Many tourists or travellers who visit the Andean market town of Otavalo include a visit to the Peguche waterfall. Just a short walk from Otavalo’s center (40 minutes).
A typical natural attraction of the northern province of Imbabura. Mostly known for being a green healthy mountain air area, full of mountains, valleys, volcanos, lakes, rivers & waterfalls.
Earlier posts on Things to do in & around Otavalo provided you with Tips & Impressions of other outdoor attractions in the province.
Like a hike leading to the top of the Fuya Fuya volcano. Part of the beautiful Mojanda lake area, which houses several lagunas & many senderos or trails that lead you through a pure Andean environment.
Another popular place to visit for hikers, walkers and nature lovers is the Cuicocha Crater lake. Just a 30 minute ride from Otavalo.
Whereas I would recommend planning a full day to go to Mojanda or Cuicocha, a visit to the Peguche waterfall is easily possible in half a day.
Background info on the Peguche Waterfall
The Peguche Waterfall is located at a distance of just over 3 km/2 miles from Otavalo.
Although the name suggests the Waterfall is part of the village of Peguche, it’s located a bit outside its center (1,5 km/1 mile).
The Waterfall is actually part of a small community called Fakcha Llakta (Quichua for the Pueblo de la Cascada, the Waterfall community).
There are several ways to get to the Waterfall, but I would recommend you to enter through the main entrance. That is where visitors park their cars and you’ll find an old, but still beautiful Hacienda.
After entering through the old Hacienda gate, you’ll first pass some small stalls & shops that sell snacks & drinks, as well as some handicrafts.
On the right hand side you soon encounter a recently restored Sun Calendar (Inty Watana in Quichua).
A Holy place
The Sun Calendar is a first indication the Waterfall area, for most indigenous people, is a Holy Place. Like many other natural highlights in the Andean landscape of Imbabura: mountains, lakes, hills, certain animals and trees.
At certain times ceremonies take place in & around the Waterfall. For example, at the June Solstice (Inti Raymi or Fiesta del Sol, June 21) or on New Years day. On these special days many local people gather here to take a ritual bath. The water of the area provides them strength & drives away the bad spirits.
After entering a second entrance gate you enter a forest. Here they ask you to register & a voluntary contribution for the maintenance of the grounds (every coin will do).
From here, an Inca style trail leads you in about 15 minutes to the Waterfall.
And on you go…
On the way to the Peguche Waterfall you can take trails to the left and right. Depending on the one you choose you end up at a camping/picnic area, a large suspension bridge, thermal baths, the river, or a play ground. In that sense the Peguche waterfall is an ideal place to visit with children.
At the end of the main trail you’ll find the Cascada or Waterfall.
- Note: The Waterfall of Peguche is located at an altitud of just over 2500m (over 8000ft). The water falls 20m (65ft). Depending on the season it can be up to 6m (20ft) wide.
The trail doesn’t end there though. You can climb up to the left or the right of the fall, leading to several lookout points or Miradores.
When you take the right, you first have to cross a wooden bridge. At the end of that bridge, you can either go to the left leading you directly to the waterfall. Or you can go to the right. A path that either follows the river, where you end up at a few food stalls/restaurants, as well as a natural cave. Or up, above the fall & its source. The source being the San Pablo lake.
What Else to do in the area
It’s easy to combine a visit to the Peguche Waterfall with other attractions in the neighborhood. More so if you’re taking a taxi tour of the area.
- Many people combine the Waterfall with a visit to the Condor Park. Generally, first visiting the Park – which is located on the South Eastern hill above the Waterfall – after which they walk downhill to the Peguche Waterfall.
- Clearly it’s possible to do it the other way around. However, be aware it’s a steep climb up to the Condor Park. Note that these trails aren’t marked, so you may have to ask for directions.
- Note: Visit my post on the Condor Park for tips & recommendations, as well as opening days & hours.
How to get to the Peguche Waterfall
Some people arrange a taxi for about $2-$3. Most people walk. See Map (courtesy Hotel Doña Esther & Restaurante Árbol de Montalvo):
- As you can see on the Map, a good starting point is the Train Station (just 2 blocks from the Hotel). The station was only recently restored, but currently not in use because of damage on the Railroad track to Ibarra.
- From there you have to follow the tracks northward. A road to the right runs parallel to the tracks.
- You have to follow the tracks until – after about 3 kilometers (2 miles) – it makes a significant curve to the left (see picture below).
- Instead of continuing on, you have to leave the rail track and make your way up to the houses up the hill.
- A good alternative though is to follow the rail track just a little more until – after the left curve – you encounter a road to the right. This will lead you to the earlier mentioned parking area.
Tips & recommendations
- You can visit the Peguche Waterfall all day. You can easily combine it with a visit to the Otavalo market, the Condor Park or the center of Peguche (In Peguche you can find some places to eat & drink. Or visit some handicraft (work-)shops.)
- You can buy snacks & drinks before the hike to the Peguche Waterfall. However, you’ll find several small food stores along the way and even more at the Waterfall itself. That is, before you enter the forest trail.
- It can get really busy at the weekends, but it’s a perfect time to see the local people enjoying themselves at the Waterfall – at a picnic, playing ball, just relaxing.
- You don’t need a guide at the Waterfall, but those who visit the Peguche waterfall with a guide can enjoy some interesting background stories. Or explanations about the flora & fauna.
- Wear long trousers. In the forest and up the hill you’ll encounter thousands of sandflies that leave itchy little bites. Bites that won’t harm you, but will annoy you, mostly at night.
- In the Andean highlands, always be prepared for every type of weather: cold, warm, sunny, rainy.
- Protect yourself from the sun (at least Factor 50).
Include it in a self-made Tour
Another possibility is to hire a taxi & organise your own (half-a-)day touring the area. Visiting – besides the Waterfall – other attractions around Otavalo.
If you like, we – at Hotel Doña Esther/Restaurante Árbol de Montalvo – can arrange a taxi for you. For a good price & driven by a friendly, professional driver.can arrange a taxi
- Although you can buy snacks & drinks near the waterfall – if you like – we can prepare a take-away box lunch ($6.00 each) for you at our Hotel.
IMPORTANT: We can only provide the taxi service to our hotel guests.
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For other Things to do in & around Otavalo, go to: Otavalo Attractions
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