JOURNEY TO PEGUCHE WATERFALL
A few weeks ago, I made the journey to the most famous waterfall in northern Ecuador, Peguche Waterfall (or Cascadas de Peguche). It is located only 15 minutes from the beautiful market town of Otavalo, and easily accessible by bus or taxi. I decided to take a bus, so I walked from my hostel to the Otavalo bus station, in the northern corner of Otavalo. When I arrived at the bus station, I asked a police officer where to catch the bus to Peguche. She told me that the local buses to the waterfall didn’t leave from the provincial bus station, and that I would have to backtrack and catch a bus from outside the local bakery.
I walked the 5 minutes back to the bakery bus stop, where a local indigenous woman told me that I should get on “el bus rojo” (the red bus). When the red bus creaked to a stop in front of me, I climbed aboard and asked the driver to let me off near the waterfalls – and it’s a good thing I did, because on an unassuming and rainy Wednesday morning, I was the only person heading in that direction.
As you enter the indigenous village that functions as the gateway between the Eucalyptus forest that surrounds the waterfall and Otavalo, you will pass underneath a majestic wall and a plaque that will inform you of the history of the small village and the indigenous people that fought Spanish colonization. Past the wall, there is a ancient sun dial that would still work perfectly if the gnomon weren’t missing.
If you continue on, you’ll walk underneath a large sign that reads “Alli Shamushka Kapaichi – Bienvenidos – Welcome” and underneath, “Bosque Protector “Cascada de Peguche”“. “Alli” in Kichwa means “good”, but “Alli Shamushka Kapaichi” all together translates to “welcome”. After the sign, you will find a welcome center. You should register here, where they will give you a map and ask for an optional donation.
A quaint cobblestone path will lead you directly to the waterfall, where’s you’ll find small huts with benches and tables, so that you can enjoy a packed picnic or just sit down and enjoy the view. The water falls about 18 meters (or 58 feet), and there are well-marked trails that lead to the top of the river, where you can explore some pretty cool caves and a second (hidden) waterfall. Peguche Waterfall is still a highly important place in Kichwa religion, serving as the place where purification are held before the Inti Raymi celebrations each June, and you will likely find the area to be almost spotless; despite the amount of visitors it receives each year, I saw no garbage or signs of misuse.
After appreciating the waterfall, you can explore the hot springs, which are free (well, technically they are just included in the donation paid at the welcome center. But you don’t have to pay extra for them!). There are campgrounds where you can either pitch a tent on the mountainous ground or on one of the sturdy platforms they provide. Or you can wander one of the trails that follows a small stream, where you’ll hear strange sounding birds and maybe spot a wild chinchilla, guinea pig, or even a pudú, which is a very adorable South American deer.
Otavalo and Peguche definitely aren’t warm, and it’s been known to rain more often than not, so be sure to bring a good wool or fleece jacket and a waterproof cover if you plan on getting close to the waterfall!
Check out our Otavalo Day Tour or our Otavalo blog post for more information about this fascinating town in the Andes.
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