This is one of the most beautiful and romantic images that somehow lead us to the dawn of creation- a waterfall. There are thousands of waterfalls on the Earth. Some are high and thin, others are low and wide, but most of them leave the visitors amazed by their natural beauty. And here I made my Top 10 of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Waterfalls have impressed humans for thousands of years, and recently many bloggers, media, or other sources have tried to make their “Top 10, 15, 20 or more of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world”. And my “Top 10” is not too different- several waterfalls that I include are proclaimed without question as the most beautiful by every other media.
But what I am trying to do here is to dive into more physics and geography to find out what exactly has made them so beautiful, what are the geological, physical, and other scientific processes that formed them.
Also, if you haven’t visited these waterfalls but have seen them in photos and videos, you couldn’t feel and experience their beauty in full. So, the best way is to travel there, and here I give some information about how to reach each of them and how to fully enjoy them.
Beauty is not a mathematical value, it can’t be measured by a technological or scientific device. As we know, beauty is subjective, so making a chart would be improper. Instead, here I present the most beautiful waterfalls in the world according to mine and other people’s opinion, without ordering them like a chart. They are just the 10 most beautiful ones, and of course, there are hundreds of other waterfalls, almost as beautiful as these 10, or for some people even more beautiful.
Basic geography, geology, and physics
Normally, when a river or a stream start their way from a mountain source, they flow into a valley that can be wide or can be a narrow gorge. Usually, they descend gradually on a slope that can be more or less steeper. If it is too steeper, the water runs into rapids that can be used for rapids shooting or other activities that sometimes can be dangerous. Some of them are so steep that they are considered waterfalls.
But for a real waterfall, the river or the stream usually has to meet specific types and combinations of bedrocks. In this combination, the upper part of the bedrock has to be hard, and the other rock below it has to be softer. Otherwise, the water could erode the upper bedrock and still descends gradually.
There is always a deep pond below the real waterfall that is formed by the high pressure of the falling water. And depending on the combinations of the hard and soft bedrocks, the width, and the height, there are several types of waterfalls.
Types of waterfalls
These are in short the types of waterfalls that we can see. Every type has its own beauty, and as you probably have noticed, waterfalls can look very different.
- Ledge waterfalls. It is when the water falls on a vertical cliff. It can be wider or narrower than the height.
- Plunge waterfalls. It is a high and narrow-streamed waterfall in which the water separates from the surface.
- Horsetail waterfalls. In this type of waterfall the cliff is not vertical, but just extremely steep. Thus, the water most of the time is in contact with the surface.
- Cascade waterfalls. These waterfalls are like extreme rapids, where water descends on a series of rock steps.
- Staircase waterfalls. In this case, the waterfall is divided into several smaller “sub-waterfalls” like steps of a staircase.
- Cataract waterfalls. These are much like the ledge waterfalls, but usually, they are more powerful.
Segmented waterfalls. This is when the water divides into many streams while falls from the cliffs.
Besides these, many waterfalls are of mixed type and it is difficult to determine their exact type. As a result, we can see a great diversity of waterfalls in various shapes, each one sharing its own “fairy tale. So, let’s go ahead.
The 10 most beautiful waterfalls in the world
Here I can’t skip the several most famous waterfalls in the world- they are among the most beautiful ones and that’s what makes them so famous too. Besides them, I chose the rest of the ten that are again fantastic, although not always in the other “Top 10 or more”.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
Iguazu is known as the largest waterfall in the world. In fact, it is not just one waterfall, but a system of many smaller falls, or in other words, Iguazu has a segmented type of waterfall features, and at the same time it is also a cataract type. At the same time, you can see staircase formations there.
The waterfall is located in a hilly area with specific geological features, where the upper rock layer is harder. Thus, the Iguazu River suddenly falls into the lower layer. And the point of the waterfalls divides the river into Upper and Lower Iguazu before it flows into the larger Parana River.
The main part of Iguazu has a specific prolonged horseshoe shape, so if you are located in the middle of it, you can see the water falling from three sides around you. Besides it, there are many other “sub-falls” nearby, where the upper rock layer breaks. As a result, we have one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, and all these features are where its beauty comes from.
How to reach and explore Iguazu Waterfalls
Iguazu Waterfalls is a famous and popular tourist place, attracting a countless number of tourists. So, this place is easily accessible and a well-arranged tourist area. The border between Brazil and Argentina crosses the waterfalls, and the area around the falls is turned into two national parks- one in Brazil and one in Argentina.
Three cities around the waterfalls are the most common starting points for exploring the waterfalls- Foz do Iguacu in Brazil, Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, and Ciudad del Este in nearby Paraguay. There are airports in all these cities, and from there you can easily reach one of the national parks by local transport.
Most of the waterfalls of Iguazu are located in Argentina. There are walkways that guide tourists to the most stunning points for photos, as well as boat services. And in Brazil, there is even a helicopter service for fantastic observation from above.
Entrance fees: for both Brazil and Argentina sides it is 18 USD (800 Argentinian Pesos or 70 Brazilian Reals) for adults; and 5 USD for kids in Argentina, 3 USD for kids in Brazil. For more information see here.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
Now, let’s go to Africa. There is a large plain plateau, covering most of the southern part of the continent. And one of the largest rivers there- the Zambezi River flows on the plateau. Its bedrock is hard, formed by basalt.
Then, at a certain point, the basalt plateau is fractured, and the Zambezi River that flows right into this fracture pours down on it, forming one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world- Victoria Falls, called also Mosi-oa Tunya- “The Smoke That Thunders”.
Victoria Falls is 1708 m wide, with a maximal height of 108 m. When the water pours into the gap, it proceeds further through several gorges. The first of them, called “First Gorge” is long, deep, and transverse, and this is the “waterfall pond”, where the whole of the falling power hits the ground.
All of this- the spectacular water curtain that produces a giant cloud of spray, and the formation of the gorges below it, as well as the huge size of everything, make Victoria falls one of the Top 10.
How to reach and explore Victoria Falls
Victoria is another border waterfall- the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe passes on it, as well as on the significant section of the Zambezi River. For this reason, if you want to observe the waterfalls in full, you have to cross the border there, and it requires both a Zambian and Zimbabwean visa. And at least one of the visas must be multiple entry type. For this you have to pay in total between 40 and 50 USD, depending on your nationality.
The easiest way to reach Victoria Falls is to fly to Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe that is located south of Victoria Falls town. From here you enter the Victoria Falls National Park. Then, you can enjoy various activities around the falls- trails hiking, walking on the Zambezi Bridge, kayaking and cruising on the river above the falls, rafting below the falls, bungee jumps, and even helicopter trips.
Have in mind that Victoria Falls look different in different seasons. During the rainy season (November to March) it is spectacular, but the spray cloud is so thick that you can’t always see the falls behind it. And during the dry season, there is almost no spray cloud, but the falls are not so spectacular.
Entrance fees: from Zimbabwe- for international tourists- 30 USD. From Zambia- 20 USD. For more information look here.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Now, we go to South America. And here we see a totally different waterfall. Its exclusive image comes from its main feature- height. This is Angel Falls, and it is the highest waterfall in the world.
Angel Falls is a plunge waterfall with an unbelievable height of 979 m, of which 807 m are uninterrupted. It falls from the edge of a plateau-type formation in Auyan-Tepui Mountain, and its water reaches the Orinoco River through two of its tributaries.
The whole landscape around the waterfall is fantastic- a tropical paradise consisting of mountains, jungles, and savannas. It is included in the Canaima National Park and today is proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
How to reach and explore Angel Falls
Unlike the popular Iguazu, Victoria, and Niagara Falls (that are presented below) which are well-arranged for easy exploring by tourists, Angel Falls is different. In fact, not everybody can reach it, but it requires some preparation and an adventurous trek.
The only “normal” way to reach the waterfall is by air from Caracas or Ciudad Bolivar to Canaima Village airport. Here you pay the entrance fee- BsF 35 (4 USD) and show a yellow fever vaccination certificate (or get a vaccination in Ciudad Bolivar Airport).
Then you have to travel by dugout canoe on the river for about 5 hours to the closest point where you can see the waterfall. From this point, you have a short but difficult hike to the foot of Angel Falls.
Usually, the whole trip is two-three days long and includes not only canoe travel, but also longer trekking in the jungle, with spending the night in one of the campsites on the route. Most of the trip must be arranged with a local guide, so you have to book a tour from Caracas or better (and cheaper) Ciudad Bolivar. These tours usually include not just the waterfall, but a whole adventure in the jungle, and visiting several other smaller waterfalls in the area.
Niagara Falls, USA/Canada
This is probably the most famous waterfall in the world, a popular landmark, and symbol of the USA and Canada. And one of the main reasons for this fame is its beauty.
Niagara Falls is located on the Niagara River that connects Erie and Ontario Lakes. These two lakes, along with the other Great Lakes are situated on a large, almost flat plain, shared between Canada and the USA. But this plain is geologically divided into two parts by the so-called Niagara Escarpment. This escarpment crosses the Niagara River, causing the water to fall from the higher to the lower part of the plain. And this is what forms Niagara Falls.
Actually, this is not one waterfall, but three falls located in one waterfall system. All of them are ledge-type falls. The largest of them, which is also the most beautiful and most popular is Horseshoe Fall, with a maximum height of 51 m (167 ft). The border between Canada and the USA passes through this waterfall. The other two falls- American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are smaller and are located entirely in the USA. Goat Island separates these two falls from Horseshoe Falls.
How to reach and explore Niagara Falls
Needless to say, such a famous waterfall is well-arranged for tourists and it is easy to be reached and explored. In general, you can explore it from the Canadian side (only Horseshoe Falls), from the USA side (all of the three falls), or both sides, crossing the border from Rainbow International Bridge, or better, by the local cruise boat “Maid of the Mist” that starts and ends its route from the US side, and crosses into Canada for a while.
There are a lot of attractive facilities installed on both sides of Niagara Falls that offer various kinds of experiences. On the US side, you can observe the falls from various points that are located at the east bank of the river and on Goat Island. Most of these points are easily reachable by walkways. There is also the Prospect Point Observation Tower which provides some of the best views.
On the Canadian side, there is Queen Victoria Park with several great points for waterfalls observation. Journey Behind the Falls provides one of the best views to Horseshoe Falls, and further northward from it you can see all three waterfalls from the aside. There are also other attractions like Skylon Tower, the cable car of Niagara Whirlpool, Windplay Niagara Falls Zipline and others, for your unforgettable experience.
This is one of the largest waterfalls in the wonderful land of Iceland. Surrounded by stunning northern tundra landscape, the falls and the whole landscape around it present one of the most fantastic views in the world.
If you open the map of Iceland, you can see one of the four largest Icelandic glaciers- Langjokull. There is a big glacier lake, located on the glacier’s southeast side, called Hvitarvatn. And a large river flows out of the lake, connecting it to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the Hvita River which becomes Olfusa after merging with Sog River.
Hvita-Olfusa flows slowly on a large hilly plain, covered by tundra. But a bit further south, there is a crack on the plain, and the river enters the crack, suddenly falling into its bottom, and this falling is really spectacular.
This is Gullfoss Falls, a three-step waterfall will a maximal height of 32 m. Not so high, but very spectacular with its almost perpendicular deep crack that the water falls into.
How to reach and explore Gullfoss
Gullfoss is one of the destinations on the so-called Golden Circle- a popular tourist route that includes not only Gullfoss but also several other popular places- geysers, volcanic craters, and other spectacular places.
Many tours travel on the Golden Circle or parts of it, so Gulfoss is easily reachable. And of course, you can always visit it independently.
The basic starting point for Gullfoss is the capital of Iceland Reykjavik. From here, you can travel to Gullfoss by bus or by car. There are buses 4 times a week and they reach Gullfoss after about 3 hours 10 min, passing through Selfoss, where you can see another spectacular waterfall.
Or, you can rent a car and reach Gullfoss for about 1 hour and a half. Once you reach it, you can enjoy the waterfall without an entrance fee.
Jog Falls, India
Now, we go to India, to the southern state of Karnataka. There is a mountain chain that is prolonged near the western coast of the Hindustan Peninsula. This mountain chain is the Western Ghats- mountains with relatively steep slopes westward to the Arabian Sea.
There is a river, called Sharavati that flows westward. And on its way to the sea, it reaches a deep chasm. Here it plunges to the bottom of the chasm, creating one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world- Jog Falls.
Jog Falls is a segmented waterfall. Here the river divides into four main branches- Raja, Roarer, Rocket, and Rani- each of them with its own features and beauty. They create a fairy-tale view, surrounded by a mountain covered with jungle.
But the waterfall is not segmented all the time. During the wettest part of the monsoon, its branches grow in width and power until they almost merge. During this time, Jog falls become a plunge type of waterfall, and the whole chasm is filled by a cloud of water spray.
How to reach and explore Jog Falls
Jog Falls is located approximately in the middle between Goa and Mangalore, on more than 200 km distance. But from these main destinations, you can first travel to nearer points and combine your trip with other interesting places to visit like Udupi, Bhatkai, Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary, and the nearest larger city to the falls- Sagara.
There are no buses or trains from Sagara to Jog Falls, but you can reach them by taxi, by private car, or just by local types of transportation- motorcycle, etc. It is just 27 km far from Sagara.
Once you reach Sagara, you have to park your car (if you come by private car) and pay 30 INR for the parking fee, then pay 10 INR for the entrance fee to see the falls. The first thing you can do is to go to the panoramic viewpoint to see Jog Falls in its best image. But there is another viewpoint on the other side of the Jog Falls chasm, providing a different angle to observe the falls.
Besides this, you can do many other activities in the area around the waterfall, like hiking in Western Ghats Mountains, rafting on the river, visiting some historical sites and many others.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Now we move to South America again, not far from Angel Falls. Here we can see another incredibly beautiful waterfall, surrounded by lush equatorial rainforest in a hilly area- another tropical paradise leading us to the dawn of Creation.
This is Kaieteur Falls, one of the most powerful waterfalls on the Earth. Kaieteur is also the highest single-drop waterfall, where the water plunges like a curtain from 226 m (741 ft), then proceeds to fall by several cascades, forming a total height of 251 m (822 ft). Thus, its “curtain” is taller than Niagara, Victoria, and all other pledge waterfalls in the world.
Kaieteur Falls are located on Potaro River, a tributary of the long Essequibo River. This river flows from the Pacaraima Mountains- a mountain range with a lot of the so-called “tepui”- plateau-like formations. Most of the range is structures in terraces, and Kaieteur Falls plunge from one of these terraces (called Kaieteur Plateau) to the lower level through a crack.
How to reach and explore Kaieteur Falls
Although this is a world-class attraction, Kaieteur Falls are quite difficult to reach. Anyway, it is mostly possible due to the small airport that is built near the falls for small domestic planes from Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. The price varies from around 190 to 260 USD.
The planes fly for about an hour to the waterfall, you enjoy it for 2 hours and the back to Georgetown- everything for a total of 2 hours.
But there are more adventurous ways to reach Kaieteur Falls. The nearest town to the falls is Mahdia- the capital of the Potaro-Siparuni region of Guyana. It has its own airstrip, so it is reachable from Georgetown by plane, but you can reach it also by minibus.
From Mahdia, you have to start an exciting adventure that includes a taxi to Pamela Landing, a boat trip to Tukeit, and a trek to Kaieteur Falls. Once you reach the falls, you can remain there overnight in a local guesthouse, then back to Georgetown by plane.
Plitvice Falls, Croatia
Let’s go to the Balkans in Europe. Most of the Balkan Peninsula is covered by complex mountain systems, with karst areas in some of them. One of these karst areas can be found in Croatia, between two of the Dinaric Mountains- Mala Kapela and Pljesevica. And the natural combination of karst, waters, and geological terrain has formed one of the most beautiful lakes and waterfalls systems in the world- Plitvice
This phenomenon consists of 16 lakes, arranged in a cascade, naturally dammed by travertine. The lakes are connected by waterfalls and rapids, thus creating one of the largest waterfall chain systems on the Earth.
Most of the waterfalls are short, but still incredibly beautiful. However, two of them are high and really spectacular- Galovacki Buk (25 m)- at the Upper Lakes cluster, and the largest one- Veliki Slap (78 m)- at the end of the Lower Lakes cluster. The whole landscape- the combination of the mountain, forest, lakes, rocky formations, and waterfalls makes the Plitvice waterfall system one of the Top 10.
How to reach and explore Plitvice Falls
Plitvice Falls and the whole of the Plitvice National Park is located near the border of Croatia with Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the middle between the northern and the maritime parts of the country. There is a road connecting these two parts, between Zagreb and Zadar or Split.
So, to explore the waterfalls, you have to enter Plitvice National Park. It has two entrances. The northern entrance is just next to the tallest waterfall Veliki Slap, and the south entrance is near Kozjak Lake. The entrance fee varies from 80 HRK in the lowest season (winter) to 200 HRK for the Southern gate and 300 HRK for the Northern gate in the highest season (summer). Here (https://getbybus.com/en/blog/plitvice-lakes/) you can see more detailed information.
In general, there are no normal public buses to Plitvice, but you still can reach the national park by one of the buses from Zagreb to Split or Zadar, and just tell the driver to drop you at one of the gates. So, better options are to travel by car or just to join an organized tour.
Ban Gioc- Detian Falls, Vietnam/China
Now, we go to Southeast Asia. It is a lush and humid region, full of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, surrounded by the seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. So, you can expect to see a lot of waterfalls there too. And there really are waterfalls, but one of them is outstandingly beautiful- Ban Gioc- Detian Falls.
Ban Gioc- Detian Falls are located on Song Quay Son River in a karst hills area. This is a combination of segmented and cascade types of a waterfall. In fact, it is almost divided into two waterfalls, but during the rainiest time of the year, usually at the beginning of June, the two waterfalls still can merge into one.
The waterfall has a total height of 30 m. It is not so high, but its segmented division into multiple sub-falls makes it fantastic- like an unearthly garden. After the water falls through Ban Gioc- Detian, it enters Tongling Grand Canyon, so the whole area offers stunningly beautiful views.
How to reach and explore Ban Gioc- Detian Falls
Ban Gioc- Detian Falls is a border waterfall, on the border between China and Vietnam. So, like Iguazu, Niagara, and Victoria, you have three options to visit it- from Vietnam only, from China only, or crossing between the two countries for the best experience.
From Vietnam, you can reach the waterfall by bus from Hanoi to Cao Bang, then by minibus directly to the waterfalls. Other options are joining a tour, or more adventurous- by motorcycle. Once you reach it, you have to pay a 40,000 VND (2 USD) entrance fee and enjoy the fall from a closer look. You can even raft on the river (but without allowing to approach the Chinese bank).
From the Chinese side, the waterfall is accessible from Daxin, and the scenic area is much more developed, with an observation terrace and other extras. Also, it is more crowded, and the entrance fee is 80 RMB (around 13 USD).
Unlike the other international falls mentioned above, this one is more complicated for observing from both countries, although still possible. You have to obtain the necessary Chinese and Vietnamese visas and have to travel to a quite distant point to cross the border, then again to back to the falls at the other side.
Bigar Falls, Romania
For the last waterfall of our Top 10, let’s back to the Balkans, this time, in the western part of Romania. The southwestern branches of the Carpathian Mountains here gradually approach the Danube River. They are beautiful, but they hide something more. One of the treasures that are hidden here is Bigar Falls- a small but fantastic waterfall.
Bigar Falls is only 8 m high- compared to the other waterfalls of this Top 10, it is like a dwarf. But what dwarf! There is something that can’t be seen almost anywhere else in the world, making this waterfall like a fairytale miracle. And that’s how the local people call it- “the Miracle of the Minis Canyon” (it is formed by Mini River).
Its miracle is formed by a giant umbrella of moss. The water pours on this umbrella from each side and falls from the umbrella’s lower edge into a beautiful pond. As a result, the whole waterfall is like an unearthly sculpture. Unfortunately, a part of it collapsed in June 2021, but it is still among the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
How to reach and explore Bigar Falls
Bigar Falls is located on the road from Anina to Orsova, and some buses pass on this road. Although the falls are not a regular bus stop, you can always ask the driver to drop you at the falls.
But a much more convenient way is just to rent a car and travel to the falls independently. Once you arrive there, you can freely enjoy the beauty of this natural miracle. There is no entrance fee for the area around the falls, and there is no parking fee for your car. Of course, just be responsible to keep the natural environment there.
Besides these 10 incredibly beautiful waterfalls, there are thousands more. And they are not less beautiful than these, at least for many people who have seen them. But even you just visit only these 10, it would be an unforgettable experience and impression of how beautiful the nature can be and how amazing it is created!
Check some travel books about the mountain glaciers:
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