Waterfalls are a magnet for me, especially powerhouses like Rhine Falls in Switzerland. As Europe’s largest waterfall, it’s on many visitors’ must-see list when they’re traveling through this picturesque country.
Located about an hour’s train ride from Zurich, on a stretch of the Rhine River known as the High Rhine, this spectacular natural attraction is over 15,000 years old. It was created via tectonic shifts during the Ice Age and measures about 500 feet wide and 23 feet high.
Though Rhine Falls is smaller and possesses shorter drops than other notables like Niagara, Iguazu and Victoria Falls, it’s no less spectacular in regards to dramatic beauty. This is most evident in the spring and summer months when the flow rates are the highest due to the melting alpine snows that feed the river. About 159,000 gallons of water per second gush down the falls in cascading torrents.
There are several viewpoints to capture the falls on both sides. Try each of the platforms to get different perspectives from various distances. And you can also walk around the circular pathway to access other vantage spots.
Better yet, take a boat ride to get up-close to this behemoth. Expect to get wet from the spray, which is part of the fun. I chose the Rock Tour, which offers passengers the unique opportunity to climb the Middlerock, positioned in the center of the falls. The boat lets you off at the base of the rock and then a short, steep climb leads you to the top. You’ll feel the force of the falls, and hear plenty of heart pounding, loud thundering and roaring as you ascend. And you’ll definitely be immersed in the spray, which on a hot day is an extra bonus.
From your perch, take in the scene and experience the enchantment of untouched nature. Being in the midst of this grandeur is magical. Then hop back on the boat and the captain will steer your craft as close to the falls as possible for another opportunity to get personal with this glorious wonder.
Although the falls are undoubtedly the centerpiece, there are also two castles nearby to explore. Ancient Laufen Castle is on the left bank of the river and Worth is on the right. The former towers atop a rocky spur and is reached via a glass panoramic elevator. I didn’t go inside due to time constraints, but if you’re interested, you can check out a few of the rooms and learn more about the castle’s 1000-year-old history at the “Historama” exhibition.
Information about the place indicates that its presence was first acknowledged in an official document in 848. It had many owners, including a bishop and a duke, and its past was marked by political and societal turbulence. One report mentions that in 1449, when the castle was besieged, its inhabitants escaped by rope into the river and swam to the other shore.
The Worth is known as the Water Castle and it’s built on a small island in the river. It dates back to the 13th century A.D. and served as a major shipment point on the east-west trade route in the 1800s. Today, it houses a gourmet restaurant and casual eatery and boasts a lovely view of the falls.
The grounds around the falls have a number of other attractions, including a playground and adventure climbing park, miniature world and immersive art hall. And if you want to visit the area at night, you’ll be in for a treat, as the falls are illuminated after dark.
Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications.