8 waterfalls that are totally worth the adventure

Step away from the crowds with these waterfall adventures: the stunning reward’s always worth it.
By Dom Granger

Taking the path less travelled is a definite motivation for anyone with an adventurous mind when the old touristic route doesn’t quite do it. What if you heard about a waterfall during a vacation, then got there only to realise that it wasn't the remote, secret spot you were hoping for? Forget about parking the car 100m away and random drunk people on these waterfalls: you’ll be happy if you make it all the way there.

1. Sutherland Falls, Southland, New Zealand

Aerial image of Sutherland Falls and surrounding mountains and lake in New Zealand
The wider, breathtaking view of Sutherland Falls © Ignacio Palacios / Getty Images
Photo of Sutherland Falls on a foggy day in New Zealand
The mystical Sutherland Falls in New Zealand © Paul Nevin / Getty Images

What: New Zealand’s highest waterfall – 580m high

The adventure: To reach Sutherland Falls, a four-day hike's required on New Zealand’s famous Milford Trail. The 53km walk will take you across suspension bridges, board walks and a mountain pass in the Fiordland National Park. You'll stay in lodges along the way and could experience the true magic.

Degree of adventure: 5/10

2. Kaieteur Falls, Mazaruni Potaro, Guyana

Aerial photo of Kaieteur Falls in Guyana
The stunning Kaieteur Falls and their high plunge © Chris Radburn / Getty Images
Twenty (20) dollars Guyana bills
Kaiteur Falls, immortalised on the 20$ bill © DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / Kontributor / Getty Images

What: The largest single drop, and one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world

The adventure: The only way to reach Kaieteur Falls is to take a charter plane to a nearby landing strip, then a two- to three-hour hike in the rainforest. This rare combination of a tall waterfall on a high-volume river make for an absolutely stunning, almost surreal view. If you happen to see one of the tiny golden frogs on the hike there, don’t touch it: they're potentially poisonous.

Degree of adventure: 4/10

Random fact: The falls are pictured on the Guyanan $20 bill. 

3. Shale Falls (Chutes aux Schistes), Quebec, Canada

Photo of Shale Falls (Chute aux Schistes), in Northern Quebec
The wide Shale Falls, a welcome view © Lester Kovac

What: A very remote waterfall in Northern Quebec

The adventure: a month-long, self-sufficient canoe trip on the Caniapiscau River, where the start is only reachable by plane. The quickly changing weather of Northern Quebec, plus the ferocious black flies and other bugs, make this one mentally demanding. This is a true canoe adventure in some of the most rugged, untouched territories North America has to offer.

Degree of adventure: 10/10

4. Virginia Falls, North West Territories, Canada

What: Massive waterfalls and UNESCO World Heritage Sites (one of the first four locations designated as such in the 1970s)

The adventure: The only way to get to the park is to charter a float plane to the Nahanni National Park reserve just above the falls. From there, only a short hike's needed. But if you want more of an adventure, you can plan a canoe trip of up to 21 days and have the experience of a lifetime. No matter the choice you make, the view's worth it. This big waterfall slides down a lengthy stretch of rapids and small drops before splitting around a giant 100m-plus-tall limestone, called Mason’s Rock.

Degree of adventure: 3/10 if you fly directly to the falls – 7/10 if you go for the full canoe expedition

Random fact: It's almost twice the height of Niagara Falls

5. Kerepakupai Meru, Bolivar, Venezuela

Paul Guschlbauer hikes and flies Angel Falls
Not a bad view © Paul Guschlbauer

What: (Arguably) the tallest waterfall in the world, at 979m, also known as Angel Falls or Salto Angel.

The adventure: Getting to Angel Falls isn’t a simple affair: a flight is needed to reach Canaima camp, the starting point for river trips guided by native Pemon people. After the four-hour upstream trip, you get to move your legs in an often-soggy, slippery, uphill 60- to 90-minute jungle hike: totally worth the effort to tick a staple waterfall off the bucket list. Then you can camp on location for the night and do the reverse trip the following day. Bonus: your flight to Canaima will most likely give you a bird’s-eye view of the falls, the same way they were first seen by Jimmie Angel, a US aviator who gives the falls their common English name, in the 1930s.

Degree of adventure: 5/10 – unless your name is Paul Guschlbauer, in which case you can make it a 10/10 adventure and go on a five-day hike and fly 

6. Schwarzenbach Falls, Nunavut, Canada

 

Photo of Schwartzenbach Falls, in Nunavut, Canada
The raw beauty of Schwartzenbach Falls © mk media

What: The tallest waterfall in the Arctic Circle (520m) and one of the tallest remote waterfalls in the world

The adventure: Named Qulitasaniakvik in Inuktitut, the seasonal waterfall (in the winter it's either frozen or dried up, since the glaciers aren’t able to melt) is extremely impressive. “Off the beaten path” would be an understatement: just the cost may deter many – count over Can$4,000 for a 14-day backpacking expedition. First you take a boat (where you may very well encounter a walrus or a narwhal) then you need to get your hiking legs ready for two full weeks of walking on steep and uneven terrain with full backpacks. A good challenge, even for the experienced hiker!

Degree of adventure: 9/10

7. Cascades du Trou de Fer, Réunion Island

 

Aerial shot of the Cascades du Trou de Fer in Reunion Island
Full aerial view of the Cascades du Trou de Fer © Karsten Bidstrup / Getty Images
Aerial view of the Cascades du Trou de Fer in Reunion Island
Dropping from the tall edges of the Iron Hole © Atlantide Photo Travel / Getty Images

What: A 725m-high waterfall in the middle of the jungle, including a 305m single-drop fall.

The adventure: In the heart of the jungle of Reunion Island, the Cascades du Trou de Fer (literally Iron Hole Falls) are a breathtaking sight once you reach them. For that, all it takes is a three-hour walk through a muddy path in the dense rainforest. But Mother Nature has to be on your side if you want to see the falls: a rainy day will make the hike impossible. To have the chance to see this raw beauty, you have to start the hike very early in the morning, but nothing is guaranteed: if the clouds decided to join the party, you are done. But the other option is to see the falls from up close with a two- to three-day canyoning expedition, for experienced (Level 4) canyoneers only!

Degree of adventure: 5/10 if you walk, 8/10 if you go down the canyon route.

8. Suligad Waterfalls, Dolpa, Tibet

Aerial view of Suligad Falls surrounded by Himalayan relief in Tibet
The tallest waterfall in Tibet: trip of a lifetime © Grant Dixon / Getty Images
Aerial view of the bright blue Phoksundo Lake in Nepal
The jewel-like Holy lake of Phoksundo © Grant Dixon / Getty Images

What: Tallest waterfall in the Himalayas, near an intense cyan lake

The adventure: This one should be on any adventurer and waterfall lover’s bucket list: the eight- to 31-day trek (depending on the tour options, most of them being around 13) through Nepal’s highlands brings you to see not only the deepest lake in the Himalayas, the Holy Phoksundo Lake, but also to the highest waterfall in Nepal, the Suligad Falls. At 167m, the falls are a nice reward for this off-the-beaten-path trek. The region only opened to tourists in 1989, which means that you can still truly experience the pure local Bonpo and Tibetan Buddhist cultures. Camp or stay at a local villager’s house: the choice is yours and will vary on which guide you decide to take. But no matter how hard the trek, the breathtaking landscape and interesting wildlife sightings will make this the adventure of a lifetime.

Degree of adventure: 7/10

 

We would like to say a massive thankyou to the World Waterfall Database and its founder, Bryan Swan, for his significant help finding info and fantastic waterfalls for this article.

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