The Best Known Waterfalls in South America

The fourth-largest continent is home to some of the biggest and most dramatic natural wonders on the planet. And the waterfalls in South America are no exception. Dive in to learn more.

Travel and Exploration
21 March 2023

South America is known for its rich natural heritage, from the vast expanse of the Amazon rainforest to the snow-capped Andes mountains. Among the continent’s many environmental wonders are its stunning waterfalls.

South American waterfalls are some of the most spectacular in the world, each with its own unique features and characteristics. In this article, we’ll explore the best-known waterfalls in South America, including those of Brazil, Argentina, Guyana, Venezuela and more. So let’s plunge right in, starting with one of the most famous waterfalls of South America.

Iguazu Falls | Argentina-Brazil Border

Iguazu Falls (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)

Amongst the most famous waterfalls of South America, Iguazu Falls is actually a collection of over 275 falls that straddle the border between Brazil and Argentina. The name “Iguazu” means “big water” in the Guarani language, and it’s certainly an apt description for this natural wonder. Iguazu Falls is a combination of block and cascade waterfalls, and the total drop height is approximately 269 feet. The flow rate varies throughout the year, but it can reach up to 450,000 cubic feet per second during the rainy season. Iguazu Falls is located on the Iguazu River and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s said to attract over one million visitors every year.

Kaieteur Falls | Guyana

Kaieteur Falls (Photo: Tim Snell via Getty Images)

Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Kaieteur Falls is one of the most remote and isolated waterfalls in South America. It is a plunge waterfall that drops approximately 741 feet, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the region. The flow rate is around 23,000 cubic feet per second, and the width of the falls is around 370 feet. Kaieteur Falls is located on the Potaro River and is surrounded by pristine rainforest.

Angel Falls | Venezuela

Angel falls (Photo: FabioFilzi via Getty Images)

The indigenous name of this waterfall is “Kerepakupai-Merú” or “waterfall of the deepest place”. However, after American aviator Jimmie Angel crashed atop it in 1933, it became known to the wider world as Angel Falls, or Salto Angel in Spanish. As well as the tallest waterfall in South America, Angel Falls is most commonly cited as the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. This is based on the accepted drop figure of approximately 3,212 feet from the top of Auyán-tepui mountain, although some dispute this measurement. Angel Falls is located on the Carrao River and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Despite being difficult to reach, it’s among the most popular attractions in Venezuela.

Gocta Waterfall | Peru

Gocta waterfall (Photo: Krimi M / 500px via Getty Images)

Gocta Waterfall, also known as Gocta Cataracts and Catarata del Gocta, is a horsetail waterfall located in the Amazonas region of Peru. It drops approximately 2,530 feet in two plunges and has a flow rate of around 200 cubic feet per second. The falls are located on the Cocahuayco River and are surrounded by lush rainforest.

Laja Falls | Chile

Laja Falls (Photo: Paula Aravena V via Getty Images)

Laja Falls, also known as Salto del Laja, is a spectacular horseshoe-type waterfall along the Laja River and located in the Biobio region of Chile. Made up of four falls ranging in height from 65 to 114 feet, the falls are surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery.

Salto Grande | Chile

Salto Grande ( Photo: Christian Peters / EyeEm via Getty Images)

At no higher than 50 feet, Salto Grande on the Paine River is no contender for the title of tallest waterfall in South America, but its turquoise waters and powerful flow certainly make it stand out. Located in the UNESCO-listed Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, it’s elevated further by its staggering surroundings of mountains and lakes.

Salto de Bordones | Colombia

Salto de Bordones (Photo: AscentXmedia via Getty Images)

Salto de Bordones is a beautiful plunge waterfall located in the Huila department of Colombia. The falls drop approximately 1,312 feet and are one of the tallest waterfalls in South America. Located on the Bordones River, Salto de Bordones is surrounded by lush tropical rainforest.

The Most Famous Waterfalls of South America

Salto Grande waterfall (Photo: Adria Photography via Getty Images)

As we reach the end of our exploration of waterfalls in South America, it’s clear that this corner of the world is brimming with these natural wonders, which rank among the most picturesque places on the continent.


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