Somehow, waterfalls are so much more than just falling water. The roar and the spray, the gorgeous lakes below and the scenic cliff surround, and the effort it often takes to find and appreciate the falls combine to produce a surreal experience every time you find a waterfall.
The following A to Z of the world’s best waterfalls should inspire you to tramp the world and do crazy things in pursuit of the awe and wonder that only comes from seeing a waterfall.
1. Angel Falls
The world’s tallest waterfall, dropping an uninterrupted 2647 feet (807 meters) off the summit of Auyan Tepuy in Venezuela, Angel Falls is located in an incredibly isolated region of jungle. Thus, you’ll need more than comfortable tramping shoes to get there — you’ll need a plane.
2. Burney Falls
California’s Burney Falls was labeled the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by President Theodore Roosevelt. That’s because Burney Falls seems to spring from nowhere, with water erupting from the rock as if by magic.
3. Detian Falls
In Vietnamese, “detain” means “virtuous heaven,” and this waterfall is certainly divine. Showcasing a classic Asian landscape of lush rice patties and rocky outcrops, Detian Falls is dreamily picturesque.
The Golden Falls is your next waterfall destination and one of the top attractions in Iceland. These falls have two drops at right angles, making for fascinating, geometric pictures. Plus, the mists of Gullfoss are known to make dazzling rainbows, which adds to the fantastical nature of the island.
5. Havasu Falls
During your trip to the Grand Canyon, you can’t skip the hike to Havasu Falls. Located on the Havasupai, these falls pour over rich red rock into candy-colored turquoise water, offering a cool respite from the hot Arizona weather.
6. Iguazu Falls
Stretching two miles across the borders of two South American countries and numbering more than 275 individual waterfalls, Iguazu Falls is massive and breathtaking.
The green, rainforested cliffs of Brazil and Argentina contrast with the thundering whitewater, creating a jaw-dropping scene of power and beauty.
7. Jog Falls
During the dry season, Jog Falls is hardly more than a trickling pair of thin streams, but once monsoons begin to hit, the waterfalls swell to massive, thundering monsters. Jog Falls is the tallest waterfall in India, located almost directly between Mumbai and Bengaluru.
8. Kilt Rock Waterfall
Admittedly, the waterfall isn’t truly what attracts visitors to Scotland’s Kilt Rock. The Trotternish Peninsula on the Isle of Skye is filled with glorious beauty, including the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Glen, so the Kilt Rock Waterfall is merely icing on an incredible natural cake.
9. Manawaiopuna Falls
Also called Jurassic Falls thanks to its feature in a certain famous dinosaur movie, Manawaiopuna Falls was once one of Kauai’s best kept secrets. Today, it is one of the island’s more popular attractions, but trekking to the falls remains fun and exciting.
10. Niagara Falls
No list of famous waterfalls is complete without Niagara. Arguably the largest waterfall in the world, jettisoning 3,160 tons of water every second, Niagara Falls deserves to be a Natural Wonder of the World.
Fortunately, unlike other falls on this list, Niagara is exceedingly accessible, and you can find several well-appointed, affordable Niagara Falls hotels with waterfall views.
11. Plitvice Falls
It doesn’t surprise Easter European travelers, but nearly everyone else is astounded by Croatia’s natural beauty. To prove it, you need look no farther than Plitvice Waterfalls, located in Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park near the Bosnian border. Though not Croatia’s tallest falls — that honor goes to nearby Veliki Slap — Plitvice Falls is undeniably the most gorgeous.
12. Rhine Falls
The Niagara Falls of Europe, Switzerland’s Rhine Falls is the largest waterfall on the continent. History has formed around these falls, so you should strongly consider taking a boat tour of the river and falls, which will tell you all about the natural and political history of the area.
Another Icelandic waterfall, Seljalandsfoss boasts some of the most jaw-dropping vistas in the world. From the top of its 200-foot-high (60-meter-high) cliff, you can see the ocean across a narrow band of lowlands, and from the base of the waterfall, you can venture into a natural cavern with beautiful views.
14. Torc Waterfall
Like other areas on the Emerald Isle, the atmosphere around Torc Waterfall is otherworldly — which is why the space attracts so many visitors every year. If you can climb the 100 steps up and down the cliff face, you might catch a glimpse of the elusive fairies who reportedly call the falls their home.
15. Victoria Falls
In the indigenous language, Victoria Falls is called Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “The Smoke That Thunders.”
Though neither the tallest nor the widest, Victoria Falls often claims to be the largest waterfall in the world, a title that draws hundreds of thousands to Zambia and Zimbabwe every year.
Which of these beautiful waterfalls would you visit first?