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The 21 Most Beautiful Waterfalls to See Around the World

Kyle McCarthy

These incredible waterfalls are guaranteed to add an exciting element of wellness to your next adventure.

Water does more to sustain life than just quench your thirst, according to the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report. "Spending time in natural environments like waterfalls has a unique impact on mood and happiness," says Beth McGroarty, vice president of research at the Global Wellness Institute. "The crash of water from waterfalls or pounding surf creates an environment very rich in negative ions," she continues, "which is linked to reduced depression and anxiety." So, if you want to enjoy a refreshing change of pace and combat nature-deficit disorder while on vacation, consider visiting one or more of these breathtaking waterfalls.

Angel Falls: Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Although the current U.S. Department of State travel advisory for Venezuela warns of violent crime due to political instability, nature lovers should add the world's tallest waterfall, Angel Falls (or Salto Ángel in Spanish), to their bucket lists. The cataract can be found in an area of eastern Venezuela known as the Lost World (Mundo Perdido). Fed by a tributary of the Rio Caroni in the equatorial rainforest, this UNESCO World Heritage Site emerges from the cloud forest above Auyantepui, a flat-topped mountain about 15 times higher than Niagara Falls. To get to the 3,230-foot-tall waterfall, travelers must hop on a tour boat then hike for an hour to its majestic drop, where water falls uninterrupted for an extraordinary 2,647 feet.

Blue Nile Falls: Tigray, Ethiopia

When this 1,300-foot-wide torrent of water gushes 147 feet down through jungle overgrowth, it's easy to understand how the Blue Nile Falls (or Tis Issat, which is Amharic for "Smoke Water") got its name. The Blue Nile powers this waterfall on Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia. Since most of the water is diverted to the Beles Hydroelectric Power Plant on weekdays, Sunday (when the Blue Nile Falls resumes its natural flow) is the best day to visit. The water level is typically at its peak in September after the rainy season.

Niagara Falls: Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario

One of the world's most recognizable waterfalls is Niagara Falls. Located on the U.S.-Canada border, Niagara's three cataracts dump an average of 600,000 gallons of water per second. To appreciate its size, head to the Canadian side and splurge on a helicopter tour or join a sightseeing cruise so you can feel the rumble of Ontario's immense Horseshoe Falls. Then, visit the New York side to check out the towering American Falls and the misty Bridal Veil Falls from the cliffside Cave of the Winds. New York State Park's Niagara Falls USA Discovery Pass covers several attractions and activities in its $35 to $46 per person fee, including a Maid of the Mist boat ride.

Fairy Pools: Isle of Skye, Scotland

Known for their magical Isle of Skye setting in the Scottish Highlands, the Fairy Pools are a series of stone-walled repositories that hold the cold, crystal-clear water that rushes down from the Cuillin mountains and River Brittle. Framed by Scotland's mountains and forest, the pools offer Instagram-worthy vistas. Plus, visitors can hike, picnic and swim here, though wetsuits are recommended for the latter. Pay to park in the designated lot near the village of Carbost in Glenbrittle, then hike about 1.5 miles down through heather fields. For an overnight stay or a bite to eat, visit Glenbrittle's campground and cafe.

Bigar Waterfall: Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park, Romania

This veil-like waterfall is unique: Its spring-fed flow presents in sheer threads of water as it falls over a thick moss-covered rock wall into the Mini? River. Situated in western Romania on the road between Oravita and Bozovici, Bigar Waterfall is named for a young man who reportedly drowned to be close to his beloved, who could only be freed from captivity in a nearby cave by becoming a waterfall. Arrive early to photograph the beautiful scene before hikers exploring other parts of Cheile Nerei-Beusnita National Park arrive for the day.

Iguazu Falls: Misiones, Argentina, and Paraná, Brazil

Forming the Argentina-Brazil border along the Iguazu River, this necklace of 275 cataracts is considered the largest waterfall system in the world. Iguazu Falls sits within a UNESCO World Heritage-listed park and plummets 260-plus feet into dense subtropical rainforest. The nearly 1.7-mile-wide waterfall chain is so powerful that the late Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have uttered "Poor Niagara" during her visit. The U-shaped Devil's Throat area is considered one of the site's most impressive sections. Superb vistas are also available from Brazil's Belmond Hotel das Cataratas and Argentina's Gran Meliá Iguazú.

Big Waterfall: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Known in Croatian as Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall flows among the stunning lakes and travertine rock formations of Plitvice Lakes. In fact, this national park inspired the look of Walt Disney World Resort's mythical "Pandora -- The World of Avatar" in Orlando, Florida. Standing an impressive 256 feet tall, the waterfall is fed by the Plitvica Potok river and can be found in the Lower Lakes section of the park. Three park entrances are available, but for easy access to the Big Waterfall from Plitvice Selo's hotels, use Entrance III. Those in search of an otherworldly scene should visit in winter, when the waterfall often freezes into a remarkable ice sculpture.

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls: Cao Bang, Vietnam, and Guangxi, China

Two bordering waterfalls -- Banyue Falls in Vietnam and Detian Falls in China -- form one of Asia's largest natural cascades. The three-level Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is best seen between May and September (the region's rainy season), when abundant water flows from the Quy Xuan River over black rocks into verdant rice paddies. Take time to explore the Vietnam side's Nguom Ngao cave system: It's said that thieves long ago used the falls and their adjacent caves as a hideout and place to stash treasure.

Rhine Falls: Laufen-Uhwiesen, Switzerland

Cruise Switzerland's section of the Rhine River to Europe's largest waterfall. Created by tectonic shifts that changed the riverbed more than 15,000 years ago, the roughly 75-foot-tall, 500-foot-long waterfall drops thousands of gallons of water. Boat tours to the Rhine Falls Basin offer access to platforms beneath the falls, giving travelers an up-close (and very wet) view. River excursions also include visits to the nearby castles of Wörth and Laufen, the latter of which features an educational exhibit about the falls.

Havasu Falls: Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona

If you're planning a visit to the Grand Canyon, tack on a stay on the Havasupai Indian Reservation to see the Havasu Falls. The strikingly photogenic waterfall plunges more than 100 feet over a red rock cliff, thundering into a turquoise swimming hole rimmed with a sand beach and cottonwood trees. Due to its popularity, the waterfall is only accessible to campers who reserve a space at the campground. All bookings are for three evenings and cost between $100 and $125 per person, per night. Getting to the falls requires embarking on a rigorous hike or horseback ride across the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

Dunn's River Falls: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Located in the aptly named Dunn's River Falls and Park, Dunn's River Falls is a must for anyone visiting Jamaica. Said to be the site of the Battle of Las Chorreras in 1657, the waterfall has starred in the James Bond film "Dr. No" and countless commercials. The falls' shallow lagoons and natural stairs -- which travel 600 feet between the bottom and top of the waterfall -- are a result of limestone erosion as Dunn's River flows to the Caribbean Sea. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy the waterfall's picturesque setting and ample amenities (including a restaurant and a swimming area) without hordes of fellow tourists.

Dettifoss: Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Iceland is known for striking waterfalls, and Dettifoss in Vatnajökull National Park does not disappoint. Measuring only 144 feet tall, this waterfall in northeastern Iceland impresses with its roughly 132,000 gallons of Jökulsá river water that falls from its 328-foot-wide shelf every second. The best time to view Europe's most powerful waterfall is from May to December, when you can access gravel road 862 and a new paved road on the river's west bank. On the other side of the river, you'll find facilities like a parking lot and -- some say -- better views. Just remember that paths can be slippery and crowded during the busy summer season.

Yosemite Falls: Yosemite National Park, California

America's tallest waterfall is Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. At 2,425 feet tall, Yosemite Falls' three cascades stand about 17 times taller than Iceland's famous Dettifoss. Although Yosemite Valley (where the waterfall is located) is beautiful at any time of year, it's fed by snow melt, meaning peak flow is typically from April through June. Hikers can choose to traverse a wheelchair-accessible, mile-long loop at the base or a challenging trail that travels to the top. Fortunately, the towering waterfall is easily seen from many vantage points and can be heard throughout the eastern part of the valley.

Tugela Falls: Royal Natal National Park, South Africa

Tumbling from the Drakensberg Mountains of western South Africa, Tugela Falls -- which sits about 260 miles southeast of Johannesburg -- is the tallest waterfall in Africa at 3,110 feet. For the best views of the falls' five connected cascades, gear up for the direct 7.5-mile hike into Royal Natal National Park. Or, opt for the three-day, less rigorous Amphitheatre Slackpacking Trail. Both offer vistas of water plumes leaping down Drakensberg's huge rock wall. When planning your visit, keep in mind that the dramatic water flow is inconsistent and the uppermost cascade may freeze in June and July (South Africa's coldest winter months).

Sutherland Falls: Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Hike the rugged Milford Track for three days -- or simply book an aerial sightseeing tour -- for a top-to-bottom view of Sutherland Falls, New Zealand's most spectacular waterfall. The 1,903-foot-tall waterfall gushes from the glacial Lake Quill in three giant steps as it travels to the Arthur River. If you can't get to this waterfall in the South Island's UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park, book a day cruise in the park's Milford Sound. This world-renowned natural wonder located roughly 180 miles northwest of Queenstown features dozens of smaller cataracts streaming down its gorgeous, steep-sided fjords.

Jog Falls: Karnataka, India

Situated about 70 miles northwest of Shivamogga in Karnataka, Jog Falls' four chutes (Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket) measure 829 feet tall, making them some of India's tallest waterfalls. The waterfalls are fed by the Sharavathi River in the Western Ghats mountain range and are modulated by the Linganamakki Dam. Since the falls commonly recede to small rivulets during India's dry season, they're best seen from the end of monsoon season through early winter (between August and December). Make sure the dam's sluice gates are closed before you venture out onto the rock steps to watch rainbows or bathe in Jog Falls' mist.

Gullfoss: Bláskógabyggd, Iceland

Gullfoss is easily seen as part of a Golden Circle daytrip from Reykjavik. Because it originates in Hvítárvatn (a lake next to the Langjökull ice cap that's connected to Gullfoss via the Hvítá river), glacial sediment causes the waterfall to appear golden in sunlight and to display rainbows in the mist. Another unique aspect of the 105-foot-tall cataract is that its two tiers cascade at nearly right angles. From a distance, the upper cascade seems to disappear down into rocks, while the lower cascade plunges across the width of the Hvítá river.

Kaieteur Falls: Kaieteur National Park, Guyana

Isolated in Kaieteur National Park's dense rainforest, Kaieteur Falls is the world's largest single-drop waterfall by volume and is five times taller than Niagara Falls. The waterfall -- which is located on the Potaro River in central Guyana -- is said to be named for the Patamona Indian chief Kai, who sacrificed his life paddling over it to save his people. Kaieteur Falls measures a whopping 741 feet tall (at its largest plunge) and 370 feet wide. It is only accessible by a days-long hike or an aerial tour via propeller plane.

Tinago Falls: Iligan City, Philippines

Located on Mindanao island in Iligan City (a destination known for its 23 waterfalls), Tinago Falls fleetingly appears through dense jungle as it plunges into a deep ravine. The 240-foot-tall waterfall stands out from others in the Philippines because it cascades in five tiers from the Agus River into a beautiful swimming lagoon. If you're not an experienced hiker, skip climbing the 500-step staircase to the top and instead approach the falls from the easier loop path off of the main trail.

Victoria Falls: Livingstone, Zambia, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Shooting spray that can be seen for more than 30 miles, Victoria Falls carves a jagged stone border between Zambia and Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River. One of the largest waterfalls by size in the world at 355 feet tall and 5,500-plus feet wide, Victoria Falls was discovered in 1855 by Scottish explorer David Livingstone and named for Queen Victoria. A scenic way to see the falls is to book a trip by land from Cape Town, South Africa, to Livingstone, Zambia. Remember to wear adequate attire (think: boots and rain gear) since the Zambia side's forest trails bring visitors within spraying distance of the waterfall.

Torc Waterfall: Killarney National Park, Ireland

Plummeting approximately 65 feet from Torc Mountain through the lush greenery of southwestern Ireland's Killarney National Park, Torc Waterfall is one of County Kerry's most popular attractions. Because it's less than 5 miles from Killarney and an easy walk from a parking lot on the country's N71 road, Torc Waterfall is often crowded by late morning. Start your visit by hiking a bit of the Kerry Way before walking up about 100 steps to a higher vantage point with breathtaking panoramas of the park's emerald landscape and Middle Lake. Come prepared with a poncho since heavy rains are common.



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