These beautiful waterfalls are well worth the trip. By Evie Carrick
It’s hard to explain exactly why waterfalls are so enchanting, but there’s no denying their effect. They top travellers’ lists and are so cherished, they’re often protected by parks or UNESCO designations. Each year, people traverse the globe just to witness the magnetic power of water pouring over a cliff’s edge and plummeting to the earth below. And while these wonders exist all over the world — from the lush hills of Hawaii to the rugged coast of Iceland — there’s no denying that some waterfalls are a little extra special, and perhaps slightly more beautiful than the rest.
From falls heralded as the largest, tallest, or most powerful in the world to little-known waterfalls with enticing swimming pools at their feet, these are some of the best and most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Victoria Falls — Zambia and Zimbabwe
In southern Africa, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the iconic Victoria Falls. Surrounded by lush terrain, water seems to flow like curtains off the cliff’s edge, resulting in photographs that are almost as impressive as the in-person experience.
Havasu Falls — Arizona, USA
Part of what makes Havasu Falls so spectacular is its remote location in Havasu Canyon on land that is administered by the Havasupai Tribe. While getting there isn’t easy, the beauty of the falls is hard to top. Red rock sets off the white plunging water and blue-green pool, making this Arizona waterfall well-worth the extra effort. (Just keep in mind the canyon and falls are currently closed to tourists to minimise the spread of COVID-19.)
Angel Falls — Venezuela
Considered the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world — with a height of 3,212 feet — Venezuela’s Angel Falls has captured the imaginations of many. Often surrounded by clouds (due to its enormous height) the waterfall sits in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dudhsagar Falls — India
Set in the Indian state of Goa, the milky-white waters of Dudhsagar Falls seem to sprawl against the area’s lush, green hillside. The waterfall includes four tiers, a beautiful pool at the bottom, and a train that cuts in front of the falls. Talk about a ride with a view!
Yosemite Falls — California, USA
This two-tiered waterfall in Yosemite National Park draws numerous visitors — especially in late spring when the water flow is strongest. The beauty of the falls is only compounded by the surrounding park, which is known for its rugged, granite cliffs.
Seljalandsfoss — Iceland
Right of Route 1 (or the Ring Road), a popular route connecting most of the inhabited parts of Iceland, is the wonder of Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall whose water originates under a glacier (how cool is that?). Part of what makes this narrow falls so spectacular is the fact that it can be fully encircled, allowing for amazing sights and various photo ops.
‘Akaka Falls — Hawaii, USA
While ‘Akaka Falls, which plummets 442 feet into a gorge below, is stunning on its own, the landscape around the falls is what sets it apart from so many others in the world. Surrounded by lush, untouched rainforest, the stark sliver of water drops in a near-perfect stream into the cavernous gorge below.
Iguazú Falls — Argentina and Brazil
Marking the border of Argentina and Brazil is the ever-powerful Iguazú Falls (or Iguaçu Falls). The tier-style falls are sprawling, flowing around rocks and lush green terrain, offering sightseers hundreds of drops to photograph. Just don’t miss the horseshoe-shaped Devil’s Throat, which marks the site’s largest waterfall.
Plitviče Waterfalls — Croatia
The expansive Plitviče Lakes National Park in Croatia showcases 16 terraced lakes connected by various waterfalls set amongst limestone, tree-covered hills. Perhaps the most renowned waterfall is Veliki Slap, a 256-foot wonder that weaves its way down the rock to the clear blue pool below.
Sutherland Falls — New Zealand
Perhaps what makes this waterfall so spectacular is its simplicity. At Sutherland Falls, the water drops 1,903 feet in a near-perfect, yet powerful stream from a picturesque pool of water above. Access to the falls, which occur in three waves, is only by air or a wilderness hike in the mountains.
Niagara Falls — USA and Canada
The awe-inspiring Niagara Falls straddles the USA-Canada border, offering visitors on both sides expansive views and continuous roaring water. On the USA side, the falls sit in Niagara Falls State Park (the country’s oldest state park) where 3,160,000 kilograms of water flow every second.
Jog Falls — India
Not far from the western coast of India is Jog Falls, a segmented waterfall that is most stunning when viewed during monsoon season (August to December). During this rain-heavy time, the falls go from a spidery trickle to a powerful force of nature that plunges off the cliffs toward the earth.
Kawasan Falls — Philippines
This series of three waterfalls, which drop into natural swimming holes and lagoons, is not only beautiful, it’s interactive. At Kawasan Falls, you can strip down and take a dip in the cool water or continue hiking on the jungle trails toward the next pool. The falls are located on Cebu Island, southwest of Cebu City.
Kuang Si Falls — Laos
Just south of the culture-rich city of Luang Prabang is Kuang Si Falls (aka Kuang Xi Falls). The stunning milky blue waters at the base of the three-tiered waterfall draw swimmers, photographers, and Instagrammers who come to see the standout colour of the water and wade in the site’s shallow pools.
Kaieteur Falls — Guyana
In Guyana, people flock to Kaieteur Falls, where an impressive amount of water pours over a cliff’s edge amidst the Amazon rainforest. Thanks to the consolidated and immense volume of the falls, Kaieteru is considered the largest single drop waterfall by water volume and boasts a drop of 741 feet. (That’s four times taller than Niagara and twice as high as Victoria Falls.)
Tegenungan Waterfall — Bali
Set on the island of Bali in Indonesia, this beautiful, isolated waterfall has become a must for travellers visiting the neighbouring art village of Ubud. At Tegenungan, the water drops with force into a pool below that is often full of swimmers trying to escape the heat.
Ban Gioc Waterfall — Vietnam and China
Ban Gioc Waterfall, also known as Detian Falls or Ban Gioc Falls, encompasses a series of waterfalls that straddle the border between China and Vietnam. In a stunning show of power and grandeur, water flows endlessly through pools, down tiers, and over cliffs in a unique horseshoe shape.
Jim Jim Falls — Australia
These Australian falls drop over a rocky escarpment to the earth 656 feet below. Set in the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, the Jim Jim Falls are typically only accessible during the dry season (May-October), when you can drive-in. During the tropical season (November-April), when the falls are at their full strength, you can only see them from the air.
Yumbilla Falls — Peru
Yumbilla Falls in northern Peru draws people from all over the globe, and for good reason — the waterfall is considered the world’s fifth tallest waterfall and drops from a dizzying height in a near-perfect stream of power and force.
Rhine Falls — Switzerland
You won’t find water toppling over an enormous cliff here, but the surrounding scenery (hello, it is Switzerland after all) makes Rhine Falls a must. The water cascades powerfully over and around the rocky, tiered terrain, showcasing an impressive mass of white, churned up water.
Multnomah Falls — Oregon, USA
These falls may be right off the busy Historic Columbia River Highway, but the site’s easy accessibility does nothing to tarnish its fairy-like feel. Set in the Columbia River Gorge between Portland and Hood River, Oregon, travellers come to see water plunging from the upper falls and down to the lower falls as the iconic Benson Bridge stands prominently in the foreground.