Global Travel

Waterfalls of the World

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Sutherland Falls 

Where: New Zealand

Type: Three Tier

A visit to these phenomenal natural wonders of the world is a thrilling experience. onRoute points out the seven most breathtaking of them all…

Height: Upper – 250 m, Middle – 230 m & Lower – 103 m

The Falls first appear as a sparkling through the trees and then the low rumble turns into a giant roar as you are engulfed by its presence and confronted by its full height. The three drops occur in such quick succession that when viewed from the air they appear to be one long drop that drops into a huge pool at its base.

The first ever measurement of the falls is thought to have been made by William Quill, an energetic young surveyor, way back in 1980. He attained them by painstakingly hauling his way up the headwall next to the waterfall.

Their remote location is deep in the wild and beautiful Fiordland National Park (a World Heritage Site). There are two ways to see the highest waterfall in New Zealand. Either enjoy a scenic flight by helicopter or airplane. Or take an individual or guided walk along the Milford Track (one of New Zealand’s most popular walks). The base of the falls is only a 90-minute return walk. Easy!

Plitvice Falls

Where: Croatia

Type: 16 lakes interconnected by a series of waterfalls

This is probably one of the more memorable waterfall attractions of the world! As opposed to being one singular attraction, the Plitvice Waterfalls (pronounced Plit-vits-uh) are really a large network of cascading green lakes connected by waterfalls. Set in a deep woodland area populated by deer, bears, wolves, boars and rare bird species, you are literally immersed in the beauty of surrounding lakes and waterfalls. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction, but these waterfalls were apparently a tourist attraction since the late 19th century and named after a world famous Croatian opera singer of the time.

The Park is open daily all year round, with longer opening hours during summer. There’s an entrance fee which acts as a contribution to the Park’s upkeep and protection. Maps are available for a number of different walks, of varying lengths. For some of the most intimate waterfall experiences, wander around the trails of rustic wooden stilt-paths, under, over, and around almost all of the notable waterfalls. There is also an electric boat that takes you from one side of the largest lake to the other. It’s a stunning place to visit any time of year as the different seasons see the Park take on different hues. Even in winter, Plitvice is amazing to see in the snow.

Gullfoss ‘Golden Falls’

Where: Iceland

Type: Two Tier

Height: 11 m & 21 m

Known as the ‘Golden Falls’ because of the golden colour of the glacial water, this unique waterfall cascades into a narrow gorge and creates the illusion that a mighty river simply vanishes into the earth. On closer inspection, this wild waterfall tumbles in two tiers at 90 degree angles to each other, dropping into a 32 metre abyss.

Gullfoss Falls forms part of a collection of popular Icelandic tourist sites, called the Golden Circle. In addition to Gullfoss, the Golden Circle includes the Geysir (an enormous hot spring bursting with warm thermal water), and Thingvellir (a sprawling landscape complete with mountains, valleys and glaciers), which was also the place where ancient Icelandic people came together for Parliament.

It's hard to believe that this waterfall was almost sold for hydroelectricity. Ultimately, the state of Iceland took over and conserved it. The more romantic saga tells the story of the daughter of the landowner at the time threatening to throw herself into the falls if the land was sold commercially. As a result, the father pulled out of the deal. Although, it's said that this saga isn't true, there’s a memorial at the falls commemorating the girl.

Angel Falls

Where: Venezuela

Type: Single Drop

Total Height: 979 m

From a mystical tabletop mountain deep in a Venezuelan equatorial rainforest, the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall plunges 807 metres (with a total drop of 979 metres). What distinguishes it from other major waterfalls is the minimal commercialization, as accessing Angel Falls is a complicated affair. It’s a site made for adventurers and to get there one has to embark on a plane ride, a long river journey and a hike along a rough trail with an overnight stay. But, this all serves to make the experience more authentic. Usually covered in mist or fog, you only have to hope that after travelling so far that you have clear weather and get to see the falls in all their glory.

The falls are named after ‘Jimmie’ Angel, an adventurous pilot from Missouri, United States, who was the first person to fly over it. When he passed away in 1960, his ashes were scattered over the falls. It’s also worth mentioning that the first travellers could only visit Angel Falls from 1990, making it a true virgin destination of the world.

Iguazu Falls

Where: Argentina / Brazil

Type: Semicircular (275 individual waterfalls and cascades)

Total Height: 80 m

The semicircular waterfall spans an incredible two kilometre distance along the border between Argentina and Brazil. This splendid system of waterfalls is actually made up of 275 individual falls. Of the 275, Devil’s Throat is the tallest at 80 metres in height. The site is surrounded by two National Parks (both subtropical rainforests) and host to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.

There are two designated walking trails to experience the falls: an upper and lower path. The lower path leads to the base of the falls for a unique experience getting drenched in the spray. But for spectacular panoramic views from the footbridge, the upper path is the way to go.

Victoria Falls

Where: Zimbabwe / Zambia

Type: Single drop

Total Height: 108 m

Known as the greatest curtain of falling water and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Vic Falls spans 1.7 kilometres at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. With an average flow of a million litres per second, it’s no wonder it’s described as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. Because of the spray from the falls, it’s also the only place on earth that rains 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

If you’re lucky enough to see the falls during a full moon you may witness a Lunar rainbow. Seen through the spray at night, a moonbow is exactly the same as a normal solar rainbow, in colour and shape. Another famous feature of the falls is the naturally formed Armchair, also called ‘Devil's Pool’ that forms when the river flow is at a safe level (usually between September and December). This naturally formed pool right on the edge of the falls is only for adventurous swimmers, although be warned that occasional deaths have been reported.

Niagara Falls

Where: Canada / USA

Type: Collection of three falls

Total Height: 53.6 m

A destination for world explorers, honeymooners and daredevils, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States. The three falls (the American Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe Falls) combine to produce the highest flow rate of any waterfall on earth, making it the most powerful by far! In addition to its raw power, it’s also one of the easiest to access and view from all sorts of angles.

Niagara Falls was the birthplace of commercial hydroelectric power and today 50 to 75 percent of the water flowing along the Niagara River is diverted from going over the falls to hydroelectric power generating stations. Interesting to note, however, that during peak season when tourist numbers are high, the hydroelectric stations in the area divert less water ensuring a spectacular flow of water for visitors.
Ice formations along the banks of the falls are common and if the winter is cold for long enough, the ice can completely stretch across the river and form what is known as the ice bridge. Until 1912 visitors were actually allowed to walk on the ice bridge and view the falls from below. Not the best idea, so it has since banned.