Few things so powerful are constantly described with words of beauty, and their ability to change the direction and height of the world’s most plentiful liquid makes them even more awe-inspiring. For those of us looking for a definition of a waterfall, it is a place where water flows over a vertical drop. We can all agree that their majesty is almost unmatched by anything else in the natural world, and whether it’s the one in your nearby canyon, or the magnificent Angel Falls in Venezuela, there is no doubt that there is something magical about them.
The great thing about waterfalls is that there are always more to discover, and this list focuses on some that you might be less familiar with. These aren’t Yosemite or Niagara, but they are no less beautiful or majestic, but some of them are bigger, taller, and more powerful. Our list is full of large waterfalls located on five separate continents that are pictured less often than their more famous siblings.
More than just natural landmarks, many of the waterfalls on our list have fantastic stories behind their names, and help to explain their significance to local culture. After reading about them, we are sure that you’ll be full of wanderlust and we think this list should help direct your next exotic vacation.
10 Ban Gioc–Detian Falls, China
Straddling the border of China and Vietnam, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is actually a set of two waterfalls that cascade a total of 197 feet down from Daxin County, Guangxi to Trung Khanh District, Cao Bang Province. The waterfall stems from the Quay Son River and falls into a large, deep pool at the bottom. The pool is full of fish and is a common spot for local villagers to cast their nets. Ban Gioc-Detian is one of the largest waterfalls to sit along an international border, along with Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, and Iguazu Falls. Though often visited by locals, the waterfall is not a common destination for international tourists.
9 Kjelfossen, Norway
Falling for a total of 2,313 feet, Kjelfossen is one of the tallest waterfalls in Norway, and the world’s 18th tallest waterfall. The three separate falls are located near the village of Gudvange, which sits at the end of the Nærøyfjord. The tallest single drop plunges 489 feet down to the fjord. The town of Gudvange is a popular tourist destination and Kjelfossen’s location near European route E16 makes it easily accessible to tourists. While well-known for many centuries due to its location, it remains one of Norway’s most significant waterfalls due to its impressive height and prominent location.
8 Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls, Croatia
The Plitvice Lakes waterfalls sit in the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Lika-Senj County and Karlovac County, Croatia, near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over one million people visit the park each year. There are many different falls located around the park, but the two highest are the Large Waterfall (255 feet), which is located at the bottom of the Lower Lakes, and Galovacki buk (82 feet) at the Upper Lakes. The Plitvice Lakes were declared a national park on April 8, 1949, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
7 Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Located on the Potaro River in Essequibo, Guyana, Kaieteur Falls is known as the world’s widest single drop waterfall. At 741 feet, it is not considered to be one of the taller waterfalls in the world, but due to the large volume of water that pours out over its edge, it is known as one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Nicknamed Old Man Falls, the waterfall is extremely difficult to get to and therefore very few tourists venture to it. The surrounding Amazonian rainforest is one of the most pristine remaining rainforest areas in the world.
6 Nohkalikai Falls, India
At a height of 1,115 feet, Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. It is located near Cherrapunji, which is one of the wettest places on earth. During monsoon season, the stream that leads to the fall is joined by many other rivulets, greatly increasing its power. The name means Jump of Ka Likai. As the story goes, Ka Likia was the name of a woman who had a daughter she loved very much. The mother remarried a man who was jealous of her love for her daughter. The husband was so envious of the mother’s affection for her daughter that while Ka Likai was out gathering food, he killed the daughter and made a meal using her flesh. After the meal, the mother realized what had happened and through herself over the edge of the falls.
5 Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado
Located in Telluride, Colorado, Bridal Veil Falls is 365 feet tall and looks out over the town. A private power plant sits atop the falls and provides electricity to the town. During winter, the waterfall freezes and for years, ice climbers the world over visited to try and scale them. However, the falls are currently off limits to climbers, but can be accessed by a 1.8-mile trail for hikers. It is the tallest waterfall in the state of Colorado and when visitors reach the top of the falls they are standing at an elevation of over 10,000 feet.
4 Tugela Falls, South Africa
Located in South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains on the Tugela River, Tugela Falls descends a total of 3,110 feet over five drops, the longest of which is 1,350 feet. The waterfall flows from a small stream and does not flow consistently throughout the year, making it essential to visit during the wetter season. It is the second tallest waterfall in the world behind Angel Falls in Venezuela. Two trails provide access to the falls and are both about four miles in length. The top of the falls is at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, which makes the hike much more difficult than it may appear from the trailhead.
3 Sekumpul Waterfall, Indonesia
This group of seven waterfalls is located on the Indonesian island of Bali. “Sekumpul” means group in Indonesian, and this group of falls is considered one of the most beautiful in the entire country. The waterfall is quite difficult to reach and it is recommended that visitors join a hiking tour. These treks generally take three to four hours and involve rather rigorous hiking. The tallest of the seven falls is over 160 feet in height, and with a little work, tourists can get close to all seven falls. Sekumpul is a little less than 50 miles from Denpasar, the capital of the province.
2 Ramnefjellfossen/Utigardsfossen, Norway
One of the tallest waterfalls in Norway, Ramnefjellfossen, more commonly known as Utigardsfossed, is 1,919 feet tall or 2,685 feet if the cascades at the bottom are included. When all 2,685 feet are taken into account, the waterfall is measured as the eleventh tallest in the world, with the largest single drop being 1,330 feet. The name Ramnefjellfossen comes from the adjacent cliff where in 1905 a massive avalanche fell into Lake Loen below and caused a 130-plus-foot tsunami that destroyed several villages along the lake’s shore. The water flows from the Ramnefjell Glacier that sits above the falls.
1 Gullfoss, Iceland
One of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss expands the entire width of the Hvita River. Gullfoss translates to “Golden Falls,” and it’s no surprise that it is often considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The falls are made up of two drops which when combined reach a total of more than 100 feet in height, and cascade down into a canyon with 70-foot high walls. In 1907, an Englishman rented the waterfall from its then-owner Tomas Tomasson. The investors sought to harness the waterfall’s power to produce electricity, but Tomasson’s daughter, Sigriour Tomasdottir, fought them in court in an effort to have the rental contract voided. Her attempts failed, but the contract was broken for lack of payment, and the Icelandic government made it into a nature reserve in 1979.