The crashing waters of Angel, Niagara, Victoria and Iguazu falls attract thousands of tourists each year, but there are plenty of smaller, lesser-known cascades to explore across the globe. ‘90s girl group TLC once sang ‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls’ – but in this case, we think you should.
Krka National Park, Croatia
The 72km Krka River and waterfalls are a popular rival to the Plitvice Lakes further north, and the Skradinski Buk is the largest of a series of waterfalls dropping down towards Skradin in 17 steps.
Wooden walkways and forest paths lead you around the waterfalls. At the bottom there’s an excellent opportunity to swim at the base of the falls, so if you’re here in summer bring your beachwear.
Sipi Falls, Uganda
The 99m-high waterfall is overlooked by the small trading centre of Sipi and is the last in the series of three picturesque falls formed by the Sipi River.
There are several day-walking possibilities in the area, including a lovely hike from the main waterfall to the three smaller falls that lie upstream, one of which has a tempting swimming pool at its base.
The wide white waterfalls of Goðafoss come as a bit of a surprise, even if you can see the mist rising from a distance. In the midst of the flat, rocky landscape, a gorge of columnar basalt suddenly opens up, causing the Skjálfandafljót River to tumble in a loud rush.
The semicircular falls are not only impressive for their height (12m), but also for their width (over 30m) and the massive volume of clear water that shoots from the edge.
Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia
About 35km downstream from Lake Tana, the Blue Nile plunges over a 45m-high rock face to form one of Africa’s most spectacular waterfalls, known locally as Tis Isat (Water that Smokes).
The 18th-century Scottish traveller James Bruce, though not the first European to visit the site (that distinction probably belongs to the 16th-century Portuguese priest Joao Bermudes) famously described the Blue Nile Falls as:
‘A magnificent sight, that ages, added to the greatest length of human life, would not efface or eradicate from my memory; it struck me with a kind of stupor, and a total oblivion of where I was, and of every other sublunary concern’.
Bruce’s description still rings true at the height of the rains (late July to early October), when the sedate 160m-wide river above the waterfall kicks up a thunderous head of spray before being channelled into a narrow frothing 20m-wide gorge.
Pliva Waterfall, Bosnia
Locals claim this waterfall in Jajce is amongst the 12 most beautiful in the world. It is most definitely stunning and it gives Jajce its most unique brand.
In the centre of the town, it cascades 21m into the Vrbas River. The best view for a photograph is from the bridge at the southwestern entrance to Jajce from the Donji Vakuf direction.
Epupa Falls, Namibia
Though visitors go to Kaokoland more for the whole experience than any individual sight, Epupa Falls is one of its highlights. Here at Epupa the river widens to accommodate a few small islands, before plunging into a geological fault. This is 35m deep in places and, as the river is sizeable – at least in the early months of the year – it makes a lot of noise and some spray.
The falls don’t compare with Victoria Falls in scale, but they are all the more beautiful for occurring in such an arid region. Add to the scene a phalanx of watchful baobabs, many balancing improbably on precarious rocks above the chasms, or standing forlornly on the small islands in the stream. It’s a magical spot.
Sari Sari Falls, Dominica
This is a very impressive waterfall located on the Sari Sari River behind the east-coast village of La Plaine. The hike to the waterfall is fairly challenging as half of it is in the river itself.
You have to negotiate rocks, boulders, cascades and pools. Though it is not especially far, the terrain is difficult, making this a hike for the adventurous.
Wli Falls, Ghana
The showpiece of Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary, which lies on the Togolese border east of Hohoe, the waterfall at Wli is reputedly the tallest in West Africa, and certainly among the most spectacular.
It’s also the site of one of Ghana‘s most memorable wildlife phenomena: the straw-coloured fruit bat colony that lives on the cliffs next to the waterfall.
As you approach the waterfall, the roar of plunging water often vies with their high-pitched chirping, and it’s awesome to be there towards dusk, when tens of thousands of these ecologically important creatures take wing to start their nocturnal foraging.