The Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu, Tarapoto, Peru

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While Tarapoto’s attempts at tourist promotion sometimes fall short, the Ahuashiyacu waterfall happily basks in the sunlight of recognition. A standard feature on brochures and tour agency itineraries, the waterfall is a popular destination among locals and tourists alike.

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Ease of access certainly accounts for some of Ahuashiyacu’s popularity, sitting as it does just 14 km from Tarapoto on the road to Yurimaguas. The site also boasts a surprisingly well-conceived tourist infrastructure. After paying your two soles entry fee at the booth in the parking area, follow the winding stone steps up to the waterfall itself. It’s a short, easy walk through the high jungle, about 10 minutes at most. If you want to swim, you will find a changing room at the end of the trail.

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And there she is, tucked away in the trees, ferns and orchids of the Escalera hills above Tarapoto. The “singing waters” of the Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu slide and spray through the jungle vegetation, plunging relentlessly into a pool of calmly bathing Peruvians.

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The pool is sometimes a little crowded, but it’s certainly worth braving the chilly waters. Half the pool is waist-height, but it quickly drops to a depth of about two meters. If you swim close to the fall, you can really appreciate the power of the water as it stings your back. Try diving under into the drop zone – the noise is deafening as the weight of water unceremoniously pushes you back from where you came.

Getting to the Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu

All the Tarapoto tour agencies offer trips to the Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu, but you really don’t need a guide. You can flag down a mototaxi in Tarapoto and arrange a price with the driver. This will certainly involve some haggling, and a lot will depend on how much time you want at the waterfall. Expect to pay 10 to 20 soles per person – this should include getting there, 30 to 60 minutes waiting time, and the trip back.

Only pay the driver when you get back to Tarapoto – if he tries to up the price, ignore him. The cheaper option is to take a colectivo taxi from the taxi rank in La Banda de Shilcayo. This will leave you without a confirmed means of getting back to Tarapoto, but if you leave early in the day you’ll find a way back eventually…