1. IGUAZU FALLS (IGUASSU FALLS) [Puerto Iguazú, Argentina/Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil]
Iguazu Falls (or more accurately Iguazú Falls) is the Spanish name (Argentina) for this mammoth waterfall. You might also see it referred to as Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls if you favor the portugese name (Brazil). Moreover, you might also see it referred to as Yguazú Falls, which I believe is native Guaraní. In fact, the meaning of the name (originally Guaraní) is said to roughly translate to "big water." The photo you see at the top of this page certainly attests to its grand nature.
But no matter how you spell or say its name, we have to say that it is indeed a crazy waterfall.Consider a network of 275 different waterfalls spanning an area 3km wide (2km of which is the upper rim of the waterfall) during its normal flow of around 1000 cubic meters per second. It is such a natural wonder that UNESCO designated the falls as a World Heritage Area in 1986.
Yet as a result of its grandeur, Julie and I were so overwhelmed with the raw human emotion of excitement and wonder during our visit that even the implications of these gaudy numbers seem to be dwarfed. Indeed, it's one of those waterfalls that you just have to experience for yourself!
2. VICTORIA FALLS (MOSI-OA-TUNYA) [Livingstone, Zambia/Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe]
Victoria Falls (also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to "the smoke that thunders" in the language of the Kololo Tribe, which were present in the 1800s) is possibly the largest waterfall in the world. David Livingstone, the first European to see the falls, named it in honor of Queen Victoria in 1855. So awestruck was he that he described the falls saying "scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight." Sometimes I wonder if Livingstone meant the kind of view seen in the photograph above.
This waterfall is what Julie and I consider one of the "Big Three" (the other two being Iguazu Falls and Niagara Falls).
In fact, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site as it boasts some mind boggling dimensions. The falls itself is basically where the mighty Zambezi River drops its entire width (about 1.7km across or just over a mile) over a 108m vertical wall into a narrow gorge. The volume of water over the falls typically ranges between 300-3000 cubic meters per second. The annual mean volume is said to be just over 1000 cubic meters per second or 38,000 cubic feet per second or 1 million liters per second.
3. NIAGARA FALLS [Ontario, Canada/New York, USA]
Niagara Falls is by far the most famous waterfall in North America. It has been the backdrop to many honeymoons, proposals, daredevil stunts, and even key moments in the history of the United States. If you haven't heard of this falls, it's time for you to get out and start exploring the world around you!
To Julie and I, we visited this waterfall with a lot of expectations. But after having seen it, we'd have to say we were quite impressed by its power and size (so much so that it not only topped our Top 10 USA Waterfalls List but also made our Top 10 Waterfalls of the World). In fact, Niagara Falls is said to be the largest waterfall (by volume) in North America. The falls actually consists of three separate components - Horseshoe Falls (see photo above), American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Combined, the falls is said to have an average discharge of a mind boggling over 7000 cubic meters per second. It's said that over 90% of this volume is over the Horseshoe Falls.
4. PLITVICE WATERFALLS [Northern Dalmatia, Croatia]
As opposed to being any singular attraction, the Plitvice Waterfalls (pronounced "PLIT-vits-uh") are really a large network of karstic lakes and waterfalls. Just imagine walking besides and even right over lakes full of fish while displaying a color and clarity that rivals China's Jiuzhaigou.
It's not all that unfamiliar to see a sequence that goes like waterfalls-lake-waterfalls-lake, etc. etc. It's probably one of the more memorable waterfall attractions in the world as Julie and I were pleasantly surprised at how large some of these waterfalls turned out to be once we finally saw them in person.
Apparently, these waterfalls were tourist attractions even since the late 19th century. We learned this from a plaque alongside the Galvanovac Lake (one of the many lakes here) that stated that Plitvice was named after a world famous Croatian opera singer at the time. So, this is hardly a new attraction though it seems to only be coming into its own as a world class tourist attraction recently.
5. ANGEL FALLS (SALTO ÁNGEL) [Canaima, Venezuela]
Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world, drops nearly a kilometer (about 979m total drop with 807m freefall) from a table-top mountain (tepuy or tepui in the indigenous Pemón language).
Of all the famous waterfalls that Julie and I have been to, this one seemed to invoke a sense of mystery and adventure. This was probably due to the fact that its remote location meant we needed to endure long transits plus a pretty strenuous and muggy hike to the overlook pictured at the top of this page. On top of that, the elusive falls was frequently shrouded in clouds. Only Mother Nature revealed this gem on her terms and we were relegated to hope she would be kind to us on the limited amount of time we were there. Plus, we had heard about legends regarding its discovery by the Western world, and we were intrigued by the lost world atop the falls where I'm certain not many people have been.
6. YOSEMITE FALLS [California, USA]
Along with Half Dome, Yosemite Falls is the iconic symbol of the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite National Park. We think the falls is practically synonymous with the incomparable Yosemite Valley, and for something this grand and beautiful, we had to put the falls in both our Top 10 Waterfalls of the USA List and our Top 10 Waterfalls of the World List.
I had read that the falls was featured on early drawings made by Thomas Ayres, which then found their way into print. Consequently, that popularized and attracted tourists from across the country in the latter half of the 19th century.
Thus, I have to believe that the historical significance of the falls was such that it could very well have sparked the chain of events that ultimately led to the conservation movement and the eventual protection of lands that would eventually be known as National Parks.
7. KAIETEUR FALLS [Potaro River, Guyana]
Kaieteur Falls was one of those waterfalls that we bent over backwards to see - and we were sure glad that we did! It was perhaps Guyana's greatest scenic wonder in our minds as it was where the Potaro River was said to drop some 221m with a width of nearly 100m (though rainy-season dimensions of 741ft high and 370ft wide were often quoted). Indeed, this waterfall sported world class dimensions, but perhaps even more impressive was the fact that the waterfall was in an area that was probably as undeveloped and as pristine as we could recall.
In terms of academics, there were claims that this waterfall was the tallest permanent single-drop waterfall in the world. That technicality of it being permanent and single-drop was important, but then again, I swore Norway had Vettisfossen, which was also a permanent single-drop waterfall that was taller. Trivial technicalities aside, there was no denying the grandeur and awesome beauty of this waterfall.
8. GULLFOSS [Haukadalur, Iceland]
Gullfoss (translated as "Golden Falls") may be Iceland's most popular waterfall, and we can certainly testify to that statement given how it was always busy during our visits. This was in part because it was one of three major attractions on the Golden Circle Route (or Tour) that included Geysir and Þingvellir as a very doable day trip out of Reykjavík.
Nonetheless, the waterfall's popularity was well-deserved because it was one of the more unique ones we've seen. In fact, we thought it was both spectacular and memorable enough to earn a spot on our World's Top 10 Waterfalls List.
What made Gullfoss stand out to us was that it featured two distinct drops in succession at right angles to each other while spanning the entire width of the Hvítá River. Adding to the scenic allure was that the river flowed wildly and freely so it could be experienced in all seasons as each season would yield very different moods and appearances.
Our visit happened to be during the Summer so it produced beautiful rainbows in its wafting mist when the afternoon sun came out. The glacial coloring of the river (since its source has glacial origins) also became very apparent when the sun came out as well.
9. DETTIFOSS [Jökulsárgljúfur, Iceland]
Dettifoss definitely blew us away with its sheer size and power. Perhaps a waterfall so wild and fierce was befitting of an area that just screamed natural and raw as it flowed on the glacial river Jökulsá á Fjöllum ("YUK-ul-sou ow FYUHT-lum") meandering through Iceland's version of the Grand Canyon - Jökulsárgljúfur ("YUK-ul-sour-glyoo-fur"). And to back up our adjectives, we've learned that this falls was said to have a flow of about 500 cubic meters per second at high flow, with dimensions of 44m tall and 100m wide. Add it all up and we witnessed a monster that was quite possibly Europe's largest and most powerful waterfall (let alone Iceland's biggest). The milky color of the waterfall was due to the fact that the massive river was fed by the sediment-rich meltwaters of the vast Vatnajökull glacier.
Given the wild nature of the falls (it was unregulated and protected by being part of the vast Vatnajökull National Park [it was Jökulsárgljúfur National Park or Jökulsárgljúfur þjóðgarður when we were there in 2007]), its rate of erosion (and therefore its propensity to move further upstream) was very high. Such raw power and fury almost made it feel like the ground was trembling beneath our feet, which made us very hesitant to get too close to the edge and potentially fall into the raging and frigidly cold river (there were no guard rails)!
10. SUTHERLAND FALLS [Fiordland, New Zealand]
Sutherland Falls is New Zealand's mightiest waterfall.
Plunging 580m in three distinct vertical leaps, it is amongst the tallest waterfalls in the world. There's a memorable story about how this waterfall got named, which you can read more about in this book.
This waterfall also vies with Browne Falls as well as Bluff Falls for the title of tallest waterfall in New Zealand. Depending on your definition of a waterfall, some people (such as the authors of the World Waterfall Database) would say that both Browne and Bluff trumps Sutherland in height. Either way, there's no denying that it's Sutherland that's the most spectacular as it has the steepest slope and the most satisfying shape.
Refrence : world-of-waterfalls