Few natural attractions express the power and beauty of the natural world quite like waterfalls. They can be both incredibly calming to look at and awe-inspiring in their intensity. These are the feelings that the most beautiful waterfalls in the world evoke, which is why travelers often go to such great lengths to see them. But first, you need to know where to find them.
Rather than spend your precious vacation days visiting lackluster waterfalls, or missing great ones altogether, have a look at this list of the world’s best waterfalls. While some falls mentioned have claims like the world’s tallest or a continent’s widest, it’s the experience and beauty of these falls that really matters. Worst case scenario, you spend the next few minutes looking at some breathtaking images of waterfalls, which doesn’t sound too bad does it?
1. Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil
Spanning the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America, Iguazu Falls is not only among the biggest waterfalls of the world, but also the most captivating. Formed by the Iguazu River, this incredible sight is actually a collection of approximately 275 distinct waterfalls, arranged in a horseshoe shape. While the river which is the start of the falls is found on the Brazilian side of the border, the majority of the falls are in Argentina. This means you’ll need to cross the border to see the full 1.7 miles of flowing waterfalls within this world heritage-listed national park.
2. Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe
Easily one of the most famous waterfalls in Africa, the Victoria Falls are an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This immensely wide waterfall stretches 1.7 km across and drops 108 meters at its highest, creating a scene that draws people from around the world. Victoria Falls are fed by the Zambezi River and are famous for their engulfing mist which explains the meaning behind the name: “The Smoke That Thunders”. One of the best experiences here at one of the seven natural wonders of the world is to take a dip in the Devil’s Pool, which precariously sits right at the top of the waterfall.
3. Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls, Croatia
While the entirety of Plitvice Lakes National Park is a gorgeous place to visit, it’s the waterfalls and cascades there that take it to a whole other level. Found in the hinterland of central Croatia, Plitvice is home to 16 terraced lakes that are joined to each other by incredibly pretty waterfalls. This means that as you explore the national park, you’re repeatedly greeted by picturesque cascades as you climb from one aquamarine lake to the next. The largest waterfall at Plitvice Lakes National Park though does not come from the lakes at all, it’s actually the Plitvica River that flows over the waterfall, Veliki Slap, which measures 78 meters in height.
4. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, Vietnam & China
Continuing the trend of waterfalls on borders is the enchanting Ban Gioc-Detian Falls of Asia. This three-tiered waterfall sits on the border of China and Vietnam and is known in Vietnam as the Ban Gioc waterfall and in China as the Detian Falls. No matter how you identify it, when the Quay Son River is at its highest during the rainy season, it’s undeniably one of the best waterfalls of the world. Surrounded by lush vegetation, looming mountains, and quite an open karst valley, it’s easy to get superb views of these cascades and their place in the landscape. For an up close vantage point, take a ride up to the falls on a local bamboo raft.
5. Niagara Falls, USA & Canada
When it comes to famous waterfalls, is there any that is more widely recognized than Niagara Falls? This iconic waterfall sits on the border between Canada and the U.S.A. where the Niagara River connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls consists of three distinct waterfalls, but Horseshoe Falls is the largest at 157 ft. and is the most photographed of the three. The other smaller waterfalls here are the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, both of which fall on the U.S. side of the border. There are many ways to experience the power of Niagara Falls, from viewpoints in both countries to cruises that take you out to the bottom of the waterfalls.
6. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Taking the title of the world’s largest waterfall in terms of height is mighty Angel Falls in Venezuela. Reaching an incredible height of 979 meters, Angel Falls is the highest uninterrupted waterfall and features a series of cascades and rapids at the bottom of its main plunge. The waterfall starts at the top of the tabletop mountain of Auyán-tepui and its source is the remote Churun River in Canaima National Park. Getting to this South American marvel isn’t too easy seeing as it’s hidden deep in equatorial rainforest in a country that’s not known for its easy tourism.
7. Tugela Falls, South Africa
Coming second on the list of the largest waterfalls in the world, Tugela Falls is a brilliant cataract to visit. Located among the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa’s Royal Natal National Park, the falls are recorded at a total of 948 meters. This measurement counts each of the five separate tiers of the Tugela Falls, the largest of which drops 411 meters. Pouring from the Tugelah river, the falls stand out sharply against the towering rocky mountains making them a sight to behold.
8. Gullfoss, Iceland
Waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes, as proven by the wonderfully distinct falls of Gullfoss in Iceland. This amazing waterfall is an iconic attraction in Iceland, thanks to the way that Gullfoss changes direction between its two tiers. After the Hvítá River falls over the first tier of the waterfall, it takes a sharp 90 degree turn before the second fall, creating a staircase effect. The waterfall’s name which translates as “Golden Falls” comes from the golden hue that’s occasionally visible under sunlight, while it’s also common to see rainbows within its heavy mist.
9. Yosemite Falls, USA
There are many reasons to visit Yosemite National Park, the most popular national park in the US, one of them is to see the majestic Yosemite Falls. This lofty waterfall drops 2,425 feet, split across three stages: the Upper Yosemite Fall, Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall. It’s important to understand that this is a seasonal waterfall and rarely flows during summer or autumn. To see the Yosemite Falls at its best, come in late spring. This is not the only major waterfall to be found in Yosemite National Park either, with Bridalveil Fall another local waterfall that’s incredibly popular.
10. Dudhsagar Falls, India
To see one of the most impressive falls in Asia, head for Dudhsagar Falls in Goa, India. Dudhsagar Falls cascades across four tiers for a total plunge of 310 meters, and with an average width of 30 meters, the waterfall seems much larger. Because the Dudhsagar Falls are located in a monsoonal region, they are at their most powerful during Goa’s rainy season. Flowing through the mountains of the Western Ghats, the waterfall is surrounded by spectacular mountains and forests that showcase the beauty of India’s nature, creating an unforgettable postcard moment.
11. Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Like so many beautiful waterfalls, the Kaieteur Falls of Guyana are incredibly remote, which is also a part of their appeal. Situated in Kaieteur National Park in Guyana’s portion of the Amazon rainforest, this mighty waterfall is one of the most powerful in the world. The waterfall is fed by the Potaro River and dives 226 meters down in a single drop from a sheer broad cliff. Watching the water surge over the waterfall is one of the most popular attractions in all of Guyana. For the best views of the falls, hop aboard one of the local sightseeing planes.
12. Ruby Falls, USA
Unlike any other waterfalls on this list, what makes the Ruby Falls of Tennessee so special is that they’re actually found underground. To see this fascinating natural phenomenon near Chattanooga you’ll have to delve deep underground, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Accessing the waterfall requires dropping 26 stories in an elevator under Lookout Mountain, at the bottom of which you’ll find the Ruby Falls illuminated in a spellbinding light show. The height of the falls is a humble 145 feet, but they’re still a magical sight thanks to the rock formations, lights, and ambience of this subterranean attraction.
13. Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
New Zealand has no shortage of gorgeous natural scenery thanks to landmark attractions like Sutherland Falls. Although found not too far from Milford Sound in South Island, Sutherland Falls are somewhat remote but are worth the effort. Nestled within epic mountains, and draining from Lake Quill, it’s easily one of the most dramatic waterfalls in nature you could find. Sutherland Falls consists of three separate cascades that together stretch an impressive 580 meters. Due to its isolated position among the Kā Tiritiri o te Moana mountains, seeing this waterfall requires either a multi-day hike or a scenic flight.
14. Jog Falls, India
Visiting at the right time can be very important with waterfalls as can be seen with the Jog Falls of India. One of the highest waterfalls in the country, the Jog Falls are nearly unrecognizable during the rainy season compared to the rest of the year. For most of the year this segmented waterfall in the state of Karnataka is quite a modest sight with each of its four segments a gentle trickle. But when the monsoon hits, the segments all begin to blend together and create a wall of falling water. The Jog Falls at its highest measure 253 meters, making it one of the highest in India.
15. Kuang Si Waterfall, Laos
One of the most famous landmarks in Laos is the Kuang Si Waterfall. This amazing natural attraction is within reach of the city of Luang Prabang, making it an easy and popular place for travelers to visit when in Luang Prabang. Although the main fall only measures around 60 meters, this three-tiered waterfall is a visual wonder, seemingly emerging from the rainforest out of nowhere. Limestone pools around the bottom of the falls showcase the inviting pale blue color of the water, with some even open for visitors to swim in.
16. Fall Creek Falls, USA
Found within Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of the highest waterfalls in the United States, Fall Creek Falls. Both the namesake and most popular attraction in this Tennessee state park, this waterfall makes quite a picture as it plunges 256 feet into a plunge pool below. Visitors to Fall Creek Falls can take a walking trail from the top of the falls and its rocky plateau down to the bottom for a great vantage point of this grand attraction. Fall Creek Falls actually has a little companion as well, with Coon Creek Falls just to the right of the far larger waterfall.
17. Huangguoshu, China
Of the many striking natural attractions scattered around China, one that firmly belongs on this list is the Huangguoshu Waterfall. Situated on the Baishui River in Guizhou province, it’s widely regarded as one of China’s largest and most famous waterfalls. Interestingly, Huangguoshu is actually wider than it is tall, measuring 101 meters wide and 77.8 meters high. On a visit to Huangguoshu you’ll be able to see the attraction from multiple observation points which each offer a different perspective. Depending on the season, it’s sometimes possible to spot the Curtain Cave that rests behind the waterfall.
18. Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
Perhaps the least well-known spot on this list, the Blue Nile Falls of Ethiopia deserves its mention here. As its name suggests, the falls sit on the Blue Nile River’s upper course near the town of Bahir Dar. To see the falls in full action you’ll need to visit during the rainy season as an upstream hydro-electric station has tampered down the river’s flow somewhat. Still, with the falls’ three-pronged shape and height of 42 meters it creates one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful natural attractions. An added benefit of visiting the Blue Nile Falls is that the hiking trails to reach them show off the countryside and birdlife around the falls.
19. Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Thailand
Said to be the largest and tallest waterfall in Thailand, Thi Lo Su can also lay claim to being one of the country’s most beautiful. Curiously, this staircase of waterfalls within Tak Province in northwestern Thailand has never been formally surveyed. That means you can take its height of 250 meters and width of 350 meters with a grain of salt. What’s not in dispute though is the wonderful scenery it offers as it flows across its three segments. Besides being made to be photographed, the waterfall also has some swimming holes at its base that visitors can use to cool off for a bit.
20. Krimml Waterfalls, Austria
Most people think of the snow capped alps when they think of Austria, but the country’s mountains are home to other spellbinding attractions too, like the raging Krimml Waterfalls. Sitting high above the village of Krimml in Hohe Tauern National Park, they are the highest in the country and one of 26 waterfalls in the park. Over three stages, the Krimml Waterfalls plunge 380 meters, with a 4 km hiking path that takes you to each stage. The best time to see the falls is during the early summer when the flow of the glacial Krimmler Ache that feeds the falls is at its strongest.
And there you have it, an exciting list of waterfalls from around the world to add to your bucket list.