Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Plunging Down Under - Australia's Stunning Waterfalls
Australia is home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, many of which can only be fully appreciated in person. The immense power and beauty of these cascades plunging over cliff faces deep in the rugged Australian wilderness is an experience every traveler should have at least once in their lives.
One of the most famous is Wallaman Falls in Queensland's Girringun National Park. At 979 feet, it is Australia's tallest single-drop waterfall. The sight of all that water thundering down the sheer cliff face into the pool below is simply breathtaking. Adventurous souls can take a challenging hiking trail that leads behind the falls for a unique perspective.
Just upstream is Stoney Creek Falls, where water tumbles 426 feet down a dramatic rock face covered in vibrant green ferns and other primordial-looking plants. The county's numerous ancient gorges are perfect for showcasing Mother Nature's liquid art. Millstream Falls in the Kimberley region cascades down multiple levels of breathtaking red and orange sandstone. A relatively easy walking trail leads right behind the shimmering tiers.
One of the most powerful is Wollomombi Falls, second tallest on the continent at 722 feet. Located in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, its thundering impact on the gorge below reverberates through the valley. Rainbows frequently appear in its mist on sunny days. Nearby is the twin cascade of Carrabeefa Falls, accessible via a short stroll from the parking area.
A tropical paradise, Queensland's Josephine Falls descends into a crystal clear pool perfect for taking a refreshing dip beneath the flowing waters. Its easy accessibility makes it popular, but avoid crowds by going early. Not far away, Babinda Boulders' creek erodes through an otherworldly landscape dotted with giant granite boulders. Swimming is banned here due to risks from underwater caves, but photographers flock to capture it from viewpoint platforms.
What else is in this post?
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Plunging Down Under - Australia's Stunning Waterfalls
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Get Doused in the Hawaiian Islands
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Feel the Spray in Iceland's Fjords
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Marvel at the Mighty Niagara
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Be Transfixed by Victoria Falls
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Behold the Power of Yosemite's Falls
- Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - See where Water Meets Desert in Zion National Park
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Get Doused in the Hawaiian Islands
On Kauai, venture down the easy Kuilau Trail to the revised 82-foot Moalepe Falls, which flows year-round. Get there early to beat crowds and enjoy sunbeams dancing through mist. For a special experience, take a kayak trip up Wailua River to the base of Hawaii’s biggest single-drop fall. At 175 feet, Secret Falls lives up to its mysterious name, plunging down a sheer volcanic rock face along a tributary of the Wailua. Guides lead you on a short hike to its overlook.
Of Hawaii Island’s many falls, picture-perfect Rainbow Falls may take the cake. Around 80 feet tall and 100 feet wide, this outdoor wonder lives up to its name by producing moonbows at night and rainbows during sunny days. Take the easy hike to its viewpoint platform, where you can watch the waterfall plunge into a big round pool – the perfect selfie spot. Nearby, the 442-foot Akaka Falls plunges into a lush valley, its thunderous roar echoing off canyon walls. From the easy loop trail, you can spot smaller Kahuna Falls just downstream. Don’t miss Waipoo Falls, cascading some 800 feet down a sheer cliff off the scenic Hamakua Coast drive.
Maui seduces with its iconic falls, like Oheo Gulch’s Seven Sacred Pools, where water cascades down into a series of pools amid black lava cliffs. Take a short downhill hike to view the Lower Pools or head further up-valley to see the Makahiku Falls overlook. For a double waterfall spectacle, take the Pipiwai Trail up to the viewpoint for both the 400-foot Waimoku Falls and, just upstream, the slender ribbon of water dropping down 120-foot Makahiku Falls. Nothing beats standing in the falls’ mist, breathing in lush tropical scents. Kapalua’s 100-foot Honokohau Falls requires navigating a steep trail, but provides a memorable payoff plunging into the sea.
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Feel the Spray in Iceland's Fjords
When it comes to waterfalls, Iceland impresses with its bounty of cascades plunging down from craggy cliffs into frigid fjords and bays along its rugged coastline. Summer travelers flock here to capture that perfect shot of a plume of water spraying up where the falls hit the sea. Breathe deep and you can almost taste the Arctic air, tingling with negative ions from all that moving water.
Sure, Iceland boasts iconic falls like Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss, but some of the most magical are those that can only be viewed from the sea. Book a boat tour out of places like Seyðisfjörður in the east or Ísafjörður in the west to get up close and personal with some of the most spectacular sea- termination falls on the planet.
Dynjandi, the "Jewel of the Westfjords," delights with its system of six cascades that total almost 350 feet in height. As your boat approaches, the sound of millions of gallons of water roaring over the progressively smaller tiers echoes through the fjord. Get close enough and you'll feel the spray against your skin. Don't forget your rain jacket! Up above, the falls melt out of the Svíná river along the mountains. Look closely and you might spot an eagle nest on the cliffs.
The broad 260-foot plunge of Hengifoss, third tallest in Iceland, terminating in a churning pool of dark volcanic rock flour in Fljótsdalshérað valley, requires a bit of hiking to reach its overlook. But opt for a boat ride up Lagarfljót river and you can admire its might straight on as your craft maneuvers near its base. Nearby Litlanesfoss waterfall's higher vantage and approach angle creates dramatic streaks of white against the sheer dark cliffs.
Even smaller waterfalls like Gljúfrabúi provide magical moments. Tucked away in a rocky canyon, this relatively petite fall would be easy to miss. But boats can access the cave behind the cascade, treating passengers to a sky-blue ice "ceiling" as they pass through its curtain of water for an almost surreal experience like nowhere else.
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Marvel at the Mighty Niagara
Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, the Niagara Falls are considered one of the natural wonders of the world for good reason. Over 3,160 tons of water flow over the falls every second, plunging 175 feet into the gorge below with a deafening roar. The immense scale and raw power of the cascades leave first-time visitors awe-struck and humbled by nature’s sheer force.
There are actually three separate waterfalls – American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the largest and most impressive at 2,600 feet wide. The best views are from the Canadian side, where you can get right up to the edge of Horseshoe Falls on special walkways extending out over the precipice. Don a poncho and you’ll get soaked by the ever-present mist. Or book a boat tour that takes you right into the raging currents at the bottom of the gorge, one of the wildest rollercoaster rides Mother Nature has to offer. Nothing beats gazing up in wonder at all that thundering water from river level.
At night, the falls are illuminated in shifting rainbow hues, the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner in one of Niagara’s many restaurants overlooking the cascades. Or catch the periodic fireworks displays exploding over the foaming waters, lighting up the night sky.
There are also numerous activities to get your adrenaline pumping, like the Whirlpool Aero Car that carries passengers on a cable car high above the swirling Niagara Whirlpool. For the ultimate thrill, don a rain poncho and life jacket to experience the Hurricane Deck, just feet from the raging waters on the deck of the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour. Or zip line from the Canadian shoreline out over the tree tops into the mist, landing halfway across the gorge.
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Be Transfixed by Victoria Falls
Of all the waterfalls across the globe, few can compete with the raw power and majesty of Victoria Falls. Located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe along the mighty Zambezi River, this massive curtain of water plunges 354 feet into the zigzagging Batoka Gorge below, earning it the well-deserved title of the world’s largest sheet of falling water.
Seeing Victoria Falls should be on every traveler’s bucket list. The sheer scale is mind-boggling – it’s over 5,600 feet wide and flows at a rate of over 500,000 cubic meters per minute during peak flow seasons. All that water thundering down into the depths creates a perpetual mist that hovers over the falls, resulting in its local name “Mosi-oa-Tunya” meaning “The Smoke That Thunders.” Expect to get soaked just from being in the vicinity.
For the best views, explore the falls from both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides, each offering different vantage points. On the Zambia side, traverse forest trails to a series of viewpoints that let you get captivating glimpses through the trees of the Eastern Cataract’s separate falls thundering down the gorge's walls. The knife-edge bridge stretching out over the void right before the cascade drops over the edge provides a thrill unlike any other.
Cross over to Zimbabwe to stand mere feet from the Main Falls themselves, where the majority of the Zambezi River plunges over the cliff in a fury. Feel the awesome power vibrating through you as rainbows dance in the mist. It's an experience that can only be described as spiritual. Upgrade to access the trail leading right out to the lip of the falls themselves for perspectives usually reserved for angels.
The Falls' incredible amount of spray also nourishes the surrounding rainforest ecosystem, creating a pocket of thriving jungle in the middle of southern Africa. This “smoke” keeps the vegetation a brilliant emerald green year-round, populated by rainbows of exotic bird species. It's a stark contrast to the arid savanna plains just beyond the treeline.
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - Behold the Power of Yosemite's Falls
Of all the natural wonders competing for attention in California’s beloved Yosemite National Park, two waterfalls stand out for their sheer scale and beauty – the highest in North America. Yosemite Falls and nearby Ribbon Fall showcase the raw power of water plunging over the park’s soaring granite cliffs. You can hear the distant roar from miles away along the valley floor. Get up close and their thunder seems to shake the earth.
Yosemite Falls drops a total of 2,425 feet in three tiers along steep cliffs on the north side of the valley. The longest single drop in North America, the upper fall plunges 1,430 feet – nearly a quarter mile – into the valley below. The immense volume of water builds up immense force and speed, cascading down the near vertical cliffs. Don’t miss the short walk to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, where the furious waters explode onto the rocks in a churning fury. The cold spray and deafening din makes you feel alive.
A less crowded option, Ribbon Fall shares the same valley cliffs as Yosemite Falls across the valley. Its single drop slides down the slick rock face for 1,612 feet, making it the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in North America. A steep hike takes visitors to an overlook with a head-on view. Unlike its powerful neighbor, Ribbon Fall resembles flowing silk dancing down the cliff when backlit at the right angle. Early spring is prime viewing when its flow is fullest.
Come sunset, catch the “golden hour” light shining on the falls as shadows slowly creep up their granite faces until reaching the cascades. When illuminated, their beauty defies description. Moonbows also frequently form in the falls’ spray when the moon is bright. And winter transforms them into epic frozen wonders, as they slowly turn to ice over frigid nights. They become bulging icicles by February.
Chasing Waterfalls: The Top 10 Destinations Worldwide for Spectacular Cascades - See where Water Meets Desert in Zion National Park
Zion National Park's slice of red rock paradise along southwest Utah's Virgin River provides a study in contrasts. The cold clear water flows through an oasis of green forest tucked between towering rust-colored cliffs in the middle of the arid desert landscape. The juxtaposition is striking, showcasing the life-giving power of water to transform barren wastelands into vibrant wonderlands.
The fluid cascades tumbling down Zion Canyon's monumental rock walls exemplify the immense power of moving water slowly carving stone over eons. But they also reveal its gentler nature, nourishing trees, wildlife and delicate hanging gardens clinging to the cliffs. The sight of frothy white water tumbling over tiers of orange and pink sandstone is sublime.
Nowhere does this interplay astound more than at the Weeping Rock. Delicate cascades of water weep from hanging gardens clinging to the alcove's ceiling. As rivulets converge, they plunge 100 feet as a wispy curtain feeding lush ferns and moss below. The cool breeze carries mist that kisses your skin. The sounds of rushing water drowns out the world. It's a spiritual experience.
Upstream, the Kayenta trail follows the meandering river's edge through forest and meadows. Spy plunging V-shaped canyons carrying tiny creeks cascading down from the massive Navajo Sandstone cliffs. Wildflowers and cacti compete for space. Descend the path down to refreshed in the Virgin's pristine waters.
Down canyon, the Lower Emerald Pools depict water's capricious nature. Cold mountain runoff plunges over tiers etched into the Kayenta Formation's yellow stone. Flooding often rearranges boulders mid-stream. The river Styx-like disappears underground before reaching the next plunge pool. Retreating back under a sandbar, one has to marvel at water's creative powers.
Through it all, the Virgin River relentlessly continues its work, slowly wearing down seemingly impenetrable cliffs grain by grain. Watch how fallen boulders divert its flow in new directions. See where tiny rivulets gradually etch their way back into the rock walls. Over lifetimes, these ephemeral flows carve alcoves, seep springs and shape hanging gardens. The results reveal nature's unlimited imagination when water meets stone.