World’s Best Waterfalls

by Janean Flowe
Victoria Falls at sunset

By Suzanne Bopp

Waterfalls draw us in — to see their gasp-inducing sights, hear their raw power and feel their spray. Niagara Falls, possibly the world’s most famous, brings 14 million people each year to revel in its wonders. These six waterfalls around the world also deserve a place on any bucket list.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls (BEST FALLS PHOTOS!) | Border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

Why we chose it: At over a mile wide and 354 feet high, Victoria Falls is considered the largest waterfall in the world. The Kololo tribe who lived nearby called it “Mosi-oa-Tunya,” or “The Smoke that Thunders.” And no wonder: the sound of the water roaring over the falls can be heard from 25 miles away. The spray and mist coming from the falling water rises over 1,300 feet into the air, visible for dozens of miles.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls (BEST FALLS PHOTOS!) | Border of Argentina and Brazil

Why we chose it: Made up of some 275 waterfalls, Iguazu Falls spreads out more than a mile and a half wide. It’s over twice as wide as Niagara Falls (and taller, too). A series of walkways lead visitors up close to the action. The location also makes these falls special. They are within the Atlantic rainforest, one of the few remaining inland rainforests in South America, home to thousands of plant species, hundreds of bird species and many types of mammals — ocelots, jaguars, giant anteaters and howler monkeys. In 1984, Iguazu Falls became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Angel Falls

Angel Falls | Canaima National Park, Bolivar

Why we chose it: In 1933, James Crawford Angel flew his small plane over Venezuela, searching for gold, and found a waterfall. In 1937, he returned and landed his plane at the top of the waterfall, where it sank into the ground and remained for decades, until it was lifted out by helicopter. (He hiked out.) Angel Falls, named for him, is the highest waterfall in the world, with a drop of 3,212 feet — 17 times higher than Niagara Falls. The falls remain remote — there is still no overland route to reach them.

Tinago Falls | Iligan City, Philippines

Why we chose it: Tinago Falls offers a scene of tropical paradise. A tall, rocky ravine, ringed by trees and thick foliage parts to reveal a 240-foot-tall waterfall, pouring into a stunning clear blue-green pool of water. The dreamy scene has inspired local legends of a supernatural source for all this beauty. It involves a cursed sultan’s wife, an ugly child hidden in a cave and a sorceress who transformed the child into a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall’s name means “hidden,” which is apt — reaching the falls requires descending some 500 steps.

Plitvice Falls

Plitvice Falls | Lika-Senj County/Karlovac County, Croatia

Why we chose it: One of Croatia’s most popular tourist attractions is located within one of its oldest and largest national parks. A series of lakes, varying in color — deep blue, bright turquoise, dark green — pour into each other via some 90 dramatic waterfalls. They are connected by a series of boardwalk trails. Blue butterflies swirl and dive overhead. That’s the magical scene at Plitvice Lakes National Park, which covers more than 73,000 acres. Boats and a train help visitors cover the vast areas and experience the highlights. The park’s surrounding pristine forests are home to boars, bears, wolves, Eurasian lynx and many rare bird species.

Gullfoss | Southwest Iceland

Why we chose it: Originating from a glacial lake, the waters of Gullfoss fall in two dramatic stages: two separate large waterfalls at almost right angles to each other, making for one breath-taking scene. As you approach, you see the water drop below you into a 100-foot-deep crevice — the river seems to disappear right into the earth. Glacial sediment turns the water golden in the sunlight; the name Gullfoss means “golden falls.” In the winter, the scene is even more magical. The bright turquoise water rushes over the precipices through curtains of blue ice and snow.

Contact your AAA Travel Agent to visit any of these waterfalls: 1-800-150-5386.

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