Last Updated on February 17, 2023
Waterfalls make up some of the most visited and best known natural tourist attractions around the world. Stunningly beautiful, it’s little wonder that people travel from far and wide to enjoy the breathtaking natural attractions that are world renowned for their magnificence. Selecting biggest waterfalls in the world is not actually a set list that you’ll find identical across your research—largest and biggest are subjective. Do you mean the largest waterfall in terms of height? Or perhaps the waterfall with the biggest volume is more impressive? Depending on how you interpret these terms changes the answer!
The biggest (largest) waterfalls in the world
While there are many amazing waterfalls around the globe, these are five of the world’s biggest and best waterfalls that stand-out from the rest in terms of not only height and volume, but also factoring in sheer beauty. They’re the largest waterfalls in the world that also happen to be worth a visit!
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe, Africa)
Height: 108 meters / 354 feet
Known among locals as “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, this stunning African waterfall is neither the tallest nor most voluminous waterfall in the world, but aside from being among the most spectacular, it is widely regarded as the largest.
The falls are 5,604 feet / 1,708 meters wide and 354 feet / 108 meters tall and boast an average flow rate of 1,088 cubic meters per second. This means 500 million liters of water every minute!
Victoria Falls is considered the largest curtain waterfall in the world, ie. the largest sheet of falling water. Comprising four main channels (Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Eastern Cataract), the water plummets down into a narrow ravine called Batoka Gorge and consequently flows into the Zambezi River.
The main falls and about two thirds of the entire waterfalls can be seen from the Zimbabwean side, but the Zambian side has a better view of the remaining third of Victoria Falls. Zambia also has the “Devil’s Pool”, a small pool right near the edge that you can walk to from mid-August to mid-January, when the water levels in the Zambezi River are low. A thrilling experience for sure, and a must-do for many visitors. Victoria Falls is visited by approximately 1 million tourists every year.
Because of its exceptional geological and geomorphological features, Victoria Falls was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989. It was also voted one of the 7 natural wonders of the world (alongside the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Mount Everest, Polar Aurora, and Mexico’s Paricutin Volcano).
Angel Falls (Venezuela, South America)
Height: 979 meters / 3,212 feet
Located in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, Angel Falls, otherwise known as Kerepakupai Merú, is the world’s tallest uninterrupted and some would argue most beautiful waterfall at 3,212 feet / 979 meters. They waterfalls are located in a very remote place in the middle of the jungle in southeastern Venezuela. The only way to get to them is by plane, followed by a boat ride up the Churun River. Flying over the lush jungle and seeing the Orinoco River system, which the falls are part of, when you approach Canaima National Park by plane, is already a spectacular sight.
The best ways to explore Angel Falls, which is not to be confused with the three North American waterfalls of the same name, are from the top or at the very bottom. You can even swim in the pools at the bottom of the falls!. However, because of the political situation in Venezuela, it has become quite difficult to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and Angel Falls doesn’t get a lot of visitors.
Iguazu Falls (Argentina and Brazil, South America)
Height: 82 meters / 269 feet
At 269 feet / 82 meters, Iguazu Falls is much shorter than many of the world’s biggest waterfalls by height, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in volume, especially during the rainy season, when the Rio Iguazu can swell up to eight times its usual size. Iguazu Falls is made of over 275 waterfalls. Iguazu is wider than Lake Victoria on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, however, because the falls are more interrupted here, Victoria Falls are considered larger.
Forming a natural boundary between Argentina and Brazil, Iguazu Falls has an average flow rate of 1,756 cubic meters per second, which is almost the same as Niagara Falls. Legend has it that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” when she laid eyes on Iguazu Falls. 1.5 million tourists visit Iguazu Falls every year.
Niagara Falls (USA and Canada, North America)
Height: 51 meters / 167 feet
Situated between Ontario, Canada and New York, USA, Niagara Falls is undoubtedly the world’s most famous waterfall. At 167 feet / 51 meters in height, it is certainly not the largest waterfall in terms of height. Iguazu Falls are second only to Victoria Waterfalls in size.
However, this magnificent waterfall has an impressive average flow rate of 1,834 cubic meters per second, which means that every second 3,160 tons of water flow over Niagara Falls. Standing in front of the falls and hearing the thundering sound of the falling water is something you’ll never forget.
Connecting Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, this three-part waterfall attracts around 12 million visitors every year. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are located on the American side, and the aptly named Canadian Falls are located on the Canadian side. Niagara Falls can be visited by boat, helicopter or on foot.
Also read: Niagara Falls Smackdown: The American Side Vs. The Canadian Side
Olo’upena Falls (Hawaii, USA)
Height: 900 meters / 2,953 feet
Situated on the gorgeous Hawaiian island of Molokai, Olo’upena Falls (sometimes referred to as Oloupena Falls) is the fourth highest waterfall in the world behind Angel Falls, Tugela Falls (South Africa) and Cataratas las Tres Hermanas (Peru). At 2,953 feet / 900 meters, Olo’upena Falls certainly provides some stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and ocean. It’s considered the tallest waterfall in the United States, and the roughly 3,000 foot cliffs are the tallest sea cliffs in the world. The water plummets right into the Pacific Ocean.
Olo’upena Falls does not attract the same number of visitors as Niagara Falls or Victoria Falls, but it is almost as impressive in size and beauty. The waterfall does not boast an especially high flow rate or water density because the drainage area is rather small, but its relatively gentle trickle can be enjoyed by sea (in a kayak or boat) or air (helicopter).
The 10 most Instagrammed waterfalls around the world
In addition to five of the most impressive waterfalls in the world, I wanted to share the 10 most instagrammed waterfalls in the world. Because, even though Angels Falls in Venezuela are among the most majestic waterfalls in the world, they’re also among the waterfalls that are unattainable for most travelers – only a small number of people will ever lay eyes on these incredible waterfalls.
There are plenty of waterfalls that are easier to get to, and those waterfalls get a lot more visitors. With visitors come social shares – did you even see a place if you didn’t share it on the ‘gram? Here are the ten waterfalls that get shared most on Instagram (by the number of hashtags)
1 Niagara Falls – Canada & USA – 3.5 Million shares
2 Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe & Zambia – 300,000 shares
3 Iguazu Falls – Brazil & Argentina – 286,000 shares
4 Multnomah Falls – USA – 280,000 shares
5 Yosemite Falls – USA – 215,000 shares
6 Kawasan Falls – the Philippines – 160,000 shares
7 Seljalandsfoss – Iceland – 158,000 shares
8 Bridalveil Falls – USA – 154,000 shares
9 Snoqualmie Falls – USA – 149,000 shares
10 Plitvice Lakes National Park – Croatia – 97,000 shares
The above data was provided by Travelbag.
As you can see, Niagara Falls are by far the most shared waterfalls on Instagram – with over 3 million MORE shares than the #2 waterfalls, Victoria Falls in Africa.
It is interesting to see that five waterfalls on the list are located in the U.S. – is that because they’re easiest accessible, or because the U.S. has the most people who share everything on Instagram?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Thursday 22nd of February 2018
Niagara's greater press footprint might have something to do with the twenty or so times as many people who live within a short drive, as well as its being near a major transport hub and a traditional honeymoon spot, It also connects two very stable countries, whereas Iguaçu's neighbors' history has been discouraging to travelers at times. Niagara Falls is among the world's ten most visited tourist destinations, equaling Iguaçu's yearly total in a good summer's week. Don't forget, too, that Sugarloaf and Corcovado in Rio get a lot more press than similar peaks in Los Angeles and Seoul.
Thursday 28th of December 2017
Width is also important. I have been to Niagara and Iguazu, and Iguazu are much, much, much more impresive. Not only are they 50% taller than Niagara, but also they're three times as wide. Niagara gets more press, however.
Ahmed @ Traveler Corner
Sunday 28th of February 2016
Breathtaking, I hope some time soon i will be at Olo’upena Falls.
22 Waterfalls To Put On Your Must-See List | Adventures of The SIA Brat
Saturday 2nd of May 2015
[…] The 5 biggest and best waterfalls around the world (globetrottergirls.com) […]
Tuesday 8th of November 2011
Nice! I've been in two out of five... hehehe. =)