The 10 Tallest Waterfalls in the World

January 4, 2024

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Voringfossen waterfall shot in summer Eidfjord Norway

Also known as “cascades”, waterfalls usually form when a river or stream flows across horizontal bands of hard rock positioned over soft rock. The soft rock is eroded more quickly than the hard rock, which creates a hard ledge that causes the water to drop and plunge into a valley below.

There are many impressive waterfalls in the world, from Gullfoss Falls in Iceland to Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil to Niagara Falls in the US and Canada.

It might surprise you to learn that Niagara Falls — arguably the world’s most famous waterfall — doesn’t make it onto the list of the world’s tallest waterfalls. In fact, there are 50 other waterfalls that are taller than Niagara Falls. Keep reading to find out which waterfalls appear in the top 10.

1. Angel Falls

Angel Falls in Venezuela
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Height: 3,212 ft (979 m)
Country: Venezuela

At more than 3,200 feet tall, Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world.

Located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park in the province of Bolivar, the falls occur along a fork of the Río Kerepacupai Merú as the water rushes over the top of Auyán-tepui Mountain, before going on to feed into the Churun River.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area surrounding Angel Falls is home to an array of colorful plants and flowers, like the purple Princess Flower, orange and yellow lantana, and pink Mimosa.

The waterfall was named after American aviator, Jimmie Angel, who accidentally discovered it while looking for gold mines in 1933. The people native to the region, the Pemón, however, knew about the falls much earlier than that and refer to them as “Kerepakupai Merú”, meaning “waterfall of the deepest place”.

2. Tugela Falls

The top of Tugela Falls in South Africa
Looking down from the top of Tugela Falls
Height: 3,110 ft (948 m)
Country: South Africa

The world’s second-tallest waterfall is Tugela Falls, with a height of just over 3,100 feet. This mighty waterfall consists of five tiers, and its tallest single drop is 1,350 feet. 

The falls are located in South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains in Royal Natal National Park and are easily accessible thanks to their close proximity to the main road into the park.

A seasonal waterfall, Tugela Falls rarely flows with much force, though, and it is only clearly visible from the road after heavy rainfall.

The falls form part of the Tugela River, which is what they are named after.

3. Tres Hermanas Falls

Tres Hermanas Falls in Peru
Tres Hermanas Falls, or the “Three Sisters Falls” Image credit: EdwinGarcía17, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Height: 2,999 ft (914 m)
Country: Peru

The third tallest waterfall in the world is Tres Hermanas Falls, measuring almost 3,000 feet tall. 

Located in the Junin region of Peru in the protected Otishi National Park, the falls are surrounded by rainforest consisting of 100-foot tall trees and are neighbors to other notable landmarks like the Pavirontsi Natural Bridge, which is the world’s largest natural bridge. While rough walking trails lead to the waterfall, due to the dense vegetation, it is only possible to view it in its entirety from the air.

Tres Hermanas Falls has three tiers. The top two fall into a large basin of water, and the third falls from the basin into the Cutivireni River. Also known as the “Three Sisters Falls”, the waterfall’s name was inspired by its three tiers.

4. Olo’upena Falls

Aerial view of Olo’upena Falls from a helicopter
Olo’upena Falls as seen from a helicopter
Height: 2,953 ft (900 m)
Country: United States

In fourth place on the list of the world’s tallest waterfalls is Olo’upena Falls, with a height of just over 2,950 feet.

Located on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, it is also the US’s tallest waterfall. Olo’upena Falls appears in a split between two cliffs and, like Tres Hermanas Falls, it can’t be see from the ground. The only ways to see this magnificent waterfall are by plane, helicopter, or — since it flows directly into the Pacific Ocean — boat.

Despite its remote location, the island attracts many tourists during the rainy season (November through March), with operators offering guided boat, seaplane and helicopter tours to see the falls.

5. Yumbilla Falls

View of Yumbilla Falls in Peru
Looking up at Yumbilla Falls in the northern Preuvian jungle
Height: 2,940 ft (896 m)
Country: Peru

Measuring 2,940 feet tall, Yumbilla Falls is the fifth-tallest waterfall in the world.

The second Peruvian waterfall to appear on this list, it is located near the town of Cuispes, in the country’s northern region of Amazonas, on the western edge of the Amazon Rainforest.

With four drops, Yumbilla Falls is another tiered waterfall. Like some of the other waterfalls on this list, its volume is affected by the weather, with its width decreasing during the dry season and increasing during the wet season. 

Gocta Falls — another impressive waterfall, measuring 2,531 feet tall — is located nearby, inspiring the Ministry of Fair Trade and Tourism of Peru to promote the area to visitors and nature lovers.

It is likely that Yumbilla Falls was named by the indigenous peoples of Peru.

6. Vinnufossen

Vinnufossen, the tallest waterfall in Norway
Vinnufossen, the tallest waterfall in Europe
Height: 2,822 ft (860 m)
Country: Norway

With a height of more than 2,800 feet, Vinnufossen is the sixth-tallest waterfall in the world and, due to its location in Norway, it is the highest waterfall in Europe.

Vinnufossen can be found in Western Norway, in the municipality of Sunndalen and it is one of the world’s most awe-inspiring waterfalls. Part of the River Vinnu, it is fed by the Vinnufonna glacier, emerging from a cliff face and splitting into several falls that intertwine as they plunge towards the valley floor before flowing into the River Driva near Hoelsand.

7. Balaifossen

View of mountains and lake in Ulvik, Norway
Balaifossen is located along the Osafjord in Ulvik
Height: 2,789 ft (850 m)
Country: Norway

Another Norwegian waterfall — Balaifossen — features on the list of 10 tallest waterfalls in the world, at a height of almost 2,800 feet. 

Located in the municpalituy of Ulvik, south of Osa, it is a tall and winding waterfall, but it’s not as magnificent-looking as some of the other waterfalls that feature on this list. This is largely due to the fact that it is a thin, seasonal waterfall that can disappear entirely during the dry summer months.

Unfortunately, Balaifossen may not feature on this list for much longer. It feeds on melting mountain snow, which means that the threat of climate change could see this waterfall dry up permanently.

8. Pu’uka’oku Falls

Several waterfalls cascading on the island of Moloka’i
There are numerous waterfalls on the island of Moloka’i
Height: 2,756 ft (840 m)
Country: United States

Taking joint 8th spot on the list of tallest waterfalls is Pu’uka’oku Falls, which cascades from a height of just over 2,750 feet.

Like Olo’upena Falls, this tall, narrow stream of water is located on the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, plunging from the same cliffs as its big brother.

Again, these falls cannot be accessed on foot, and the only way to view them is via air or sea. Because Pu’uka’oku has carved a fissure into the cliff face, it can be difficult to spot. However, tourists that have experienced guides who know where to look may get lucky.

9. James Bruce Falls

James Bruce Falls in Canada
James Bruce Falls can be found in Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park, Canada
Image credit: Darrell Greenwood, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Height: 2,756 ft (840 m)
Country: Canada

At the same height as Pu’uka’oku Falls, James Bruce Falls shares joint 8th spot on this list.

The highest waterfall on the mainland of North America, it is located in Canada’s Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park in the province of British Columbia.

This waterfall may be 2,756 feet high, but, like Pu’uka’oku Falls, it can be hard to spot. Rather than a roaring sheet of cascading water, James Bruce Falls is another narrow ribbon that can’t be seen easily in its entirety.

While hiking trails into the hills can provide a decent view, many tourists choose to visit some of the area’s more easily visible waterfalls, like Snake Falls and Chatterbox Falls.

10. Browne Falls

Fiordland National Park in New Zealand
Fiordland National Park in New Zealand
Height: 2,743 ft (836 m)
Country: New Zealand

The last entry on the list of 10 tallest waterfalls in the world is Browne Falls, with a height of almost 2,750 feet.

Browne Falls can be found in Fiordland National Park, but as this is near the southern tip of New Zealand, again, it is not as easily accessible as some of the other waterfalls on this list. It empties into Doubtful Sound, which is miles from the nearest road and major cities, plus, it is surrounded by dense vegetation that hides it from those who are not specifically looking out for it.

Those who do make the effort to visit this waterfall, however, are rewarded. Dropping directly from the Lake Browne mountain lake, it is a particularly spectacular sight to behold.

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