When the old tourist route doesn’t quite do it, taking the path less traveled is a definite motivation for anyone with an adventurous mind. How many times have you heard about a waterfall, then got there only to realize that it wasn't the remote, secret spot you were hoping for? But with the waterfalls listed below, you might be lucky if you even make it all the way there.
1. Sutherland Falls, Southland, New Zealand
What: New Zealand’s highest waterfall — 1,900 feet
The adventure: To reach Sutherland Falls, it requires a four-day hike on New Zealand’s famous Milford Trail. The 32-mile walk will take you across suspension bridges, boardwalks and a mountain pass in the Fiordland National Park. You'll stay in lodges along the way and just might experience some real life magic.
Degree of adventure: 5/10
2. Kaieteur Falls, Mazaruni Potaro, Guyana
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. The rare combination of a tall waterfall and a high-volume river make for an absolutely stunning, almost surreal view. If you happen to see one of the tiny golden frogs 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
What: A very remote waterfall in Northern Quebec
The adventure: A monthlong, 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, Northwest 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 is 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 which choice you make, the view's definitely worth it. This big waterfall slides down a lengthy stretch of rapids and small drops before splitting around a giant 300-foot-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
What: (Arguably) the tallest waterfall in the world, at 3,200 feet, 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, which is 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 vantage from which they were first seen by Jimmie Angel, a U.S. aviator who gave 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
What: The tallest waterfall in the Arctic Circle (1,700 feet) 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 alone deters many — over $3,000 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
What: A 2,375-foot-high waterfall in the middle of the jungle, including a 1,000-foot 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 decide to join the party, you're 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. Suli Gad Waterfalls, Dolpa, Tibet
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, Suli Gad Falls. At 550 feet, 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 choose. 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 thank you to the World Waterfall Database and its founder, Bryan Swan, for his significant help finding info and fantastic waterfalls for this article.