Waterfalls are incredible natural wonders, no matter the size. The sight of an enormous curtain of falling water, cascading down cliffs rubbed smooth by the passage of so many droplets never ceases to impress travelling visitors.

So although most waterfalls will make us stare, the 10 biggest in the world are enough to make our jaws drop in amazement. Here are our picks of the best and biggest waterfalls in the world.

1/ Browne Falls, New Zealand

Coming in at a height of 836 metres (2,744 feet) Browne Falls is not a waterfall that most people are lucky enough to see. Hidden away on the southern tip of New Zealand, Browne Falls flows, somewhat gradually by most measures, into Doubtful Sound (a large ocean inlet), located miles from the nearest accessible road.

What makes it interesting is not that it’s the highest waterfall in New Zealand, but that many refuse to believe that it is. Sutherland Falls, another waterfall in the same Fjordland National Park Area, is often cited as the highest in the country, but at just 580 metres (1,902 feet), it doesn’t quite measure up.

  • Height – 836 metres (2,744 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Cascade
  • Number of drops – 6

2/ James Bruce Falls, Canada

James Bruce Falls, not unlike Browne Falls, is easy to miss. But this time it isn’t because of its isolation, but it’s attention-seeking neighbour. The aptly named Chatterbox Falls rushes along beneath James Bruce Falls, but although it’s far more accessible, it is hardly remarkable.

In fact, the James Bruce Falls, at 840 metres (2,755 feet) high, is the tallest on the North American continent. Fed from a glacial source, it’s hardly a cascading sheet of water, but it winds like a white snake through the rocky hills to a firm ninth place on the list.

  • Height – 840 metres (2,755 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Horsetail
  • Interesting facts – James Bruce Falls is considered by some waterfall experts to be nothing more than a series of minor cascades, but as this is yet to be unequivocally proven, it remains at number nine on the list.

3/ Pu’uka’oku Falls, United States

Although Pu’uka’oku Falls definitely deserves to be on this list at a confirmed height of 840 metres (2,756 feet), it’s not much to look at. Located on the precipitous sea cliffs on the island of Moloka’I in Hawaii, Pu’uka’oku Falls has carved a deep gulley in the face. This unique detail, as well as its characteristic thin stream, means that Pu’uka’oku Falls is rarely seen, and even more rarely photographed.

That being said, there is always a chance, however slim, to see Pu’uka’oku Falls from a boat at sea. In recent years, helicopters have also been found to be quite successful in their explorations of these impressive sea cliffs, and the secrets hidden within.

  • Height –  840 metres (2,756 feet)
  • Other Names – Sometimes called Puukaoku Falls

4/ Balåifossen, Norway

Balåifossen, currently measuring in at 850 metres (2,788 feet), is a waterfall that can change dramatically with the seasons. Fed from snow melts higher in the mountains, Balåifossen its width can range from an enormous 8 metres (25 feet) to a tiny stream trickling down the mountain.

Doubtless, Balåifossen is a natural wonder worth experiencing for yourself, but if global warming continues to reduce the snowfall at the heights required, Balåifossen might not even be a waterfall much longer.

  • Height – 850 metres (2,788 feet)
  • Average Width – 8 metres (25 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Tiered Horsetails
  • Total Run – 914 metres (3000 feet)

5/ Vinnufossen, Norway

Sometimes called Vinnufallet, but most widely known as Vinnufossen, this Norwegian beauty drops in at 865 metres (2,840 feet) making it both the tallest on the Eurasian continent, and the sixth tallest in the world. Vinnufossen is also home to the fifth tallest drop of any waterfall on the planet, thanks to the 179 metre (590 feet) plunge that starts her course.

Although it starts narrow at the top, by the time it has split and cascaded down the cliff face it can measure more than 150 metres in width (500 feet).

  • Height – 865 metres (2,840 feet)
  • Tallest Single drop – 730 metres (2,394 feet)
  • Average Width – 38 metres (125 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall –  Tiered Horsetails

6/ Yumbilla Falls, Peru

This gorgeous Peruvian wonder didn’t even make it to the world stage until 2007, but at 895.4 metres (2,937 feet) it’s one serious sight. A tiered waterfall, Yumbilla Falls is made up of four very large drops (each more than 120 metres, or 400 feet).

As with many waterfalls, its flow can change with each season, although for most of the year it tends to be a smaller flow. However, that doesn’t make it any less impressive, as it thunders down through the thick Peruvian rainforest. The valley in which Yumbilla Falls is located is a waterfall centre, with more then 20 waterfalls in the same area, making it a water wonderland for visitors.

  • Height – 895.4 metres (2,937 feet)
  • Total Number of Drops – 4
  • Maximum Width – 15 metres (50 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Tiered Horsetail

7/ Olo-upena Falls, United States

Another Hawaiian waterfall, also located in beautiful and remote Moloka’I, the Olo-upena Falls are 900 metres (2,953 feet) of cascading wonder. Starting at the top of one of the tallest sea cliffs in the world (the same place where Pu’uka’oku Falls start), Olo-upena Falls are etched deep into the cliff. This makes them rarely photographed, but those who do, manage to catch a glimpse of the falling water off the vertical cliffs.

Olo-upena Falls are surrounded by mountains, and flow even more strongly in the rainy seasons between November and March, when visitors are more likely to see their waters.

  • Height – 900 metres (2,953 feet)
  • Width – 12 metres (40 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Tiered Horsetails
  • Total Run – 457 metres (1500 feet)

8/ Three Sisters Falls, Peru

In the home of the Three Sisters Falls, in the Ayacucho region of Peru, the waterfalls aren’t the only things reaching for the sky. Surrounded by incredible tropical rainforest, with many trees measuring upwards of 30 metres (100 feet) the Three Sisters Falls stands an impressive 914 metres (3,000 feet). Named for the three tiers that make up the falls, the Three Sisters makes for one of many amazing sites contained within the Parque Nacional Otishi, a forested reserve.

Due to the wild terrain, thick forests and basic tracks, the Three Sisters Falls are best viewed from the skies. From there you can more easily see the first two tiers, and the large basins they cascade into, and you may even see the smaller third their, which finishes in the Cutivireni River.

  • Height – 914 metres (3,000 feet)
  • Width – 12 metres (40 feet)
  • Total Run – 1585 metres (5200 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Tiered Horsetail

9/ Tugela Falls, South Africa

South Africa’s Tugela Falls isn’t just the second tallest in the world, it’s also one of the most challenging hikes in the area. Unlike most of the waterfalls that make it into the top 10 tallest, Tugela Falls is quite accessible. Located at the top of Mont Aux Sources it tumbles from a height of 948 metres (3,110 feet) and is made up of five tiers. The tallest of these is 411 metres (1,350 feet), and makes for one amazing site.

This is likely why Tugela Falls is such a popular tourist destination, with a nearby car park and a number of marked hiking routes, two of which showcase the beauty of Tugela Falls. The easier of these is a 6.9 kilometre (4.3 mile) walk to the bottom of the falls, which remains quite level. Conversely, the harder trek takes hikers 6.4 kilometre (4 mile) to the top of Mont Aux Sources, where the air is thin but the views are magnificent.

  • Height – 948 metres (3,110 feet)
  • Type of Waterfall – Tiered Plunges
  • Total Number of Drops – 5

10/ Angel Falls, Venezuela

Famous all over the world, Angel Falls in Venezuala has a few records to its name. Not only it is officially, until another vertical behemoth pops up, the world’s tallest waterfall at an amazing 979 metres (3,212 feet), it also has the highest single drop in the world. It might start out with a relatively short 30-metre (100 feet) drop, but then it plunges 807 metres (2,648 feet) off the Devil’s Mountain plateau.

Discovered internationally by an aviator searching for gold ore, Angel Falls was well known by local people, and remain a massive tourist attraction in Venezuela. As well as its stunning beauty, Angel Falls has another few tricks to impress, including mists and fog created as the water makes its way down the plateau.

  • Height – 979 metres (3,212 feet)
  • Also known as – Parakupa Vena, Salto Angel, Kerepakupai Merú, or Parekupa-vena
  • Named for – The most well known moniker ‘Angel Falls’ came from James Angel, a bush pilot who crash-landed his plane on the mountain above the falls in 1933 when he was surveying. In truth, the site was seen much earlier than that, in 1912 by Venezuelan explorer Ernesto Sanches la Cruz, but he didn’t want to seek recognition for the find.
  • Total number of drops – Segmented Plunges
  • Average Width – 107 metres (350 feet)

In truth, many of the tallest waterfalls in the world are difficult to reach and may not be the most beautiful on camera when compared to other water displays. They are still, however, some of the most incredible sites you’ll witness in nature and a completely different experience seeing them in real life. If you know of other tall waterfalls worth mentioning, leave a comment below.

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Oceana is a barefoot budget traveller on an adventure out in the big wide world. Often seen with her charming English boyfriend, they spend their days running for planes, lying on beaches and exploring those hidden places on the global back roads...