A waterfall is a thing of beauty and power and a testament to the wonder of physics. A good waterfall is a breathtaking spectacle that travelers will come from thousands of miles away just to witness.
No two waterfalls are the same. Some meander slowly before plunging from dizzying heights. Others roar with the force of a steam train over their cliff’s edge. But each one is incredible in its own way, whether that be due to beauty or brawn.
Come with us as we explore some of the planet’s most spectacular falls in all of their majesty.
1. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Named after Queen Victoria of England, the falls are situated on the Zambezi River which acts as the current border between Zimbabwe and Zambia where the surrounding lands are teeming with wildlife. Considered to be the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls rises to a height of over 350 meters and has a width over a kilometer long. The staggering force of its flow creates a sound that can be heard almost 40km away and a spray that rises 400 meters into the air. That’s why local tribes refer to the falls as Mosi-o-Tunya — the Smoke That Thunders.
2. Angel Falls, Venezuela
The world’s tallest waterfall, Angel Falls has an 807 meter free fall drop with a total plunge of just under a kilometer (979m). That is 15 times higher than Niagara Falls. Located in the Canaima National Park in the Guayana Highlands region of Venezuela, the falls are surrounded by spectacular landscape unlike anywhere else on earth with rare and unique species of plant and animal life spread through a lush forest over three million hectares in size.
3. Niagara Falls, USA/Canada
Possibly the most iconic waterfall on earth, and the most famous fall in North America, Niagara Falls draws tens of millions of visitors each year. While only 51 meters in height, not huge in the scheme of things, the falls’ three drops see over six million cubic feet of water cross the crest line every minute. That's over double that of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The falls’ power has made it a valuable source of hydroelectric power while the ‘Maid Of The Mist’ boat tour has been taking tourists to the base of the fall swell since 1846.
4. Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
While not the tallest or most powerful of New Zealand’s waterfalls, Sutherland Falls is by far the most breathtakingly beautiful. Cascading 580 meters down the mountainside towards Doubtful Sound, the fall occurs in three waves down a luscious mountainside that juts out a total of 480 meters horizontally, like a jagged water zigzag down the cliff. The waterfall is also incredibly remote and can only be seen by air, or by hiking 90 minutes into the wilderness from the Quintin Public Shelter.
5. Detian Falls, China/Vietnam
The Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfall is a transnational fall that straddles the border between China and Vietnam on the Quay Son River. Dropping a total of 30 meters, the falls are separated into three separate falls by rocks and trees. But despite its relatively small size, the falls produce a powerful water flow that can be heard for miles around. But what makes this natural wonder so spectacular is its picturesque and secluded surroundings that have been completely untouched by regular visitors.
6. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil
Located on the Brazilian-Argentine border, the Iguazu Falls, whose name translates to 'Big Water,’ were the only waterfalls to be included in Lonely Planet’s Top Twenty Ultimate Travel Destinations. Made up of 275 separate waterfalls and dropping over more than a mile of rainforest-lined cliff edge, the falls vary in height from around 60 to 80 meters. Visitors are able to stay right at the edge of this dramatic natural wonder which appears to change color as the sun goes down.
7. Yosemite Falls, USA
The towering 739 meter plunge of the Yosemite Falls makes it the continental USA’s highest waterfall. However, it varies in water flow throughout the year, with late spring producing the most dramatic waters while in summer the fall has been known to dry up completely. The famous Californian attraction consists of three large tiers that make up the fall, the sixth highest on the planet, and one that produces a near deafening force at its base. The falls can be seen from multiple places throughout the park, including a picturesque shuttle stop at the base. But for the adventurous, it is possible to hike to the top of the falls on a strenuous all-day hike.