Tag Archives: japan

World’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls

20 Mar

For those who love experiencing beautiful landscapes, visiting waterfalls is one of the best ways to add some extra beauty to a day in the outdoors. Not all falls are created equal, however. If you want to view some of the world’s best cascades, here are our suggestions.

Niagara Falls, USA/Canada

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Located in both Ontario and New York, Niagara Falls is made up of three waterfalls — Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls on the U.S. side — that form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. Although the height of Niagara Falls varies due to seasonal flow, American Falls can get up to 194 feet during peak season June through August. While not the highest waterfall in the world, it certainly is the most powerful, and it’s sheer overall size is enough to draw over 10 million visitors each year.

For the best views, opt to do either the Journey Behind the Falls or the Maid of the Mist. Journey Behind the Falls is an unguided excursion that takes you below and behind the falls as it travels up to 40 miles per second before crashing into the basin below. On the other hand, the Maid of the Mist is a guided boat tour that takes riders past the American and Bridal Veil Falls right into the curve of Horseshoe Falls and into the mist. It’s also worth visiting the attraction at night, as the cascades are lit up in an array of colors.

Sutherland Falls, New Zealand

Located near the scenic ford of Milford Sound, Sutherland Falls in New Zealand is one of the tallest water falls in the world. It features three drops at heights of 751 feet, 815 feet and 1902 feet, thundering down dramatically into an enormous pool at the bottom. It’s beautiful to look up and see the water pouring from the glacial reservoir of Lake Quill over the edges of the mountaintops. To get to the falls, you’ll need to hike a section of the Milford Track from the Quintin Public Shelter.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss

Dettifoss. Photo credit: csproete via Flickr.

Located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, Dettifoss is touted as the most powerful waterfall in Europe, flowing at about 17,657 cubic feet per second. The falls are about 145 feet tall and 328 feet wide, and takes on a milky color from the sediment-rich meltwaters of the Vatnajökull glacier, from which the falls is fed its water. To access Dettifoss, it is a 30 minute hike from the parking lot. The best views of the falls are had from the top of the falls, watching it from above as it drops off. Just don’t get too close to the edge as the risk of erosion is quite high. If you’re still in the mood to see more waterfalls afterward, distant views of Selfoss can be has just a short hike upstream.

Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador 

For those staying in the adventurous city of Banos, one popular excursion is to bike the “Waterfalls Route,” which includes Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, Machay and the most impressive of all, Pailon del Diablo, Ecuador’s second biggest waterfall. You’ll go about 11 miles, taking in lush jungle, roaring rivers and beautiful mountains until you reach the parking lots for Pailon del Diablo. Here you’ll park your bike before hiking about 15 minutes to the approximately 100-feet-high falls.

To get the best view, you’ll need to shimmy through a narrow cave and climb some stairs that will take you about midway to the top. Make sure to bring a raincoat, as the powerful falls ensure you will get a little wet. If you don’t want to bike, you can also take the bus from Banos to Puyo and stop off at the falls, or take tour of the area’s waterfalls on a colorful “chiva” trolley.

Iguaza Falls, Brazil/Argentina

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

Iguaza Falls features an edge that is 1.7 miles long, with about 275 individual waterfalls and cascades that range from 197 to 269 feet in height. Because of its immense size, visitors should allot at least one full day, preferably two, to explore the entire attraction, which is littered with catwalks and lookout platforms for closeup views. Additionally, visitors can take a boat tour to go under some of the falls.

Usually, visitors will spend one day exploring the Brazilian side and the other traversing the Argentinian side, as both offer completely different views. The most impressive section of the falls is undoubtedly the Devil’s Throat, which is best seen from the Brazilian side. Here you’ll witness 14 falls plunge 350 feet and spraying mist 100-feet into the air. It’s a beautiful sight, especially since you’re almost guaranteed to see a rainbow.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls. Photo credit: i_pinz via Flickr.

Located across Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls, boasting the largest curtain of water formed on the planet. In terms of size, Victoria Falls are 355 feet high, 5,577 feet wide and with over 500 million liter plunging over the edge into the Zambezi River. Because of the water flow’s intensity, a spray is shot 1,000 feet into the air that can be seen from 30 miles away. Not surprisingly, there are almost always rainbows.

In terms of viewing, the best time to go is June through August when they are between medium and high water. Additionally, the Zimbabwe side offers the best rim-level views, while the Zambia side allows visitors the best base-level view via the rainforest footpath. If you have the time, it’s worthwhile to explore both sides as each has completely different perspectives. Additionally, you can see the falls in a more adventurous way by white water rafting on the river below the falls, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, taking a microlite flight over the forge from the Zambia side or canoeing on the river above the falls where you can also view wildlife.

Na-ra Falls, Iriomote Island, Okinawa, Japan

Located on the lush rainforest island of Iriomote in Okinawa, Japan, is the lesser-known Na-ra Falls. While not the largest falls in the world, it is a truly beautiful and natural site and the journey adds an element of adventure. At Nirakanai Iriomotejima lodge you can hire a guide to take you to the falls, which requires a boat ride down the mangrove and Adan fruit tree-littered Nakama River, before de-boarding for a hike through the jungle. The trek can be difficult at times as you make your way over narrow hilltop trails, shimmy over boulders and wade through knee-deep water to reach your destination.

After about an hour, you will be rewarded for your efforts with the Na-ra Falls, a multitiered waterfall creating a calm swimming pool at the base. You can wade at the base on rocks to view the falls from the base or continue your trek to the top for the best views. What really makes this waterfall so worthwhile to visit is the fact nobody really knows about, leaving it wild and untouched by tourism.

Erawan Falls, Thailand

Erawan Falls

Erawan Falls. Photo credit: Todd Huffman via Flickr.

Thailand is home to some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, the most magnificent being the 4,921-foot Erawan Falls. Located in Erawan National Park in the Kanchanaburi Province, the seven-tiered Erawan Falls are thought to resemble a three-headed white elephant from Hindu mythology called the erawan. As the water spills over limestone cliffs it plunges down into cool blue pools. Visitors can do jungle hikes around the falls or swim in its pools. For the best views, trek to the top of the falls, which takes about three hours round-trip. Along the way, you’ll have many opportunities to cool down in the fall’s many levels.

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, China/Vietnam

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls

Ban Gioc-Detian Falls. Photo credit: Denise Chan via Flickr.

Composed of two waterfalls straddling the Guichun River and the China-Vietnam border, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is so powerful it sounds like thunder when it hits the basin, especially during wet season. With multiple tiers, crystal waters and surrounding karst peaks, it is a moving setting to be in. While Ban Gioc is considered the largest waterfall in Vietnam, Detian Falls is thought to be one of China’s most spectacular natural sites.

As a whole, the waterfall drops 98 feet and is 656 feet wide, making it the 4th-largest waterfall along a national border. For the best views, visit during June and July when river flow speeds up. Additionally, the Chinese side offers a scenic rainforest walking alongside the falls to the top, while the Vietnamese side allows you to swim in a refreshing natural pool. To get a closer look at the falls, there are locals nearby offering bamboo rafting tours.

MacKenzie Falls, Australia

MacKenzie Falls

MacKenzie Falls. Photo credit: Alpha via Flickr.

Located in one of Australia’s most scenic but lesser-traversed parks, you’ll find MacKenzie Falls in the Grampians National Park. You’ll have to hike down a well-marked steep set of stairs — and then back up again — to reach the waterfall; however, you’re hard work will be rewarded by a frontal view of gushing torrents of water from Lake Wartook cascading over a cliff edge. Viewing the waterfall from the stairs as you come down is also a worthwhile photo opportunity, as it is easier to make out the tiers of the falls. While the

The view that awaits you at the end of this steep trail is spectacular. Enormous torrents of water cascade over huge cliffs into a deep pool, sending fine sprays of rainbow mist high into the air above a stunning gorge. While MacKenzie Falls flows all year, it is must stronger in June through September when it rains more frequently. And if you’re hot after your hike, feel free to take a dip in the fall’s refreshing waters.

Marmore’s Falls, Italy

A beautiful as well as historical attraction, Marmore’s Falls (Cascate delle Marmore) in Italy is a man-made falls built by the ancient Romans. Located in Umbria, the falls are the highest man-made waterfall in the world and one of the highest in Europe at 541 feet. The area itself is very relaxing, with hiking trails and an expansive park. Although fed by the Velino River, the falls are sometimes deviated to feed the hydroelectric power plants system, so double check their website’s timetable before visiting. Generally, they’re open longer in the summer and less in the winter.

For the best views of Cascate delle Marmore, you can either go to the Lower Outlook for an entire view of the falls and panoramic of the first drop. The Upper Lookout offers views from the top as well as the chance to see La Specola, a 1781 arcaded loggia built by Pope Pius VI.  The Upper Outlook is also known for its wonderful rainbow views.

Burney Falls, California

Burney Falls

Burney Falls. Photo credit: Amit Patel via Flickr.

Not as well-known as some of the United States’ other waterfalls, Burney Falls is located in McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park in Shasta County, California. The falls have a height of 129 feet and strong flow year-round of over 100 million gallons of water per day, which appears to burst from the middle of the cliff face. This is because the source of the falls is from underground springs. While you’ll be able to drive to the lookout point to see the falls, the best views are had after a 2.4 mile loop hike to the base.


World’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls Argentina , Australia , brazil , California , China , Ecuador , Iceland , Italy , japan , Niagara Falls , South Africa , thailand , Vietnam

Kyoto and Nara Day Trip from Kyoto

9 Mar

Tokyo has been the imperial capital of Japan since only 1868. The capital from the late 700s until then was Kyoto, which still means “Capital”. For 70 years before that it was in Nara near Kyoto. Because of the importance of Nara and later Kyoto some of Japan’s most significant historic sites are in the Kyoto area. 17 different sites within the Kyoto/Nara area have been designated by the United Nations as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I wanted to see some of them while I was in the area, so I opted for the Kyoto and Nara Day Trip from Kyoto including Nijo Castle. The tour I took could be done as two separate half day tours.

Kyoto Morning Tour

Nijo Castle

Kyoto Nijo Castle tour

The Kyoto morning tour visited three significant sites in Kyoto. We started at the Nijo Castle which was built by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. 17th century Japan was a land of feuding rival feudal lords. While all might recognize the emperor it was far from a united country. After a series of military victories Tokugawa Ieyasu united Japan and was proclaimed Shogun in 1603. The house of Tokugawa retained the title of Shogun and control of the whole country… in the name of the emperor… until 1868. He quickly moved the capital away from the sway of the Emperor to what is now Tokyo but used this castle when he was visiting Kyoto.

No photography is allowed inside the castle which has a small number of large rooms with decorative paintings of tigers (not native to Japan) that reminded people of the power of the Shogun. Mannequins play the part of visiting lords and samurai coming to request favors of the Shogun. Visiting in winter I could appreciate how warm a kimono needed to be as the palace windows are paper and the palace contained no fireplaces. In the summer the shutters could be opened so that the Shogun could view his beautiful gardens.

Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)

Kinkakuji tour

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion may be the most photographed of the historic sites of Kyoto. It is currently a Buddhist temple but was originally built as a palace for a retired Shogun. The building, like many historic buildings in Japan, was lost to fire and reconstructed in 1955. Our tour guide told us the bird of the top of the building is a phoenix, which seems appropriate given its rise from the ashes.

Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace, Kyoto tour

While the emperor moved the capital to Edo, changing the name to Tokyo, in 1868, he still retains a palace here in Kyoto and the residence of Kyoto are ready for him to move back at any time. Because this is still a palace the tour goes more around the palace than through it.

Nara Afternoon Tour

Nara is an hour away from Kyoto, more on the return trip with rush hour traffic. So after a filling, if unspectacular, lunch we drove to Nara. One of the most unusual things about Nara is that there are deer everywhere. The deer are considered sacred because they “brought the god down the mountain” according to Shinto beliefs. Warning signs tell tourists that the deer can get aggressive when you feed them. Our tour guide advised us not to run with food or they will chase you.

Todai-ji (Eastern Great Temple) 

T?dai-ji, Nara tour

The Eastern Great Temple (Todai-ji) is the largest wooden building in the world and contains an equally colossal Buddha statue.  It was one of the first statues of Buddha that was cast in Japan instead of imported from China, India or Korea (all of which received Buddhism before Japan).

Kasuga Grand Shrine

Lanterns at the Kasuga Grand Shrine, Nara tour

There are many Shinto shrines in Japan but the Kasuga Grand Shrine is one of the most significant. It was built in 768. As a photographer it was not the shrine itself but the many moss-covered stone lanterns lining the path to the shrine that captured my attention.

I am not a big fan of a week-long bus tour to a country, but selected day trips, particularly in Japan where about half of the sites we visited didn’t have brochures in English, can simplify seeing some of the larger sites. In addition to learning more about the history of Japan and the Shinto and Buddhist faiths that the Japanese integrate, we also learned about some of the more popular culture on the bus rides. We watched televised sumo wrestling while our guide explained sports, entertainment, education and even taxes. I could have visited all of these sites on my own but with more effort and less information.

Kyoto and Nara Day Trip from Kyoto featured , japan , Kyoto

Event-o-Rama: 12 Must-Dos in March

7 Mar

Holi is also known as the Festival of Colors, for obvious reasons.  (Photograph by Anurag Kumar, My Shot)

There are some amazing events on tap all over the world, all the time. Here’s a taste of what you can see and do in March:

  • As the summer sun sets on the Southern Hemisphere, one Australian beach town isn’t quite ready to bid the season adieu. In Coolangatta, surfing greats like Kelly Slater duke it out on the waves at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast (March 2-13) competition. While the riders paddle their way toward big cash prizes prize, spectators can keep their toes in the sand with meet and greets, live music, and shopping.
  • Call it a bruja brouhaha. Subscribers to the supernatural flood the streets of Catemaco, Mexico for the annual Noche de Brujas (March 1), a festival that fetes the ancient tradition of Mexican sorcery in a community that claims to be the world capital of witchcraft. Healers and local shamans abound, but if the magic fails, don’t fret. The calming lap of nearby Laguna Catemaco may be just as entrancing.
  • The Gathering Ireland, a yearlong initiative intended to draw the Irish diaspora back to their homeland, takes a literary turn this month at the Ennis Book Club Festival (March 1-3). Acclaimed author Joseph O’Connor will headline the event, but he’s not the only draw. The weekend will be filled with enough readings, seminars, and literary love-ins to appease even the most hardcore bookworms.
    Many women --

    Many women wear traditional dress during Las Fallas. (Photograph by Alexander Rostocki, My Shot)

  • Once a simple feast intended to honor the carpentry of Saint Joseph, today’s Las Fallas (March 15-19) in Valencia, Spain is a veritable ode to pyrotechnic prowess. Watch as local tinkers construct enormous effigies, only to set them ablaze on the festival’s final night. Not all the statues face the stake though. A citywide vote bestows clemency to the crowd favorite.
  • Foodies and oenophiles the world over have been flocking to Sonoma County for decades. Discover why at the California’s Artisan Cheese Festival (March 22-24). Farm tours, cheese making seminars, and pairing demos are all part of the program, but the festival’s location — with Napa Valley, San Francisco, and the Muir Woods just a stone’s throw away — may be the biggest star of all.
  • Music festival season is upon us. From Austin to Glastonbury, large crowds and loud sounds are an inextricable part of spring. This year, take the path less traveled to the principality of Andorra as it hosts its first ever ElectroSnow festival (March 30-April 1). What traveler in their right mind (and with enough scratch in their pocket) could resist a trip to the Pyrenees for a weekend of skiing and electronic music?
  • Savannah, Georgia may be known for its Southern charm and delightful squares decorated with Spanish moss, but it bleeds green on at least one day of the year. The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade(March 16), now in its 189th year, is one the largest in the world, and pays jubilant homage to the city’s unique Irish heritage.
    The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the March 1912 gift of cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C.  (Photograph by Sachin Nayak, Flickr)

    The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the March 1912 gift of cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. (Photograph by Sachin Nayak, Flickr)

  • Baseball hasn’t always hit it out of the park with the International Olympic Committee. After being axed from the summer games in 2012, the international baseball community responded with the World Baseball Classic (March 2-19). With opening games staged in stadiums from Taiwan to San Juan and everywhere in between, the quadrennial event is on pace to become a global institution.
  • Devotees of Krishna the world over descend on Vrindavan, India for Holi. The Hindu holiday celebrates Radha and Krishna’s love bond and the beginning of spring, with each major Krishna temple celebrating on a different day. But the most anticipated event takes place at the Banke Bihari Temple on March 27, where worshippers and visitors alike are doused in brightly colored powder.
  • Washington, D.C. ushers in spring with the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 20-April 14). Celebrating the end of winter and the enduring friendship between the U.S. and Japan, the beloved festival centers around the willowy sakuras that Nat Geo’s first female board member, Eliza Scidmore, played a vital role in bringing to the capital city.
  • Bali is back. A string of attacks left the island reeling, but tourists are once again flocking to this Indonesian paradise. Discover it for yourself during the Bali Spirit Festival (March 20-24), where music and movement come into perfect balance. By day, festival-goers attend yoga, meditation, and dance classes. When the stars come up, international musicians take the stage.
  • In Birmingham, England mankind celebrates man’s best friend at Crufts (March 7-10), the “largest annual dog show in the world.” Founder Charles Cruft’s first show, staged in 1886, boasted 600 entries. This year, the four-day event — which includes competitions, displays, and a trade show – will play host to more than 25,0o0 four-legged friends.

Event-o-Rama: 12 Must-Dos in March Andorra , Australia , bali , Banke Bihari , Birmingham , California , Catemaco , Coolangatta , ElectroSnow , Ennis , Georgia , Holi , india , Ireland , japan , Laguna Catemaco , Las Fallas , Mexico , Muir Woods , Napa , National Cherry Blossom Festival , Phoenix , Quiksilver Pro , San Francisco , San Juan , Savannah , sonoma , Spain , St. Patrick’s Day , Taiwan , tokyo , USA , Valencia , Vrindavan , Washington D.C. , World Baseball Classic