Roaring masses of water, deafening roars, and showers of water vapour on the face – few experiences are as impressive as standing next to a mighty waterfall. These natural wonders are found on all continents and in all forms, from narrow and high to short and wide. Here’s our guide to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
Niagara Falls, Canada / USA
Like many of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, the Niagara Falls form a natural boundary between two countries, in this case, the Province of Ontario in Canada and the State of New York in the United States. The Niagara Falls consist of three separate waterfalls: Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls and Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls), the last of which, at 54 metres high and 920 metres wide, is the largest of the three. For the best experience, we recommend a trip with a classic steamboat, called the Maid of the Mist, which takes you directly under the water masses. Don’t forget the poncho, and make sure your camera is waterproof!
Angel Falls, Venezuela
In the middle of the almost impenetrable rainforest in south-eastern Venezuela lies Angel Falls – which holds the title as the world’s highest. The indigenous people of Pemon’s name for the falls is “Kerepakupai Meru”, which means the waterfalls at the deepest place – which indicates how remote this natural wonder lies. This place only became known to the outside world in the 1930s after American aviator Jimmie Angel “discovered” it when he was out looking for gold deposits in the area. And what is gold in comparison to such a sensational treasure as this? Angel Falls is a total of 979 metres, with a free fall of 807 metres, meaning that a large amount of water can blow away before it even reaches the ground. Getting here is a bit of an ordeal, but once you arrive, you will be greatly rewarded.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe / Zambia
If you want to experience the world’s largest falling body of water, there is only one place that applies – the Victoria Falls on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, where Africa’s fourth-largest river, Zambezi, crashes 108 metres straight into a ravine. During the rainy season, it can drop as much as 9,100 cubic metres of water per second, which in turn creates a water cloud that can extend as high as 1.5 kilometres into the air. No wonder then that Victoria Falls’ other official name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, means “the smoke that thunders” in the native Kalolo-Lozi. During certain parts of the year, those looking for adrenaline kicks can swim in the so-called Devil’s Pool, which is a naturally shaped pool in the mountain, located just metres from the vertical plunge. Those who would rather seek excitement on dry land can go on safari in any of the nearby nature reserves.
Iguazú Falls, Argentina / Brazil
“My poor Niagara!” Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have exclaimed the first time she saw the Iguazú Falls. And we can see why! During the rainy season, the Iguazu Falls consist of no less than 275 different waterfalls that drape the three-kilometre long cliff wall – which results in a total volume of 45,700 cubic metres of water per second! Niagara, in comparison, is one-third of the size. However, one thing the two cases have in common is that they both form a natural land border – in Iguazú’s case, it forms a border between Brazil and Argentina (also, the border with Paraguay is just a few miles west). On the Brazilian side, there is a footbridge that leads into the canyon from where you get an outstanding view of the area. Should this not be exceptional enough, helicopter tours are also arranged. However, this only applies if you are in Brazil. Argentina has banned all helicopter traffic as part of protecting the area’s unique flora and fauna.
The spectacular beauty of the Iguazú Falls has not been overlooked by Hollywood. Films recorded here include the James Bond movie Moonraker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Marvel’s Black Panther.
Dettifoss, Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
This small volcanic island in the North Atlantic has the perfect climate for waterfalls with its extreme amounts of rainfall and meltwater from the many glaciers. The number of waterfalls in Iceland is estimated to be around 10,000, so no matter where you travel on the island you have outstanding scenery close by. On the sparsely populated and barren east side lies Dettifoss, which is not only Iceland’s but also Europe’s largest waterfall. If you travel along the World Heritage-listed Golden Circle you will eventually come to the fabulous Gullfoss (Icelandic for the golden falls), which in the mid-1900s was saved from the terrible fate of becoming a hydroelectric power station. Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most-visited excursion destinations on the south coast. Spectacularly you can stand behind this waterfall – so don’t forget the camera!
Last but not least, Huangguoshu is the largest waterfall in Asian. Poetically similar to both silk and pearls, this beautiful waterfall is one of southwest China’s most popular tourist destinations – the Chinese tourism authorities have rated the area’s beauty ‘AAAAA’, which is the highest award. Huangguoshu consists of 18 different falls, of which the highest is 78 metres high. Various walking paths offer lookouts at different levels. Behind the waterfall lies another popular landmark, the 134-metre-high cave Shuiliandong, which according to legend is supposed to have been home to the protagonist in Wu Cheng’s classic story ‘The Journey to the West’, from the end of the 16th century.