Call us today from 9:30am: 0117 313 3300
WILDLIFE

Cascading cataracts, tumbling torrents & fairy-tale falls

by Amy Poulton

There's no better reward at the end of a challenging hike than a waterfall; witnessing the power of Mother Nature in full force inspires a feeling of awe and an appreciation for natural beauty. Perhaps this primitive instinct is what motivates us to chase waterfalls, searching for the biggest and best all over the planet.

In celebration of World Water Day on 22nd March, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful waterfalls around the world, to add to your bucket list of cascades and cataracts:

Waterfalls in Africa

1. Tugela Falls, South Africa

Tugela Falls South Africa waterfall

This seasonal complex of gorgeous waterfalls is located in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, in the Drakensberg (Dragon’s Mountains) of Royal Natal National Park. The falls are named after the Tugela River, with the word "tugela" coming from the Zulu word for "sudden."

Tugela Falls is the world’s second-tallest waterfall (after Venezuela’s Angel Falls), with a combined total drop of 948 metres, including all five of the free-leaping falls.

However, there is some controversy about measurements due to inaccurate presumed heights, which means Tugela Falls could be the tallest waterfall in the world.

Hiking to Tugela Falls

The Tugela River varies in volume and does not flow consistently all year round, sometimes drying out completely. However, during the summer months (November to February), the falls are usually at their fullest, especially after heavy rain.

There are hiking trails to the summit and the foot of Tugela Falls, which can be a strenuous climb in places. The park’s visitor centre provides lots of information on the different hikes available, with the Bushmen Painting Trail being one of the most popular.

2. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe & Zambia

Mosi Oa Tunya Victoria Falls Zambia and Zimbabwe waterfall

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the powerful Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders), lies on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, fuelled by the rushing Zambezi River.

Although Victoria Falls is neither the highest nor the widest, the thundering cascades are classified as the largest waterfall in the world, based on the falls’ combined width of 1,708 metres and height of 108 metres, making this waterfall the world's largest sheet of falling water.

For comparison, Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls and more than twice the width of Horseshoe Falls.

Things to do Victoria Falls

From white water rafting down the rapids of the Zambezi River to swimming in the precariously placed Devil's Pool, there’s a huge range of adventurous activities to enjoy at Victoria Falls.

Bungee jumping and zip-lining will please adrenaline junkies, whilst sunset boat cruises and hikes are more sedate options - there are tours, attractions and things to do to suit every taste.

The falls can be enjoyed all year round, but due to rising and falling water levels, different activities are available at different times of year, so check ahead for the best time to visit Victoria Falls for the things that you want to do there.

Victoria Falls can be accessed from the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the town of Livingstone in Zambia, with visa options offering visitors the chance to hop over the border to see the waterfall from both sides.

Time at Victoria Falls also combines well with a South Africa, Namibia or Botswana holiday.

Wayfairer Top Tip

When Victoria Falls is at low flow it is possible to swim in the Devils Pool and take a peek over the edge. Having waded through rock pools and fast-flowing channels of water, you eventually reach the Devils Pool and get to experience the falls from this unique angle. Certainly gets the adrenaline flowing!

Victoria Erskine

Luxury Travel Specialist

Waterfalls in Antarctica

3. Blood Falls, Antarctica

Blood Falls Antarctica waterfall

A chilling sight to behold and one of the greatest mysteries on the continent, the crimson cascades of Blood Falls pour out of the Taylor Glacier and onto the ice-covered surface of West Lake Bonney.

However, there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. The waterfall is fed by saltwater preserved 400 metres underground, which becomes saltier in time and cannot freeze (the reserve is around three times saltier than seawater).

Due to the high iron content of the water, as well as the absence of oxygen and sunlight, when this water seeps through the glacier and comes into contact with light and air, the iron oxidises and rusts, resulting in the blood-red colour.

How to see Blood Falls

This eerie waterfall is only accessible via helicopter tours or Antarctic cruises visiting the Ross Sea, the southernmost sea on Earth.

Waterfalls in Asia

4. Detian Falls, Vietnam & China

Detian Falls Vietnam and China waterfall

The fairy-tale fountains of the Detian Waterfall (Virtuous Heaven Waterfall) lies on the border between China and Vietnam. Surrounded by picturesque karst peaks, this scenic waterfall topples down three tiers and has to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

Detian Falls is also Asia’s largest transnational waterfall, as it's shared by two countries. The falls also have a second name in Vietnamese, Ban Gioc Waterfall, which means "half-way across."

Over thousands of years, the waterfall has eroded the land and also moved the falls upstream. At certain times of the year, Detain Falls splits into two waterfalls, but during the rainy season the river swells and the two pour back into one again.

How to visit Detian Falls

On the Chinese side, Detian Falls are accessible by bus from Nanning. In the surrounds, there is also a deep pool below the waterfall and local villagers can often be seen fishing there. Other attractions include Heishui River, which is great for a boat trip along farmlands, and Qiaomiao Lake, which is as calm as a mirror.

On the Vietnamese side, you can visit Ban Gioc Falls in the northeast of the country, in the Cao Bang province. Visit in the spring and the falls are framed by red blossoms, In autumn, the golden-yellow leaves are equally pretty, whilst in the summer, the waters flow forcefully with the summer rains.

From both countries, you can take a bamboo raft and be punted around the base for incredible views of the waterfall.

5. Hannoki Falls & Shomyo Falls, Japan

Shomyo and Hannoki twin waterfalls in Japan

Hannoki Falls, located in Toyama Prefecture, is the tallest waterfall in Japan, with a height of 497 metres. However, the waterfall only flows between April to July, fed by melting snow from the Midagahara plateau.

During the rest of the year, Hannoki’s neighbour, Shomyo Falls, is considered the tallest waterfall in Japan. The picturesque V-shape created when both falls are in full flow give Hannoki and Shomyo the nickname of the twin waterfalls.

This region is also considered to by one of the best koyo spots in Japan (koyo is the autumn counterpart to sakura season, when the leaves on the trees change colour and fall).

How to get to the tallest waterfalls in Japan

The best time to visit these twin waterfalls is between April and July, when both streams are flowing.

You can access Hannoki and Shomyo by car, though note that the road is closed during winter due to the snow and opens around mid-May. During July and August, the road is open from 6am to 7pm, whilst during other months it is usually open between 7pm and 6pm.

If you’re looking to get to the waterfalls via public transport, head to Tateyama Station, then take the bus to Shomyo falls, which runs between May and November.

Wayfairer Top Tip

If you venture to to the city of Kobe on your Japan trip (famous for its Kobe beef), be sure to visit Nunobiki Falls. This tranquil waterfall is just a short walk from the city centre and has a special significance in Japanese art and literature, having inspired famous works of poetry.

Amy Poulton

Content Writer

6. Jog Falls, India

Jog Falls India waterfall

The segmented waterfalls of Jog Falls can be found in Sagara Taluk, in the Shivamogga district of Karnataka state, India. The falls' water levels depend on rainfall and the season, and when water levels are at their highest, these falls become powerful plunge waterfalls.

Jog Falls is fed by the Sharavathi River towers at a height of 253 metres, making this waterfall the second-highest in India after Nohkalikai Falls. The falls are also known by alternative names in local languages, including Gerusoppe Falls, Gersoppa Falls and Jogada Gundi.

When and how to visit Jog Falls

The best time to visit Jog Falls is between August and December, and the best route is from Bangalore to Sagara, from where there are buses to the waterfalls. Neighbouring villages include Siddapura and Sirsi.

Jog Falls View Point offers a gorgeous vista from the bottom of the falls, though the 1,400 steps along the cliffside make for a strenuous hike. Another great viewpoint is near the Kodakani village of Siddapura, Uttara Kannada.

7. Khone Phapheng Falls, Laos

4000 Islands Khone Falls Laos waterfalls

Khone Phapheng Falls, the largest in Southeast Asia, are located in the Champasak Province in southern Laos. Fed by the Mekong River, the falls are populated with thousands of little islands, giving the area the name Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands).

Also known as Chutes de Khone, or simply Khone Falls, the torrents here make up the widest waterfall in the world, measuring an incredible 10,782 metres across (nearly double the width of the closest competitor, Pará Falls in Venezuela).

Wildlife around Khone Phapheng Falls

The Khone Phapheng Falls are located south of Don Khon island, the area which is home to a small group of rare Irrawaddy dolphins.

The falls are also home to the plabuck, an endangered species of catfish thought to be the largest freshwater fish in the world, growing up to three metres long and weighing up to 300 kilograms.

8. Nohkalikai Falls, India

Nohkalikai Falls in India waterfall

Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest waterfall in India, with a plunge of 340 metres. The falls are located near Cherrapunji, famous for being one of the wettest places in the world, and fed by that generous rainfall, decreasing in power during the December to February dry season.

Nohkalikai is also the fourth tallest falls in the world and known for the brightly coloured lagoon at its base, as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding evergreen forest.

The legend of Nohkalikai

According to local legend, a woman named Likai lived in a village upstream of the falls and had to remarry after her husband’s death, in order to provide for her infant daughter.

However, Likai’s second husband was jealous of the attention Likai would bestow on her daughter and killed the child, cooking her flesh and throwing away the severed head and bones.

Returning home from work, Likai saw that the house was empty, but after such a long and tiring day, she ate the meal that had been prepared for her by her husband. Reaching for a betel leaf after the meal, Likai discovered a severed finger and realised what had happened.

Overcome with anger, grief and disgust at cannibalising her dead daughter, Likai ran off the edge of the plateau, jumping to her death. The place where she jumped was named Nohkalikai Falls as a grim reminder of the tragic story.

9. Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Thailand

Thi Lo Su Falls waterfall in Thailand

Tucked away in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Thailand lies one of Southeast Asia’s few remaining virgin forests and the tumbling torrents of Thi Lo Su Waterfall.

The falls are named in a local dialect, with "Thi Lo" meaning waterfalls and "Su" meaning loud, referring to the thundering roar and intense flow of the water. However, the Karen hill tribe call the falls "Black Waterfall," so the origin is unclear.

The sixth biggest waterfall in the world, the currents originate from Huai Klotho and journey along limestone cliffs, cascading down tiers of rock. Behind the waterfalls, there is also a cave you can explore and pool levels you can swim in.

How to get to Thi Lo Su Waterfall

The drive from the city of Tak to Umphang is around five hours. Then, it’s a hike of around 1.8 kilometres along a self-guided forest trail.

You can camp at the Wildlife Sanctuary Headquarters near the falls, which is best to do between October and December when the falls are at their most beautiful. However, be mindful of visiting in the rainy season (May to August), when heavy rain can cause a temporary closure of the wildlife sanctuary.

Waterfalls in Europe

10. Gullfoss Falls, Iceland

Gullfoss Falls in Iceland waterfall covered in snow during winter

The Gullfoss "Golden" Falls can be found in the canyon of the Hvítá river, in southwest Iceland. The curved three-step "staircase" plunges the rushing waters into deep crevices perpendicular to the river, with flows of up to 140 cubic metres per second (in the summer).

One unique feature of Gullfoss is that you can view the falls from above, as the falls are actually cascading underground. There are multiple angles and viewpoints, which provide stunning perspectives and rainbow-spray photo opportunities.

If you’re visiting Iceland in winter, it’s still possible to visit Gullfoss Falls (and the snow-covered surroundings are dream-like), but be careful of driving and walking around the falls in snowy and icy conditions.

The Golden Circle

Gullfoss Falls is only an hour and a half away from Reykjavik and often combined with other attractions as part of the Golden Circle, which you can do on a tour or self-drive exploration.

The 300-kilometre Golden Circle tourist route loops from Reykjavik into the southern uplands, with the three primary sights being Gullfoss Falls, Thingvellir National Park and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the Geysir and Strokkur geysers.

11. Plitvice Falls, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes waterfalls in Croatia

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. This mountainous karst area of central Croatia is located near the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and contains a multitude of different waterfalls.

The Plitvice Falls are not a singular attraction, but rather a network of 16 karstic lakes and a series of mineral-rich waterfalls, which range in size and shape, and carve through the rock to create pools and formations in the landscape.

Explore the lakes on foot, by road or by boat, plus there are free buses which depart every 30 minutes from various points around the park between April and October.

Waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park

The highest waterfall in the national park is the aptly-named Large Waterfall, fed by the Plitvica river and located at the end of the Lower Lakes. Another gorgeous option is the Galovac Waterfall, which features a 25-metre plunge, compared to Large’s 78 metres.

Waterfalls in North America

12. Niagara Falls, Canada & the United States

Niagara Falls rushing waterfall

No list of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in the world is complete without mention of Niagara Falls, one of the most superlative and famous falls on the planet.

Niagara Falls is actually the collective name for a trio of waterfalls that can be found the border between Ontario in Canada and the state of New York in the United States. From largest to smallest, these are Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.

The falls are fuelled by the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. Combined, these falls have the highest flow rate of any North American waterfall, with a vertical drop of 50 metres and an incredible 168,000 cubic metres of water pouring over the crest every second.

However, Niagara Falls are not the tallest waterfalls in the world, as is commonly thought. Rather, the combination of the falls’ height and the immense volume of water is what makes Niagara so unique and well-known.

The three waterfalls of Niagara Falls
  • Horseshoe Falls – 50 metres high and 820 metres wide.
  • American Falls – 34 metres high and 290 metres wide.
  • Bridal Veil Falls – 24 metres high and 17 metres wide.

Waterfalls in Oceania

13. Sutherland Falls, New Zealand

Sutherland Falls New Zealand waterfall

The tallest waterfall in New Zealand, Sutherland Falls is located near Milford Sound, within Fiordland National Park, on South Island. Fed by the snow and water of Lake Quill along the Arthur River, the falls pour down three cascades, falling a total height of 580 metres.

Sutherland Falls can be accessed via a 90-minute walk from Quintin Public Shelter on the Milford Track, however this requires either four days trekking down the Milford Track or taking a scenic flight to a location close to the falls (available from Milford Sound, Te Anau and Queenstown).

Wayfairer Top Tip

Another great waterfall to visit in New Zealand is Huka Falls, only 10 mins from Taupo. If you are leaving Auckland and heading South, take the time to visit Waitomo caves for the glowworm caves and then continue onto Huka Falls. Both places are spectacular.

Jason Stevens

CEO

Waterfalls in South America

14. Angel Falls, Venezuela

Angel Falls in Venezuela tallest waterfall in the world

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Venezuela's of Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world, with a stunning 979-metre drop. The falls are located in Canaima National Park, in the state of Bolivar, in the Gran Sabana region bordering Brazil and Guyana.

The rivers and tepuys (table-shaped mountains) of this region create incredible landscapes of rock cliffs and gorgeous waterfalls. Enjoy this unique environment by hiking to Mount Roraima.

In the local language of Pemon, Salto Angel is named Kerepakupai Meru, which means "waterfall of the deepest place" and Parakupa Vena, which means "the fall from the highest point."

15. Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil

Iguazu Falls in Argentina beautiful waterfall

Formed as the result of an historic volcanic eruption, the mighty Iguazu Falls is made up of an incredible 275 waterfalls and cataracts, with Devil’s Throat being the tallest, plunging 80 metres into the gorge. This makes Iguazu nearly twice as tall as Niagara Falls.

Around 1,500 cubic metres of water flow over the falls every second and peaks up to 13,000 cubic metres per second during the wet season (November to March).

Stretching across an area of 2.7 kilometres wide, the UNESCO-protected Iguazu Falls straddles Argentina and Brazil, from Misiones Province to the state of Parana.

The waterfall has been known as Angel Falls since the mid-20th century, after US aviator Jimmie Angel, who was the first person to fly over the falls. Angel’s ashes were scattered over the falls upon his death in 1960.

Things to do at Iguazu Falls

There is a huge range of activities to enjoy at Iguazu Falls. Ride the ecological jungle train, walk the lower and upper circuit, take a day trip to the Brazilian side of the falls (if you’re visiting from Argentina) and take a scenic helicopter ride for aerial views of this natural beauty spot.

To start planning your next adventure, call our Luxury Travel Specialists to chat about your ideas or fill out our no-obligation enquiry form with details of your dream trip.

Photo References
  • Tugela Falls - Andynct [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
  • Blood Falls - Mike Martoccia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
  • Hannoki and Shomyo Falls - I, Kahusi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
  • Jog Falls - SajjadF [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • Nohkalikai Falls, India - Vikrantdhiman189381 [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]
  • Thi Lo Su Falls - Meneerke bloem [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • Sutherland Falls - Ray Hayward [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • Angel Falls - Luis Carillo, Venezuela [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

From Our Blog

Talk to the team

Find out more and tailor your perfect trip with the help of
our specialist team on 0117 313 3300