There are few natural wonders that fill us with such awe as much as the beauty of rivers and waterfalls. You’ll likely sweat a little to get to some of the best sights, but they deliver a cool refuge and a powerful reminder of nature’s beauty. If you love watching the ripple of water as much as we do, here are some of our favourite rivers and waterfalls in Southeast Asia to add to your travel list:
Kawasan Waterfalls, Philippines
If you haven’t come across this Instagram highlight yet, then it’s about time! Located on Cebu Island in the Philippines, it’s easily accessible via public transport or scooter. The 15-30 minutes hike starts at the Matutinao Church and runs along the Kawasan river through the villages.
Zafigo Tip: Its popularity with locals and tourists means you’ll want to avoid venturing here on the weekends. You’ll also do best to avoid paying for local guides to show you the way; it’s quite impossible to miss a waterfall.
Tinago Falls, Philippines
A waterfall on the Agus River, located in between Linamon and Iligan City, on the southern island of Mindanao, Tinago Falls is one of the main tourist attractions in the City of Majestic Waterfalls. The waterfall earns its name Tinago, a Filipino term meaning “hidden”, as it’s tucked away within a deep ravine. Trekking to the falls does require you to climb down 500 steps of what’s known as the Winding Staircase, so those with a fear of heights might want to come mentally prepared for the descent.
Enchanted River, Philippines
The Hinatuan Enchanted River is situated on the island of Mindanao and was only discovered in recent years. Flowing out into the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean at Barangay Talisay, Hinatuan, the deep spring river is a standout with its clear blue waters and unexplored depth. Enchanted River’s unusual colour and mysterious depths have inspired various local legends, including fishes that cannot be caught and supernatural beings protecting the river.
Zafigo Tip: Listen out for the “Hymn of Hinatuan” when the caretaker rings the bell at noon requesting for tourists to leave the water. You then get to witness the feeding of an enormous school of fish that seemingly pops up from nowhere, much like the river itself.
Mae Ya Waterfall, Thailand
Located about an hour outside the historical city of Chiang Mai is Doi Inthanon National Park. Here, you’ll find Mae Ya Waterfall, one of the tallest waterfalls in Thailand, standing at about 260 metres tall and 100 metres wide. What makes this waterfall interesting is its layered levels of falls, so make sure that camera is fully charged!
Kuang Si Falls, Laos
Known to be the biggest waterfall in Luang Prabang, the Kuang Si is a majestic display of tiered falls. The three-tier, stone-rigged fall peaks at a 50-metre drop into tranquilising turquoise blue pools beneath. The pools cascade up to five metres and offer soothingly cold water. Apart from the pools below, you can also follow trails and walkways leading up to the top for more natural pools and catch the sight of the water streaming into the falls.
Ban Gioc-Detian Falls, China/Vietnam
Much like how the Niagara Falls straddle the United States and Canada, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls sits on the border between Vietnam and China. Surrounded by karst rocks and green forest, the twin falls tumble down in tiers to the Quay Son River below. While the waters’ vertical drop is slight, the width of the cascades make for an impressive sight. Swimming is prohibited, but you can take small bamboo rafts to the very edge of the falls. During the hot rainy season from May to September, the Quay Son swells, widening the water flow considerably. You can get there from the Chinese side via the city of Nanning, with a daily bus leaving the Langdong bus station in the city. From the Vietnamese side, buses leave the My Dinh bus station for Cao Bang.
Zafigo Tip: Check out the nearby market too, where you’ll hear a mix of Vietnamese and Chinese language simultaneously! It’s a remarkable experience.
Sekumpul Waterfall, Indonesia
There are several waterfalls hidden in the green, lush jungles of the northern part of Bali, Indonesia, but Sekumpul Waterfall (made up of at least seven separate falls) is one of the most secluded and most stunning. Visitors have to walk a dirt road, climb down hundreds of stairs and cross a river to get to it, but they say the scenery is worth the trek.
Jembong Waterfall, Indonesia
Located in Central Bali, this gem is close to the more popular – and also more crowded – Gitgit waterfall. Commercial tour agencies haven’t added it to their roster yet, so get there before it’s overcrowded. The scenery is breathtaking, and it’s also the perfect spot to get your yoga on.
Zafigo Tip: Beat fellow adventurers and get there early to capture an undisturbed shot!
BONUS: Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Although not technically in Asia, we can’t not include Palau’s Jellyfish lake to this list. For those who’ve always wanted to swim with the jellyfish, Eil Malk Island is where your dreams can come true. The saltwater lake (one of seven underwater wonders of the world) is aptly named after the millions of the free-swimming aquatic animals that inhabit its waters. Don’t worry, they don’t sting. Just get your underwater cam ready for the photo op!