Salto Angel – the highest waterfall in the world

Salto Angel – located on the hills of La Gran Sabana in Venezuela. Salto Angel falls from the summit of Auyan Tepui (known as the Devil’s Mountain) and flows into the Rio Churun, which is a tributary of the Caroni River. Although the Pemon Indians living in the area have long known him (they are called Kerepakupai-Meru or Parakupa-vena), his discovery to the rest of the world was completely accidental.

Ángel Falls

Jimmy Angel, the plane and the accidental discovery

The world’s highest waterfall was discovered by American pilot Jimmy Angel on November 18, 1933, who was looking for the famous Golden River or Golden City in the vicinity and, flying over Devil’s Mountain, noticed a large waterfall.

Ángel Water Falls

On October 9, 1937, the pilot returned to the vicinity of the falls with the intention of landing. On board the monoplane with him flew: the second wife Marie, Gustavo Hena, Miguel Delgado and the gardener Hena. The aircraft landed, but at the end of this maneuver, the aircraft’s wheels became stuck in the mud, making launch impossible. The crew reached the falls, but the passengers were forced to wander through difficult terrain and it took them 11 days to return to civilization. As word of their adventure spread, the falls became known as “Angel Falls” after the casual explorer pilot. The name “Salto del Angel” was first published on the official map of Venezuela in December 1939.


Interestingly, the aircraft was evacuated only after 33 years. Currently, it can be seen in front of the airport in Ciudad Bolívar, and its replica is in the Maracay Aviation Museum. Jimmy Angel died in 1956 as a result of injuries he received eight months earlier in an accident in Panama, and his last will was to scatter the ashes over the Salto Angel Falls.

Salto Angel falls

According to some reports, Venezuelan discoverer Ernesto Sanchez La Cruz was supposed to be the first to reach the highest waterfall in the world, which he saw in 1912, but he did not publish his discovery. However, Cruz is believed to have reached Montoya Falls in the Sierra Pacaraim.

Salto Angel nearby

The Salto Angel waterfall is 979 meters high and has the longest free fall of any known waterfall (807 meters). The measurement was taken in 1949 by Ruth Robertson, a journalist working for the National Geographic Society. She was the first to successfully conduct a measuring expedition from start to finish, as the other 4 trips were unsuccessful.

Salto Angel top

Salto Angel is part of the Canaima National Park, which was created in 1962. Located in the southeastern part of Venezuela, the park is intended for travelers, ethnographers and zoologists. The UNESCO list includes about 120 mammal species, 70 reptile species, 50 amphibian species and over 550 bird species.

Interesting Facts

• Getting to the waterfall is not at all easy because it is surrounded by lush overgrown jungle. The daredevils will have to sail on a boat called curiars (this is a wooden hollow boat, which is led by guides from the Pemon tribe).

Salto Angel view

• Salto Angel can only be seen up close during the rainy season when the water level is high enough. In the remaining months (December to March), Salto Angel can only be seen from airplane windows, flying over Devil’s Mountain.

• According to legend, there used to be a village on the site of the waterfall, where all the women suddenly died, except for Churun, the shaman’s daughter. Four men fought for her heart: a fisherman, a warrior, a thinker and a hunter. The shaman did not want to give his daughter to any of them, so he decided to turn them into stones. However, his spell bounced off the stones and hit Churun’s heart. The woman’s heart exploded with great force, which caused the holy mountain to split. The water burst out and took the form of a waterfall. Looking at the waterfall, you will probably see that it resembles the shape of a broken heart.

Salto Angel waterfalls

• In 1968, the first attempt was made to climb to the top of the cliff from the vertical side – this was not possible because of the slippery rocks during the rainy season. A year later, the attempt was repeated in the dry season – it was thwarted due to lack of water (140 meters). The vertical wall was not conquered until January 13, 1971 – the climb took up to 9 days.