Icelandic village of Skogar.
On the Arthur River in the southwest part of South Island, New Zealand is Sutherland Falls. Named for Donald Sutherland, the first European to see this natural sight in 1880, the falls drop from Lake Quill in three cascades. Rushing down from a height of 1,904 feet, these are among the highest in the world.
The base of the falls is intensely windy, due to the force of the falling water. While it's possible to go behind the cascades in dry weather, it’s usually damp, dark and foggy. Better, then, to find a vantage point away from the base to snap photos and just marvel.
Situated on the border between Ontario, Canada and the state of New York is Niagara Falls. The falls are separated into three parts by Goat Island and Luna Island. On the Canadian side is Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three. On the New York side are Bridal Veil Falls and, fittingly, American Falls. Each features impressive heights averaging 185-190 feet.
But it's not the height of Niagara Falls that makes it so impressive — it's the amount of water, some 169 million liters per minute, that flows from it. Niagara Falls is also known for its clear water, which is free of sediment. However, nearly 60 tons of dissolved minerals sweep over the falls every minute.
To get the best views of Niagara Falls, head to Queen Victoria Park in Canada or Prospect Point at the edge of American Falls in New York. Rainbow Bridge, which spans the Niagara gorge downstream from Prospect Point, offers an ideal view as well.
Cave of the Winds tours are also available, which take visitors 175 feet down an elevator to the Niagara gorge, where they walk along the "Hurricane Deck," just feet from Bridal Veil Falls. You won't get any closer to Niagara Falls than this.
In south Iceland on the upper part of the Hvita river is Gullfoss Falls, which translates to "Golden Waterfall." It is fed by Iceland's second-largest glacier, the Langjokull. The water from Gullfoss Falls comes down in two cascades — one 36 feet high and the other 69 feet high. Below the falls is a crevice that was created during the Ice Age by flood waves. Because of erosion caused by the water, it grows nearly 10 inches a year.
On sunny days, visitors are often given the gift of a glorious rainbow to observe. However, the view of Gullfoss Falls during the winter is also quite extraordinary, as the waterfall freezes and creates waves of shimmery ice.
Native American legend asserts that this 600+-foot-tall formation was created to win the heart of a princess who wanted somewhere to bathe in private. There are more than 70 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, but Multnomah Falls, just outside Portland, is the most popular; in fact, it’s the most visited natural recreation site in the entire Pacific Northwest. Because the falls are fed by rainwater, melted snow and an underground spring year-round, they don’t dry up, so there's no bad time to visit.
You can actually see the top of the falls from the highway, but Benson Bridge offers the best outlook. A viewing area is located at a carved opening in the rock face, and a paved trail leads to Benson Bridge. The bridge was named after Portland businessman Simon Benson, who owned the falls in the early 1900s and later sold them to the City of Portland.
At 270 feet, Snoqualmie Falls is Washington State's most famous waterfall. And it’s practical too: It provides naturally generated hydro-electric power to the Seattle region.
Over 1.5 million people visit Snoqualmie Falls each year, making it more popular than almost any other natural feature in the state. The falls are located 25 miles outside of Seattle and cater to tourists with an observation deck, a gift shop and a lodge. At the nearby park area, a platform gives visitors a 180-degree view of the waterfall, although you can also see it along the gorge rim or take a 1.5-mile trail that leads to the base of the falls.
If Snoqualmie Falls looks familiar, it might be that you recognize it from the television show “Twin Peaks,” as it was featured on the program. It continues to be a sacred place for Native Americans, who consider the area a spiritual beacon.
Ban Gioc-Detian Falls
Straddling the border of Vietnam and China is Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, composed of one waterfall in each country. Some Chinese texts refer to the spot simply as Detian Falls.
Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is the largest waterfall in Asia and the second largest transnational waterfall in the world. When rainfall hits in the summer, the waterfall drops about 98 feet, and the rocks and trees often separate the cascades into three. The water is so powerful, you can often hear it crashing into the cliffs from a far distance. Summertime is when the falls are strongest. During the winter, the water drops more slowly.
Throughout the year, seasonal changes in nature provide colorful scenery around Ban Gioc-Detian. Flowers from Kapok trees are in full bloom in the spring, displaying their vibrant red hue. In the fall, golden yellow tones surround the water. There's really no ideal time to visit, as each season offers its own unique sights and sounds.
A British geologist named C. Barrington Brown first discovered Kaieteur Falls in 1870. The falls are found in west-central Guyana on the Potaro River and are the main attraction at Kaieteur National Park. At a height of 741 feet, dropping over the edge of a sandstone plateau, the falls easily impress. Below, a five-mile long gorge descends another 81 feet. At the base of the falls, the force of the water creates a strong current that is reminiscent of a hurricane. There are continuous waves that keep the water flow strong.
Due to its remote location, Kaieteur Falls is harder to get to than many other waterfalls. Tourists usually take a chartered aircraft from Georgetown, as there is a small airstrip near the top of the falls. Tour operators lead the way, though it is possible to get to the falls by foot. However, this can take up to three days when traveling from Mahdia.
The three snow-fed waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are collectively known as Yosemite Falls. This California wonder trio was formed by creeks tumbling into the valley and then down into the Merced River. The Upper Yosemite Fall drops 1,430 feet, while the Lower Fall is 320 high.
May and June are the months when water flow is greatest. Throughout the year, the intensity varies, and flow is not as powerful during dry periods.
These falls impress in part because of their backdrop, a breathtaking national park rife with soaring sequoia trees, rock formations and abundant wildlife.
The largest falls in Switzerland are Rhine Falls along the Rhine River, measuring 492 feet wide and nearly 76 feet high.
Many visitors take a boat ride to Rhine Falls, with some guided tours offering commentary in up to nine different languages. However, for more independent visitors, there is a promenade on the right bank of the Rhine River that is accessible and free for guests. Hikers and cyclists generally take this paved route to the railway bridge. On the left bank, there is an option to use a panorama elevator from Schloss Laufen Castle, which offers close-up views of the falls.
Boats operate from April to October, and are worth the expense if you're interested in a more informative viewing experience. There's also the Adventure Park at Rhine Falls — a rope park that lets adventurers catch a view of the falls from 11 courses in the treetops above.
The largest waterfall in the world is Victoria Falls, located in Africa on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Scottish missionary David Livingstone discovered Victoria Falls in 1855 while preaching Christianity in Africa. He was the first European to cross Africa from south to north and named the falls after Queen Victoria. Around the time of Livingstone's discovery, the Kololo tribe was living in the area and called the falls “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” which means "The smoke that thunders." This name can be attributed to Victoria Falls' mist, which can be seen from more than 12 miles away, and the sound of the water, which can be heard from nearly 25 miles away.
During the rainy season in Africa, millions of gallons of water cascade wildly over the edge and into a gorge over 300 feet below. In February and March, Victoria Falls is usually at its fullest. By November, the water flow has lessened, and the curtain may split into many small water channels. For the ultimate viewing experience, try watching the falls from Knife Edge Bridge or Victoria Falls Bridge.
Discovered in 1841, Palouse Falls is the official state waterfall of Washington. The Palouse Indian tribe first called it Aputapat, which means "falling water," but it was later renamed to honor the Palouse Native American culture. The waterfall is located in Palouse Falls State Park, about 69 miles northeast of Pasco.
Palouse Falls drops 200 feet into a 377-foot canyon, and the water from the base of the falls flows toward the Snake River. Both the falls and the canyon were created by Lake Missoula floods that swept across the eastern part of the state nearly 15,000 years ago.
Taughannock Falls State Park in west-central New York is home to Taughannock Falls. Located eight miles northwest of Ithaca, the falls were named after either Delaware Indian chief Taughannock or the word taghkanic, which means "great fall in the woods."
Taughannock Falls has one of the highest drops east of the Rocky Mountains, at 215 feet. Surrounded by a glen with 400-feet-deep walls, the falls were formed by a creek that is found upon entering the lake. Sometimes the bottom of the glen covers the lower part of the fall with a mist that is created by dense sprays of water.
The Duden Waterfalls can be found in Antalya, Turkey. The upper waterfall, Alexander Falls, is located on the Duden River, about six miles from the center of the city. To get to the upper falls, take a narrow staircase to the caves beneath, where you’ll find rock-cut tombs.
The lower waterfall is almost five miles from the city near Karpuzkaldiran Beach. It is fed by Duden Creek and drops about 131 feet. Viewing the falls from nearby Genclik Park offers a panoramic view, but you can also see the water from a boat at sea.
The Bigar Waterfall in Romania, also called Izvorul Bigar, is located in the Anina Mountains on the 45th north parallel — exactly at the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole.
The picturesque site, which is part of Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park, is formed by a moss-covered cliff and underground water spring. The spring stretches across the moss and plunges into the Minis River.
The highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River is Crabtree Falls in Virginia. There are five main and several smaller cascades; the most impressive falls from 70 feet high. Crabtree Falls was likely named after William Crabtree, who settled in the area in the late 1700s.
Located six miles off Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 339.5, the falls can be accessed via a hiking trail with both easy and strenuous paths that offer several overlooks for viewing. There is also a bridge over the creek in front of Crabtree Falls for those who prefer to observe from a distance.
Northwest of San Francisco is Alamere Falls, a rare “tidefall” — a waterfall that empties directly into the ocean, plunging from a cliff down to the beach to meet with the sea. The drop from the falls is about 40 feet to Wildcat Beach, and the water flows into the Pacific Ocean in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Getting to the falls requires a 13-mile (round-trip) hike through the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Guests are advised not to get too close to cliff edges; there are multiple search and rescue operations here each year.
At nearly 430 feet, Brazil's Caracol Falls is one of the country's most impressive. It's located in Caracol State Park and is formed by the Caracol River. The falls is the second most popular natural tourist attraction in Brazil.
Caracol Falls has two cascades — an upper one consisting of several smaller falls, and a second one with a larger plunge. It is surrounded by a pristine, forest-covered canyon and steep cliffs, adding to the splendor.
A 100-foot observation tower offers visitors an elevator and provides panoramic views. Tourists can also take a cable car to catch aerial views of the falls.
Also known as Kukenaam, this is the second tallest waterfall in Venezuela (after Angel Falls) and is among the 10 highest free-leaping waterfalls in the world.
Cuquenan Falls drops, in a single leap, more than 2,200 feet down to the base of the Kukenan Tepui, a flat-topped mountain with vertical sides. The falls is not known for being powerful, but its height does impress. Because of its isolated location, it is best viewed from a distance.
One of the tallest waterfalls in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is Helmet Falls. There are two streams that are fed by three glaciers that merge at the top of the falls to form the main plunge. Water from Helmet Creek rushes out of the Washmawwapta Icefield, dropping over 1,000 feet to the valley below.
A second section of the falls is produced by a seasonal subterranean stream fed by two of the three glaciers. Here, water flows into cracks and caves in the limestone.
Found in the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa’s Royal Natal National Park, Tugela Falls is the highest waterfall in Africa. It also ranks among the world's tallest, with a total drop of 3,110 feet. There are five different free-leaping falls that make up the total drop height.
To get to Tugela Falls, there are two different hiking trails visitors can take. Starting at Tendele Camp, head to the Tugela River where the main Gorge Walk path is, leading through a picturesque path. Just note that the trip can take several hours.
There is also the Sentinel Peak way, which starts at the top of the amphitheater. This is the only hiking trail that gets travelers to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment in a day, ending at the top of Tugela Falls.
This magnificent beauty is sometimes referred to as the "Niagara of India." It is located near Bangalore and has 14 different channels, with drops ranging from 15 to 65 feet. Hogenakkal Falls is fed by the Kaveri River and the water flows toward the Stanley Reservoir. Carbonatite rocks are found near the falls, and are some of the oldest in the world.
Some tourists enjoy swimming at Hogenakkal Falls due to the challenge of the water patterns. Others remain inside boats, which are the only way to get to the falls, as there is no land access. Coracle riding is popular in the area and is allowed during the monsoon and winter season.
The best time to visit Hogenakkal Falls is between July and October. It usually takes about half a day to visit, and there are nearby trails for exploring as well.
To locals in Norway, Vinufossen Falls is often referred to as just “Vinnu.” With a total drop of 2,821 feet, Vinnu is tall but not very powerful. It is fed by the melted ice from the small glacier, Vinnufonna. The water plunges down into the river Driva near the village of Hoelsand.
The best time to visit Vinufossen Falls is early summer, when the temperatures are more stable. However, snow is still visible at the top of Vinnufjellet mountain, even during the summer.
Driving along road 70, the falls are visible from a distance and just east of the village of Sunndalsøra, they can be seen on the left side of the valley. There are places to park along the road that offer picture-worthy views.
Five different falls make up the Grand Canyon's Havasupai Falls: New Navajo Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, Havasu Falls, Mooney Falls and Beaver Falls. All are located in or near the Supai campground within Havasupai tribal land.
Fifty Foot Falls is the first visible waterfall that can be viewed from afar at higher levels, or from the trails that lead to the creek and then to the pool of water below. New Navajo Falls is about 300 yards upstream from Fifty Foot Falls. The tallest of the five is Mooney Falls, which is located below the campground.
To reach the top, hike through the campground. To reach the bottom, descend past the chains and ladders down a 200-foot travertine cliff. This is a dangerous idea and is not suggested.
Beaver Falls is the most remote, located three miles below Mooney Falls and the campground. The best way to enjoy Havasupai Falls is by taking a guided tour, which can be booked via this link.
This two-level waterfall was only known to locals in Peru for centuries. It wasn't until 2005, when a German explorer named Stefan Ziemendorff visited the area with a group of Peruvians, that the existence of the waterfall became public knowledge.
Gocta Falls is located in the upper Amazon basin and is fed by the Peruvian Andes. At 2,530 feet high, it can be seen from miles away and is accessible by hiking or horseback.
The water level at Gocta Falls is higher during the rainy season, but there's really no bad time to visit. The best way to get to the falls is from the small town of Cocachimba. Tours and hikes leave from the town through jungle trails that offer plenty of photo opportunities. Local tour guides offer additional information and stories about Gocta Falls.
Baatara Gorge Falls
This waterfall is located in what is known as the "Three Bridges Chasm," in the village of Balaa, between the cities of Laqlouq and Tannourine in Lebanon. The cave surrounding the falls was formed 160 million years ago during the Jurassic period. Baatara Gorge Falls drops 837 feet into the cave, behind three natural bridges. It was Henri Coiffat who discovered the waterfall in 1952.
The best time of year to visit is in March or April, when the ice melts and runs down Mount Lebanon, feeding the falls. Hiking is one way to get there, although stones can be slippery. The best way is to take a taxi from Beirut.
Also known as Gersoppa Falls, the water from Jog Falls slopes directly down 830 feet, making it the highest un-tiered waterfall in India. Situated in dense forest on the borders of Shimoga and North Kanara, it is formed by four different cascades — Raja, Rani, Rover and Rocket. Visitors often hike to the base to take a dip in the water.
Scenic views of Jog Falls are best had from Watkins Platform and the rock outcrop near Bombay Bungalow. During monsoons, there will often be rainbows over the falls. Between August and December is generally the best time to visit Jog Falls, as the sky is clearer and the water flow is most lively.
Considered by many to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss is located in North Iceland in the Jokulsa river. The water from Dettifoss flows from the Vatnajokull glacier and has a drop of 144 feet down to the Jokulsargljufur canyon. Due to the amount of sediments the glacier provides, the water from Dettifoss has a grayish white hue.
The waterfall is quite powerful in volume; so powerful that the spray can be seen from miles away.