Gocta Waterfall Hike – One of the World’s Highest Waterfalls

Gocta Waterfall Hike - One of the World's Highest Waterfalls

Gocta Waterfall is located in northern Peru and is the third tallest waterfall in the world. It might also be the 15th tallest waterfall in the world. This sounds confusing.

When I heard about it, I was confused too!

Let me try and clarify things.

World's Third Highest Waterfall

To say this is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, it’s hard to imagine that Gocta Waterfall (or Gota Catearacts) was only ‘discovered’ in 2002. Who would have thought some water cascading hundreds of metres down a cliff was in hiding all that time. Well, as with most discoveries in South America, this actually means ‘a westerner came along and told everyone about it’. Natives of the area knew about Gocta Waterfall all along, but the rest of the world was completely unaware of this magnificent site. After all, when something is on your doorstep, you often don’t make a song and dance about it. Rumours also persist that locals thought a mermaid lived in Gocta Waterfall. If her location was revealed, they would all be doomed.

Gocta Waterfall View
The two halves cause a lot of the debate about its height

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When in the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, a German explorer named Stefan Ziemendorff visited the area and was led there by locals. He mapped his findings the falls, but this is where the stats get muddled. Gocta Waterfall has an upper section and a lower section. Waterfall purists will argue that this counts as two separate falls. Others say it is still one waterfall.

Wanting to share his amazing find, Ziemendorff eagerly announced to the world that Gocta Waterfall is 771 metres tall (2,530 feet). Many disputed his claim and an argument ensued. It’s one that still rages to this day and explains why some say it is the third tallest waterfall in the world, but others say it’s the 15th. (Official statistics can be found here at the World Waterfall Database). 

Gocta Waterfall Hike

We decided to visit and undertake the Gocta Waterfall hike. We forgot to take a tape measure to confirm its height. Either way, it’s not the size that counts and we can confirm that Gocta should be high on your list of top things to do in Peru. It’s absolutely awe inspiring when seen in person.

Knowing that Gocta Waterfall is remote might lead you to think the hike entails hacking through jungle with a machete. Thankfully no Indian Jones style technical experience is needed. A good level of fitness is. The trail can be steep and slippy. At one moment you’ll be marching along flat rocky cliff edges in the sunshine. The next you’ll be trudging through steep muddy forests. With the ever changing scenery, it’s a wonderful experience.

Standing at Gocta Waterfall

Starting in the small village of Gocta, you buy a ticket and then set off on your way. From the moment you set off, you can see Gocta Waterfall far in the distance. The initial hike from the village is steep, but it gives you the first photo opportunity. Perched out on the top of a cliff you gaze in to the distance at Gocta cascading down the mountain.

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After this you’ll be trudging up and down hills and deep in to the rain forest. The air is thick and humid, but with a refreshing mist blowing over from Gocta Waterfall itself. There’s many places to stop and admire the views en route. No matter how hard you try though, it’s impossible to fit both parts of Gocta Waterfall in to the frame.

Gocta Waterfall hike
A steep path on the Gocta Waterfall hike
Dangerous path
This path we crossed was under construction. Yes…it was dangerous

With each sighting more spectacular than the last, the pinnacle is when you reach the base of Gocta Waterfall. Whilst in many countries health and safety has a huge influence on any experience, Peru doesn’t play by those rules. At Gocta, you can walk right up to where the water smacks the rocks below. If you’re so inclined, you could even stand under it and let it pummel your back like one of those massages at a water park. I’m not sure it’s advisable though. There was a Gocta Waterfall death some years back. The rate at which it drops is pretty strong!

Base of Gocta Waterfall
The base of Gocta Waterfall

To return to the village of Gocta, you must trek back the same way. The hike is tougher on the return journey as you’re faced with a lot of steep ascents. Make sure you’ve packed some snacks and water to get you through.

How to get to Gocta Waterfall

There’s two options for visiting Gocta Waterfalls. The easiest is to go on a tour. Whilst we’re not generally a fan of tours, for Gocta Waterfalls it actually makes sense and will save you time and money.

Chacahpoyas is the most convenient place to base yourself when visiting Gocta Waterfalls. There’s no end of Gocta Waterfall tours in Chachapoyas town square and every other shop is a travel agent. We went decided to go with Tourismo Explorer. The cost for direct transport, the entry fee, a guide and a huge meal was just S45 ($13.80).

The tour dropped us off in Gocta village at the start of the 5km trail. Our guide was pretty useless at keeping the group together, but you don’t need anyone to ‘guide’ the way. The hike follows a single easy path and the group all just rendezvoused at the end.

Waterfall Selfie

You can also travel to Gocta Waterfalls by yourself from Chachapoyas. To do this, head to Terminal Teresste and ask for a bus heading in the direction of Gocta Falls. The bus will drop you off on the road, not in Gocta village. From the road there is an 11.8km trek uphill (four hours). That’s before you’ve even start the Gocta Waterfall trail from the village.

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If you don’t want a four hour hike, you’ll need to hire a mototaxi from the road. They aren’t always there though, so do bear this in mind when making plans. The mototaxi will drop you off in Gocta village and here you buy your ticket for the trail (S10, $3 USD).

Mountains and sky in Peru
Gorgeous views over the valleys from Gocta

As detailed above, it’s a further 10km trek to Gocta Waterfall and back. Combined with the hike up from the road, this option is only for the hardcore trekkers. At the end of the day you will have to trek it all the way back and then hail down a bus heading to Chachapoyas. As this is a remote part of the country, buses don’t always run to a set schedule. You may end up hitchiking back to Chachapoyas.

Factor in the cost of buses (if they’re even available at the time), mototaxis, the entrance fee, food and you’re not really making a saving by visiting Gocta Waterfall independently. Besides you could be waiting a very long time for connecting buses or mototaxis.

Lower half of Gocta Waterfall

How much does it cost to visit Gocta Waterfall

The small village settlement of Gocta is where you buy an entrance ticket (only S10 Peruvian Sols / $3 USD) and start the trail.

Small building in Peru
This is the booth where you pay the fee for the hike

Where to stay near Gocta Waterfall

The best place to stay is Chachapoyas. it’s less than an hour from Gocta Waterfall and has a wealth of accommodation and places to eat.

What to pack for the Gocta Waterfall Hike

If you’re spending any amount of time in Peru and South America, you’re likely to end up on a hike. Usually items apply. Take some snacks and plenty of water. Hiking boots are a must. There’s a few other essential items we can recommend and these are as follows:

Essential Items for Your Trip to Gocta Waterfall

These lightweight hiking poles are fantastic for getting you up and down steep slopes. They really make things lot easier on long treks.

This eco insect repellant is perfect for hiking through the rainforest.

You’ll need sun cream to fight against Peru’s scorching sun. I recommend an eco friendly reef sun cream. This means if you also use it to go swimming, you won’t be harming the underwater environment and animals. You won’t get burned either!

Save the environment and stay hydrated with a bottle that filters your water. This is ideal for travelling overseas where people don’t have the luxury of potable tap water. It will mean you don’t get sick or use a lot of non-recyclable plastic.

It’s always useful to have a guide that helps you plan your travels. The Lonely Planet Guide to Peru is ideal. Also available as Kindle.

The Rough Guide to South America on a Budget is also an exceptional travel planner, especially if you are travelling on from Peru. Also available as Kindle.

If you’re curious about the real height of Gocta Waterfalls, why not measure it yourself. This tape measure will surely do the trick!

Get the best value accommodation in Chachapoyas here:



Gocta Waterfall Hike Peru

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