Map of described waterfalls
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.
Waterfalls and rapids or sections of rivers with steep beds have diverse origins.
Many waterfalls, including the most powerful waterfalls of the world, are shaped by the stream itself. The power of the flowing water at a fault line or trench, gradually erodes the riverbed. Slowly, year by year it is carved deeper. As the threshold of the plunge recedes, it leaves behind a ravine. If the conditions are right, the waterfall will, over the time, become higher and higher.
The highest waterfalls of world fall down along natural slopes, which are either shaped by tectonic processes or, for example by glaciers but not by the stream itself.
Kjosfossen in Norway. Photo by stigmj, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
In many cases the slope is more or less oblique, i.e. not vertical or overhanging. Then the water is pouring down along the cliff. If such falls (rather, flows) are consequently measured, the Hymalayas or the Andeas could easily have the highest waterfalls in world. But in general, such steep flows are not considered to be true waterfalls. When the most impressive oblique falls with larger and smaller plunges in between, are measured, they often belong to the highest falls in world.
Yosemite Falls in California, United States. Photo by BorisFromStockdale, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Many of the most impressive waterfalls of the world are located in glacier shaped mountains, especially at the ends of hanging valleys: such waterfalls are located in Norway, Alps, British Columbia (Canada), New Zealand and elsewhere. Such waterfalls often have very high plunges or uninterrupted falls of water. For example, the tallest plunge of Yosemite Falls (California, United States) is 436 metres tall.
In the Guiana Highlands (South America) there are outstanding natural formations, the tepuis or table-top mountains, with extremely high abrupt sides. Here one can find the highest waterfall of the world the Angel Falls (Venezuela) which are 979 metres high. A major part of its height, 807 meters, constitutes one fantastic drop. In this area there are several more of the highest free-falling falls of the world, such as Roraima Falls (610 m) and Kukenaam Falls (674 m), both of which are in Venezuela.
Waterfalls and rapids are any sections of rivers where the elevation is changing more or less abruptly. This allows for wide interpretations. Sometimes there are attempts to represent 10 kilometres long rapids as a single waterfall.
The minimum size of a waterfall (especially - height) is subject to the local traditions of each separate country. A 2 metre high waterfall is considered to be an attractive curiosity in lowland countries, while, for example, in Norway such falls in general are not much noticed.
This website includes outstanding waterfalls and rapids of the world: each of them well exceeds the minimum requirements of a true waterfall.
No single waterfall is the largest waterfall in the world, because no waterfall is greater in all dimensions at once.
The highest falls in the world are the Angel Falls in Bolivar, Venezuela. 979 metres high, their tallest single drop is 807 metres.
The widest falls in the world are the Khone Falls in Ban Hang Khone, Laos, where the Mekong River becomes 10.8 kilometres wide. Some data even gives a width of 14 kilometres to these falls.
Inga Falls in Congo. Photo by Alaindg, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
The most powerful falls in the world are most likely the Inga Falls in Bas-Congo, Congo, but these are actually rapids. Before reaching its mouth the enormous Congo River leaps over 32 large rapids - Livingstone Falls and the largest ones of these are Inga Falls. River near these falls exceeds depth of 230 m.
The largest curtain of falling water is created by Victoria Falls in Zambia/ Zimbabwe. The falls are 80 - 108 metres high and circa 1708 - 1737 metres wide the area of the water curtain covering up to 55 ha.
Very tall underground waterfall is the Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. This fall of Fell Beck stream is 105 - 110 metres high. But in Vrtiglavica cave (Slovenian Littoral, Slovenia) is approximately 400 - 440 m tall waterfall!
This list includes a selection of high, powerful, unusual and very beautiful waterfalls from around the world.
- Dettifoss - Iceland, Norðurland eystra. This is often considered to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, although at flood time the Rhine Falls (Switzerland) might be more powerful. It is 44 metres high and around 100 metres wide.
- Gaping Ghyll - United Kingdom, England, Yorkshire. The Fell Beck stream falls directly into Britain's largest cavern and is 105 - 110 meters high.
Gavarnie Falls, France.
J.C.Benoist, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 3.0
- Gullfoss - Iceland, Suðurland. A beautiful, wide waterfall with two tiers placed at 90 degrees, with a total height of around 32 metres.
- Hraunfossar - Iceland, Vesturland. A very unusual, 900 metre wide waterfall, emerging from under a lava field and falling directly into the Hvítá river.
- Langfoss - Norway, Hordaland. A powerful, large river that cascades down a steep but not vertical, cliff with a height of 612 metres.
- Sotefossen - Norway, Hordaland. A waterfall of unusual beauty, with two steeply sliding tiers and a total height of 246 metres.
- Vrtiglavica waterfall - Slovenia, Slovenian Littoral. Approximately 400 - 440 m tall waterfall inside 643 m deep cave. Possibly the tallest underground waterfall in the world.
Bản Giốc Falls, Vietnam side.
M.Williams, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-2.5
- Hidden Falls - Tibet, Nyingchi, Tsangpo Gorge. This very powerful fall is around 30 metres high and is located in one of the last explored areas on Earth. It was discovered only in the late 1990ies. Upstreams are located Rainbow Falls, which are some 20 m high.
- Khone Falls (Chutes de Khone) - Laos, Mekong river, Ban Hang Khone. At 10783 metres, this is the widest waterfall in world. The total height of the cascade is 21 metres.
- Nohkalikai Falls - India, Meghalaya. This is a beautiful 335 metre high plunge over a giant, overhanging cliff, almost directly into a lake.
- Augrabies Falls - South Africa, Cape of Good Hope province. The Orange River falls 56 metres into a deep gorge. During a flood, this becomes one of the most powerful falls in world.
- Cascades de Trou de Fer - Réunion Island, Cirque de Salazie. 725 metres tall falls of Bras de Caverne stream in an impossible, dramatic location: one of the deepest and steepest canyons in the world.
- Inga Falls - Congo DR, Bas-Congo. These are some of the largest and most impressive rapids in world, on the Congo, one of the largest rivers of the world. They drop 96 meters over the course of 15 kilometres and form a part of Livingstone Falls (Chutes de Livingstone) consisting of 32 rapids over the distance of 340km, with a total drop of 260m.
- Jinbar Falls (Jinbar Falls) – Ethiopia, Amhara. Jin Bahir stream falls into giant, 800 m deep abyss in Simien Mountains. Falls are starting from deep canyon – thus their height is less than the depth of abyss but nevertheless - more than 500 m.
- Tugela Falls - South Africa, Kwazulu Natal. The second highest waterfall in world. With a total height of 948 metres and the largest single fall of 411 metres, and a river width of 15 metres.
- Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe, Matabeleland and Zambia, Southern State. World's largest curtain of falling water, 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high waterfall. One of the most impressive natural sights in world.
- Francis Falls - Canada, British Columbia. A powerful, approximately 650 metre high waterfall, belonging to a larger group of very impressive waterfalls.
- Hidden Valley Falls - Belize, Cayo. More than 450 metres high, this waterfall is in a unique location. In the upper reaches of the waterfall there is a unique growth of fir, while down below there is a tropical jungle.
- Horsetail Fall, Yosemite Valley - United States, California. Very tall, seasonal waterfall, which once per year is illuminated by the sunset. Waterfall is 650 m tall, tallest cascade - 480 m tall.
- Hunlen Falls - Canada, British Columbia. A very picturesque and impressive waterfall, which leaves the lake in a 26 metre wide stream and plunges 374 metres into a deep canyon.
- Niagara Falls - United States, New York and Canada, Ontario. The most popular waterfall in world is 51 metres high and 1203 metres wide. The shape of the waterfall and its proportions have become synonymous with the word "waterfall".
- Schwartzenbach Falls - Canada, Nunavut, Baffin Island. These 520 metre falls (tallest single drop - circa 200 metres) are special due to their location: they are possibly the most remote and the most northern large falls in world.
- Yosemite Falls - United States, California. These falls are 739 metres high, have 7 drops and are circa 28 metres wide. One of the most visited waterfalls in world.
- Angel Falls (Salto Angel) - Venezuela, Bolivar. This is the tallest and one of most spectacular waterfalls in world, with a total height of 979 metres. It has the highest single drop (807 metres) in the world.
- Aponguao Falls (Salto Aponguao) - Venezuela, Bolivar. Very impressive, powerful waterfall, 106 metres high and approximately 200 metres wide.
- Aracá Falls - Brazil, Amazonas. A powerful, 365 m tall waterfall was discovered only recently, around the year 2000.
- Iguazu Falls (Salto de Iguaçu)- Argentina, Misiones and Brazil, Paraná. One of the most enormous and most impressive waterfalls of the world, they are "only" 82 metres tall, but 2 700 metres wide.
- Gocta Falls (Catarata Gocta) - Peru, Amazonas. A very high waterfall with a measured height of 771 metres, in two drops.
- Kaieteur Falls - Guyana, Mazaruni-Potaro. A very powerful waterfall in a wonderful jungle setting, it is 226 metres tall and 113 metres wide.
- Kukenaam Falls (Cuquenan Falls) - Venezuela, Bolivar. With 674 metres in height and 61 metres in width plunging from the rim of a tepui, this fall is similar in many respects to the highest falls in world - Angel Falls.
- Kumerau Falls (Kumarau Falls) - Guyana, Cuyuni-Mazaruni. 190 m high and 60 m wide plunge, one of the most impressive waterfalls in country.
- Pará Falls (Salto Pará) - Venezuela, Bolivar. The widest waterfall in South America, it is 5.6 kilometres wide and 64 metres high.
- Roraima Falls (Salto Roraima) - Venezuela, Bolivar. This waterfall is 610 metres high and 23 metres wide, falling from the high wall of a tepui.
- Oshi Falls - Guyana, Mazaruni-Potaro. Powerful and visually impressive waterfall, approximately 160 - 210 metres in height and around 30 metres in width.
- Tres Hermanas Falls (Cataratas las Tres Hermanas) - Peru, Ayacucho. This 12 metres wide stream has a total height of 914 metres in 5 drops.
- Ventisquero Colgante Falls - Chile, Aisén. One of the highest waterfalls in Chile and possibly - one of the most beautiful waterfalls worldwide. Water originates from the base of Ventisquero Colgante glacier and falls more than 350 m high in a single plunge as approximately 30 m wide stream. This is rare sight, as above this giant waterfall is towering a wall of blue glacier. Several smaller falls around are even higher.
- Olo'upena Falls - United States, Hawaii, Moloka'i. At 900 metres in height, this is an amazing seasonal waterfall falling directly into ocean.
- Sutherland Falls - New Zealand, Southland. This beautiful 580 metre high waterfall starts directly from the glacier-fed Lake Quill and falls in three drops.
- Vaipo Falls (Falls in Kings Valley, Haka Falls, Ahuii Falls) – French Polynesia, Marquesas Islands, Nuku Hiva, Hakaui Valley. Approximately 350 m tall waterfall in dramatic, impressive valley.