Tumbling torrents, foaming falls, cascading cataracts, and plunges into pixie-like pools, perfect for swimming in after a long, waterfall-chasing hike. Asia’s vast and diverse landscapes are home to a wide selection of wonder-inducing waterfalls, from the tranquil trickles of Japan’s Nunobiki to the thunderous power of India’s Unchalli.
Here, we share a small snapshot of our favorite falls on the continent, including where to find them, how to access them, their origins, and what makes them unique. Here are the 20 most incredible waterfalls in Asia.
The name Detian aptly translates to “Virtuous Heaven” in Chinese, but if you visit from the Vietnamese side, you’ll know this waterfall as Ban Gioc (“Half-Way Across.”) Lying on the border between the two countries, the three-tiered falls can be visited by bamboo raft, which offers gorgeous views of lush greenery and dramatic karsts.
Detian is Asia’s largest transnational waterfall, with a fall of approximately 60 meters down, fuelled by the rushing waters of the Guichun River. For most of the year, the falls are split into two streams but flow together during summer’s rainy season. The limestone around the falls is slowly eroding, moving the falls upstream.
The “Yellow-Fruit Tree” falls of China’s Guizhou province lie around 45 kilometers from the city of Anshun. Huangguoshu’s 77.8-meter cascades can be seen from different angles, ideal for photographers looking for silky long-exposure captures. At the Waterfall-Viewing Pavilion (Guan Bao ting) the waterfall can be seen from a distance, at the Water-Viewing Stage (Guan Bao Ting) you’ll enjoy a view from above, and at the Waterfall-Viewing Stage (Guan Bao Tai) you are looking up at the pouring torrents.
One of the largest waterfalls in the country and in East Asia in general, the falls also provide a curtain to a naturally-formed cave behind the cascades. This cave is said to be the home of Sun Wukong, the hero from the story Journey to the West.
Japan’s twin waterfalls, Hannoki and Shomyo, are separated and reunited each year in a natural cycle. The tallest waterfall in the country, Shomyo drops through four stages to a total of 350 meters. Shomyo’s neighbor, Hannoki, is the country’s tallest seasonal waterfall, tumbling 497 meters.
Hannoki is fed by the melting snow of the Midagahara plateau, which flows to join Shomyo between April and July in a pleasing V-shape. Visit during Koyo (fall’s leaf-changing season) or Sakura (spring’s cherry-blossom season) for the most picturesque views.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nachi waterfall is the tallest in the country that has a single, uninterrupted drop. Two rocks at the top of the scenic waterfall are the guardian kami of the nearby Shinto shrine and every morning, a Shinto priest makes an offering to the falls. Many important historical artifacts have also been found around the waterfall – such as a Sutra mound holding statues, mirrors, altar fittings, and Sutra cylinders – with some dating back as far as the 10th century.
Sadly, the 133-meter drop has another reputation, as many “shugenja” (those who practice the pre-Buddhist Japanese religion of Shugendo) and star-crossed lovers have jumped from the top of the waterfall, believing that they will be reborn in paradise.
The so-called “Little Niagara of Taiwan” is Shifen Falls, named for one of the original families who lived in the Pingxi District of New Taipei City. The falls are fed by the Keelung River, and the water actually flows in the opposite direction from the sloped rocks that create the waterfall.
Shifen has a modest drop of 20 meters, but at 40 meters wide, the falls are the broadest in the country. Another picturesque feature of this waterfall is the riverbed, which is marked by potholes formed by the uneven flow of the river. These potholes create swirling vortexes, which trap passing rocks and making them spin or carve holes.
Known as Chutes de Khone, or Khone Falls, these Mekong cascades are found in an area of Laos called Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands). Although little Laos is landlocked, the country more than makes up for its lack of coastline with these stunning river rapids.
The falls are the widest in Asia and thought to be the widest in the world, stretching over 10,782 meters. This made for a formidable obstacle for those trying to use the Mekong to get to China and historic efforts to navigate through the falls all failed.
Located on Jeju Island, the chilly torrents of Cheonjeyeon flow out of the ceiling of a cave. Tumbling down three tiers of cliffs and 73 meters, the water eventually flows out to the ocean. The rich forest environment around the falls is also noted for its rare plants, which thrive in tiny rock crevices.
The name Cheonjeyeon translates as “Pond of the Emperor of Heaven,” and according to legend, seven nymphs come down from heaven to bathe in the waterfall’s pond each night. On alternate (even) years, the Chilseonyeo (Seven Nymphs) Festival is held here in the month of May. What’s more, locals believe that standing under the falls waterfall on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month can cure diseases, however swimming in the falls’ pools is prohibited.
The tallest waterfall in India also has the saddest story. Nohkalikai is named for a local Cherrapunji legend, in which a village woman throws herself over the falls upon discovering she has been tricked into eating her infant daughter by her jealous second husband. Despite the tragic tale, the powerful falls can’t help but inspire with their vivid turquoise lagoon and evergreen forest setting.
Nohkalikai plunges an incredible 340 meters into a pool of green, fuelled by rainwater collected at the top of the plateau. The falls’ location near Cherrapunji is one of the wettest places on Earth, so there’s plenty of flow for most of the year, however, the falls are a lot smaller during the dry season between December and February.
Found on the digital-nomad-yoga-vegan haven of Bali, Indonesia, Gitgit Waterfall is one of the island’s many attractions of natural beauty. Located in the north of Bali, between the old capital of Singaraja and the village of Munduk, the waterfall is accessed via a rocky walking trail – a dip in the natural swimming pools are a great motivation for this jungle hike.
If you’re heading up to the north of Bali or staying on the northern coast at Lovina, then you may like to explore the region’s many waterfalls by scooter (alternatively you can hire a driver if you’re nervous about riding a scooter yourself). Other falls in the area to chase include Sekumpul, Aling Aling, Leke Leke, and Nungnung.
Northeast of Antalya, Turkey (yes, Turkey is in Asia – Google it), Düden Falls are gorgeous cascades that unfortunately have a less-than-gorgeous origin story, as they are formed by the local recycling station. You can see the falls best from the Mediterranean Sea, which the falls drop into, by taking a boat trip from the harbor.
Despite its un-romantic origins, the falls are also surrounded by beautiful green gardens, making this natural wonder a popular picnic spot for both locals and tourists. The upper section of the falls is comprised of smaller cascades in a peaceful municipal park (you can also climb into a cave behind the falls here), whilst the lower section flows right into the ocean.
A stream of spray and foam plunging into mountains and forest, Japan’s Kegon Falls is the overflow of the Oshiri River and Lake Chūzenji. Head into Nikko National Park in the Tochigi Prefecture and you’ll encounter the 97-meter shower fall into rainbow-filled pools, as well as 12 other smaller trickles to the sides of the main waterfall.
Sadly, Kegon Falls is also infamous for suicides. A Japanese philosophy student and poet took his own life at this site after writing his farewell poem onto the trunk of a nearby tree in 1903. The story was widely circulated and romanticized, leading to a number of copycat incidents from Japanese youth.
Another famous waterfall found on South Korea’s Jeju Island, Jeongbang is thought to be the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean (although it pours into a sheltered cove first before heading out to sea). Legend has it that a holy dragon lives under the falls and that the spirit of the dragon infuses the water with healing properties.
There is an inscription on the wall of the waterfall reading “Seobulgwacha.” This refers to Seobul, a servant of the Chinese Emperor Jin (BC 259~210), who came across the falls on his quest to find herbs for the emperor, which could make him immortal.
Just an hour away from the city of the ancient city of Luang Prabang, the impressive Kuang Si Falls with its impish fairy pools and jewel-toned waters is a popular tourist attraction and a must-see for anyone visiting the country. Don’t forget your swimsuit, so you can splash in pure turquoise and get a shoulder massage from the pouring waters.
En route to the falls, you’ll also pass a bear sanctuary. Many of the creatures here are victims of poaching; sun and moon bears in the region are caught and have their hands cut off – these are then sold in China as traditional medicine. The bears are unable to fend for themselves in the wild, and so the sanctuary takes care of them.
The beautiful mermaid-lagoon-style Tinago Falls (“Hidden Falls”) can be found on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, between the town of Linamon and the city of Iligan (a city nicknamed as the “City of Majestic Waterfalls”). The trek to the falls is mostly downhill, consisting of around 500 steps. The 73-meter drop of cold water ends in a beautiful blue lagoon and there’s also a small cave under the waterfall, where people can enter and listen to the sound of rushing water.
Trek deep into the unspoiled jungle of Thailand’s Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and you’ll be rewarded with the multi-tiered falls of Thi Lo Su (“Loud Waterfall”). The intense flows live up to their name, as the Mae Klong River roars down limestone cliffs. There are also pools nearby you can swim in.
The largest and highest in the country at 250 meters, Thi Lo Su Waterfall has many different names due to local languages. You may see the falls’ name written in English as Thee Lor Sue, The Lor Sue, Thee Lor Sue or Te-law-zue – which can also mean “Black Waterfall.”
Powered by the Aghanashini River in the Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka, Unchalli Falls are also known as Lushington Falls after J. D. Lushington, a British Government official who supposedly “discovered” the waterfall in 1845. Plunging a whopping 116 meters into a steep valley, Unchalli is also nicknamed “Keppa Joga” due to the deafening roar the water makes.
To visit the falls, you’ll need to trek for around five kilometers from the hamlet of Heggarne, through thick forest. However, because this waterfall flows with impressive force year-round, it’s a great alternative to Jog Falls during the dry season (and around an hour way from its big brother).
Although these plunging falls go by many local names (Gerusoppe Falls, Jogada Gundi and Gersoppa Falls to name but a few), the vertical veins of water are an unmistakeable attraction of Sagara Taluk, in India’s Karnataka State. Water levels are at their highest just after the monsoon season, when the Sharavathi River pours into the pools of spray below.
The waterfall’s flow is also somewhat compromised by the Linganmakki Dam, just upstream from the falls, which has generated electricity for the state of Karnataka since 1949.
The third and final Jeju-Island waterfall wonder on this list of the most incredible waterfalls in Asia is Cheonjiyeon (not to be confused with the similarly-named Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls), a name that translates as “Sky Connected with Land.”
Fed by springs that bubble up from the floor of the Somban Stream, the falls are 22 meters high and 12 meters wide. The waterfall is noted for their trachyte andesite rock, which is particularly lovely when illuminated at night and appears to bring light to a “hidden face” in the rocks.
Just a short walk from Kobe train station, along a trail that winds behind the buildings, you’ll come across Nunobiki Falls. Nunobiki is comprised of four separate falls: Ontaki, Mentaki, Tsutsumigadaki, and Meotodaki.
Having attracted local poets, writers, painters, and philosophers throughout Japanese history, it’s not difficult to be inspired by the fairy-tale torrents of the falls, and see how this space of tranquillity and natural beauty has such a significance in Japanese culture. In particular, in the “Tales of Ise,” a minor official takes a trip to the falls and holds a poetry contest.
Dudhsagar means “Sea of Milk” – one look at the foaming spray of the falls and you’ll see how fitting the name truly is. The four tiers of the waterfall originate from the Mandovi River on the border between the Indian states of Karnataka and Goa, and can be accessed via treks through Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in the Western Ghats.
The falls tower 320 meters, with a width of 30 meters. There are two ways to visit the falls: the Dudhsagar railway trek (officially closed to the general public) and a trek from Kulem along a jeep trail, which takes you to the bottom of the waterfall.
Is there anything more primitive and soul-affirming than a sweaty jungle trek, following the sounds of rushing water, peeling back branches until a waterfall reveals itself hidden behind the trees?
We hope you’re inspired by this collection of Mother Nature’s greatest works and let us know if you’ve ticked any of these Asian waterfalls off your travel bucket list.