World’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls

March 15, 2013 by

Beach & Water Adventures, Things to Do

For those who love experiencing beautiful landscapes, visiting waterfalls is one of the best ways to add some extra beauty to a day in the outdoors. Not all falls are created equal, however. If you want to view some of the world’s best cascades, here are our suggestions.

Niagara Falls, USA/Canada

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Located in both Ontario and New York, Niagara Falls is made up of three waterfalls — Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side — that form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. Although the height of Niagara Falls varies due to seasonal flow, American Falls can get up to 194 feet during peak season June through August. While not the highest waterfall in the world, it certainly is the most powerful, and it’s sheer overall size is enough to draw over 10 million visitors each year.

For the best views, opt to do either the Journey Behind the Falls or the Maid of the Mist. Journey Behind the Falls is an unguided excursion that takes you below and behind the falls as it travels up to 40 miles per second before crashing into the basin below. On the other hand, the Maid of the Mist is a guided boat tour that takes riders past the American and Bridal Veil Falls right into the curve of Horseshoe Falls and into the mist. It’s also worth visiting the attraction at night, as the cascades are lit up in an array of colors.

Sutherland Falls, New Zealand

Located near the scenic ford of Milford Sound, Sutherland Falls in New Zealand is one of the tallest water falls in the world. It features three drops at heights of 751 feet, 815 feet and 1902 feet, thundering down dramatically into an enormous pool at the bottom. It’s beautiful to look up and see the water pouring from the glacial reservoir of Lake Quill over the edges of the mountaintops. To get to the falls, you’ll need to hike a section of the Milford Track from the Quintin Public Shelter.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss

Dettifoss. Photo credit: csproete via Flickr.

Located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss is touted as the most powerful waterfall in Europe, flowing at about 17,657 cubic feet per second. The falls are about 145 feet tall and 328 feet wide, and takes on a milky color from the sediment-rich meltwaters of the Vatnajökull glacier, from which the falls is fed its water. To access Dettifoss, it is a 30 minute hike from the parking lot. The best views of the falls are had from the top of the falls, watching it from above as it drops off. Just don’t get too close to the edge as the risk of erosion is quite high. If you’re still in the mood to see more waterfalls afterward, distant views of Selfoss can be has just a short hike upstream.

Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador 

For those staying in the adventurous city of Banos, one popular excursion is to bike the “Waterfalls Route,” which includes Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, Machay and the most impressive of all, Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador’s second biggest waterfall. You’ll go about 11 miles, taking in lush jungle, roaring rivers and beautiful mountains until you reach the parking lots for Pailon del Diablo. Here you’ll park your bike before hiking about 15 minutes to the approximately 100-feet-high falls.

To get the best view, you’ll need to shimmy through a narrow cave and climb some stairs that will take you about midway to the top. Make sure to bring a raincoat, as the powerful falls ensure you will get a little wet. If you don’t want to bike, you can also take the bus from Banos to Puyo and stop off at the falls, or take tour of the area’s waterfalls on a colorful “chiva” trolley.

Iguaza Falls, Brazil/Argentina

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguaza Falls features an edge that is 1.7 miles long, with about 275 individual waterfalls and cascades that range from 197 to 269 feet in height. Because of its immense size, visitors should allot at least one full day, preferably two, to explore the entire attraction, which is littered with catwalks and lookout platforms for closeup views. Additionally, visitors can take a boat tour to go under some of the falls.

Usually, visitors will spend one day exploring the Brazilian side and the other traversing the Argentinian side, as both offer completely different views. The most impressive section of the falls is undoubtedly the Devil’s Throat, which is best seen from the Brazilian side. Here you’ll witness 14 falls plunge 350 feet and spraying mist 100-feet into the air. It’s a beautiful sight, especially since you’re almost guaranteed to see a rainbow.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls. Photo credit: i_pinz via Flickr.

Located across Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls, boasting the largest curtain of water formed on the planet. In terms of size, Victoria Falls are 355 feet high, 5,577 feet wide and with over 500 million liter plunging over the edge into the Zambezi River. Because of the water flow’s intensity, a spray is shot 1,000 feet into the air that can be seen from 30 miles away. Not surprisingly, there are almost always rainbows.

In terms of viewing, the best time to go is June through August when they are between medium and high water. Additionally, the Zimbabwe side offers the best rim-level views, while the Zambia side allows visitors the best base-level view via the rainforest footpath. If you have the time, it’s worthwhile to explore both sides as each has completely different perspectives. Additionally, you can see the falls in a more adventurous way by white water rafting on the river below the falls, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, taking a microlite flight over the forge from the Zambia side or canoeing on the river above the falls where you can also view wildlife.

Na-ra Falls, Iriomote Island, Okinawa, Japan

Located on the lush rainforest island of Iriomote in Okinawa, Japan, is the lesser-known Na-ra Falls. While not the largest falls in the world, it is a truly beautiful and natural site and the journey adds an element of adventure. At Nirakanai Iriomotejima lodge you can hire a guide to take you to the falls, which requires a boat ride down the mangrove and Adan fruit tree-littered Nakama River, before de-boarding for a hike through the jungle. The trek can be difficult at times as you make your way over narrow hilltop trails, shimmy over boulders and wade through knee-deep water to reach your destination.

After about an hour, you will be rewarded for your efforts with the Na-ra Falls, a multitiered waterfall creating a calm swimming pool at the base. You can wade at the base on rocks to view the falls from the base or continue your trek to the top for the best views. What really makes this waterfall so worthwhile to visit is the fact nobody really knows about, leaving it wild and untouched by tourism.

Erawan Falls, Thailand

Erawan Falls

Erawan Falls. Photo credit: Todd Huffman via Flickr.

Thailand is home to some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, the most magnificent being the 4,921-foot Erawan Falls. Located in Erawan National Park in the Kanchanaburi Province, the seven-tiered Erawan Falls are thought to resemble a three-headed white elephant from Hindu mythology called the erawan. As the water spills over limestone cliffs it plunges down into cool blue pools. Visitors can do jungle hikes around the falls or swim in its pools. For the best views, trek to the top of the falls, which takes about three hours round-trip. Along the way, you’ll have many opportunities to cool down in the fall’s many levels.

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, China/Vietnam

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls. Photo credit: Denise Chan via Flickr.

Composed of two waterfalls straddling the Guichun River and the China-Vietnam border, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is so powerful it sounds like thunder when it hits the basin, especially during wet season. With multiple tiers, crystal waters and surrounding karst peaks, it is a moving setting to be in. While Ban Gioc is considered the largest waterfall in Vietnam, Detian Falls is thought to be one of China’s most spectacular natural sites.

As a whole, the waterfall drops 98 feet and is 656 feet wide, making it the 4th-largest waterfall along a national border. For the best views, visit during June and July when river flow speeds up. Additionally, the Chinese side offers a scenic rainforest walking alongside the falls to the top, while the Vietnamese side allows you to swim in a refreshing natural pool. To get a closer look at the falls, there are locals nearby offering bamboo rafting tours.

MacKenzie Falls, Australia

MacKenzie Falls

MacKenzie Falls. Photo credit: Alpha via Flickr.

Located in one of Australia’s most scenic but lesser-traversed parks, you’ll find MacKenzie Falls in the Grampians National Park. You’ll have to hike down a well-marked steep set of stairs — and then back up again — to reach the waterfall; however, you’re hard work will be rewarded by a frontal view of gushing torrents of water from Lake Wartook cascading over a cliff edge. Viewing the waterfall from the stairs as you come down is also a worthwhile photo opportunity, as it is easier to make out the tiers of the falls. While the

The view that awaits you at the end of this steep trail is spectacular. Enormous torrents of water cascade over huge cliffs into a deep pool, sending fine sprays of rainbow mist high into the air above a stunning gorge. While MacKenzie Falls flows all year, it is must stronger in June through September when it rains more frequently. And if you’re hot after your hike, feel free to take a dip in the fall’s refreshing waters.

Marmore’s Falls, Italy

A beautiful as well as historical attraction, Marmore’s Falls (Cascate delle Marmore) in Italy is a man-made falls built by the ancient Romans. Located in Umbria, the falls are the highest man-made waterfall in the world and one of the highest in Europe at 541 feet. The area itself is very relaxing, with hiking trails and an expansive park. Although fed by the Velino River, the falls are sometimes deviated to feed the hydroelectric power plants system, so double check their website’s timetable before visiting. Generally, they’re open longer in the summer and less in the winter.

For the best views of Cascate delle Marmore, you can either go to the Lower Outlook for an entire view of the falls and panoramic of the first drop. The Upper Lookout offers views from the top as well as the chance to see La Specola, a 1781 arcaded loggia built by Pope Pius VI.  The Upper Outlook is also known for its wonderful rainbow views.

Burney Falls, California

Burney Falls

Burney Falls. Photo credit: Amit Patel via Flickr.

Not as well-known as some of the United States’ other waterfalls, Burney Falls is located in McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Shasta County, California. The falls have a height of 129 feet and strong flow year-round of over 100 million gallons of water per day, which appears to burst from the middle of the cliff face. This is because the source of the falls is from underground springs. While you’ll be able to drive to the lookout point to see the falls, the best views are had after a 2.4 mile loop hike to the base.

 - Jessica Festa

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5 Responses to “World’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls”

  1. Daniel McBane Says:

    I’ve only been to two of the falls on the list so far and I don’t remember one of them (Niagara), because I was too young. The other (Erawan) is spectacular and definitely deserves to be on this list, although I could do without the flesh-eating fish in the pools. Ok, so they’re tiny and the pools are basically like a natural fish spa, but I just don’t like the sensation of fish nibbling on my skin. Plus every so often, a bigger fish will take a larger bite and actually remove a small chunk of flesh.

  2. Steve Says:

    Great list, but Victoria Falls are not in South Africa. They are on Zambia/Zimbabwe border.

  3. Laura Says:

    You are right! Thank you for catching that.

  4. Lori Says:

    Those are stunning! I will add The Montmorency Falls in Quebec to the list. They are 275 feet in height (higher than Niagara Falls) and 150 feet wide.

  5. Bikram Says:

    Those waterfalls who have 275 height and 150 feet wide are present awesome scene.

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