Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, Vietnam and China
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The water literally gushes out of lush greenery into a turquoise pool, all set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls wins our vote for the most photogenic waterfall, for sure.
Palouse Falls, Washington, US
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Washington has a lot of waterfalls – Palouse Falls are the state’s official waterfall so if there’s one to visit, this is it. It’s a four-hour drive from Seattle or a 4.5-hour drive from Portland.
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Iceland is a small country in world terms, with more than its fair share of waterfalls. Skogafoss, 100-odd kilometres east of Selfoss in the country’s south, is a magnificent sight all year round and was famously used as a location in the filming of Thor: The Dark World. But it’s in winter, if you’re lucky enough to witness the cascade lit up by the backdrop of the Northern Lights, that it is at its most unforgettable.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
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There are many claims on the title of biggest waterfall in the world, depending on your choice of metric, but at 979 metres, “Kerepakupai Vená” is officially the highest. It takes a committed traveller to see the Falls as they're located deep in the jungle. Not keen on wielding a machete? You’ll have to fly into the Canaima National Park where, if the waters are deep enough, you can take a locally guided river trip to the base.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
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The granddaddy of waterfalls, Iguazu is made up of more than 250 individual falls that combine to truly jaw-dropping effect. Legend has it the Falls were formed when a serpent god thrashed around in anger as his intended sacrificial victim tried to escape with her lover in a canoe. Named by the Tupi people of Brazil (from where you can enjoy a spectacular view), Iguazu literally means “big water”, which brings understatement to a whole new level.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
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Deep in the forests of the Amazon, on the Potaro River, this comparatively un-talked-about single-drop cataract is four times the height of Niagara Falls. Much of the joy of Kaieteur lies in its pristine rainforest surroundings, largely untouched by civilisation. The rock plateau at the top, the Guiana Shield, is estimated to be close to three billion years old.
Cascate della Marmore, Italy
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The Marmore Falls in Umbria cascade through an amazingly lush natural landscape, made all the more intriguing by the fact that they are man-made; the ancient Romans diverted the flow of the Velino River having decided it was carrying malaria into the town of Rieti. Now used to fuel a nearby hydroelectric power plant, the Falls are “switched on” up to three times a day, depending on the season, so timing is of the essence.
Niagara Falls, USA
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Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls make up the Niagara Falls, which straddle the US/Canadian border. Since tourism began to flourish in the mid 19th century, it’s been a drawcard for self-styled stunt people who hurl themselves over the edge, many of them in a barrel. Some have even survived and been fined for their troubles.
Rhine Falls, Switzerland
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At 150 metres wide by 23 metres high, Europe’s biggest waterfall is the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen in Switzerland. Viewing platforms on either side allow the visitor to see, hear and feel the mighty roar up close – or you can take a boat ride right into the heart. Prepare to get wet.
Victoria Falls, Zambia
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Victoria Falls is also known by its Kololo name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means The Smoke that Thunders. The Zambezi River does indeed thunder over a wide, basalt cliff and on through a series of dramatic gorges, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. During the drier months, a rock barrier on the lip forms an eddy known as the Armchair, where adventurous visitors can bob about a few metres from certain death. Take your camera.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
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This national park, located in central Croatia near the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is home to a series of 16 cascading lakes. The tallest waterfall, known as Large Waterfall, is 78 metres high.
Yosemite Falls, California, USA
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Yosemite National Park in California is home to dozens of waterfalls, of which this is the tallest and most well known. At 740 metres, the hike to the top is an arduous one but there are plenty of places for a great view that don’t involve crampons. The glory months are May and June but a winter trip (December to February) will reward with views of the Frazil ice phenomenon, when the falls are partially frozen by particles of icy mist that fall into the creek below.
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This dramatic waterfall can be found in the Hvítá river canyon in Iceland’s south-west. It’s part of what is known as the Golden Circle route that connects the region’s major attractions within a 100-kilometre radius of the capital, Reykjavík.
Havasupai Falls, Arizona, US
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A visit to this vibrant waterfall (that seemingly springs from a dry rock-face) requires a 16-kilometre return hike from the Hualapai trailhead in Grand Canyon National Park. So worth it.
Horizontal Falls, Western Australia
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Located at Talbot Bay in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, the Horizontal Falls is a natural phenomenon where millions of litres of water gush through two narrow gorges. As the name suggests, it looks like a waterfall moving horizontally on top of the sea. Image credit: Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures
Burney Falls, California, US
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These beautiful falls are easily accessible within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park – you can even catch a perfect view from the parking lot. The park itself is in northern California, about a 4.5-hour drive from San Francisco.
Millaa Millaa Falls, Queensland
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It’s time to get your hair wet – Millaa Millaa Falls are possibly Australia’s most famous and served as the backdrop of the Herbal Essences Shampoo advertisement featuring that hair flip.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon, US
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A perfect daytrip from Portland, these picturesque falls are a 30-minute drive from the city centre. Stand on the narrow Benson Bridge that crosses the first tier of the falls for an exhilarating experience.
Pearl Shoal Waterfall, China
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The water streaming down over the craggy rock face forms into pearl-like droplets, giving these falls the name Pearl Shoal. You’ll find these and other falls in Sichuan province’s Jiuzhaigou Valley National Park, which is also home to local Tibetan villages, golden monkeys and giant pandas, and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Smoo Cave, Scotland
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Even if crawling around a dark, narrow cave isn’t your cup of tea, finding a waterfall like this at the end makes it worth the trek. Smoo Cave is near Durness, one of the most north-westerly places you can go in mainland Scotland.
Up Next: Which Pacific Island is for You?
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Diving, hiking, surfing, taking in the culture or simply kicking back on the beach – whatever experience you’re after there’s a perfect Pacific Islands holiday waiting for you.