Cascading Beauty: Europe’s 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Plunging Wonders of Iceland
The dramatic, volcanic landscape of Iceland is home to some of Europe's most spectacular waterfalls. Fed by glacial meltwaters and abundant precipitation, Icelandic falls plunge over high cliffs and through narrow canyons, captivating travelers with their raw power and pristine beauty.
One of Iceland's most renowned falls is Dettifoss, located in Vatnajökull National Park in the country's remote northeast. Dettifoss roars over a 328-foot basalt cliff, unleashing the greatest volume of any European waterfall. The sheer force of Dettifoss is humbling yet exhilarating to witness. Trails on both sides of the canyon allow visitors to experience Dettifoss from different vantage points.
The remote Westfjords region boasts Dynjandi, a massive tiered waterfall that tumbles 100 meters down a sheer, concave rock face. Known as the "Jewel of the Westfjords," Dynjandi's unusual shape and picturesque setting make it a highlight for nature lovers exploring northwest Iceland. Adventurous travelers can get up close and even walk behind the voluminous cascade.
Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland's most photographed waterfalls, thanks to the fact visitors can walk behind the falling water for a unique perspective. Located near the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Seljalandsfoss drops 60 meters over a concave cliff, its glacial waters splitting into multiple streams before reaching the pool below. The cave behind the falls makes for unforgettable photo ops.
The Golden Circle route near Reykjavik rewards visitors with Gullfoss ("Golden Falls"), where the wide Hvítá River plunges 105 feet into a narrow crevice. Gullfoss's dual cascades crash mightily before disappearing into a cloud of mist and spray. An overlook provides jaw-dropping views, though adventurous travelers can get even closer on slick pathways leading down the canyon walls.
Iceland's Svartifoss waterfall plunges over unique black basalt columns, resulting in a striking contrast between the white waters and dark cliff face. The "Black Falls" inspired the architecture of Reykjavik's Hallgrímskirkja Church. Located in Skaftafell Nature Reserve, the photogenic Svartifoss can be accessed via an easy 1.5 km hiking trail, rewarding those willing to stray from the tourist crowds.
What else is in this post?
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Plunging Wonders of Iceland
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Majestic Cascades of Norway
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Thundering Falls of Switzerland
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Stunning Waterfalls of Croatia
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Powerful Torrents of Scotland
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Cascading Beauty of Ireland
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Dramatic Waterfalls of France
- Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Captivating Cascades of Italy
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Majestic Cascades of Norway
Norway is blessed with abundant waterfalls, from the mighty torrents of the fjords to wispy cascades tumbling down forested hillsides. Perhaps the most spectacular are the waterfalls of western Norway, where plentiful rainfall and dramatic topography create the perfect conditions for spectacular plunging cataracts.
One of Norway's most magnificent waterfalls is Langfossen, located near Ålesund on the west coast. Langfossen is the tallest waterfall in Norway and one of the tallest in Europe, launching 612 feet off a sheer cliff before crashing onto the rocks below. The remote setting and dizzying height make Langfossen a sight to behold. Adventurous travelers can access viewing platforms situated at the top and bottom of the falls for different perspectives on this monster cascade.
Further north, Kjosfossen offers a fairytale scene, with its waters tumbling 193 feet into a deep pool surrounded by lush green hills. Kjosfossen is especially stunning in the winter, when the mist from the falls freezes into dazzling curtains of ice. The Flåmsbana railway provides front-row views of Kjosfossen and its wintry displays.
The Seven Sisters waterfall cluster in Geirangerfjord is an iconic Norway sight, with its seven Bridal Veil-like falls plunging down the fjord's steep sides. A boat tour along Geirangerfjord allows you to get up close and personal with these falls, including the tallest Sister at 820 feet. The falls are most impressive in spring and early summer when melting snow and ice swell their flows.
Vøringsfossen cascades over a rocky overhang, sending its waters crashing onto the pool 82 stories below. Perched on the precipice opposite Vøringsfossen is the historic Fossen Hotel, offering prime views of the falls from its restaurant terrace – arguably Norway's most spectacular place to enjoy afternoon tea or a sunset dinner. A short hike brings you to viewing platforms directly across from Vøringsfossen for photos and selfies with this jaw-dropping cascade.
Feigefossen waterfall drops 500 vertiginous feet over an overhanging cliff, launching out into a freefall for over half its height. Located in scenic Jostedalsbreen National Park, visitors can admire Feigefossen from below on a short lakeside trail or above from a dizzying bridge that crosses its turbulent waters. Nearby Briksdalsbreen glacier provides a dazzling blue backdrop for Feigefossen photos.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Thundering Falls of Switzerland
Switzerland's towering waterfalls rank among Europe's most spectacular natural wonders. Fed by alpine glaciers and snowmelt, Switzerland's falls exhibit tremendous power and beauty as they cascade down sheer cliff faces and cut through steep ravines. For intrepid travelers, no trip to Switzerland is complete without experiencing the thundering majesty of these iconic falls.
One of Switzerland's most impressive falls is the Rhine Falls, Europe's largest plain waterfall. Spanning nearly 500 feet across, the Rhine Falls thunders down a 98-foot limestone cliff, unleashing over 600,000 gallons of water per second onto the pool below. The deafening roar and towering spray of the Rhine Falls make for an unforgettable experience. Visitors can access viewing platforms above and below the falls for different perspectives. For the best views, take the lift down to a platform jutting out just above the cascade.
The remote Trümmelbach Falls carved the inside of a mountain over thousands of years, creating a spellbinding underground waterfall system. Riding an elevator up into the Jungfrau massif, visitors then navigate tunnels and stairways to view Ten different falls churning and roaring within the heart of the mountain. Lighting effects add drama to the thundering waters plunging over walls of rock. For a truly breathtaking experience, journey deep inside the mountain to stand behind the pulsating falls.
Nestled high in the Bernese Alps, the Giessbach Falls tumble hundreds of feet down a series of rock terraces overlooking scenic Lake Brienz. Illuminated at night, the Giessbach Falls are especially magical, the plunging waters glowing in hues of yellow, purple and blue. Europe’s oldest funicular railway carries visitors up the mountainside for picture-perfect views of the sparkling falls. Hike the network of trails around Giessbach for different perspectives on this charming cascade.
The remote 131-foot-tall Staubbach Falls inspired Romantic poets like Lord Byron, who described it as "the tail of a white horse streaming in the wind." Part of the mighty 72-waterfall Lauterbrunnen Valley, Staubbach pushes off a sheer cliff before drifting into a fine spray on its way down. Hike through hills of wildflowers to access Lauterbrunnen Valley’s postcard-perfect viewpoints of the free-falling Staubbach Falls across the valley.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Stunning Waterfalls of Croatia
Croatia's dazzling waterfalls captivate visitors with their pristine beauty and accessibility, rewarding travelers willing to venture off the crowded coast into Croatia's verdant inland regions. Croatia boasts a surprising diversity of plunging cascades, from powerful torrents carving through mountain canyons to gentle veils adorning forest walkways. For waterfall lovers, Croatia offers many alluring treasures waiting to be discovered.
Plitvice Lakes National Park stands out for its series of 16 lakes linked by waterfalls that dazzle hikers along the walking trails. The park's most jaw-dropping falls include the Veliki Slap, which thunders down 78 meters into the turquoise waters of Lake Galovac. Nearby, the Crystal-clear Plitvica stream plunges 21 meters over travertine barriers into the aptly named "Big Waterfall Lake." Nowhere else on earth can you experience such a concentration of breathtaking falls flowing through an idyllic setting of forest, lakes and limestone cliffs.
In northern Croatia, visitors flock to Rastoke's fairytale village to see the river Slunjčica tumble over a series of travertine barriers, resulting in mini-cascades dotted throughout the village. The velvety green water and white calcium barriers make Rastoke reminiscent of a miniature Plitvice. Visitors wander pedestrian walkways overlooking the warbling cascades while enjoying the waterfront cafes and artisan shops.
On the Pelješac Peninsula, the town of Orebić boasts waterfalls right along the seaside pedestrian trail, allowing hikers to cool off in the refreshing cascade. Just 15 minutes north of Dubrovnik, the picturesque Dobrota waterfall springs forth from a cave, its waters drifting gently onto the shaded rocks below. The easy stroll to Dobrota rewards visitors with intimate views of this charming, moss-framed falls flowing into the sea.
In Istria, travelers rave about the natural beauty of Pazin Gorge and its centerpiece, the 130-foot Pazin Falls cascading into the abyss below. Visitors can access mesmerizing views of the falls and jungle-like gorge from overlooks in Pazin town. Thrillseekers can descend into the gorge on the 600-foot long Pazinska Jama zipline for a unique perspective on this powerful waterfall.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Powerful Torrents of Scotland
From the storied glens of the Highlands to the rugged sea cliffs of the Hebrides, Scotland lays claim to some of the most spectacular and powerful waterfalls found anywhere in Europe. Fed by the ample rainfall and endless lochs dotting the dramatic Scottish landscape, these iconic cascades have inspired artists, adventurers and nature lovers for centuries. A trip to Scotland is incomplete without experiencing the raw, primal force of these mythical falls in person.
One of Scotland’s most renowned waterfalls, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn thunders through a narrow gorge in the Assynt region, its waters crashing down over 200 feet into a deep, emerald pool below. Translating to “beautiful waterfall of the Caledonians,” Eas a’ Chual Aluinn certainly lives up to its name, its sheer power and pristine setting creating an unforgettable scene. Trails from nearby Kylesku village allow admiring views from above and below the falls. For more adventurous travelers, it’s possible to precariously perch on boulders directly behind the cascade for a dizzying perspective.
On the mystical Isle of Skye, the Kilt Rock Waterfall sees water cascade over 90 meters from the cliffside down towards the sea below. The unique rock formation resembles a kilt pleated by a Scottish highlander, adding to the character of this beautiful natural feature. Visitors willing to brave Skye’s temperamental weather can access incredible clifftop viewing platforms directly across from the mighty falls.
The remote northwest Highlands offer one of Scotland’s least-known yet most spectacular falls, Dhù Loch, which plunges over 250 vertiginous feet into the Glascarnoch River gorge. Requiring an adventurous 9 km trek into wild countryside, those making the effort are rewarded with mesmerizing views of Dhù Loch’s waters crashing down the sheer rock face into the ravine over 100 meters below. The hike’s relative solitude offers a meditative, almost spiritual experience surrounded by the roar of Dhù Loch and the expansive wilds of northwest Scotland.
Ettrick Falls holds the distinction of being the tallest waterfall in Scotland, launching its waters over the sheer face of a 90 meter cliff. Nestled within the Borders’ Millenium Forest, Ettrick Falls can be easily accessed via a short forest stroll, followed by a steep descent to the falls’ base revealing its towering cascade in all its glory. Don’t forget your camera to capture the perfect shot of this Scottish giant.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Cascading Beauty of Ireland
Ireland’s rugged landscape is dotted with charming cascades, from the crashing torrents of the mountainous interior to the wispy veils gracing coastal cliffs and riverbanks. These magical waterfalls encapsulate the untamed spirit of the Emerald Isle. Venture off the popular tourist trails to discover secluded falls known only to locals.
The remote wilderness of County Leitrim hides one of Ireland’s loveliest falls – Glencar Waterfall – spilling from the high plateau of the Darty Mountains into wooded Glencar valley below. Requiring a scenic but steep 2 km hike, those willing to make the effort are rewarded with jaw-dropping vistas of Glencar’s waters leaping 50 meters off the cliff’s edge, framed by the craggy Dartrys. Enveloped in misty spray, rainbows frequently materialize through the waterfall’s mist on sunny days, creating magical photo ops.
On Ireland’s rugged west coast, secluded Monks’ Bath plunges directly into the wild Atlantic, its bubbling waters cascading over the sheer sea cliffs of Valentia Island. The relaxing sound of the falls mixed with ocean surf creates an ethereal oasis. Reach Monks’ Bath via a steep clifftop hiking trail hugging the Irish coastline. The adventurous journey amply rewards those seeking to escape the crowds.
The remote wilderness of the Wicklow Mountains National Park hides Ireland’s tallest waterfall, Powerscourt, launching 129 meters down the wooded valley flanking the Powerscourt Estate. Two trails let you experience the falls up close, while panoramic views from across the valley reveal Powerscourt’s full majesty. Nearby, the charming, two-tiered Tourmakeady Waterfall flows through a storybook forest setting dotted with moss-covered rocks and gnarled tree roots.
County Clare’s Cliffs of Moher reward hikers with breathaking vistas of the crashing Atlantic. On a clear day, look for the 45-meter O’Brien’s Tower waterfall cascading to the ocean – a hidden treasure only visible from sea-level walking trails. Further up the coast, the cascade flowing through Ailladie Gorge plunges into a picturesque series of tidal pools decorated with patches of flowering sea pinks.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Dramatic Waterfalls of France
Tumbling down from the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the rugged cliffs of Corsica, France lays claim to some of Europe’s most picturesque and dramatic waterfalls. From world-famous torrents to secluded cascades, France offers countless opportunities to experience the humbling power and beauty of nature’s free-falling waters.
One of France’s most iconic falls is Gavarnie, located in the Pyrenees Mountains within Pyrénées National Park. Plunging 422 meters off the Cirque de Gavarnie cliffside, Gavarnie is the tallest waterfall in mainland Europe. Hikers ascend into the bowl-shaped Cirque to admire Europe’s mightiest cascade from above, the thunderous roar of Gavarnie announcing its presence long before it’s even in view. Don’t forget the camera to capture the perfect shot of Gavarnie’s waters crashing onto the boulders below.
Further east in the French Alps, the crystalline Cascade du Rouget thunders through a rocky gorge, its pristine waters slicing through the rugged wilderness of Parc National des Écrins. Requiring a steep 90-minute hike, reaching this remote cascade is a true mountain adventure. Your effort will be rewarded with mesmerizing views and the deafening roar of the falls echoing throughout the valley.
On the island of Corsica, the Carozzu Falls plunge nearly 500 feet over the red granite cliffs of the Restonica Valley, creating a striking contrast between the milky cascade and red rock face. Hike through Corsica’s fragrant maquis shrubland into the heart of the valley for intimate views of this postcard-perfect scene. Downstream, the Velo Cascade tumbles gently into an idyllic natural pool, creating an enticing swimming hole after your hike.
The cascading terraces of Saut du Doubs straddle the French-Swiss border, their turquoise waters cascading nearly 130 feet over layers of limestone ledges. Rent a boat or kayak to witness the might of this wide waterfall from below. Terraced pools above the falls create tranquil vantage points to simply sit and soak in the meditative sound of rushing water.
Cascading Beauty: Europe's 11 Most Breathtaking Waterfalls - Captivating Cascades of Italy
From the vertiginous falls of the Dolomites to ethereal tiered cascades hidden deep in the forests of Tuscany, Italy lays claim to some of Europe’s most captivating waterfalls. While they may lack the massive flow rates of Iceland’s falls, Italy’s cascades beguile visitors with their accessibility, pristine settings and feathery elegance as their waters plunge gracefully down the mountainsides. Venture into Italy’s scenic interior and you’ll be richly rewarded with memorable encounters with these beautiful natural wonders.
In the Alto Adige region of the Dolomites, the Cascata del Lares flows through one of the area’s most photogenic valleys, its waters falling 329 feet over a sheer cliff angled just enough for the waterfall to be visible from the roadside. Pull over at the turnout directly across from the falls to admire and photograph this postcard-perfect scene of the slender, wispy cascade set against the jagged pale cliffs of the Brenta Dolomites.
Just down the road, visitors flock to the popular Cascata del Varone, its waters churning through a narrow gorge before cascading down 98 feet over layers of mossy travertine. A network of walkways and observation decks allow getting up close and walking behind sections of this mesmerizing waterfall. The turquoise pools swirling below the Varone Falls are perfect for a refreshing swim on a hot summer day.
In the heart of Tuscany’s fabled countryside, the Cascate del Mulino plunges into a shimmering natural pool, its waters flowing gently down the smooth face of its limestone barrier. Surrounded by the cypress-cloaked hills of rural Tuscany, the Mulino cascades look like they are lifted from the canvas of an old master painter. Visitors relax along the pool’s edge or on nearby park benches, soaking in the romantic views and relaxing sound of the soft cascade.
The remote wilderness of Lunigiana sees the Cascata dell’Acqua d’Alto launching its waters nearly 500 feet off the rocky cliffs of Mt. Zatta. Reaching the falls requires navigating a steep 45-minute uphill hike through meadows blanketed in wildflowers. Your effort will be rewarded with intimate views of this lofty ribbon of water drifting down the sheer cliff into the forested valley below. Enjoy a picnic surrounded by the roar of the falls and trilling birdsong.