Rivers flowing into Earth’s gorges create waterfalls that are natural wonders, drawing millions of visitors. Selecting the largest waterfalls is not actually a set list that you’ll find identical across your research—largest and biggest are subjective. These are five of the world’s biggest and best waterfalls that stand-out from the rest in terms of not only height and volume, but also factoring in sheer beauty.
1. Denmark Strait cataract
- Height: 3,505 m
The Denmark Strait cataract is an undersea waterfall found on the western side of the Denmark Strait in the Atlantic Ocean, on the Arctic Circle between Iceland and Greenland. It is the world’s highest underwater waterfall, with water falling almost 3,505 meters. The Denmark Strait cataract is formed by the difference in temperature between the ultra-cold Arctic waters of the Greenland Sea meeting those of the slightly warmer Irminger Sea. Since the molecules in the cold water are less active and take up less space than in warm water, they are packed together more tightly, making colder water denser. That means that when water from the Greenland Sea meets the Irminger Sea water, it slides right down through it to the bottom of the ocean.
2. Angel Falls
- Elevation: 1,283 m
- Height: 979 m
Angel Falls is a waterfall in Venezuela. It is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall, with a height of 979 metres and a plunge of 807 m. The waterfall drops over the edge of the Auyán-tepui mountain in the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State. The second largest national park in Venezuela, the waterfall tumbles from a cleft near the summit of table top mountain Auyán-tepu into what is known as Devil’s Canyon, 3212 feet (979m) below. The falls are a tributary of the Carrao River, itself part of Venezuela’s Orinoco River system. Considered among the world’s most dazzling natural wonders, Angel Falls are a truly unforgettable spectacle. Rutaca and Avior airlines provide flights to and from the airstrip at Canaima camp. Passengers fly over dense swathes of deep jungle, much of which remains untouched by man, as well as ancient mountains, and many snaking rivers.
3. Niagara Falls
- Area: 209.7 km²
- Location: Ontario
Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a Canadian city at the famous waterfalls of the same name, linked with the U.S. by the Rainbow Bridge. Its site on the Niagara River’s western shore overlooks the Horseshoe Falls, the cascades’ most expansive section. Elevators take visitors to a lower, wetter vantage point behind the falls. A cliffside park features a promenade alongside 520-ft.-high Skylon Tower with an observation deck. The water flows from streams and rivers that empty into the Great Lakes, from Lake Superior down through Niagara to Lake Ontario, then into the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean. All Niagara Falls USA attractions and activities are open, however, several are encouraging visitors to purchase and secure admission tickets online and in advance of their visit as capacity restrictions are in place. Connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, this three-part waterfall attracts around 12 million visitors every year. Niagara Falls can be enjoyed by boat, helicopter or on foot.
4. Victoria Falls
- Elevation: 885 m
- World heritage site: 1989 (13th session)
Victoria Falls is a waterfall on the Zambezi River in southern Africa, which provides habitat for several unique species of plants and animals. It is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is one of the world’s largest waterfalls, with a width of 1,708 m.Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometres, into a gorge over one hundred meters below. Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt, rising to the same height, and capped by mist-soaked rain forest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor prepared to brave the tremendous spray, with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.
5. Olo’upena Falls
- Height: 900 m
- Location: Molokai, Hawaii
Oloʻupena Falls, or Oloupena Falls, is a waterfall located in the north-eastern part of Hawaiian Island of Molokai, and is unofficially cited as the fourth highest waterfall in the world, and the highest in the United States. Olo’upena Falls is one of four very tall waterfalls that drop down the cliffs on the north shore of Molokai. These roughly 3,000 foot cliffs are the tallest sea cliffs in the world and are adorned by very narrow and impossibly tall waterfalls. The drainage area is small, but the constant rains keep them flowing. The stream makes a series of consecutive horsetail leaps from the lip of the cliff all the way down its verdant face to the sea. At 2,953 feet (900 meters), the falls stand high above most other waterfalls in the United States; the closest ones are Pu’uka’oku Falls (2,756 feet/840 meters) and Waihilau Falls (2,600 feet/792 meters), both of which are also located in Hawaii.