From Austria to Italy, these cascades are worth traveling for.
Thundering masses of water, white sprays, fine mists, plays of light, and imposing rocky landscapes: waterfalls demonstrate the mighty forces as well as the beauty and diversity of nature, not to forget the meditative effect of the constantly rushing and foaming water creating a feeling of inner peace. Here are 11 waterfalls in Europe that you absolutely must visit.
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In the Hohe Tauern National Park, the superlatives just pelt down: the Krimml Waterfalls are considered the largest in Europe, the most impressive in the Alps, and one of the ten most popular sights in Austria. The Krimmler Ache plunges 1246 feet into the depths over three waterfall stages – surrounded by wildly romantic mountain scenery. This spectacle not only takes one’s breath away but also enables people with health problems to breathe freely again. The extraordinarily fine spray mist is said to be able to relieve the symptoms of hay fever, allergy, and asthma with its tiny, negatively charged water droplets. Throughout the 15-minute climb from the car park, you might think you hear a growling dragon behind every bend. When you reach the peak, a hike through the valley to the 600-year-old Krimmler Tauernhaus tavern is a good idea.
Height alone isn’t everything when it comes to waterfalls, it’s the volume of water that matters. That is why the Rheinfall near Schaffhausen can call itself Europe’s largest waterfall – with a drop depth of only 75 feet. But over a width of 492 feet, record-breaking amounts of water of up to 264.172 gallons per second tumble down the Rhine River at peak times. Best of all, visitors can get up close to the spectacle–by boat or on a guided canoe tour.
INSIDER TIPThose who don’t want to get wet can go to the viewing terrace at Laufen Castle and enjoy the unique scenery from there.
The waterfall paradise on the European continent is called Norway. In this mountainous country in Scandinavia, there are many impressive cascades. Highlights include the three highest waterfalls in Europe and the Valley of Waterfalls. In western Norway, high up in the mountains, lies Vøringsfossen. The waterfall, which plunges more than 600 feet into the depths, is considered one of the most beautiful and popular in the country. And it’s easily accessible: The one-hour hike leads over a suspension bridge and stone scree up and down through the mountains to a new viewing platform. Here, at last, everyone’s breath is taken away when the gigantic masses of water plunge from the Hardangervidda plateau into the valley.
In the far northwest of Europe, Iceland beckons with wonderful water features: Geysers, hot springs, and countless waterfalls. “Foss” means waterfall in Icelandic. It’s difficult to decide which is the most impressive. Seljalandsfoss, in the south of the island, is considered one of the most beautiful on the planet. As difficult as its name may sound, everyone knows the origin of the 216-foot-high waterfall: It feeds from the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, whose ash-rich eruptions in 2010 paralyzed air traffic over Europe. Hiking explorers and adventurers can walk around Seljalandsfoss and along the rocks at the back – gazing through the huge veil of water to the vastness of Iceland. In the evening, the colors of the water glow so intensely that the surroundings look like a fairy-tale landscape.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen not only boasts Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze but also several other natural wonders, such as the Partnachklamm Gorge or the Höllentalklamm Gorge. But only very few people know about the Kuhflucht waterfalls in the Ester Mountains near Farchant. With a total drop of about 885 feet, the three Kuhflucht Falls are among the highest in Germany. The water of this majestic natural spectacle comes from a plateau between the Bavarian mountains Krottenkopf and Simetsberg, where it rises from several karst springs. This insider tip can be reached on a one-hour hike along the forest adventure trail.
Cascate del Mulino
About 62 miles south of Florence lies the village of Saturnia. Here lies a natural spa that is not only one of the most popular but also one of the oldest in Tuscany. The Romans already appreciated the benefits of the warm water and built here the “Bagno secco,” whose ruins can still be visited today. The Cascate del Mulino are waterfalls that pour water from the Saturnia springs into natural thermal fields, which are open to visitors all year round, free of charge and around the clock.
INSIDER TIPVisitors can bathe in the water even in winter without any problems as it has a constant temperature of 99.5 Fahrenheit
The Plitvice Lakes National Park in the hilly Karst region in the heart of Croatia is fascinating, with 16 lakes and even more waterfalls. The most spectacular waterfall can be reached from the entrance of the UNESCO World Heritage Park in the direction of Lake Galovac. The path leads past numerous small cascades to Veliki Slap, which means “Great Waterfall.” At around 255 feet, Veliki Slap is also the largest waterfall in Croatia. It is located in the lowest part of the turquoise lakes, and its roar and gurgling can be heard from afar.
The valley that lies north of Merano features gigantic waterfalls in the Passerschlucht Gorge. A hike of about three hours, which is well-developed with bridges and footbridges, leads via the village of Moos to the imposing Stuller waterfalls. In two cascades, the falls tumble over vertical rock walls down to the Passer River. With drop heights of 754 and 367 feet, they are among the highest waterfalls in Europe. If you don’t want to go that far, you can walk from Moos along a footpath to the wooden viewing bridges at the Stieber waterfall. Here, the Pfelderer stream rushes first over a 62-foot-high step, then several 59-foot-high steps into the Passer River.
The waterfalls belong to the Knivsflå rivers, which rise above the Geirangerfjord and are fed by meltwater. Therefore, the sight is particularly impressive at the time of snowmelt (May to July). The waterfalls are called “The Seven Sisters” because, from a distance, they look like the hair braids of seven women. The waterfalls can be admired particularly well from a boat, but the view is also worthwhile from the opposite shore of the fjord.
Gullfoss (the “Golden Waterfall”) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and popular natural sights. Located in the gorge of the Hvítá River, it is about two hours drive from the capital, Reykjavik. The waters of the Hvítá River originate from the Langjökull glacier before plummeting 104 feet down the twin steps of Gullfoss in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power. This incredible site is visited by most travelers who choose the Golden Circle sightseeing route. Due to the two stages of the waterfall, Gullfoss should actually be considered two separate elements. The first, shorter cascade is 36 feet high, while the second fall is 68 feet. The canyon walls on either side of the waterfall reach heights of up to 229 feet and descend into the large Gullfossgjúfur canyon. Geologists believe this canyon was formed by glacial melting at the beginning of the last ice age.
Njupeskär, with 305 feet total height and a free fall of 229 feet, is the highest (not largest by water volume) waterfall in Sweden. It is located in the Swedish province of Dalarna in the Fulufjället National Park near the border with Norway. It is fed by the small stream “Njupån,” which flows into the Fuluälven. This waterfall is a fascinating sight at any time of the year. In winter, it is especially popular with ice climbers, who then want to climb the frozen waterfall.