South America is one of the most diverse continents on earth. From barren deserts to lush rainforests and the mighty Amazon River, a plethora of natural wonders are hidden all over the place. As such, it probably comes as little surprise that many of the world’s most epic waterfalls are in South America too.
For many travellers, a visit to one of South America’s waterfalls will be a highlight of their trip. But with so many breathtaking falls scattered across the continent, how do you prioritise which ones to visit? If you’re looking for the best of the best, you’ll find them here.
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11 Awesome Waterfalls in South America
1. Iguazú Falls
- Height: 82 m (269ft)
- Country: Argentina/Brazil
- Access point: Puerto Iguazú, Argentina/Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
Perhaps the most famous of all South American waterfalls, despite not actually being the biggest, is Iguazú Falls (also spelt Iguaçu Falls). Perched on the border between two countries; Brazil and Argentina, a visit here is a bucket list dream for many. Although the falls can also be accessed from Paraguay, you can’t actually see the waterfall there. Instead, you’ll need to travel to Brazil or Argentina.
Iguazú Falls is twice as wide as the famous Niagara Falls and arguably even more impressive with over 275 cascades! Half of the river’s flow plunges into the abyss that is nicknamed the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo).
There are a number of boardwalks which allow you to get incredible views of the cascades and a boat trip will take you into the thick of the action. Ignore the guidebooks and accept you will get wet – your experience will be all the richer for it!
March, April and September are arguably the best time to visit Iguazu Waterfall. This is because temperatures are milder around this time the falls are still quite full. Although the waterfall can be accessed from both Brazil and Argentina, travellers usually opt to visit from the Argentinian side because you’re able to get closer.
How to get there: To get to Iguazú Falls in Argentina, you can either fly or take a bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú, the jumping-off point for trips. If you are visiting from Brazil, you can also fly or take the bus from notable cities such as Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
2. Yumbilla Falls
Peru’s Amazonas region is home to several tumbling waterfalls. However, some attract a lot of visitors! If you are looking to pay homage to one of nature’s wonders free of crowds, don’t miss Yumbilla Falls.
Accessed from the city of Chachapoyas, it is possible to visit this waterfall either with a guide or independently. However, the trail is not well-marked and it would be easy to get lost without local knowledge.
Yumbilla Falls is the second-ftallest waterfall in Peru and the fifth highest in the entire world. With a drop of nearly 900 metres, it is all but impossible to imagine the deafening pounding noise created at the bottom!
The hike to the waterfall begins in Cuispes and should take around three and a half hours. Yumbilla is best visited towards the end of the rainy season (around April to May) as the paths will be less slippery, yet the falls are still full.
How to get there: From Chachapoyas, jump on a bus or collectivo to Pedro Ruiz. From there, you’ll need to hop on a mototaxi the short distance to Cuispes where the hike begins.
3. Caracol Falls
- Height: 130 m (426 ft)
- Country: Brazil
- Access point: Canela
Nestled in Caracol State Park, this amazing cascade is undoubtedly one of the best waterfalls in South America. It is the second most visited natural attraction in Brazil (after Iguaçu National Park) and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Fed by the Caracol River, the torrent of water crashes over the basalt cliffs before plunging into the Vale da Lageana. The base of the waterfall can be accessed via a steep hiking trail, however, if you don’t fancy the walk you can instead take the cable car which stops at three different levels for incredible 360 views.
Don’t just visit this 25-hectare state park for the falls though. There are a variety of nature trails that wind around the area and offer visitors the opportunity to see exciting wildlife such as coatis and monkeys!
How to get there: Buses leave from the town of Canela twice a day to head to the Caracol State Park. There is an entry fee for the national park of approximately R$20 per person (around $4USD).
4. Pailón del Diablo
Situated on the road between Baños and Puyo, Pailón del Diablo is popularly accessed along the Ruta de las Cascadas. This epic ribbon of road connects the two cities and is a popular cycling route for travellers.
Also known as the Devil’s Cauldron, Pailón del Diablo benefits from a constant water supply year-round, coming from Rio Pastaza. This means that no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be impressed by the plunging falls.
There is an entrance fee to access this waterfall, something that is not unusual in Ecuador. Despite this, at around $2USD per person, it certainly won’t break the bank! Once you’ve paid the entrance fee, you can access the winding staircase which hugs the cliff. This route provides breathtaking views. If you don’t mind getting wet, follow the cliffs uphill for a closer view where you can really feel the power of the falls.
How to get there: You can access Pailón del Diablo by cycling the Ruta de las Cascadas from Baños or Puyo. Local buses also head to the falls from Baños and are very cheap, however, they won’t stop along the way. Alternatively, you can opt for a tour.
5. Salto Grande
While there is no denying that Salto Grande is a very pretty waterfall, if you were to pluck it out of its setting and move it elsewhere, it wouldn’t make this list. It is the dramatic backdrop of the sensational Torres del Paine National Park that really sets off this view.
To get to Salto Grande, you’ll have to complete a short hike which offers amazing views of the surrounding wild landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for guanacos, these wild camelids are regularly spotted en route to the falls.
Although this waterfall isn’t particularly tall, the turquoise flow gushes into Lago Pehoé below with immense force, making it arguably the most impressive waterfall in the whole national park. It is a great attraction to visit year-round, however, you’ll avoid the bulk of the crowds during September and October.
How to get there: You can access Salto Grande by vehicle or on foot. If you want to hike, follow the signposts from the car park and don’t forget to pack lots of layers – the weather can change quickly here! Alternatively, travellers can visit the waterfall on an organised tour.
6. Kaieteur Falls
- Height: 226 m (741 ft)
- Country: Guyana
- Access point: Georgetown
Compared to many of the other countries in South America, Guyana sees far fewer visitors. It really shouldn’t though, this beautiful country has so much to offer adventurous travellers. Known for its lush rainforest and sugarcane plantations, Guyana is nicknamed the ‘Land of Many Waters’.
In keeping with this theme, it makes sense that Kaieteur Falls is one of the country’s biggest attractions. This single-drop waterfall is around twice the height of the mighty Victoria Falls and is one of the most powerful on the continent.
Popularly visited on an organised tour as a day trip, there is also the option to take on a multi-day trek to reach this rushing waterfall. The walk is tough but well worth the effort – it even made our list of amazing hikes in South America!
Owing to its location in the heart of Kaieteur National Park, this waterfall also doubles up as an incredible destination in which to spot rare and exotic wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for peccaries, frogs, swifts and even jaguar!
How to get there: Most people will visit Kaieteur Falls on a day trip. This means flying into Kaieteur International Airport. The alternative way to reach the falls is by journeying overland. This will take around five days.
7. Cachoeira da Fumaça
- Height: 340 m (1,120 ft)
- Country: Brazil
- Access point: Lençóis
Located in the incredible Chapada Diamantina National Park, Cachoeira da Fumaça is one of its premier attractions. This white frothy waterfall has been known about by the locals for years, however, it only began to garner international attention after pilot George Glass ‘discovered’ it in 1960. This earnt it the nickname ‘Glass Waterfall’.
Its more common name, Cachoeira da Fumaça, literally translates to ‘Smoke Waterfall’. As the waterfall is so tall, the wind easily catches it on its journey down, whipping up a cloud of mist. This creates the effect of the waterfall blowing upwards, resulting in a smoke-like visual.
Cachoeira da Fumaça is one of Brazil’s tallest waterfalls and is a popular attraction with intrepid travellers. As the waterfall is located in Chapada Diamantina National Park, a guide is recommended for the hike.
November to March is the rainy season. It can be frustrating to hike around this time of year but the benefit is that the waterfalls are really full.
How to get there: Guided tours into Chapada Diamantina can be booked in advance or arranged once you arrive in Lençóis.
8. Gocta Falls
- Height: 771 m (2,530 ft)
- Country: Peru
- Access point: Chachapoyas
Once a hidden gem, Gocta Waterfall has seen a rapid increase in visitors over recent years. Although this two-tiered waterfall has been known locally for centuries, its ‘discovery’ by a German economist in 2002 resulted in international fame.
Long kept a secret by the local people, it was believed that a mermaid lived in the plunge pool at the bottom of the waterfall and guarded a pot of gold. Old superstitions told them that she would curse anyone who spoke openly about the waterfall and its location.
Although you shouldn’t expect anywhere near the number of people that you’ll see at Machu Picchu, Peru’s premier waterfall is welcoming more and more visitors all the time. There is no bad time to see Gocta Falls but the best time is commonly agreed to be between April and June. This is the tail end of the rainy season which means the waterfall will be impressive but your visit shouldn’t be too damp!
How to get there: Most travellers head to Gocta Waterfall from the jungle town of Chachapoyas. You can visit independently by taking a collectivo to Cocachimba which is the start point of the hike to the falls. Alternatively, head there on an organised tour from Chachapoyas.
9. Angel Falls
- Height: 979 m (3,212 ft)
- Country: Venezuela
- Access point: Canaima
Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in South America and the tallest ‘uninterrupted’ waterfall in the entire world. Located in an isolated jungle within UNESCO World Heritage Site Canaima National Park, the falls are the best-known tourist attraction in Venezuela.
Fun fact! Angel Falls is the inspiration for Paradise Falls in the hit Disney Pixar movie ‘Up’. Check out this post for more films about South America that you should watch!
Named after Jimmie Angel, the US pilot who flew over them in the mid 20th-century, Angel Falls translates in Spanish to Salto Angel. However, there has been recent conversation about whether the name should be changed back to its original indigenous name.
Once called Kerepakupai-Merú, the indigenous name literally means ‘Waterfall of the Deepest Place’. Although there has been increased attention in recent years about the naming of Angel Falls, no one in power has officially declared the name changed.
How to get there: Venezuela is sadly known for its political instability which has rendered it unsafe to visit in recent years. This means that getting to Angel Falls is no easy feat. The most popular way of seeing the falls is to arrange a package tour in Caracas. Transport, accommodation and guide will likely be included in the price.
10. Cataratas El Jardin de las Delicias
Cataratas El Jardin de las Delicias are somewhat of a hidden gem in Bolivia. This isn’t to say that nobody knows about these waterfalls – the locals are very aware that this idyllic paradise is just a stone’s throw from their backyard. However, limited public infrastructure has led to access difficulties which make it near on impossible to get here without the assistance of an experienced 4×4 driver.
Located on the fringes of Amboro National Park, the diverse forests in this area offer the perfect break from the city. July to November is the best time to visit. In fact, if you are travelling outside of these months, you may find it impossible to access. During the rainy season, many of the river crossings become impassable, even in a 4×4.
There are many beautiful waterfalls in this area, however, the one pictured above is arguably the best known. On a visit here you can hike around the surrounding area, rappel down the waterfalls (only recommended for the experienced) or swim in the turquoise pools below.
How to get there: The best way to access El Jardin de las Delicias if you are a visitor is to hop on a tour. A few different tour companies based in Santa Cruz de la Sierra offer trips here but Nicks Adventures is by far the best.
11. Tequendama Falls
Easily the most famous waterfall in Colombia, Tequendama Falls (Salto del Tequendama) is located southwest of the capital Bogotá. While the waterfall is undoubtedly beautiful, a darker history lies behind it.
Unfortunately, the Bogotá River that feeds the waterfall is believed to be one of the most contaminated in the entire world. Increasing amounts of sewage have ended up in the river over recent years due to inadequate plans to tackle waste disposal. Tequendama Falls is also the chosen spot for many suicides in the local area.
If you can get past the grisly background of this waterfall, the spectacle can still be appreciated. Head to the historic building opposite for a great view and also to learn more about the falls and local area at the Tequendama Museum, housed inside.
During the month of December, this waterfall runs pretty much dry. The best time to visit is between March to May or September to November as this is when the water volume is at its highest.
How to get there: You can hop on a local bus from Bogotá to reach Tequenama Falls. The journey will take around an hour. Find accommodation in Bogotá!
Would you add any other South American waterfalls to our list? Let us know what they are in the comments!