Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

The World's Most Magical Waterfalls

From Arizona to Zimbabwe, the free-flowing beauty of water pouring over very high cliffs.

Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe Peter Bischoff/Getty Images Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe Connecting two African nations that border the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, at more than 5,600 feet across and with a 354-foot drop, is considered the world’s largest waterfall. Before it became "Victoria Falls"—named for Queen Victoria by British explorer David Livingston—the locals called it “Smoke that Thunders,” which accurately describes its mist, deafening roar, and surreal beauty. Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe DEA / S. VANNINI/De Agostini/Getty Images Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe Havasu Falls, Arizona Bernard Annebicque/Sygma via Getty Images Havasu Falls, Arizona Located in Havasu Canyon, which is just outside of Grand Canyon National Park, the Havasu falls aren't accessible by road. To get there, visitors have to hike 10 miles in and 10 miles out. And they have to spend the night. One more thing: During the summer, temperatures can reach 115 degrees. . . Havasu Falls, Arizona phototropic Havasu Falls, Arizona But once you get there, it's other-worldly. The falls, fed by a large tributary of the Colorado River, drop about 100 feet into a series of perfect pools. The water itself is an almost glowing blue-green color thanks to the high concentration of calcium carbonate. Angel Falls, Venezuela Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images Angel Falls, Venezuela A world away from the political turmoil in Caracas, Angel Falls is so tall (at 3,212 feet, it's three times as high as the Eiffel Tower) and so powerful, that during the rainy season, it creates its own weather.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
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Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images; FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images Angel Falls, Venezuela Kuang Si Falls, Laos Copyright by Siripong Kaewla-iad Kuang Si Falls, Laos Turquoise water. Multiple falls. Multiple pools. Hulking limestone rocks. Green trees everywhere. And it's less than an hour (by boat or car) from Luang Prabang, a lovely town on the banks of the Mekong River. Kaieteur Falls, Guyana Chris Radburn - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images Kaieteur Falls, Guyana Kaieteur Falls, located deep in Guyana's Amazon rain forest, is not easy to get to: You'll need a prop plane. When it comes to power— a measure of the volume of water that passes over the falls—Kaieteur Falls is, at 23,400 cubic feet of water per second, one of the most powerful single-drop waterfalls on Earth. Plitvice Jezera Falls, Croatia Matej Divizna/Getty Images Plitvice Jezera Falls, Croatia With 16 terraced, blue-water lakes connected by waterfalls, with limestone and dolomite caves and cliffs, is it surprising that this is was named a UNESCO World Heritage site? It's also located in a forest reserve with lots of hiking trails and wildlife. One of the falls clocks in at 255 feet, making it the country's highest. Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil Franco Origlia/Getty Images Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil Iguazu runs between the borders of the Argentina and Brazil. Its name translates to "big water” which is something of an understatement. Iguazu is actually a collection of some 275 individual falls which, taken together, make up the largest system of waterfalls in the world. The single biggest drop is intimidatingly called the Devil’s Throat. Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil Buda Mendes/LatinContent/Getty Images Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil Yosemite Falls, California VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images Yosemite Falls, California Famously photographed by legendary picture-makers like Ansel Adams—not to mention by hundreds of thousands of campers every year—Yosemite is certainly one of the worlds most beautiful falls. It's actually made up of three separate falls, and from top to bottom it's 2,425 feet high. (At 1,430 feet high, Upper Yosemite Fall alone is among the world's 20 tallest falls.) Yosemite Falls, California Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Yosemite Falls, California Beginning in the 1870s, there was a nightly tradition in the summers where local hotel owners would dump the embers from a bonfire over the falls, creating magical, glowing stream (photographed here by LIFE magazine in 1962) as it plunged earthward. That was called "Firefall," and it ended in 1968. Five years later, in 1973, a photographer captured what's become known as “Natural Firefall.” During the second week of February, if the conditions are just right, the setting sun strikes nearby Horsetail Falls in such a way that the falling water looks ember-orange. Jog Falls, Karnataka, India IndiaPictures/UIG via Getty Images Jog Falls, Karnataka, India A collection of falls all measuring about 830 feet high, Jog Falls are the second highest in India. Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland An hour and a half drive from Reykjavík, Gullfoss is a major tourist attraction in Iceland not because of its height (only 105 feet) but because its absolute beauty. The water, which comes directly from glacial runoff, cascades through a gorgeous crevice and, beyond that, the mist often gives rise to rainbows. By water volume, Gullfoss is the largest falls in Europe.
Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
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Barry Lewis/Corbis via Getty Images; Henn Photography Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland Sutherland Falls, New Zealand DEA / C. DANI I. JESKE/De Agostini/Getty Images Sutherland Falls, New Zealand To see this dramatic 1,902-foot, three-tiered plunge, you will have to hike for four days on the gorgeous Milford Track or take a small plane or helicopter. The Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people, poetically call this falls the "White Thread of Te Taute." Sutherland Falls, New Zealand Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Sutherland Falls, New Zealand Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario Simon Frost / EyeEm Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario At some 12,300 years old, Niagara Falls is a relative newbie as far as waterfalls go. And at only 167 feet high, it's nowhere near one of the tallest. And yet . . . and yet Niagara has earned legendary status over the years. Is that because it straddles the U.S.-Canadian border? Is it the tightrope walkers? Was it the guys going over the falls in a barrel? (Please note that the first "guy" was actually a school teacher named Annie Edson in 1901; she was badly battered but lived.) Or perhaps it's due to Niagara's awesome power (averaging more than 600,000 gallons per second) or how crazy-wide the falls are: The largest of three sections, Horseshoe Falls, is about 2,600 feet across. Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario