The 14 Most Amazing Waterfalls in the World

Waterfalls surrounded by lush greenery
Photo: 4045/Shutterstock

Few natural wonders encapsulate the sublime power and impermanence of the wild better than roaring waterfalls, including the Ban Gioc–Detian Falls (pictured). The force of a waterfall can carve a valley out of mountains, shape the world's grandest canyons and even power our electrical grids. Here's our list of amazing waterfalls around the world.

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Angel Falls

Photo: Alice Nerr/Shutterstock

Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world, plunging an incredible 3,212 feet over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain in Venezuela. In fact, the fall is so tall that much of the falling water evaporates or dissipates as a fine mist before it reaches the ground.

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Blood Falls

Photo: National Science Foundation/Peter Rejcek [Public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

This eerie and mysterious blood-red waterfall is located in remote Antarctica. The red color is partially the result of saltwater tainted with iron oxide, which turns red when it hits the air. A new study from researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks links the waterfall to a large source of salty water that may have been trapped under a glacier for more than 1 million years.

The water is so salty, they say, it's more like brine. Researchers found that brine travels 300 feet under Taylor Glacier, which is the coldest known glacier to have persistently flowing water, according to the study published in the Journal of Glaciology.

Researchers also discovered in 2018 that the reason the red brine flows down from the top of the glacier instead of from the base is due to intense pressure. "It was pretty powerful, pressurize[d] brine in that conduit," Erin Pettit told Vice. "Even though it's not always squirting out the top of the glacier, it's always sitting within the ice there as a pressurized, slushy ice mess."

The real mystery of these falls is what lives in the water. Water samples contain almost no oxygen, but at least 17 different types of alien-like microbes have been identified slithering around in the blood-like water. Scientists surmise that they survive via a metabolic process never observed in nature that utilizes sulfate as a respiratory catalyst with ferric ions, metabolizing trace levels of ancient organic matter trapped underneath Antarctica's vast glaciers.

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Ban Gioc–Detian Falls

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This breathtaking spectacle straddles the Sino-Vietnamese border and is the fourth largest waterfall located on a national border, behind only Iguazu Falls, Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls. The picturesque backdrop adds to the falls' magnificence, especially the nearby Tongling Gorge, which was only recently rediscovered and is the home of several endemic species — species that can found nowhere else in the world.

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Photo: Superbass [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Located in Northeast Iceland, the massive Dettifoss is generally recognized as the largest and most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is protected within the Vatnajökull National Park and remains untapped as an energy source. Plans to build a hydroelectric plant at the site were scrapped for the area being a bit too porous.

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Gocta Cataracts

Photo: Elemaki [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Well-known to locals for centuries, this towering waterfall remained a secret from the rest of the world until as recently as 2005, when German explorer Stefan Ziemendorff became the first outsider to witness it. Located in a remote Amazonian province in Peru, the Gocta Cataracts is one of the world's tallest waterfalls. Though accurate measurements of its height have yet to be taken, an initial estimate placed it as the third highest in the world.

Locals kept the location secret because they feared that revealing its whereabouts would release the curse of a beautiful blond mermaid who is rumored to live in the waters.

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Havasu Falls

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Plunging over majestic red rocks and pooling into milky, turquoise water, it's easy to see why Havasu Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in the world. It helps that the location is deep within breathtaking Grand Canyon National Park, where the waters eventually converge with the mighty Colorado River.

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Iguazu Falls

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Splitting the border between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls is one of the world's most surreal sights. According to legend, the site was formed when a beautiful young woman refused to marry a god, instead choosing her mortal lover. As the two lovers fled in a canoe, the god sliced the river in a rage, condemning them to an eternal fall. Countless young lovers have undoubtedly found romance in the cascading waters ever since.

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Jog Falls

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This is the highest-plunge waterfall in all of India — which is saying something considering India lies at the base of the towering Himalayas. Although there are many waterfalls in Asia that drop from a higher altitude, Jog Falls is unique in that it remains untiered over the entire drop. This is a popular tourist attraction, and it is most impressive during monsoon season.

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Kaieteur Falls

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Located in Guyana's Kaieteur National Park, this waterfall is reputed to pour more water over a great height than any other waterfall in the world. Kaieteur Falls is the world's 123rd tallest (single and multi-drop waterfall) and the 19th largest waterfall in terms of volume. In other words, this site has a rare combination of height and water volume, which helps to quantify its spectacular beauty.

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Photo: Andreas Tille [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons

One of the most breathtaking sites in the world, Gullfoss is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in the waterfall-rich nation of Iceland. One of the most mesmerizing aspects of Gullfoss occurs as one first approaches the falls. Because the crevice is obscured from view, it gives the appearance that a mighty river simply vanishes into the Earth.

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Niagara Falls

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The most powerful and most famous waterfall in North America, Niagara Falls pours more than 6 million cubic feet of water over its crest line every minute during high flow. Located on the border between the state of New York and the province of Ontario, Canada, the falls are an important source of hydroelectric power for both countries. The site has inspired its share of daredevils who have attempted to plummet over the falls in barrels, or who have tiptoed over them on a high wire.

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Plitvice Falls

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The many waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia are Pandora-like — what you imagined paradise might be like. Water seems to cascade from every ledge and crevice, gathering in crystal clear lakes along the way. Interestingly, the lakes between the falls are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited and built by the action of living things: moss, algae and bacteria.

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Cascades de Trou de Fer

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This bird's-eye view of the Cascades de Trou de Fer might be one of the most remote, spectacular sights in the world. Found on Reunion Island of the coast of Madagascar, the water plunges into an enormous green crater. In total, as many as six waterfalls feed the canyon below.

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Victoria Falls

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Sitting on the precipice between Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, magnificent Victoria Falls is the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The location is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a World Heritage site. The first European to see the falls was Englishman David Livingstone, who named them after Queen Victoria. He later wrote of the water that "no one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight."