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 them altogether, check out this list of the world’s best waterfalls. While some of these falls have claims like the world’s tallest or a continent’s widest, it’s the experience and beauty that really matters. Whether you ultimately visit any of them or not, you’ll spend the next few minutes looking at some breathtaking images of waterfalls, which is never a bad idea!
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil
Straddling the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America, the Iguazu Falls are some of the most captivating and biggest waterfalls of the world. Stemming from the Iguazu River, this incredible sight is actually a collection of approximately 275 distinct waterfalls that forms a horseshoe shape.
While the part of the river where the falls start is 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 waterfalls within this UNESCO World Heritage national park.
Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Easily one of the most famous waterfalls in Africa, Victoria Falls is an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This immensely wide waterfall stretches 1.7 kilometers across and drops 108 meters at its highest point, creating a scene that draws people from around the world.
Fed by the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls is famous for its engulfing mist, which explains its local name of Mosi-oa-Tunya (meaning “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 Devil’s Pool, which sits precariously right at the top of the waterfall.
Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls, Croatia
While Plitvice Lakes National Park is a gorgeous place to visit all around, the waterfalls take it to a whole other level. Found in the hinterland of central Croatia, Plitvice is home to 16 terraced lakes connected by incredibly pretty waterfalls. 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 doesn’t come from the lakes, though. It’s actually the Plitvica River that flows into the waterfall, Veliki Slap, which measures 78 meters high.
Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, Vietnam and China
Continuing the trend of waterfalls on borders are the enchanting Ban Gioc-Detian Falls of Asia. These two waterfalls on the border of China and Vietnam are known as Ban Gioc Falls in Vietnam and as Detian Falls in China. No matter how you identify them, they’re undeniably among the best waterfalls of the world, especially during the rainy season when the Quay Son River is at its highest.
With their surroundings of 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.
Niagara Falls, USA and Canada
When it comes to famous waterfalls, are any more widely recognized than Niagara Falls? These iconic waterfalls sit on the border between Canada and the U.S. where the Niagara River connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario.
Niagara Falls consists of three distinct waterfalls, but Horseshoe Falls is the largest (167 feet high) and most photographed. The smaller ones are American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, both on the U.S. side of the border. There are many ways to experience the power of Niagara Falls, with viewpoints in both countries and even cruises that take you out to the bottom of the waterfalls.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Taking the title of the world’s largest waterfall in terms of height is Venezuela’s mighty Angel Falls. 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 summit of the tabletop mountain Auyan Tepui, its source being the remote Churun River in Canaima National Park.
Getting to this South American marvel is something of a challenge, though, seeing as it’s hidden deep in equatorial rainforest in a country not known for its easy tourism. Once you get to Venezuela, you’ll have to take a flight, a boat ride, and at least a three-hour hike to reach them.
Tugela Falls, South Africa
Coming in second on the list of the largest waterfalls in the world, Tugela Falls is a brilliant sight. Located among the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa’s Royal Natal National Park, the waterfall measures a total of 948 meters high. This counts each of the five separate tiers, the tallest of which drops 411 meters. Pouring from the Tugela River, the falls stand out sharply against the towering rocky mountains, making them a marvel to behold.
Waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes, as proven by the wonderfully distinct Gullfoss in Iceland. This amazing waterfall is an iconic attraction in Iceland, thanks to the way it changes direction between its two tiers. After the Hvita River falls over the first tier, it takes a sharp 90-degree turn before the second cascade, creating a staircase effect. The waterfall’s name, which translates to “Golden Falls,” comes from the golden hue occasionally visible in sunlight, and it’s also common to see rainbows within its heavy mist.
Yosemite Falls, USA
Of the many reasons to visit Yosemite National Park, the most popular national park in the US, the majestic Yosemite Falls is a big one. This lofty waterfall drops 2,425 feet, split across three stages: the Upper Yosemite Fall, Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall.
This is a seasonal waterfall that rarely flows in summer or autumn. To see Yosemite Falls at its best, come in late spring. It’s not the only major waterfall in Yosemite National Park, though, with Bridalveil Fall also being incredibly popular.
Dudhsagar Falls, India
To see one of Asia’s most impressive waterfalls, head for Dudhsagar Falls in Goa, India. While it cascades across four tiers for a total plunge of 310 meters, the waterfall’s average width of 30 meters makes it seem much larger.
Because Dudhsagar Falls is in a monsoon region, it’s most powerful during Goa’s rainy season. Flowing through 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.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Like so many beautiful waterfalls, Kaieteur is incredibly remote, which is a big part of its appeal. Located in Kaieteur National Park in Guyana’s portion of the Amazon rainforest, it’s among the most powerful waterfalls in the world and one of the country’s most popular attractions.
Fed by the Potaro River, Kaieteur surges 226 meters down in a single drop from a sheer cliff. For the best views of the falls, hop aboard one of the local sightseeing planes.
Ruby Falls, USA
Unlike any other waterfalls on this list, Tennessee’s Ruby Falls are actually underground. You’ll have to delve deep to see this fascinating natural phenomenon near Chattanooga, making for an unforgettable experience.
After dropping 26 stories in an elevator under Lookout Mountain, you’ll find the Ruby Falls illuminated in a spellbinding light show. While they’re a humble 145 feet tall, the rock formations, lights, and overall ambience make these subterranean falls a magical sight.
Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
New Zealand has no shortage of gorgeous natural scenery, thanks to landmark attractions like Sutherland Falls, which consists of three separate cascades that together stretch an impressive 580 meters high. Nestled within epic mountains and draining from Lake Quill, it’s easily one of the most dramatic waterfalls in nature.
Located about 14 miles from Milford Sound in South Island, Sutherland Falls is somewhat remote but worth the trip. To reach its isolated position in the island’s Southern Alps, you can take either a scenic flight or up to a four-day hike.
Jog Falls, India
Jog Falls is one of those waterfalls that you really need to visit at the right time. One of the highest waterfalls in India, Jog Falls is nearly unrecognizable during the rainy season compared to the rest of the year.
For most of the year, this waterfall in the state of Karnataka is quite a modest sight, each of its four segments just a gentle trickle. But when the monsoon hits, the segments blend together to create a wall of falling water, measuring 253 meters at its highest.
Kuang Si Falls, Laos
One of the most famous landmarks in Laos is Kuang Si Falls. This amazing natural attraction is within reach of the city of Luang Prabang and a popular place for travelers to visit when in Luang Prabang.
Although its main cascade only measures around 60 meters high, the three-tiered waterfall emerging from the rainforest is a visual wonder. Limestone pools around the bottom of the falls showcase the pale blue hue of the water, and you can even swim in some of these pools.
Fall Creek Falls, USA
Tennessee’s Fall Creek Falls State Park is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the U.S. The park’s namesake and most popular attraction makes quite a picture, plunging 256 feet into the pool below.
You 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 waterfall. Fall Creek Falls has a little companion as well, with Coon Creek Falls just to the right of the far larger waterfall.
Huangguoshu Waterfall, China
Of the many striking natural attractions scattered around China, one that firmly belongs on this list is Huangguoshu Waterfall. Located on the Baishui River in Anshun of the Guizhou province, it’s one of China’s largest and most famous waterfalls. Interestingly, Huangguoshu is wider than it is tall, measuring 101 meters wide and 77.8 meters high.
You can see the waterfall from multiple observation points, each offering a different perspective. Depending on the season, you might even spot the Water-Curtain Cave behind the falls.
Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
It may be the least-known spot on this list, but Ethiopia’s Blue Nile Falls deserves its mention here. As its name suggests, the waterfall sits on the Blue Nile’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 hydroelectric station has tamped down the river’s flow somewhat. Still, the waterfall’s three-pronged shape and 42-meter height make it one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful natural attractions. As a bonus, the hiking trails that reach it are an excellent showcase of the surrounding countryside and resident birds.
Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Thailand
Said to be the largest and tallest waterfall in Thailand, the Thi Lo Su is also one of the most beautiful. Curiously, this staircase of waterfalls in northwestern Thailand’s Tak province has never been formally surveyed, so its reported height of 250 meters and width of 350 meters isn’t certain. What’s not in dispute is the wonderful scene it offers as it flows across its three segments. Besides making a perfect photograph, the waterfall has some swimming holes at its base where you can cool off for a bit.
Krimml Waterfalls, Austria
Most people picture the snow-capped Alps when they think of Austria, but the country’s mountains are home to other spellbinding attractions, like the raging Krimml Waterfalls. While Hohe Tauern National Park is home to 26 waterfalls, this one high above the village of Krimml is the tallest in the country.
The waterfall plunges 380 meters over three tiers, with a 4-kilometer hiking path that takes you to each stage. The best time to see the falls is early summer, when the glacial Krimmler Ache that feeds them is at its strongest flow.
Well, there you have it – an exciting list of waterfalls all around the world to add to your bucket list!
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