Las Cascadas de Peguche is one of the main tourist attractions in the Otavalo area, (city that hosts one of the most important indigenous markets in the Andes) and its surroundings. This beautiful 50 ft. (18 m) waterfall is considered as an Indigenous Ceremonial Site due to the purification baths held here a couple days prior the Inti Raymi celebration (Sun and harvest celebration, June 21st). This waterfall originates at the foothills of Imbabura volcano, right at the northern tip of San Pablo Lake located 4 km south of Otavalo at 8,760 ft. (2,670 m). The course of its waters runs downstream by the river of the same name, Peguche, which change its name into Jatun Yacu (big water) right after it tumbles free down the waterfall.
These sacred waterfalls are located within the 40 acres of a protected forest “Bosque Protector Cascada de Peguche” and it is known as one of the most beautiful forests in northern Ecuador.
There are several legends relevant to this waterfall. The main one quotes about a golden bowl located in the interior of the waterfall which is escorted by two black dogs. Beside the bowl the devil is seated, holding on his hand a small plate filled with sand. The falling water washes daily the sand in the plate little by little until it empties the plate. At this point the Devil will take away the soul of whoever enters the waterfall at that moment.
Las Cascadas de Peguche are situated 3 Kms north of Otavalo and 23 Kms south of Ibarra. It takes about 30 minutes to get there (walking) from the northern tip of Otavalo and about 5 minutes by car.
There is public transportation available in Otavalo to get to the waterfalls at parque central Simon Bolivar. Buses leave every 20 minutes from there. You can also flag a taxi anywhere in town (USD. 2,00 one way). But it’s highly recommendable the hike from Otavalo. This option is worth it. Another option is riding a bike to the waterfalls, which can be rented in Otavalo. If you are planning your trip from Quito, the best option is to take a bus at the main station, Terminal de Buses de Carcelen in the northern side of the city. Buses to Otavalo leave every 5 – 10 minutes (USD. 2.50) 2 hour-ride).
Bosque Protector Cascadas de Peguche has a good maintained trail system leading to the waterfalls and to the upper part of them, as well to the surrounding hills. Bridges and cabins are in great conditions whole year round. This Protected Forest is run by the community “Comunidad de Peguche”. Free information is available at the visitor’s center. Riding your bike is fun here, especially if you start the ride in San Pablo del Lago area. All of the trails/bike paths can be used for bikers with any level of experience. Entrance is free, but a small tip is always welcome at the main entrance.
Camping is allowed at designated areas within the park.
There are many species such as: humming birds, owls, small snakes, frogs, lizards, rabbits. Eucalyptus trees, passion fruit and many other endemic flora can be found within the area, such as polilepis or paper tree.
The waterfalls can be visited the whole year round. Average temperature is 18 C.