There's something about watching millions of gallons of rushing water plummeting off of high cliffs that is just entrancing. Waterfalls are amazing and powerful works of nature that range from small and pedestrian to massive and majestic.
Here are five of the grandest, greatest and most gravity defining waterfalls in the world:
Photo Source: Flickr - John Stracke
Some consider the area around Niagara Falls to be cheesy, but there is no denying that the massive falls themselves are impressive. Niagara is actually composed of three waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Combined these three hold the record for the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. During peak season over 100,000 cubic feet of water per second go plummeting towards the ground!
The waterfalls can be viewed from both sides of the America and Canadian border. The Canadian side is said to offer a better view, but the American side is ensconced in a national park making it less commercial and prettier for hiking. Either way a ride on Maid of the Mist, a boat that will take you very close to the falls, is a must.
Although not as well known as the others on this list, the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are an absolute can't-miss for waterfall enthusiasts. The area was one of the first natural UNESCO world heritage sites, and is now one of Croatia's top tourism destinations. The unique karst mountains in this area are particularly susceptible to caves and tunnels, which work with the two rivers in the area to create a stunning series of dozens of massive waterfalls and clear blue lakes in a sort of lush green water wonderland. You can explore the area on foot via wooden pathways that guide you around the national park.
Photo Source: Flickr - David Kjelkerud
Fans of the movie “Up!” will want to take a look at Angel Falls, the real life inspiration for the movie's “Paradise Falls.” It's the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall with water dropping 3,212 feet off the bare face of Auyantepui Mountain. Talk about dramatic.
Although the falls are Venezuela's top tourist attractions, visiting can be a massive ordeal as the falls are located in an isolated jungle reachable only by boat. The area is home to a great variety of wildlife including giant anteaters, three toed sloths and poison arrow frogs.
Photo Source: Flickr - Jimmy Harris
Straddling the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, Iguazu Falls are taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide. Small islands divide the stream into numerous smaller falls, creating a massive J-shaped row of powerful waterfalls.
The falls can be reached via Argentina or Brazil. The Brazilian side offers a more comprehensive overview but the Argentinean side allows you to get up close with the falls, offering hiking paths that go around and even across the top of the falls in an area known as Garganta de Diablo (the Devil's Throat).
Photo Source: Flickr - i_pinz
While, not the tallest or the longest, Victoria Falls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe holds the record for largest falling sheet of water in the world- it's twice the height of Niagara. 38,000 cubic feet of water tumble over the falls every second.
The waterfall is popular with both international and domestic tourists. One of the most thrilling ways to experience the waterfall is to go swimming in the Devil's Pool on the Zambian side. During low tide months visitors can wade into the water, protected by a rock barrier from being swept over the falls. Not for the faint of heart!
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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