There’s just something magical about waterfalls. They’re one of Mother Nature’s most impressive spectacles – exhilarating on every level. Here are three of the best.
Niagara Falls, US/Canada
Niagara Falls are a tourist magnet on a monumental scale, attracting more than 28 million visitors a year from all over the world. And with good reason: the vibrant green water plummeting 51m into the Niagara River in three separate cascades makes for a spectacular sight.
This North American icon borders Ontario in Canada and New York State in the US, which means you can see the falls from either the US side or the Canadian side. Most people (especially Canadians funnily enough!) agree that the view from Canada is the best.
If you don’t mind getting wet, jump on a boat cruise and head into the rapids below the falls for an exhilarating experience. Choose between the historic Maid of the Mist, which has been operating since 1846 from the American side, or Hornblower Cruises from the Canadian side.
There’s no need to rush home when the sun goes down, as long as the weather cooperates. Floodlights illuminate the falls until midnight every night, so stay and take a romantic stroll in the park then have a bite to eat in one of the many scenic restaurants overlooking this natural wonder.
- Niagara Falls is actually the collective name for three distinct waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.
- The falls’ bright green colour is a result of dissolved salts and very finely ground rock suspended in the water.
- Eco-warriors will be interested to note the falls are a valuable source of hydroelectric power, producing up to 4.9 million kilowatts at any given time, which is enough to power 3.8 million homes.
Reportedly Europe’s most powerful waterfall and one of the widest at 100m, Dettifoss in Northeast Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park is a sight to behold.
The commanding Jökulsá á Fjöllum River crashes down 44m into the water below with astounding force, making for an impressive display of strength and plenty of spray.
Dettifoss is part of what’s known as the ‘Diamond Circle’, a popular tourist circuit around Húsavík and Lake Mývatn in Northern Iceland.
The waterfall can be easily reached by road and is best viewed from the east bank, where you’ll find well-maintained tracks to the best vantage points.
Our top tip? Avoid a winter trip to Dettifoss unless you LOVE the cold.
- ‘Foss’ is Icelandic for waterfall.
- This waterfall features in the 2012 sci-fi film Prometheus as landscape on a primordial Earth-like planet.
- Detifoss’ greyish white water is a result of sediment-rich runoff from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
Go big or go home. Victoria Falls on Africa’s Zambezi River is the world’s biggest waterfall if you take into account a combination of height (108m) and width (1,708m).
We suggest skipping the guided tours and simply taking the path on the Zimbabwe side of the falls which is a 2-3 hour walk with 15 viewing points.
Be prepared to get drenched by the spray! Wear thongs/flip-flops and either a rain poncho or clothes you don’t mind getting wet in. It’s also a good idea to package your non-waterproof valuables like passport and electronics in zip-lock bags to avoid damage.
For an extra special experience, splash the $200 on a helicopter ride to get an even better view.
Whatever you do, don’t swim in the Devil’s Pool. Also known as the Armchair, this naturally formed pool on top of the precipice is somewhat safer than it sounds. A rock barrier mostly keeps swimmers from plummeting over the edge and the currents aren’t too strong. However, deaths have been reported when people have slipped over the rock ledge. In short: don’t risk it!
For the most nostalgic form of transport to the falls, catch the overnight train departing Bulawayo, complete with charming but somewhat worse for wear 1950s British coaches. The train departs at 7:30pm arriving in Victoria Falls Town at 9am. First class tickets are $15.
- Victoria Falls’ indigenous name in the local Tonga language, Mosi-oa-Tunya, translates as ‘the smoke that thunders’.
- The Scottish explorer David Livingstone was the first European to see the falls in 1855. He named them in honour of Queen Victoria. What a suck-up!