Have you ever used social media as a tool of research for your travels? I never really did until my trip to Peru, and even then, I didn’t do it on purpose. As a photographer, I quite like Instagram; I like seeing beautiful images of all sorts, especially those that are taken in countries to which I’ve never been. A bit of armchair travelling, if you will. A few months before leaving for Peru, and while I was still designing the itinerary, I came across a photo that caught my eye – it was of an infinity pool and a tall two tier waterfall far in the distance. The surrounding mountainous landscape combined with a pool with a view, made me very curious about this place. And that is how I learned about Gocta Andes Lodge and its namesake, Gocta Falls.
What Is It Like At Gocta Andes Lodge?
This lodge is located about 42km from Chachapoyas (capital of the province) and 22km from Pedro Ruiz (you’ll arrive here if you’re taking the bus from Tarapoto or Chiclayo). It is set in rugged country and so it could take some doing to actually get to the Lodge. When we arrived, the road through the nearby village of Cocachimba was being torn up for some plumbing work; our driver couldn’t pass through. But it just meant we had to hop on the back of a local’s motorcycle to drive the remaining 10 minutes!
The grounds of Gocta Andes Lodge are beautiful. All rooms have a balcony or a terrace that look out towards manicured gardens (the grass is kept short with the help of a few alpacas), an infinity pool, and the pièce de résistance itself – Gocta Falls. Inside, the rooms are well appointed and there is a good onsite restaurant. The hotel is comfortably furnished and has warm woods, local decorations, and airy spaces.
Can I Visit The Region From Gocta Andes Lodge?
Yup. When my sister and I stayed here, we did an all-inclusive package for five days: a double room, all meals, and daily sightseeing tours. The drivers and guides here are generally locals from the nearby Cocachimba, which is great for the local economy. But it does mean limited English so if you do not speak Spanish, things can get a little difficult. You do have the option to shell out additional funds for an English-speaking guide to be assigned to you. With my limited Spanish, we were able to muddle along without having to incur the extra cost.
Gocta Andes Lodge is a good base from which to see the main sights of the Chachapoyas province: the sarcophagi of Karajia, the underground Quiocta Caverns, the tombs of Revash, the walled city of Kuelap, the city of Chachapoyas, and of course, the amazing Gocta Falls.
The main reason we chose to stay here was its access to Gocta Falls. These falls have two drops set in a beautiful backdrop of forest covered cliffs. While these falls, of course, have always been known to the local population, the wider world did not know about it until 2005. Originally, it was thought that Gocta Falls was the third tallest waterfall in the world but today, its ranking has been knocked down to 16th. Still amazing, though!
Be An Intrepid Explorer On A Hike To Gocta Falls!
It was a wet morning when I set off on a guided hike to see the waterfall up close. Three of us, including a couple from Lima, were led by the vibrant Maria Victoria, a guide decked out in a pink baseball cap and leopard print rain boots. Throughout the hike, she was a fountain of information, especially on medicinal plants. She was fantastic at showing us points of interest such as remnants of Chachapoyan ruins and strangely, several sea fossils.
The rain came and went, often enough to warrant a poncho. It was extremely humid, making our hike a bit slower than it otherwise would have been. With the undulating path twisting its way through the valley, not all of our dripping was water! The rain also kept the rainforest fairly quiet: we didn’t hear any of the expected animal chatter or see any butterflies. However, I did hit a personal jackpot. Ever since my trip to Guyana in 2012, I had wanted to see the brightly coloured male Cock of the Rock bird. And amazingly, we did see one on this hike! The bird was a red/orange colour with a prominent crest on its head so it contrasted brilliantly against the deep greens of the forest. Getting a photo of it was a battle between getting a close up vs not startling it away.
The hike, despite the wet, was absolutely beautiful. My eyes feasted on the dense green of the trees, mosses, and vines that were periodically broken up by splashes of colourful flowers. My ears reveled in the deep silence that only really lifted once we got relatively close to the falls; then we heard the dull roar of distant falling water. My nose and lungs appreciated the clean scent of wet vegetation and fresh spring waters. My spirit gloried in the adventure of hiking through the rainforest, never knowing what the next corner will reveal.
When the trail finally brought us to a look-out from which we were able to admire the waterfall, we had two options: we could stay there or we could walk down the rocky steps and get as close as we dared to the base. I was the only one who went down and the experience was phenomenal. It definitely ranked as one of the top experiences of my entire trip to Peru! Down by the lagoon, it was very windy and wet. At that point, I gave up trying to keep my camera dry and only hoped I wasn’t damaging it too much. The sheer force of the falling water was very loud and it stirred up so much wind. It really was incredible. And the water was falling from such a height, it was practically mist by the time it reached the lagoon.
Maria Victoria had told us that this lagoon contains the reason why Gocta Falls had been such a big secret. The local folklore is that a blonde mermaid lives here and she is guarding a long lost treasure. The story is that the mermaid curses those who reveal the secret of the waterfalls. One can only hope that she doesn’t because this place is definitely worth a visit. But on my way back to the Lodge, I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t already been cursed. We had rented horses for two-thirds of the trip back and mine hated the giant North American on its back. It kept walking right at the edge of the paths, probably hoping I would fall off! I arrived back at the Lodge safely, though. While thoroughly wet, I was so happy to have had this unique chance to see such an amazing part of Peru!
- Gocta Falls are too big to photograph in its entirety from the base; as such, any time there is a view of them along the trail, take photos!
- Try not to have the Gocta Falls hike on your last day or you may feel rushed to get back in time for check out at the Lodge.