When it comes to exploring Quillabamba and Echarati, no one is more versed than El Gringo Famoso. It’s the perfect place for a quick family trip, thanks to its relatively untapped tourist attractions & close proximity to civilization. No matter where you are in Peru, all you have to do is take a flight to Cusco and then a 4 hour drive to get to this jungle paradise. This easy access and abundance of waterfalls has made it one of our prime stomping grounds. Over the years we’ve been here so many times that a random picture of me from 6 years ago is still featured in Quillabamba’s terminal.
This accidental endorsement has made El Gringo Famoso the unofficial spokesman for international tourism in the Echarati District of Peru. I have to tell you, becoming an ambassador of an area that gets at least 6 foreign tourists a year has changed my life. My phone is constantly ringing with Peruvian presidents desperately trying to get advice before they get thrown in jail. Despite having an undeniable impact on Peru’s future, I try to keep both feet on the ground. To stay humble I fast everyday, exercise, ride Peru’s public transportation system, and routinely get diarrhea eating Peruvian street food.
This potent combination allows me to stay sharp enough to go a little deeper than your average tourist attractions. There are hundreds of waterfalls in the Echarati District, but most are not accessible to the public. Pretty much every community in the area has a waterfall, but only some of them have made it a priority to clean up their waterfalls and make them accessible to outsiders. On top of being extremely hard to get to, the roads and paths to them are constantly being wiped out with landslides caused by intense jungle rains. We put our asses on the line and walked countless hours in the jungle to bring you this, so enjoy the best hidden waterfalls around Quillabamba!
Top Hidden Waterfalls Outside Quillabamba in Echarati
Waterfall #1: Catarata Piguiato – Out of all the waterfalls on this list, Catarata Piguiato was the hardest one to get to. It’s only a 2 hour drive on the main highway from Quillabamba, but that’s were the fun starts. From there you have to wind through tiny local roads, hike through the jungle, and from there only the locals know where the hell this waterfall is. We went with someone who lives in Echarati, and after walking around for 2 hours he reluctantly admitted that we were completely lost.
This is a disheartening thing to hear, especially when you realize what a delicate situation you are in. All of us were drenched in sweat, covered in stickers from an aggressive plant, and were relying on him for direction. His Toyota Yaris had barely made it up the muddy roads where we had started walking from, and it was questionable whether it had enough 4 wheeling capacity to get us back down to the main highway.
Fortunately, miracles do exist. Out of nowhere a small kid with a machete emerged from the jungle and walked past us without saying a word. Unlike us, he knew exactly where he was going. At first we just looked at him in shock, it felt like a mirage. Once we regained our composure, we all ran to catch up with him and bombarded the child with questions. Nodding his head, he explained that we were close to the path up to the waterfall and agreed to take us there. In less than 3 seconds, he immediately became the most valuable person and leader of our group.
After hiking for another hour and a half, we eventually made it to the waterfalls. Part of the path was completely erased by a landslide that left a sea of rocks flowing all the way down until it spilled over a cliff. Trying not to think what would happen if we fell down the slope, we struggled to follow our new leader as he giggled at our clumsy hesitation. Between both routes we hiked 6 hours to reach it, and we never would have found the waterfall if it wasn’t for the guide sent by the gods to save us. We ended up meeting his family and made sure he was compensated for rescuing us, so we were all relieved to find each other!
Waterfall #2: Catarata Simbeni – Despite seeming like a completely different area of Echarati, this waterfall is just over the hill from the Catarata Piguiato. They are neighbors, so you just have to get off the main highway about 20 minutes earlier. From there you are sent up dirt roads “trochas” that wind through the jungle mountains. You will have to hop out and walk at multiple points in the road while the Toyota Yaris tries its best to make it up the mountain without ripping out its entire transmission on the rocks wedged deep into the road.
Japanese cars can only get you so far, and that’s where the hike begins. Fortunately after a certain point most of the hiking was straight downhill. After hiking for an hour or so, we hit a piscigranja in the middle of nowhere. We could hear the roar of the falls, so we continued hiking until we made it to the waterfall. To our surprise, this waterfall didn’t have just 1 caída, but it had 3! All this was accompanied by a chosita, which demanded I included more photos of it:
Waterfall #3: Catarata Macoshoato – This waterfall had the least amount of hiking but managed to be just as taxing to get to. After pulling off the main highway, a nice big sign announces that the waterfall is just a couple kilometers away. While technically the distance is correct, this introduction is very deceptive. Most people will think they are almost reaching the falls, but the journey has just begun. These kilometers are tricky enough to throw most people even further into the wilderness.
What’s starts as a paved road quick turns into a myriad of trochas that wind through the neighboring mountains with no end in sight. It’s easy to go down the wrong road and end up in a random farm miles down without seeing a single human. We did this multiple times, and even when we did find people to ask the directions varied.
What makes it even more of an adventure is the varying states of decay that the roads are in due to the rain. Anyone trying to traverse these roads in anything lower than a truck will have to get out and walk at various points. This will allow your car to gingerly pass over the trenches carved by the rain & other obstacles in the roads.
Fortunately, once you find the correct road with no signs at its entrance you will eventually reach the Comunidad Nativo de Koribeni. This is the jump off point to hike down to the waterfall. From here everything was very well kept. The entire trail was lined with signs showcasing various plants and endangered animals, which makes the lack of signaling at the beginning of the road even more perplexing. It was only a 15 minute hike to reach the waterfall, but 3 hours of getting lost on jungle roads to reach it!
Bonus Waterfall: Catarata Yanay – Since you made it this far, I’ll give you an easy waterfall to visit outside Quillabamba that’s just as impressive as the rest of the entries on this list. The Catarata Yanay recently got opened to tourists and has exploded in popularity. Unlike the other waterfalls on this list, it’s really easy to get to. There’s no need to 4×4 a Yaris or get lost in the jungle and hike for hours with no clear end in sight. It’s only a half hour drive from Quillabamba and a 20 minute hike to reach the Cataract Yanay. About a dozen drivers know how to reach it from Quillabamba’s terminal, so come & pay homage to the Gringo Famoso sign if you decide to visit!