10 Amazing Waterfalls You Need to See Before You Die
These wonderful water features will drop your jaw to the floor
16 December 2019
Showcases for the kind of aquatic power not often seen on dry land, there’s something unusually compelling about the sight of an entire river rocketing down a sheer drop.
There’s the spectacle of the thing, the sometimes deafening sound of pummelling water, and the spray flecking your face from seemingly impossible distances.
Here are a few fabulous falls to see before you die, from trickling tributaries to Amazonian cliffs…
#1 Iguazú, Argentina/Brazil
Iguazú Falls is, quite simply, peak waterfall. Blending height with width, variety with density, and beauty with raw power, the UNESCO World Heritage Site centres around ‘The Devil’s Throat’, a U-shaped chasm plunging more than 350 ft. When Eleanor Roosevelt set eyes on Iguazú, she reportedly exclaimed: “Poor Niagara!”
The only thing it lacks is a sense of national identity. Straddling the border between Brazil and Argentina, the waterfall can be viewed from either country, and debate continues over which side wears it best.
#3 Plitvice Falls, Croatia
Waterfalls can be compelling in many different ways, and the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia beguiles rather than blows away. A sprawling patchwork of pools, falls and waterways, the whole area is bathed in enough shimmering blues to make Monet go green with envy.
Navigating the whole network will take you at least a day, and the delightfully limpid lagoons make for easy fish spotting. Unfortunately, even during the height of the Mediterranean summer, you’re not allowed to swim.
#4 Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
Niagara Falls is the sort of waterfall you wouldn’t want to bump into in an alleyway in the middle of the night. A solid wall of water battering its plunge pool with a force that reverberates for miles, more than 750,000 gallons tumble over the edge every second.
Up there with the Grand Canyon for American affection, roughly 30 million tourists visit every year. A big, fat zero for elegance; 11 out of 10 for power.
#5 Gullfoss Falls, Iceland
Not all Iceland’s water is frozen solid, and Gullfoss (also known as ‘Golden Falls’) is one of the most surreal waterfalls you’ll find anywhere in the world. From a distance the river seems suddenly swallowed by the Earth, plunging into a deep crevasse before streaming sedately out to the side.
The North Atlantic nation has a strange penchant for waterfalls. Skógafoss leads the rest of the pack, with a supporting role in the second Thor movie, and spray so vigorous is can cast a mini rainbow on sunny days.
#7 Havasu Falls, USA
On paper, Havasu Falls is nothing to write home about. A single-drop, 30 metre waterfall in a remote corner of Arizona, you could be forgiven for prioritising the Grand Canyon, just a couple of hours up the road.
The falls have an interesting history – the canyon is prone to flash floods, which have redirected the flow time after time – but mostly we’re here for the colours. The dusty, reddish-brown rocks; the mossy layer of viridian green; the vibrant, electric blue water that puts the Côte d’Azur to shame.
#8 Tumpak Sewu, Indonesia
They say that life’s about the journey rather than the destination, and in the case of Tumpak Sewu it’s at very least both. At the end of a long and winding road through the mountainous jungles of East Java – hundreds of miles from capital Jakarta, or the beaches of Bali – Tumpak Sewu cuts a circular chunk out of the landscape as if fashioned with a giant hole-punch.
As it approaches the precipice, the river splits into countless miniature distributaries that make it seem like the trees are leaking from the roots.
#10 Ban Gioc Waterfall, Vietnam
Akin to those build-your-own wooden marble runs you probably played with as a kid, you could drop a tennis ball into the water at the top of Ban Gioc, and it would probably find a different route down every time.
Surely Vietnam’s finest water feature, the waterfall punctuates the Quây Sơn River as it wends its way through bamboo groves and rice fields, skirting the Chinese-Vietnamese border. Only 30 metres high, but 300 metres across, the falls are at their most impressive between May and September, when the river is at its highest.