Peru’s towering mountains catch clouds drifting over the Pacific forcing them to drop feet of rain from November through April. All that rainwater fuels a spider web of spectacular rivers that drop from the mountains through rainforests. Peru’s countryside is littered with beautiful waterfalls and some are accessible to tourists. After experiencing the majesty of Machu Pichu, don’t forget to see some the world-class waterfalls in Peru.
Sitting over 520 meters (1,700 feet) above sea level, the Catarata Bayoz waterfall can be found between the towns of La Merced and Satipo. The easiest way to get to this remote part of Peru is by bus from Lima. The night buses are comfortable, depart Lima 8 and 10 p.m. and they pull into Satipo early in the morning. Catarata Bayoz is a series of falls that each makes a pool to create a stairway of swimming holes. It’s usually hot in the jungle and can be rainy between November and April, but the year-round humidity can make a little rainfall welcome. Watch out for large, jungle ants in the area if you plan to picnic.
This unique waterfall cascades over rocky outcroppings down a hillside into a refreshing swimming hole and serves as an entrance to the Amazon. Sitting about 23 km (14 miles) from the town of Tarapoto, waterfall lovers make the reasonably easy hike to the falls just to swim at the base of its glory. The more adventurous sign up to repel down the rocky face of the waterfall. Adventurers never forget the adrenaline of dropping down the slick rocks with the full force of the waterfall pressing down on them. Your Tarapoto-area hotel should be able to arrange a repelling tour for you.
You can find Catarata del Tirol just a 10-minute cab ride from the town of San Ramon. It costs 2 soles to enter the waterfall area. You’ll hike down into a river valley for a 45-minute walk along the banks. Don’t be afraid to stop and have a dip in the many swimming holes along the way. If you’re adventurous, save your swim for the pool at the base of the massive falls where you’ll be massaged by the stinging spray. There are changing rooms and restrooms at the base of the falls while vendors sell drinks and snacks at the entrance. While there is great tourist infrastructure at Catarata del Tirol, you won’t find the falls too crowded.
This 580-meter (1,900-foot) waterfall cascades over three tiers and then disappears into the jungle. You may want to hire a guide in the village of Cuispes to bring you up the short-but-steep trail to the waterfall’s lookout. The falls are also visible from a military post near the base of the falls, but you won’t be allowed access to the campus. The falls can be easily obscured by clouds during the rainy season, but there are other spectacular sites within site of the falls. Cuispes features the Kuelap ruins in the shadow of Catarata de Chinata, also known as the miniature Chachas version of Machu Picchu.
Ahuashiyacu Waterfall translates to “laughing water” or “singing water.” It is named as such because the falls drop 40 meter (131 feet) into a small swimming pool. The splash echoes in fits and spurts as the falls are not completely constant inside the rocky bowl carved into a hillside. Just minutes from the city of Tarapoto, this popular swimming hole is appropriate for families as the pool has shallow spots for children. You’ll have to pay a small fee at the parking lot for admission and the falls are accessible after a short 10-minute hike up some well-built stairs.
In the northern reaches of Peru, deep in the Amazonas near the town of Cuispes, lies Yumbilla Falls. Perhaps the most spectacular falls on the list, Yumbilla Falls is the fifth highest waterfall in the world. Pouring over the edge of a limestone cliff into a bowl covered in vegetation, this impressive deluge drops nearly 900 meter (3,000 feet). You may want to consider hiring a local guide to ride you up to the trailhead in a Tuk Tuk to save you nearly four miles of walking. The guide can also take you up a variety of trails that will take you to caves, the top of the falls or the base of the falls where you’ll experience explosive spray.
More than 700 km (430 miles) northeast of Lima sits Gocta Cataracts. The falls are so deep in the Amazonas region that visitors did not discover the falls until 2005. Locals have been enjoying Cocahuayco River for centuries. The Cocahuayco River fuels this perennial waterfall that drops over two tiers and 760 meter (2,500 feet). The two-tiered falls can be seen miles away as they pour off the honey-yellow cliffs of a mountainside that is covered with vegetation. The falls are named after a small village nearby from where the falls can be initially spotted. Locals worked hard to keep these falls a secret as the feared a mythical blond mermaid spirit that is said to live in its swimming pools. Today, there is some tourist infrastructure as a small hotel has been built near its base.