Farmers living in remote hamlets north of Chachapoyas knew that the surrounding cloud forests hid the huge Gocta Falls, but local legends prevented villagers from visiting or talking about the falls, and they did not become known to the outside world until 2005.
Then, a German hydro-engineer named Stefan Ziemendorff saw the Falls, and in 2006, made preliminary measurements – an astounding 771m (2,531ft) in height. The fall was said to be the third highest in the world, a claim then upheld by PromPeru, the official Peruvian tourism office.
Numerous measurements, including the fact that it is a two-tiered fall, have made this a debatable claim. Nevertheless, the World Waterfall Database rates Gocta among the top ten in the world; some measurements suggest it is the world’s 16th highest.
At certain times of the year, the flow of water is quite small, but nonetheless, it is a magnificent sight, in a spectacular environment ... and few people have had the opportunity of viewing it. The whole region, in fact, is replete with impressive waterfalls.
Gocta is on the Cocahuayco River, east of the main Chachapoyas - Pedro Ruiz road. There are two ways to see the Falls up close: one is from the village of San Pablo, from where a trail takes almost two hours to a view of the upper falls. En route, views of both tiers are visible.
The other is from the community of Cocachimba, located on the other side of the Cocahuayco River valley, and home to the lovely Gocta Lodge.
From here, you need to hike about three hours through cloud forest, full of orchids and bromeliads - where Cock-of-the-Rock, Spatuletail hummingbirds and yellow-tailed woolly monkeys are sometimes seen - to the base of the lower falls.
For those who prefer, horses can be rented to make the journey.
It makes sense to include a visit to the Fortress of Kuelap with a trip to Gocta Falls, and so Peru North has a number of itineraries that include these highlights, with access from the airports of Jaen or Tarapoto; and/or as part of a longer northern Peru itinerary: