Waterfalls aren’t just cascading tons of water over the edge of a cliff, they are an example of the power of nature, an earthly wonder and a reminder that something as dainty as water has the power to erode something as tough as rock.
The falls are majestic beauties, sure, but they’re more than that. Many cultures have legends that surround major waterfalls, ranging from supernatural tales of witches haunting the pool beneath Yosemite Falls to a deity forming Iguazu Falls to stop his former love from getting away with her new lover in a canoe. Other waterfalls are sites of recorded historical happenings, like the wartime crossings over Ban Gioc-Detian Falls or when Jimmie Angel was the first to fly his plane over his namesake falls.
These spots are more than simple water features and each of them has it’s own backstory to accompany the beautiful sights. Even when it comes to the remote falls of Venezuela or the Faroe Islands, these magnificent waterfalls are worth the trip.
1. Nohkalikai Falls—India
Described by visitors as “magnificent and serene,” Nohkalikai Falls is 1,115 feet tall, making it the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Though visitors today enjoy the calm pouring of water over the cliff, the falls are named for a morose legend. According to the tale, a woman named Likai was driven mad and ran off the edge of the cliff when she discovered her second husband had murdered and cooked her infant, then fed her the child’s remains.
2. Yosemite Falls—California, U.S.
At 2,425 feet tall, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and either the sixth or seventh tallest in the world. Set in the infamous Yosemite National Park, visitors can enjoy views of the falls from many spots around the park or they can hike one of several trails to get a better vantage point. The hike to the top of the falls is tough and will take all day, but another hike will bring you to the base of the falls, which is shorter and easier.
3. Niagara Falls—Between the U.S. and Canada
Straddling the U.S.-Canada border, Niagara Falls is home to some of the best known waterfalls on Earth. Formed by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age, this natural wonder is composed of three separate falls: Horseshoe Falls (which is the largest and most powerful of the three), the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall on the continent.
4. Bøssdalsfossur Falls—the Faroe Islands
One of the most remote waterfalls out there, Bøssdalsfossur Falls cascades off an archipelago that is set about halfway between Norway and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are an independent country, among the least populated in the world with less than 50,000 total residents to date—the town near the falls was home to only 16 people in 2002. The Islands are best known for fresh fish, wildlife and stunning natural beauty and though the waterfall is one of many beautiful features on the island, it’s one that people love to visit and photograph.
Gullfoss, Icelandic for “Golden Falls,” is a top tourist destination in Iceland. The falls that seem to drop directly into the earth have become so iconic that they have appeared on the cover of an album, in a novella and in a music video.
6. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls—Bordering China and Vietnam
A subject of a longtime border dispute between China and Vietnam, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is currently marked on China’s side. The falls are teeming with history—from serving as a crossing point in the Sino-Vietnamese War to hosting outlaws and their treasure in nearby tunnels and legend has it some of the treasure is still lying undiscovered in one of the gorges.
7. Angel Falls—Venezuela
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the highest waterfall on Earth, Angel Falls stands at a breathtaking 3,212 feet tall. The falls are one of Venezuela’s biggest tourist attractions, but getting there is no easy feat. Angel Falls is located in a jungle and is only accessible by river from June to December, when the river is deep enough for boat travel.
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