Niagara Falls has earned a distinct reputation as being the most powerful and mesmerizing natural spectacle in the world. Every year millions of people visit to embrace its splendor and sheer size, going out of their way to stand in the midst of such beauty. But while you might attribute Niagara as being the largest waterfall in the world, you’d be wrong. There is a host of waterfalls spread throughout the world that would give Niagara a run for its money, some even dwarfing the natural wonder.
While buses full of tourists take the seven-hour bus ride from New York City or drive down from Toronto to experience such a sight, they may be missing out. Waterfalls like Iguazu, Jog and Angel Falls should arguably command more attention for their sheer size, but that doesn’t keep people from coming back to this beauty.
Niagara will always be the queen jewel of natural spectacles in the northeast, but there are so many more that need to be experienced. I’ve put together a bucket list of waterfall beauties that we should all see before we die. To say that you’ve stood at the foot of these wonders would mean that you’ve lived a fulfilled and enviable life, so let’s start planning these trips.
Gotca Cataracts, Peru
You’d think that any of these magnificent waterfalls would have a long and detailed history, but not Gocta Cataracts. This impressive waterfall went undetected by nearly everyone aside from locals in the small Peruvian town at the base of the Falls that sits just over 400 miles north of Lima. That is until 2005 when a German explorer searching for pre-Incan ruins stumbled upon the stunning two-tiered spectacle. Measuring at 2,530 feet tall it's mindblowing how such a massive feat of nature could be hidden for so long.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
As one of the world’s most infamous waterfalls, Angel Falls earned its reputation as a natural marvel with a 3,212 uninterrupted fall. The Falls pour over the edge of Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that deserves a bucket list trip all its own. The Falls go by a handful of names including Kerepakupai Vená and Parakupá Vená, meaning “waterfall of the deepest place” and “the fall from the highest point,” respectively.
What many may not know about this natural wonder is that it was the inspiration for the Disney favorite "Up" although it was called Paradise Falls in the movie. And that's not the only film this beauty has been a part of. Angel Falls could have its own IMDB page, having made appearances in Dinosaur, Arachnophobia and Point Break.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
While many believe that Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in the world, the title actually belongs to Iguazu Falls. The South American wonder isn’t known for its height since it only stands at 269 feet tall, but for its sheer mass. While this collection of falls holds the title as the largest in the world, Niagara Falls actually has a higher flow rate; meaning that more water pours over its edge, at a rate of 85,000 cubic feet per second compared to Iguazu Falls at 62,000 feet per second. While the Falls themselves are in Argentina, the rivers that feed it flow mostly through Brazil. Also, like Niagara Falls, it's made up of a collection of waterfalls with three distinct formations.
Baatara Gorge Falls, Lebanon
The Baatara Gorge is an interesting destination as it’s both a sinkhole and a waterfall. Water cascades 837 feet into the Baatara Pothole, a Jurassic limestone cave on the Lebanon Mountain Trail. Not discovered until 1952, the origin of the Falls wasn’t pinpointed until 1988 when a fluorescent dye test was done to determine just where the water originated. Turns out the water comes from the spring of Dalleh in Mgharet al-Ghaouaghir.
Tinago Falls, Philippines
Tinago Falls looks almost too beautiful to be real, surrounded by lush foliage in the middle of a forest, and empties into a clear blue lagoon. With Tinago being one of 24 waterfalls in the area it’s no wonder why Iligan, the city where the Falls is located, is called the City of Majestic Waterfalls. While Tinago Falls is one of the smaller waterfalls on this list at a height of only 240 feet, its beauty is what makes it spectacular. It’s also incredibly taxing to get to, as visitors must traverse nearly 500 descending steps called the winding staircase.
Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, Border of Vietnam and China
It’s not quite the waterfall itself that grabs your attention, but the sheer beauty of the landscape. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is set in the midst of lush greenery and rice fields with a whimsical backdrop of rolling mountains. Standing at a comparatively tiny 98 feet tall, this waterfall will still blow you away. The Falls is actually two different waterfalls combined on the Quay Son River that borders Vietnam and China.
Victoria Falls, Border of Zimbabwe and Zambia
On the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, this monumental natural wonder is one of the largest tourist attractions in the South of Africa. Discovered by a Scottish missionary in 1855 and named after Queen Victoria of Britain, Victoria Falls is truly an international wonder. While the official name is a nod to the British the local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning “the smoke of all thunders” is more commonly used. While Victoria Falls is neither the widest nor the tallest waterfall in the world, it is considered to have the most falling water than any other. At an impressive (and astounding 5,604 feet wide and 354 feet high, Victoria Falls is definitely a site to be reckoned with.
Yosemite Falls, California
Yosemite National Park draws thousands of visitors daily, but Yosemite Falls is an international attraction in its own right. At a total height of 2,425 feet, it is the tallest waterfall in the national park. Similar to Niagara Falls, Yosemite Falls has been the focus of Native American legend for centuries. The Ahwahneechee people called the Falls “Cholock” meaning “the fall”, and believed that witches lived at its base and would seek revenge on anyone who trespassed on their land.
There's an old tale of a woman who went to the foot of the Falls to fetch a pail of water and came back with a bucket full of snakes. Later in the night, the spirits sought revenge for the woman trespassing on their property that they caused her house to be sucked into the Falls by a powerful wind.
It’s a magical experience standing at the foot of Gullfoss in the dead of winter when everything around you is covered in sheets of ice and the air is strikingly crisp. At a little more than 100 feet tall, Gullfoss isn’t a huge waterfall but is nestled in the midst of a flat and barren landscape it feels monstrous. Tourists can take in the sights from both the top and bottom of the Falls, but during the winter it can be treacherous as there's only a thin rope that separates travelers from the path that runs along its side, from the drop off to the cavern below. Compared to many of the other waterfalls on this list, Gullfoss is relatively easy to navigate as its essentially situated in the midst of nothing as the Icelandic landscape is notoriously flat.
Akaka Falls, Hawaii
Situated on the Big Island in its own national park, Akaka Falls is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hawaii. At 422 feet tall, it’s not the tallest waterfall in Hawaii (Hiilawe Waterfall measure 1,450 feet) but its miniature width, compared to its height makes it feel so much larger.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
This massive natural wonder is surprisingly not as well known as its rivals like Niagara Falls, Angel Falls or Iguazu Falls, but its earned a reputation as being a marvel. Standing at 822 feet tall, roughly four times the height of Niagara Falls, Kaieteur is Guyana’s own natural celebrity. It’s also the tallest single drop waterfall in the world. Surrounded by the lush Amazon Rainforest, Kaieteur is a breathtaking spectacle.
Jog Falls, India
Also known as Gerosoppa Falls, Jog Falls is a segmented waterfall with a total height of 830 feet. While not the tallest on the list, its sheer size is what makes this natural spectacle so unique. At just over 750 feet, Jog Falls is nearly as wide as it is tall. It’s the second tallest waterfall in the country, only behind Nohkalikai Falls with a 1,100-foot fall.
Sutherland Falls, New Zealand
This massive waterfall was long believed to be the tallest in New Zealand, with a total height of 1,904 feet, however, Browne Falls cascades 2,766 feet down the side of a mountain making it the largest in the country officially.
When you think of the most picturesque European scenes there’s probably not a waterfall in sight, and that’s for good reason. Surprisingly, Mardalsfossen is one of only ten tall waterfalls in Europe. At 2,313 feet it’s not to be dismissed, standing at a height comparable with some of the tallest in the world.