When people think of Peru travel, people think of the world-famous sites of Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, the Amazon Jungle and Lake Titicaca. These destinations are fully deserving of their status, and should be, and probably will be, on every travellers “must-see” list on their first holiday to Peru. The South of Peru is by far the more popular tourist region in the country, however what many people don’t know or realise is that there are many more world-class sites to see in northern Peru.
The city of Chachapoyas, in the Peruvian region of Amazonas, in the far north of the country near the border with Ecuador, is surrounded by historical, cultural and natural wonders that should deservedly be on any holiday wish-list. However, access to Chachapoyas is much more difficult than access to the larger cities in the south such as Arequipa and Cusco. There is no direct bus from Lima, and there are currently no direct flights. As access to Amazonas is difficult, there are vast areas of the region that remain unexplored by modern science… so there is potential for natural wonders and historical ruins to be hidden amongst the undergrowth, known only to the local Andean people.
If you are lucky enough to be able to venture this far into the unknown then there is undoubtedly an aura of adventure and discovery for travellers, not to mention that the few tourist sites that do exist are so infrequently visited you may find you have the whole location to yourself.
Within this region of Peru is what surely must be South America’s best kept secret – the Gocta Falls. These waterfalls sit within the cloud-forest region of Peru, are a double-drop waterfall with an impressive total drop of an astonishing 771 metres making them one of the top 10 highest waterfalls in the world, and yet were only discovered by the Western world in 2005! The local Andean people had kept the existence of the falls secret for centuries, not letting even the Peruvian government know about its existence, as they feared the curse of a beautiful mermaid who lives in the waterfall if the secret was released.
In 2007 the Peruvian tourism industry started to build some basic infrastructure, and the falls can be reached via a gorgeous trek and follows a path passing indigenous farming communities, and beautiful cloud forest as it snakes its way towards the falls in the distance. Truly one of Peru’s and South America’s best kept secrets, and now one of the most wondrous destinations to visit on any holiday to Peru.
To reach the falls take a guided tour or taxi from the local city of Chachapoyas. Chachapoyas can be reached from Lima either by taking a flight from Lima to the city of Tarapoto then taking a bus from there to Chachapoyas, or by bus from the northern city of Chiclayo which can easily be reached from Lima by road or air.
Jonathan Lillie lived in Peru for over a year, and has travelled extensively throughout the entire country. He currently works for Go Andes, a UK travel company specialising in tours and holidays to Peru, where his expert knowledge of travel in Peru is invaluable.