You’ve heard of Niagara, Victoria and all the other record-breakers, but what about the world’s lesser-known waterfalls? You might have to go further off-the-beaten-track to find them but there’s nothing like emerging into a clearing in the jungle to find pools of calm, jade-green water. Or taking a boat trip to a cascade in Russia's Altai Mountains. Read on to discover the best hidden waterfalls around the world, according to global travellers.*
Rainforest cascade Japan
Trek through dense jungle to hidden waterfalls, on the subtropical Yaeyama Islands
A land of extremes; while 90% of Iriomote is thick tropical rainforest and mangrove swamp, the rest is so sparsely populated that it feels amazingly intrepid. It’s one of the subtropical Yaeyama Islands in southwestern Japan – albeit closer to Taiwan. Take a guided trek or kayak (or a combination) through the dense jungle to the island’s slender and pristine waterfalls, the Kampire-no-taki, the Mariudo-no-taki and the tallest, the Pinaisara-no-taki. Approaching the falls by kayak, paddling through pea-green water and vines to reach glistening rocks and water vapour glinting in the sunlight, has a real adventurous thrill to it. If you prefer to hike, you can look forward to some local pork soba as a lunch with a view at the top. Irumoteso Guesthouse has a palm tree-filled garden on the island with sea views.
Desert Oasis in Morocco
Ouzoud Falls feels like a mirage in the middle of the desert
Even the short drive to from Marrakech to Ouzoud Falls, through desert, past palm groves and the Grand Atlas Mountains, is a spectacle. And then you arrive at the tiered cascade flowing over umber rock with greenery all around. You can take a 10 DH boat ride straight underneath the mouth of the waterfall and get absolutely drenched by the thundering water (remember to leave your phone with your guide), before swimming in the waterfall pool while wild macaque monkeys watch from the rocks. Riad Romance is a traditional Moroccan riad in the heart of Marrakech.
Rocky gorges in South Africa
The sensational Augrabies Falls at sunset
The Augrabies Falls in South Africa shares its name with the surrounding national park, a region of rocky gorges, sun-seared, spikey quiver trees (native succulents), ochre earth and the fast-flowing, fittingly-named Orange River. The river splits in several directions before plunging down a 60 metre-high cascade, causing the indigenous Khoi to call this place Aukoerebis, meaning ‘place of great noise’. Watch this impressive display from one of various viewing decks and visit in the evening to see the Falls illuminated from 8-10pm. Check into the highly rated, nearby Palmhof Chalets.
Fairy-tale forest falls in Bulgaria
The ethereally peaceful Krushuna Falls
With terraced pools of jade-green water, gathering at its base and a gentle white noise generated by the cascade, Krushuna Falls is an ethereal kind of place. In the middle of the Bulgarian forest, lit by dappled sunlight, you can take a dip in the mineral water, which has been found to have a healing power for skin conditions and various other ailments. Or explore the mossy rocks, caves and stepping stones, perhaps climbing to the top of the 20 metre-high waterfall to have a picnic lunch at the top. Stay in rural comfort at Guest House Bigora.
Lakeside falls in Russia
Cross Teletskoe Lake by boat to get to Korbu Waterfall
Though Russia's Korbu Waterfall in the Altai Mountains isn’t particularly enormous or unusual, the boat trips that take you across Teletskoe Lake are a wonderful experience. Choose between a fast, powerful boat or bigger, leisurely-paced craft (the difference is a few hours in length) and enjoy passing through this region of superb natural beauty. After anchoring ashore, you’ll get to explore the lakeside area around the falls and taste some local fare from the food stalls dotted around. Stay in a wooden chalet in the woods at Usad'ba v ghorakh.
Amazonian waterfalls in Brazil
The ‘Terra de Cachoeiras’ (Land of Waterfalls) in Brazil
Near the small town of Presidente Figueiredo in Brazil, you’ll find myriad tropical waterfalls. Known as the ‘Terra de Cachoeiras’ (Land of Waterfalls), visitors can hike through this piece of Amazonian paradise, visiting a selection of caves and cascades; the most popular being Sanctuary Waterfall, with its moss-covered rocks, whitewater and jungle surrounds, and Iracema Waterfall, where you can swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Stay at Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari and spend the evening in a hammock on your private wooden verandah.
Alpine falls in Switzerland
The Rhine Falls is Europe's largest waterfall
Mainland Europe’s largest waterfall, Rhine Falls in the Swiss town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall has 700,000 litres of water flow over it per second. There are a few viewing points to witness the water ferociously roaring over the 150 metre-wide, 23 metre-high precipice. The most popular is the ‘Känzeli’ observation platform on the left shore, which you can access through Laufen Castle, or you can take a boat trip but be warned – you will get wet. Stay in Guesthouse Les Mignardises, a flower-covered, timbered historic building close to the Rhine Falls.
**The data analysts at Booking.com looked at endorsements for ‘waterfall’ by Booking.com customers.