What Are the Tallest Waterfalls in the World?

From underwater ocean drops to sheets of water thousands of feet high, these are the most impressive and sublime waterfalls in the world.

Jul 15, 2023By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art
tallest waterfalls in world

 

Waterfalls are among the world’s most spectacular and sublime wonders, representing the sheer, terrifying and awesome power of nature. We might have visited waterfalls across the globe, or heard the hairbrained stories of adventurers who have travelled over or around them, but which ones out of the many hundreds that exist today are the largest you might encounter? Our handy list gives you a rundown of some of the world’s biggest and most impressive, beginning with the tallest waterfall in the world

 

1. Denmark Strait, Greenland and Iceland (11,500 feet)

denmark strait underwater waterfall
The underwater waterfall at Denmark Strait, between Greenland and Iceland

 

Amazingly, the tallest waterfall in the world is somewhere you might never expect: at the bottom of the ocean. That’s right, it lies underneath the Denmark Strait, which falls between Iceland and Greenland. If you are wondering how a waterfall can even be possible under the ocean, it is because it is made up of freezing cold water flowing from the Nordic Sea, which cascades under the warmer water in the neighboring Irminger Sea and drops over an enormous drop in the ocean floor at a rapid rate of more than 123 million cubic feet a section. This steep underwater cliff falls some 11,500 feet, or just over 2 miles, making it by far the largest waterfall in the world.

 

2. Angel Falls, Venezuela (3,212 feet)

angel falls venezuela
The sheer Angel Falls in Venezuela, South America

 

Coming in at a close second, Angel Falls is the tallest over ground uninterrupted waterfall in the world, dropping around 3,212 feet over the edge of the Auyan (Aya) Tepui mountain in Venezuela, South America. The mountain is situated in the Canaima National Park, the sixth largest national park in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The waterfall is named after the aviator James Angel, who discovered the epic natural occurrence while flying over the Venezuelan jungle in 1933.

 

3. Tugela Falls, South Africa (3,110 feet)

tugela falls south africa
The epic Tugela Falls, South Africa

 

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Tugela Falls is another top contender for the world’s largest waterfall, dropping a total of somewhere around 3,110 feet down from the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, also known as ‘the amphitheater.’ The waterfall cascades over a series of around five different drops, but its full height incorporates them all into one. The waterfalls can be found within the Royal Natal National Park within the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, near the northeastern region of Lesotho. 

 

4. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia (350 feet)

victoria falls africa waterfall
The incredible Victoria Falls in Africa

 

Victoria Falls lies in a stretch of un-spoilt wilderness between Zambia and Zimbabwe, dropping at least 350 feet in a straight drop over a sheer knife-edge drop. Even more impressive, however, is the width of the waterfall, at 5,603 feet, and the epic rate at which the water flows; during the rainy seasons, approximately 300,000 gallons gush over the drop and into the narrow gorge below every second, which is 354 meters deep.

 

5. Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil (270 feet)

Iguazu Falls South America
The impressive Iguazu Falls, South America

 

Considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the spectacular Iguazu Falls is a series of cascading waterfalls spanning 8,858 feet in width, and dropping nearly 270 feet. The natural landscape of the waterfall lies between Argentina and Brazil and can be visited from either side. It is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a popular hotspot for tourists, many of whom also trek to its nearby Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). 

 

6. Niagara Falls, USA and Canada (188 feet)

 

No list of waterfalls would be complete without a nod towards Niagara Falls. At a comparatively modest 188-foot drop, this waterfall doesn’t match the sheer scale of many others on this list. However, it spans approximately 2,200 feet of wild landscape, and speeds through an impressive 3,000 tons of water every second, making it a spectacular sight to behold.

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.