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Check Out the World’s Most Spectacular Waterfalls

August 2, 2016

Originally Published on AFAR.com…

You’ve heard of Niagara Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Victoria Falls, but have you run the trails over and under the cascading rivers of Iceland? Seen the tallest waterfall in Australasia? Trekked to the tucked-away wonders of the South American jungles? Strap on your all-terrain sandals. You may yet have some exploring to do.

victoria falls

1. Victoria Falls, Zambia

The pure scale of the Falls is breathtaking. Even with the slower flow of water in the off season, you can just imagine…

Potaro Siparuni, Guyana

2. Kaieteur Falls – Potaro Siparuni, Guyana

Accessible only by a three-day overland and river journey or via a charter flight to a tiny airstrip, Kaieteur Falls, tucked in the heart of Guyana’s pristine Amazon wilderness, is one of the world’s most powerful single-drop waterfalls. And what an impressive sight it is. Maybe it’s the remoteness, that you can’t just drive up to it, which adds to the wild allure of this impressive stream of water. It requires walking about 1.5 miles through jungle rain forest to reach it. Accessible only on a guided trip (you are literally in the middle of nowhere), you’ll walk from the airstrip to a number of lookout sites, each closer to the main event, where the Potaro River plunges 741 feet down a chasm surrounded by virgin rain forest (Guyana is home to the largest remaining untouched tracks of rain forest in the Amazon). Some excellent view points allow for social-media all-star photos up against the falls, but just be careful, as there are no ropes to hold you back, and tumbling over the waterfall accidentally is a real possibility if you get too close. Check out tours with Wilderness Explorers, the top adventure outfitter in Guyana, that incorporate Kaieteur into the itinerary.

Niagara falls

3. Niagara Falls, Canada/USA

No trip through Canada would be complete without a stop at Niagara Falls. The roar from the falls is impressive and watching the reactions of those on the boats below is entertaining. On a good summer’s day, spend time walking the parkway before enjoying the falls. Just be warned that you won’t be the only one trying to enjoy the falls. Summer in Niagara is the height of tourism so do your research and plan a couple months in advance for hotels.

Iguazú Falls

4. Iguazú Falls, Argentina 

Certain things in life are simply impossible to adequately capture in a mere photograph. Iguazú Falls is definitely one of them, and above is my best effort to convey the epic expanse of ‘The Devil’s Throat.’ Situated on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the falls are the watery dividing line between the two countries at this exact point. I accessed the falls from the Argentinian side, via Iguazú National Park and took a mini train (the Rainforest Ecological Train, to be exact), some trails, and more than a few catwalks to reach this particular vantage point. Unlike some falls in the US and Canada, in the southern hemisphere you can get dangerously close to the roaring waters of these grand spectacles. The sound is deafening, the spray is enticing, and the visuals are simply amazing. As I stood there, trying to take it all in, all I could do was feel my heart pounding as I stared into the mouth of the devil. Most depictions of Lucifer entail horns, a tail and copious amounts of fire meant to terrify all who are witness to his power. I can assure you, though made of mere cliffs and water, THIS devil could douse any other devil and never look back.

Canaima, Venezuela

5. Canaima, Venezuela

The tallest waterfall on Earth. The journey to this enchanted area is awe inspiring. A true adventure that cannot be done in less than a few days into the jungle.

Iceland

6. Dettifoss — Northeast, Iceland

Dettifoss was on my list of must-see in Iceland ever since I saw Prometheus and its opening scene. I had to see with my own two eyes the enormous waterfall. The GPS pointed us to this one road that was all gravel and it was closed due to snow. Imagine my disappointment at the sight of the “CLOSED” sign. We got back on the 1 and kept driving toward the hotel. At some point my husband and I see this sign saying Dettifoss and got on the road which for the GPS was nonexistent and it looked brand-new so I am guessing the road is recent and the GPS was not updated. We had no idea how far we had to drive on this road but it was only about 15 minutes or so and we got to the parking lot for Dettifoss. From there it was on foot in the snow. The day was gorgeous so at least we did not have bulky jackets on. It was our hottest day in Iceland, about 20C. Even before we got to the waterfall we could hear the powerful roar of the water, so I was sure it would be a spectacular sight and I was right. This waterfall is beautiful. Unfortunately due to snow the lower platform was not available but we still got to enjoy it and witnessed a beautiful rainbow too. A must see!

yosemite

7. Yosemite National Park – California

The Upper Falls Trail hike is a great day trip in Yosemite during the quieter months of spring, fall, and early or really late winter (when the heat, crowds, and mosquitoes are gone).

The distance is 7.6 miles (12 kilometers) round-trip from the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead, or 9.4 miles (15 kilometers) if you include Yosemite Point. Your elevation gain will be 2,600 feet (790 meters) to the top of Yosemite Falls and 2,969 feet (890 meters) to Yosemite Point. The trip can take six to eight hours.

It’s a significant workout and you’ll need to have plenty of water and snacks to fuel you on the panoramic hike. This photo was taken in February and the ice and snow at the base of the falls was a special treat. Charge those camera batteries!

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